Russian Circles – Memorial

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‘Memoriam’ begins with a gentle arpeggio before launching into ‘Deficit’, a huge slab of boomy, pendulum swinging post-rock noises. If that is, indeed your thing, you will find much to love in this album. The production is crunchy and wide, it reminded me in parts of some Poison The Well records. ‘Deficit’ pretty much runs the gamut of what the album has to offer. Huge, swaying riffs straying into more metal based territory as it progresses. There’s double kick and palm muted chugging, sustained, delay infused lead lines (in a similar, but less mathy way to what Messhuggah did on ‘Catch 33’) and a doomy atmosphere that permeates all the while.

The highlights are scattered throughout. There are fine moments that interweave, the album has been constructed in such a way where there is a clear overlap thematically and certainly musically. Motifs and melodies pass by one another as things progress. For me though, Memorial is at its most interesting when is at its least pummeling. The clear highlights being ‘Cheyenne’, ‘Ethel’ and the title track. The gulf in quality between these three songs and the rest of the album is quite striking. The title track in particular, which closes the album, has a disembodied voice buried within and is surrounded by a swirling, almost cacophony. It really is beautiful. It’s such a shame then, that set alongside ‘Lebaron’, a four and a half minute dirge that should really have been left in the rehearsal room, it loses some of its impact when listening to the album as a whole, as it so clearly was designed to be. ‘Burial’, a song which is slap bang in the centre of the album, doesn’t have nearly enough going on to warrant its near five minute run time. Its central idea gets boring after one run through, and again, compared to the more articulate moments on here it seems oddly under developed.

It’s these moments that rob Memorial of any momentum it builds up with its admittedly impressive more contemplative sections. The reliance at times on sustained phrases, ultimately designed one would imagine to build tension, only makes you want to look at how much of the song is left. There is though, certainly enough within to warrant a purchase, and despite my not seeing them in the flesh, I imagine the material works well in a live setting. It’s just a shame that much of the album seems to want to soundtrack an invading Viking army, but it’s so much more effective when it’s looking to the stars.

Words: Hubert Hubert.

Russian Circles Website. Bandcamp. Facebook. Twitter.

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