After a three-year absence Chicago instrumental three piece Russian Circles return with their highly anticipated new album Blood Year, a powerfully succinct statement of intent that packs one hell of a punch in it’s lean seven song track listing. Heavy and direct, Blood Year finds the band sounding more focused and powerful than ever before.
The sparse, emotive ‘Hunter Moon’ opens the album, with haunting atmospherics and melancholic slide guitar all anchored by earthly pulsating bass notes, creating a sense of space and openness. One can easily envisage a candescent moon shining through twisted branches deep in the heart of some dark, dense forest. This serenity, however, is soon shattered as lead single ‘Arluck’ storms in on a charging, hypnotic bass line and urgent finger-tapped arpeggio, barrelling along like a speeding locomotive struggling to keep on the tracks. The crunch and chug of the palm-muted guitar when it arrives is simply gorgeous. The epic ‘Milano’ follows, with ethereal chords soaring over driving bass and those thunderous trademark drums from Dave Turncrantz which sound wonderfully crisp and deep throughout the whole album (seriously, how tight does that snare sound), indeed the best they’ve sounded on any Russian Circles release to date.
‘Ghost On High’ offers a brief moment of intimacy as a gentle, finger-picked motif is repeated whilst unsettling atmospherics linger beneath, a reminder to the listener to not get too comfortable, this is merely a brief respite. ‘Sinaia’ follows, with an intro filled with layered, gentle tremolo picking, creating an immediate sense of dread and apprehension that builds to a song filled with desperate, yearning melodies. It’s an unnerving track and provides some of the album’s darkest moments. Blood Year‘s heaviest and most aggressive track ‘Quartered’ closes the album with a chugging palm-muted riff, lending the track a malevolent edge, twisting as it does with otherworldly, almost psychedelic guitar leads. Bolstered by a dirty, rattling bass line, the track thunders along to reach it’s inevitable climax.
This is the loudest and most purposeful Russian Circles have sounded yet. Of course, they’ve produced heavy material before, but Blood Year is near unrelenting in its energy and direct approach. The production is crisp, noticeably less muddy than on their previous releases, helping to lend these tracks a tremendous sense of attack and immediacy. Russian Circles have garnered an incredible reputation both as an original, creative studio band and also as a mesmerising live act too and Blood Year will only serve to solidify that reputation.
Blood Year is released via Sargent House on 2nd August and can be purchased here.
Words: Adam Pegg