November 1st! Oh sorry, I thought you clicked here to find out when I’m seeing Russian Circles live for the first time. Fine, August 19th. That’s the date Russian Circles releases their 8th album titled Gnosis. That’s what you clicked here to find out? OK, well stick around and let me tell you ALL about it.
Russian Circles are musical geniuses and I guess you can tell this will be a fairly positive review already. The trio broke me out of the ‘instrumental music is boring’ thought process and like Neo discovering the truth of the Matrix, Russian Circles was my red pill. My mind has been opened to some incredible music since then and Gnosis takes it even further. Let’s begin.
Tupilak is an ancient Greenlandic monster created using parts of other animals and given life by a shaman’s ritualistic chants. I love the song titles Russian Circles use and this one fits the song perfectly. Brian Cook is heard first delivering some nasty sounding bass riff. Mike Sullivan (guitar) and Dave Turncrantz (drums) aren’t far behind with cinematic guitars and thundering drums. Instantly recognizable as Russian Circles, the music is powerful giving the impression of the Tupilak spawning life and sent off to seek and destroy the target enemy.
Conduit was the first single released when the announcement was made. I listened immediately and the signature chugging riffs of Sullivan are exactly what I needed to hear. Turncrantz drumming is impeccable and definitely one of my favorite drummers of all time. He keeps things interesting without getting in the way of Sullivan and Cook, who create outstanding soundscapes. Conduit weaves through these soundscapes and returns to the chugging riff multiple times throughout the song, keeping the listener engaged.
The title track, Gnosis, is the first time we hear the serene side of Russian Circles with the clean(ish) delay riff repeating. The trio are masters of layering and while the delay riff repeats, a palm muted riff is added on top. As the drums enter, more layers are added, filling the space and creating a beautiful work of art. Cook adds some powerful sounding distorted bass that shakes the room but fits in flawlessly. I always want to hear the older songs that made me love the band initially when seeing someone live, but three songs in, I wouldn’t be upset if they played them all on November 1st.
The intricate compositions the trio create take you on a mental journey, just close your eyes and lose all recollection of space and time…
The next two tracks seem to be titled after older names. Vlastimil is first and is a common Slavic name that references the words vasti (rule, sovereignty) and milu (gracious). Ó Braonáin is next and is an Irish surname that’s derived from braon meaning sorrow. I don’t know Russian Circles intentions for naming these songs, but my brief research landed me on these definitions and the songs match their meaning. Vlastimil is a strong, powerful yet melodic, telling the story of a gracious ruler, while Ó Braonáin is a short sorrowful interlude and a truly beautiful piece.
Betrayal follows with a forceful explosion of sound. It’s amazing three musicians can make this much noise and I can’t wait to experience this power live. Turncrantz delivers some catchy drumbeats that are rhythmic and get you moving over Sullivan’s amazing tremolo picking and Cook’s insane distorted bass riffs. The musicians stray from each other at times, playing their own interesting parts, then melt back together playing the same riffs making it seem even more intense.
Again, I feel Russian Circles titles their songs appropriately. Without lyrics, telling a story through words doesn’t happen. Or so I thought. Listening to the final track of the album, I realized the simple word Bloom is all that’s needed. The song begins much like a seed that grows as layers build upon each other until it’s in full bloom. Just like the petals of a flower stretch out to soak up the sun, this song stretches far and wide to touch the entire sonic spectrum. No better way to conclude this album.
The intricate compositions the trio create take you on a mental journey, just close your eyes and lose all recollection of space and time. Gnosis builds off Blood Year while maintaining the core sound fans truly love. I’m going to need a longer album of the year list…
Scribed by: Josh Schneider