Chicago-based trio Russian Circles is a strong headliner in the post-metal business, and with the release of their fourth album, they mean business. Empros itself is a tour de force, and brings a fantastic progression from Geneva that does not beg to be played, but commands it. The sheer onslaught brought on by this album is like trying to fight a tank with your bare hands - the weaving riffs and quiet intensities only exist to serve the overall purpose of building an album so very reinforced that the entire release is a juggernaut. Simply put: post-metal fans, wait no longer. The brutality is here.
"Mladek" opens with Mike Sullivan plucking soulfully at a reverbed guitar, while Brian Cook jams away on a distorted bass, and the mood feels light, almost hopeful. However, once the distorted rhythm guitar kicks the door down, that airiness is smashed against the wall as a crushing hopelessness begins around two minutes in, and the song transforms completely into some kind of dementedly dark metal odyssey, enhanced by the eerie, atmospheric guitar wails, and the constant, soul-wrenching grinding of the drums and distorted bass. The beautiful writing on this track allows for moments between the face-melting heaviness in order to insert short, haunting arias in order to enhance the gouging strength of the rhythm guitar, bass, and drums. At six minutes in, an epic chorus kicks into play, chordal harmonies fighting for survival against the marching drum pattern, and eventually all breaks into chaos as the final breakdown tears everything melodic about the song to shreds, and then leaves the song in pieces as the cymbals fade and dissipate into the air.
A quiet closer brings this beastly monstrosity of an album to a beautiful conclusion. "Praise Be Man" opens with some heavy bass frequency and some static, but a soothing acoustic line and echoing, indistinct vocals allow for a quintessential moment of calm after the storm, and the variety helps bring the album full circle. As the distorted bass roars majestically in after around three minutes, the song feels almost like the introduction of an Explosions song, with so much hope embodied inside, it's almost palpable. The feeling is so wonderfully refreshing after so much assertion, it puts the listener at ease almost instantly. However, the band won't let the album end on so light a note, for once all of the melody fades out, there are a couple of seconds of ominous organ playing before all that's left is static, and the way it hangs off is so dark that it feels like it needs to start again in order for that closure to occur, so that darkness can be truly embodied. Amazing way to end an album.
This album may just take the cake for albums I've listened to all year. Alternating almost expectedly between a respiteful easiness and a terse, violent rage allowed for true strides to be made on this album, and the progression from Geneva truly is incredible - the band is branching out to new heights, and letting everyone know it. It's not an album for the faint of heart, but there's a ton to love in this album for the faithful metal fan, and it's definitely worth checking out.
Album Rating: A
Empros will be released on October 25th. Check out some Russian Circles stuff on their MySpace, and keep a close eye on their website for news and information.
6) Praise Be Man