Written and recorded during the pandemic lockdowns, Gnosis, the 8th album from Chicago instrumental three piece Russian Circles, is an infuriated, rage-filled animal that powerfully encapsulates the frustrations of watching the world collapse in on itself. Where 2019’s Blood Year sounded somewhat clean and crisp, Gnosis is a somewhat murkier, undiluted affair, the anger and aggression more palpable as the band channel their inner aggravations.
The tone is set by the brooding, leaden opening of ‘Tupilak’, a song that unfurls into something larger and darker, augmented by synths and a hooky refrain. ‘Conduit’ occupies familiar Circles territory but is no less powerful because of this; choppy riffs and a gloom ridden melody are bolstered by the ever impressive drum work of Dave Turncrantz. The riffs here are dark and twisted, akin to Mastodon and Baroness at their most aggressive. The album’s title track offers a change of pace, relatively airy compared to what preceded it. Gentler melodies take centre stage as rumbling bass lines and shifting drum patterns propel the track along. An altogether less aggressive track it may be, but the mood is anything but light with a strong sense of foreboding running throughout. Gnosis’ heaviness peaks on the brutal storm of ‘Betrayal’, a track which feels like being drawn into an ever darkening vortex, the guitars, bass and drums all swirling to create one haunting mass.
Those familiar with Russian Circles’ sound will find much to savour here, in addition to being treated to fresh subtle intricacies and left turns too. A gloomier, more confrontational record than Blood Year, Russian Circles have created an album that holds a dirty mirror up to the times we live in.
Gnosis is released 19th August via Sargent House and can be purchased here.
Words: Adam Firth