Russian Circles – Empros
Record Label: Sargent House
Release Date: October 25, 2011
There's a greater level that is achieved when artists are capable of building songs around an ever blossoming, crumbling, moving - and most importantly - sense-gripping movement. It's why I really love instrumental bands. Music is a universal language that's still a subject of discussion depending on demographic and region of origin - but we all tend to sense the moods it portrays in similar fashion. Let's face it - some instrumental bands are just better than others when typing their audible novels of short stories weaved together through their tubes and cabs. With each album, Russian Circles have proven that they're not only competing for a top seed in the genre - they're continuing to keep it interesting while also learning how to grow their skills in the process.
The third track on the band's fourth full length is the prime example. The band isn't writing powerful rock jams where the floor falls out under you during the climaxing point in the song, but with Empros, Russian Circles are writing soundtracks to epic adventures transcending their music into great storytelling. "Schlpol" showcases Mike Sullivan's expansion on skillfully crafting layers of seats comprised in a symphony through his loops, as Brian Cook adds his darken lows to the mix, letting them ring out boldly. "Atackla" builds tension in little guitar phrases and elements stacked throughout - another testament on Sullivan's stride to move away from finger taps and quick riffs just changing every couple of phrases. The song doesn't catch a hook until its bitter demise, if only for a few seconds of an instrumental blunt blow to the center of the chest a few times.
Like Grails and Mono before them, Russian Circles has best grasped the art of tension and subtle key and tone transition with this album. Geneva showed glimpses of it, but the bright timbre into an angrier turn "Mladek" makes right before the two minute mark is flawless. The band's first attempt at the idea was pulled off nicely on Geneva with the track "Malko," but this time around they nailed it perfectly. "Batu" sums it all up in the ten minute track that acts as a new blueprint in writing emotionally charged, engaging and wavering instrumental music. In ten minutes, the band moves from heightening swells and a building wall of sound into hammering bass tones and layered riffs against some of Dave Turncrantz's best drumming to date. There's also a few subtle layers you pick up in every listen - and it makes the genre that more interesting again.
As "Praise Be Man" lends a vocal line to close out the album, Empros will certainly set the tone of the next couple of your waking (or dreaming) hours at hand. There's a determination in the undertone of the album. That determination in crafting of a band's best record to date, only covered by the confidence it lets off as well. I still love every riff that plows through Enter, but Empros is what the band has been working towards in their last two albums: the difference in sketching a skilled drawing and making a lasting impression with a lush painting stroked in fine detail. It goes without saying that the band has been my favorite instrumental act for some years now - but this album proves the torch in the genre has been handed over from the best that came before.