Russian Circles - Memorial
From the band's page on Sargent House Records:
[QUOTE]Perhaps the most immediately apparent characteristic of the fifth Russian Circles album, Memorial is its wide range of emotion. Vacillating from somber-yet-soaring melodies on one track to pummeling metal heft on the next, Memorial sounds like an album with split personalities.
Where one song showcases guitarist Mike Sullivan, drummer Dave Turncrantz and bassist/keyboardist Brian Cook's mastery of lush melancholic melody, the next exhibits their most abrasive underground metal leaning sound, with washed-out 16th-note riffs and crushing rhythms. The band's penchant for endless hooks remains a constant, but Memorial embodies their most dramatic ranges in tone.
"We've always tried to balance our metal-influenced sounds with more nuanced, pretty, orchestral elements," Cook says. "But this time, it's far more polarized in that the heavy parts are much more blown out and exaggerated while the pretty moments are far more restrained, delicate, and atmospheric." In the two years since Russian Circles released their landmark fourth album Empros, the Chicago trio toured worldwide nearly incessantly, encountering many heavy acts whose music seemed needlessly complicated. "We set out to make a straightforward, intense, heavy record," Cook explains. "We subconsciously gravitated toward darker and more somber sounds. We wanted to get away from the overtly flashy."
In search of such a streamlined sound, the trio focused on each individual song having its own emotional and musical characteristics. As such, Memorial almost feels like stages of grief. That notion might be aided by 1) the album's clever structuring, in which it ends in the same place as it starts, and 2) special guest vocalist Chelsea Wolfe lending her hauntingly somber vocals to the album closing title track.
To a degree, the monolithic, juxtaposed moods on Memorial is the band's reaction to the proliferation of iPod culture affecting how bands write music. Today, most musicians are trying to mash together disparate elements with results sounding as unpalatable as cooking a meal blindfolded. Russian Circles wisely and deftly sidestep the trappings of genre amalgamation. "I want to hear a band with a broad palette," Cook says. "But it should find that weird balance with breadth and width. We wanted to make a record with more extreme peaks and valleys. I'm hoping that we can get away with making a schizophrenic record."
Those extremes are no more perfectly exemplified than on album opener "Memoriam", which leads in with delicately plucked guitar notes and synth haze hovering in the background, vaguely reminiscent of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here album. But the mood abruptly ruptures as the next song, "Deficit" forcefully kicks in with a wall of vicious, treble-bleached guitars blaring over Turncrantz's half-time rhythm pummeling his drums with the sound of an industrial machine re-fabricating raw materials. Tension builds to a breaking point about halfway through, opening into a skull-thwacking chugging riff that becomes the foundation for multiple mutant variations slithering over the top. "1777" is possibly Russian Circles' most epic and perfectly streamlined song of all time, incorporating both the physical dynamics of the studio in its sound -- much like David Bowie's emotive vocals on "Heroes", but instead with drum beats and guitars jutting outward in dramatic fashion -- while also developing a slow-burn build of elements purely focused on the emotional specificity of the song. Elsewhere, the uplifting melody of "Ethel" features a chiming finger-tapping guitar line that's heavily treated with effects making it sound like a vintage synth laid over powerfully expressive drums and distorted bass notes cascading over the proceedings with the forceful cadence of a lead vocalist. Album closing title track, "Memorial" is a plaintive, somber ballad featuring Wolfe's guest vocals. A hazy version of the album opening guitar notes hang in the distance as Wolfe's reverb-soaked voice hovers above the dreamlike melody somewhat reminiscent of Julee Cruise's Twin Peaks theme song.
Memorial was recorded at the illustrious Electrical Audio studio in Chicago with the band's longtime producer Brandon Curtis of The Secret Machines & Interpol who also helmed the band's two previous albums, Empros and Geneva. Memorial will be available on LP, CD and download via Sargent House on October 29th, 2013.[/QUOTE]
Artist: Russian Circles
Label: Sargent House
Release date: October 29th, 2013
Just listened to some samples on Amazon. There are some interesting sounds on this. I'm cautiously optimistic, but my primary concern is that there are only two tracks longer than five minutes (and those aren't longer by much). One of them is "Deficit", and it kicks ass. However, this could mean no epic monsters like "Carpe" or "Station" or no long, flowing masterpieces like "Philos" or "Versus". Oh well - we'll just have to wait until 10/29 and see what we see. Can't fucking wait...
I feel I have reached a sort of close mindedness in my current music listening juncture that leads me to listen to certain types of music (post-metal being an example) for the first time on conjecture if the songs don't exceed a certain length. So that aspect about this album worries me too.
Nevertheless, this band brings something new to the table with each and every record. It will smash in faces and - hopefully - include a little bit of that sweet spirituality Empros did. Despite song length, I'm confident it will still be one of the top releases of the year.
^ I saw your comment about "Schipol" in the "Now Playing" thread, and based on that, I assume you're unimpressed with [I]Memorial[/I]? I've listened to it a few times, and I'd have to say the same so far. I have faith it'll grow on me some more - [I]Empros[/I] did - but nothing on the new album has exactly made my jaw drop or anything. It's solid - all RC albums are - but not amazing.
Yes, I was very underwhelmed by it. It's easily the worst album Russian Circles have released, I think.
I thought "Burial" through "Memorial" was the best part of the album, the second half of it in other words. The first few songs didn't grab me much at all - only small bits here and there. And the last track with Chelsea Wolf had enormous potential, especially with the sound the band created to compliment her vocals, but it ended up just being three and a half minutes of the same thing. Beautiful, but lacking direction. Kind of like the album as a whole.
The album grew on me last week a great deal when I went out of town to work and played it every day in the car while driving to and from the job site. I might even write a review of it if I get some time, but that likely won't happen for a while. This project I've been on since October 2012 is having some real problems and I have to dig in hard this week and try to get things sorted.
Anyway, I think it's still probably not their best work, but I no longer think it's a not-so-great album. There are parts that I really like now. I will say that this one took longer for me to warm up to than any other, but that might be more about me and my lack of focus on metal these days than it is on the album itself.
EDIT: Tracks 2, 5 and 6 fucking rock. :rocker:
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