Russian Circles - Station

Dan Round 15/06/2008

Rating: 4/5

Station is the second studio album by the Chicago based three-piece Russian Circles, a line-up which now comprises of Mike Sullivan, Dave Turncrantz and new addition Brian Cook. Having supported the prime purveyors of alternative metal noise Tool, Russian Circles have developed their own unique take on the genre - on this long-player the group fuse experimental post-rock, heavy riffs and minimalist sounds to great effect. Turncrantz's booming, dominant drumming and Cook's thumping bass provide the perfect metal match for Sullivan's expressive guitar trickery, and the band surpass their 2006 debut album Enter by quite a distance.

With just six tracks over 43 minutes, Station is certainly unconventional. Every song is well sequenced with the band embarking on rampaging instrumentals, all of which are sprawling marathons. Opener Campaign begins with delicate guitars and minimalist loops before distortion and rumbling drums take control. Sooner than the song can build to an epic peak, however, it changes direction opting unpredictably for delightful, chiming guitars. The successive Harper Lewis, with its powerful bass and careful fretwork is grungey metal, while the title track follows in a similar vein. Verses returns the album to calmer oceans with soothing, ambient instrumentation, a gentle rhythm section and minimalist guitars. As it progresses the song picks up pace and volume in a euphoric fashion. Album closer Xavii is magnificent with its slow paced, keyboard induced opening and it's dramatic guitar driven finale. Only on the penultimate Youngblood does the band seem to loose focus, lacking the grandeur and vigour of the rest of the record, and it is the only point at which Russian Circles could be accused of running out of steam.

On the whole, Station is an energetic, wildly unpredictable, and coherent slice of inventive hard rock. Well produced by Matt Bayles (of Minus the Bear and Mastodon fame), the album strikes the right mark between studio gloss and raw musicianship. Russian Circles are a breath of fresh air, and their brand of instrumental and experimental rock deserves recognition.

Release date: 09/06/08