The new album from Russian Circles, Blood Year, is the sound of Armageddon, of lost causes and cratering landscapes.

The three-man group from Chicago continue their instrumental onslaught on your speakers with their seventh studio album. Russian Circles don’t need a singer because in the space between their instruments you can hear the screaming and wailing


Blood Year is the group’s second time working with legendary producer Kurt Ballou, known for his work with Converge, Isis, Dillinger Escape Plan, Gatecreeper and other hardcore acts. Ballou worked on 2016’s Guidance and here continues to provide the appropriate atmosphere for Russian Circles. Brian Cook on bass, Mike Sullivan on guitar and Dave Turncrantz on drums continue to tighten their aesthetic of pulverizing sound.

“Hunter Moon” begins the quest of Blood Year with a stretched out, wide-open guitar playing contemplatively.

The sustain feeds discontent, alluding to uncertainty on the horizon. It’s a distant memory by the time “Arluck” ramps up with a cracking drumbeat. Turncrantz stays steady but beats all hell from the set while the guitars gather together like flies to newly discovered dead meat. Riffs trickle in until you’re lost in a vortex. Turncrantz plays the drums like Lucifer’s methed-out cousin, cramming the snare head with furious vigor.


And Blood Year goes on like that. Russian Circles hit the niche and just go. Sullivan and Cook continue in lockstep finding aggressive chords that hit the ground hard but also disperse into the sky. It’s heavy metal mixed with some spooky action. Each song is all blasting amps and disrespected drums. There is no break from the attack until “Ghost on High” when Sullivan meditates on a few slipping chords. The breather is short-lived. 

“Sinaia” begins mystically then takes off and sounds like flying through the center of the earth.

It’s a gorgeous pummeling knockout groove from the acid drip of Syd Barrett’s angst. There are moments throughout Blood Year where you feel so lost and the music hits you from all sides. “Quartered” is a brain-warping beat-down with chugging riffs choking the life from you. Russian Circles extract an epic hopelessness in their riffage. There is a sense of impending disaster, or passing tragedy already struck. After more than a decade making music, they continue to explore their little corner of the universe.












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