The Russian Circles | Enter (Flameshovel)

It doesn’t take long to realize the Russian Circles are too ambitious to linger with the delicate tapestries most instrumental music is content to stop with. Loud/quiet, verse/chorus, melodic/chaotic, and crescendos of any kind all seem redundant here.

 

Despite naming the album Enter, the Russian Circles have not crafted an inviting landscape. This palace has lions at the gate telling you to approach with fear. The glittering melodies sprinkled throughout are enough to beckon even the least adventurous listener, but the roaring metal histrionics will surely stop some dead in their tracks. Two steps forward, one step back. The album is not about entrance, but passage—a textbook on navigating the intricacies of an unsure path.

The opening guitar atmospherics on the Russian Circles’ debut LP glides in on the echoes of the sauntering post-rock of barely-there step cousins Explosions in the Sky. One knows immediately a stage is being set, but the dramatics that wander through the plot spoil any sense of determinacy. Every moment is essential, but it does not concern itself with the push and pull of any available formula. It doesn’t take long to realize the Russian Circles are too ambitious to linger with the delicate tapestries most instrumental music is content to stop with. Loud/quiet, verse/chorus, melodic/chaotic, and crescendos of any kind all seem redundant here. They fold into one another rather than build and descend.

The instruments crash against one another then play nice, moving together seamlessly as if the band is dashing off its third album. Not to discount the dense talents of former Riddle of Steel drummer Dave Turncrantz or the mostly understated bass of DeKuiper, but this review wouldn’t be fully honest if I didn’t single out Mike Sullivan’s guitar work. It is the first thing the listener latches on to, and the last thing remembered. It is highly developed and textured. My one criticism would be that it falls into metal cliché periodically, if only for a moment before resurfacing with an unexpected turn.

Generally, critics try to pick out an album’s highlights, but to do this with Enter would read something like: Track one, minute four; the main riff of “Death Rides a Horse”; the drums in minute five of “Enter”; the gorgeously woven guitars of “You Already Did”; the understated punk quotes in “New Macabre.” You get the idea. If I had never really listened to classical music, maybe I’d call it symphonic or perhaps operatic. Ideas are developed, then abandoned and picked up again later, whether in the same song or several tracks into the sequence. It is aware of its own coherence, knowing what the format can bear and where the limits can be pushed further. Above all, the Russian Circles have the two qualities any band worth following must: mastery of their craft and dead-on instincts.


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