Russian Circles – Guidance (Album Review)

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Music of any genre imaginable should feed the soul in one way or another. In fact, it should be a pleasurable experience that audiences want a repeat engagement with. In order to fully engulf the listener, there must be a connection on a personal level that acts as a form of addiction, keeping them returning to the scene of the crime. That said, a majority of bands out there in the Heavy Metal world unify their songs and albums with a defined vocal range and specific lyrical subjects, yet it is often wondered what would happen if those elements were stripped away. An interesting thought, a great deal of bands rely heavily on the lyrics and vocals to hold their audience’s interest, subtract those elements, and the music would most likely sound empty without them. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are other bands such as Chicago-based Post Metal trio Russian Circles, who use absolutely zero vocals in their sound, leaving the instruments to tell a great story on their own.

Originating in 2004, Russian Circles has since put out six studio albums, all with one word titles, with their latest, Guidance, following the same. Released back on August 5, 2016 via Sargent House, it is their first full-length since 2013’s Memorial, and first to feature production from Kurt Ballou. Comprised by Brian Cook on bass, Mike Sullivan on guitar, and Dave Turncrantz on drums, these three musically inclined men really know how to make music that engross their audience. Furthermore, they also excel at minimalism in all areas as the saying “less is more” is depicted in its best light from their one word song titles to their slight Stoner, Doom, and Rock vibe songs. This in mind, much like their previous albums, Guidance is best served up in one grand feast so listeners can just submerge into the world they provide without room for remorse.

Approximately forty-one minutes of music, Guidance begins very peacefully with “Asa,” a song that basically provokes images of a rocky beach with the waves acting as they would just before a storm. The pace of the journey then picks up with “Vorel,” which seems to search for that inner peace humans so willfully desire, yet cannot seem to fully possess, most likely due in part to the state of economics, politics, and war dominating our present culture. Moving on in bold fashion, “Mota” contains powerful guitar tones and steady drums that capture the essence of the mood that encompasses Guidance with noble ease.

Throughout the rest of the album, the audience is taken through the pride and perils of life through non-stop instrumental Rock with tracks such as “Afrika” and “Lisboa,” which lends towards the uncertain theme that perhaps some of the names of songs represent places fictional or otherwise. This is while some other songs could perhaps tell a tale of a certain powerful persona. Regardless, fully instrumental albums of this nature run the risk of monotony and boredom. Yet, somehow, Russian Circles steer completely opposite of boredom and capture the souls of all who listen, even if it is only for the temporary playtime the album provides. That in mind, multiple listens to Guidance only enhance the previous listens as new moments are constantly being discovered.

To wrap up odd ends, the final question raised is whether, after six albums, should Russian Circles consider hiring a vocalist to see what transpires? Simply put, it is not necessary, because they seem to function extremely well with restrictions such as minimal instrumentation, ones which do not require extra noise from vocals. Those still in the fog about Russian Circles after all these years, it is highly recommended to witness them in a live setting to take in the full experience of what they are. Showcasing a progression of inspiring intensity with each new album, the future of Russian Circles awaits with open arms. Delving into the unknown and not coming up for air until the bitter end, CrypticRock gives Russian Circles’ Guidance 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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