Release Date: May 6, 2008
Reviewed by Evelyn Miska
Russian Circles’ latest full-length album Station is not the sort that will immediately appeal to a wide range of listeners. Fans of bands such as Pelican and Isis will be most likely to give Station a true chance, but those listeners that immediately dismiss the album will be missing out. While Station isn’t even remotely a typical rock album with its densely layered tracks, long, slow-building songs and complete focus on the instrumental aspect (there are no lyrics or singing of any sort) and that might be off-putting to some listeners. However, what the album does do is prove that lyrics aren’t necessary in order to write a good album and just because 99% of modern rock follows that pattern, doesn’t mean that these guys have to.
“Campaign” begins very slowly, so slowly, in fact, that one might thing the track isn’t even playing. Give it a minute or so and the build will begin with a very simple guitar melody that slowly is layered with bass and drums. As with other bands of this sort, the song ebbs and flows as it progresses for almost seven minutes. The climax of the song might not be as tremendous or obvious as some, but that definitely doesn’t mean the song is boring, it just has a subtlety that requires a much gentler touch.
“Harper Lewis” has a heavier feel to it than “Campaign” with more emphasis on drums and some more metal-influenced guitar parts. The song also makes use of electronic-sounding beats, which add an interesting effect to the overall sound. Definitely a track that fans of this genre will enjoy. “Station” and “Verses” tie for the longest tracks on the album, hitting almost nine minutes, but the intriguing thing is that neither song feels that long. Some tracks would feel like purgatory on Earth at that length, but Russian Circles manages to keep listeners interested with the propelling beats and (at least on “Station” the almost primal drumming.
Rounding out the six tracks is “Xavii” which begins with a totally different sound from the other tracks. With an almost blues-inspired sound for the guitar and an extremely slow and stripped down drumline, the song almost seems out of place at first. However, as the song progresses, it’s easy to see why Russian Circles included it. Not only does it offer the uniqueness of something a bit different, it works so well with the band’s abilities and style that it was a perfect way to end the album. IT might not be the typical collection of rock tracks, but Russian Circles knows what works for them and, best of all, is good at doing what they set out to do.