Russian Circles - Station (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Russian Circles

Station (2008)

Suicide Squeeze

Despite mildly progressive tendencies and the fingerwork of studio bassist Brian Cook (These Arms Are Snakes, ex-Botch), Station is a release that, like their 2006 debut, Enter did, largely manages to stake ground in the same territory that other metallic, instrumental-focused bands like Pelican and Isis reside. However, it's hard to fully undercut the band's sophomore full-length, another sprawling six-song effort by a trio whose tactics are smart enough to let a listener become entranced only to be asphyxiated.

Station sometimes favors more of a shimmer than Enter's pounding jam-out, as evidenced by opener "Campaign." The song doesn't carry much tension or climactic payoff, instead relying upon a steady, dizzying riff that merely stabilizes the song as an introduction of sorts. With the pulsating basslines from Cook and the yawning, gaping atmospheres of guitarist Mike Sullivan, the spelunking really seems to begin with the next track, "Harper Lewis," whose multiple twists and turns and headphone-traveling picking makes it an adventure; the mid-song chugga-chugga is a tense, pre-buildup ball of rage -- I'd like to think Cook cooked up this part himself, reminiscing of his more ferocious days in Botch. After the three-piece slam together for a moment's notice, there's a lengthy deconstruction to the end.

The title track's misleading beginnings leads us to a Headbanger's Ball-worthy song. When the band rocks this live, they're likely to make the venue look like the bobblehead section at the Marriott's weekend memorabilia show. Those heavier riff parties trade off with quieter sections before the song's picked-out, prolonged finish, polishing off nearly nine minutes in all. It's followed by "Verses, " a sort of 'daylight breaking' track that finds the band opening up more space than anywhere else on the record and managing to maintain a warmth and optimism unlike themselves; think Mono stripped of the orchestration.

Don't sleep on the last third, though. "Youngblood" is an energized, uptempo (for them) affair that throbs and moves, painting with the gray brush they're known for, and it's got the best and heaviest apex the record's got to show. Just like "Campaign" quietly ushered us in, closer "Xavii" stably practices restraint to the record's exit, even featuring a subtle layer of organ work by producer Matt Bayles; bringing to mind This Will Destroy You with wistful octaves and stretched spheres, Sullivan provides perfect closing credits.

Though their plays haven't outmaneuvered every team in the league, Russian Circles have stayed steady in their game. Station won't get them to the conference finals, but it'll certainly clinch them another berth.

Harper Lewis