Album Reviews

Russian Circles: Gnosis

The Chicago three-piece return with their finest outing in years.

Over the past two decades, Chicago sentinels, Russian Circles, have been one of the constants in the new music sphere.

The second wave of post-metal if you will, Russian Circles have built up a feverish cult following over the years on the back of landmark records Station and Enter. And not only have they proven influential in the alternative metal pantheon, but to those beyond, too.

Spearheaded by guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook and drummer Dave Turncrantz, in many ways Russian Circles could be considered a band not born for these times. A band that has carved out the sort of aesthetic that requires time and patience, trying to untangle Russian Circles’ knotty krautrock and drone-inspired compositions can sometimes be a mission. And during a time where the disposability of art is on a constant ascent, the cynic may suggest that it’s a surprise that Russian Circles continue to receive the acclaim they do in this current climate.

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However, like all bands with cult followings, Russian Circles’ audience has neither wavered nor succumbed to any trends, and with enough credits in the bank from their decorated past, Russian Circles have always garnered a warm reception when new music is on the horizon.

Which brings us to Gnosis. A monolithic slab of bass-heavy euphoria, Gnosis sees Russian Circles reaffirming their position as one of most reliable purveyors and steady hands in this space.

Russian Circles - Gnosis

With the necessary fairy dust sprinkled by go-to producer, Kurt Ballou, Gnosis is a ride. Groove-heavy with thundering riffs and mysterious emotional force, Russian Circles have captured all of their finest facets this time around.

Starting with Cook’s opening bass rumble of Tupilak – a track splintered with raw angst and fierce brawn. Ballaou’s down-in-the-basement-like recordings capture a sweltering intensity, as Tupilak unfurls with Sullivan’s blur of guitar flange and Turncrantz’s dynamic percussive blasts.

Then there’s Conduit. A primal roar from hell, Russian Circles haven’t sounded so invigorated, revelling in the kind of darkness from the days of Station.

With the title track, Russian Circles get moody, with buckling grooves and cinderblock bass weight, and alongside the hard-edged Vlastimil and the hurricane of sound that is Betrayal, the band push the envelope with moments that stand as their heaviest yet.

A sharp U-turn sees the band abandoning the fire-and-brimstone on Bloom. With a gorgeous nightscape chime that weighs heavy with emotion, Bloom is a stunning end to an album that is up there as Russian Circles’ finest. Most certainly their best since 2011’s Empros, and for a band this far down the road, with Gnosis they’ve provided one of the great surprises of 2022.

One of the hardest working acts around, Gnosis marks a celebration of a band truly rejuvenated.  

Gnosis is out tomorrow via Sargent House. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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