ALBUM REVIEW: Gnosis – Russian Circles

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RUSSIAN CIRCLES have never needed words to make you feel something. Like many of the best bands from the vague ‘post-something’ world in which they operate, their music stands alone and speaks for itself. As their seven studio albums attest, the trio are as good at the mournful as they are at the triumphant – often as delicate and intricate as they can be swelteringly intense. Rarely however have they ever been as unwaveringly devastating as they are on album number eight. Gnosis arrives this Friday via the ever dependable Sargent House and it is without question the band’s heaviest record yet.

Inspired and crafted amid the tumult and frustration of the past couple of years, Gnosis’ weight is no accident. Intentionally laying aside some of their more cinematic tendencies, here the band have delivered 40 minutes that stray arguably further into post-metal – as opposed to post-rock – than ever before. It’s not a complete left-turn mind; RUSSIAN CIRCLES have always kind of sat somewhere in between the two often overlapping genres, and 2019’s Blood Year offered plenty of similar heaviness in its towering riffs and thick walls of sound.

As ever, it’s particularly impressive that all this is coming from just three individuals. Guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook and drummer Dave Turncrantz have never struggled to conjure an absolutely massive sound, and, with the help of returning producer Kurt Ballou, Gnosis is no exception. Unencumbered by the claustrophobia in which they came together, the seven songs on offer here stand typically tall. They maintain a sense of expanse which has often characterised RUSSIAN CIRCLES’ music, with Cook and Sullivan weaving in and out of one another as Turncrantz provides a consistently weighty anchor. It all sounds so rich and warm too, and Ballou ensures that even the finest intricacies and overdubs manage to lift their heads above the raging seas at the core of the record.

While some of Gnosis’ heaviest moments of all – namely the blast beat-addled doomers of Vlastimil and Betrayal – arrive in its second half, its heft carries throughout. Opener Tupilak makes six and a half minutes disappear in a heartbeat – its driving urgency interrupted by slabs of crushing sludge which set a clear standard for the album to follow. Next, lead single Conduit chugs and gallops hard, Sullivan’s guitar tone razor sharp as it sinks its teeth into propulsive metallic riffing. As ever, the band’s attention to concepts like tone, texture and flow is impeccable, comfortably avoiding accusations of self-indulgence and instead crafting pieces in which it feels like each constituent part is exactly where it belongs.

Crucially though, and perhaps somewhat predictably given the band’s track record, Gnosis isn’t entirely relentless. The atmosphere may be thick and heavy throughout, but this is still a dynamic record. There are moments of build and quiet here, particularly on the staggering eight-minute title track whose maelstrom guitars and thunderous rhythms hit with all the more force thanks to the time the band take to bring them in. Later, fifth track Ó Braonáin provides a quieter interlude amid the aforementioned respective onslaughts of Vlastimil and Betrayal. Centred on Sullivan’s sparse electric guitar, it’s delicate, but again not entirely without darkness. There’s just a hint of menace in the melody – an unease that sits well within the overall mood of the record.

Finally, there’s the closer Bloom. Their sights seemingly set on some kind of cathartic release, this is the only time the band really allow themselves to get particularly melodic or hopeful. It’s a stirring piece, albeit one that feels a little out of step with the rest of the record. Its placement is clearly intentional, but one does wonder if a little more of this kind of light poking through the six tracks that came before would have made the juxtaposition all the more impactful. That is just a nitpick though, and it does work well enough regardless. Either way, it remains abundantly clear that RUSSIAN CIRCLES are still very much masters of their craft. Gnosis is, as anyone familiar with the band would expect, yet another triumph in instrumental song-writing, musicianship, and speaking to listeners without saying a single word.

Rating: 8/10

Gnosis - Russian Circles

Gnosis is set for release on August 19th via Sargent House.

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The post ALBUM REVIEW: Gnosis – Russian Circles appeared first on Distorted Sound Magazine.

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