Russian Circles have been coasting on a surprising level of consistent excellence for a band now on their seventh release. Their previous record, Guidance, was a lovely marriage of impressive songwriting and impeccable production. I said that Russian Circles had finally delivered the album I always wanted them to write – not like they actually listened to me or anything, but these ears were particularly pleased with the results. So imagine my surprise when, nearly three years later, the trio deliver an even better record.
Many savvy choices were made along the way that made Blood Year into the new classic it is. Wisely, the Chicago band have again chosen to work with Kurt Ballou, though some of Blood Year’s recording was completed in that famous Steve Albini Chicago studio. Ballou’s trademark urgency and “pop” is there in spades, but there’s some breathing room, some airy nature to the songs that makes them sound impossibly large. The soaring tremolo melodies and thundering bass haven’t left Russian Circles’ stable, but there’s a buoyancy, a vibrancy to these tracks that only elevates the initial experience. That word is key here, as Blood Year really does feel like an experience in post-metal majesty. Whether it’s the blackened climax to “Milano”, the skyward soaring songwriting of “Sinaia”, or the rhythmic punch of “Arluck”, there’s so much to discover here.
None of this is to say that Russian Circles are totally reinventing their own post-metal wheel – but that’s the point, and why this is such an enjoyable record. Blood Year feels like the trio are just operating at peak efficiency: everything is lush, crisp, and positively monumental. There’s a key storytelling arc to each song that is separate and distinct, and Blood Year is a world you want to live in, rather than just spending a requisite TV show’s 40 minutes and forgetting about it. This is memorable, mountainous music that grabs your attention from the beginning and never lets go. Russian Circles have written their magnum opus after releasing their best work to date. Who the hell knows what’s next?