Post-Metal is an extensive genre. There's something intrinsically beautiful and provocative about it. It's expansive and huge, and takes its listeners somewhere new, like reading a highly engaging sci-fi book about new worlds. Russian Circles is a prime example of this. Their new record Guidance is the most realized their sound has ever been within their decade-long career. It's a masterful crafting of performances that builds such an awe-inspiring visual for its listener, it's hard to not be blown away.
This album is everything post-metal should be. It's entirely instrumental too, leaving the instruments to do the talking and give meaning to the music. The soul of each track is very evident, almost tangible. Opening track 'Asa' provides for an introspective introduction to the record, a very soothing beginning that lets you reflect - it's already great that the album can have this effect so early on. It transitions into 'Vorel', which comes rumbling in with fantastic drumming from Dave Turncrantz segueing into evil-sounding guitars. The song develops with a thick and crunchy bassline from Brian Cook, which paired with the pounding toms and distorted guitars sounds epic. Crunchy basslines are a major part of 'Afrika' as well, the complimenting drum rolls that pair with it before the massive guitars kick in during the bridge (which has a weird cutout moment that interrupts the pace a bit) making the track immense. The song progresses from being a dark monster to an uplifting and hopeful call-to-arms by the end, concluding with a sweet little guitar melody. 'Overboard' follows up with the same sweet spacious guitar that concluded 'Afrika' before 'Cella' returns to the big heavy riffs and hits that feel like punches to the face.
There's almost a narrative going on within this album. Perhaps Guidance goes deeper than an entrancing listen. The album cover looks to be a shot of an unstable African society amidst a crisis... Which gives credit to the track title of 'Afrika'. The concluding track on the album is the sweet, giant buildup 'Lisboa', another location that has history of political unrest. Listening to the music, there is a sense of disorder within it. The narrative of war can be found through the album; 'Asa' is the calm before the storm, almost a reflection of a soldier or a time before a society was thrown into war. 'Vorel' follows through with the violence building up, growing in waves (as is with the rolling drums) before war becomes inevitable. 'Mota' has a hopeful sound with great guitar work, the hope of bystanders of the violence. The song becomes tense at the end, to portray that it is becoming evident that the conflict will not end easily. 'Afrika' perhaps plays to the violence of African conflicts, such as the Rwandan genocide. It's thick and unrelenting guitar plays a key role in setting the scene. It's soft reprise acts as an outlook for the future - a hopeful one.
The narrative isn't obvious, and perhaps unintended, but it does give Guidance some more dimension. Russian Circles created a truly immersive post-metal album. Guidance flows and ebbs with intensity and flows seamlessly from track to track, providing for a story to unfold as each note is hit. It's a masterful performance and a truly powerful album. Post-Metal at it's finest.
Favorite Tracks: Vorel, Lisboa, Afrika
Least Favorite Track: Overboard
Rating: 86 / 100