In the not-too-distant past, when one discussed 'instrumental' Heavy Metal acts, thoughts would invariably turn to the most obvious of choices à la Karma To Burn, Pelican, Sunn O))). However, when guitarist Mike Sullivan and bassist Colin DeKuipe (both formerly of the woefully-unsung Dakota/Dakota) joined forces with former Riddle Of Steel drummer Dave Turncrantz as Russian Circles, the resulting sonic ingenuity would leave an immediate, long-lasting impact on the sub-genre(s) as a whole. After amicably parting ways DeKuipe (and recruiting ex-Botch/These Arms Are Snakes bassist Brian Cook) following the release of their full-length debut Enter (2006), the group quickly solidified their reputation as a bona fide creative force not be ignored via a series of universally-praised offerings. Now, with the issuance of the touted Blood Year, their latest--and quite possibly greatest--offering to date now upon us, they at last appear poised for unprecedented global recognition.
On the stellar Blood Year (2019), an expertly assembled seven song collection of instrumental Progressive Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the maddeningly infectious gem “Hunter Moon” and the relentlessly pummeling first single “Arluck”, immediately command the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Effortlessly flexing their woefully-underrated creative muscles early and often, the group yields a series of initial auditory offerings that are as impressive as they are thoroughly satisfying. While not necessarily groundbreaking and not yet legendary, the group easily exceeds even the most optimistic of expectations--many of which were unrealistically lofty following the well-deserved successes of Guidance (2016) and Memorial (2013). Maintaining an artful, never precarious balance of power and melody, the group lays the foundations for the undisputed and virtuosic mastery that soon follows.
Russian Circles have long excelled at creating dynamic prog-rock soundscapes by expertly exploring how live loops, tonal ranges and captivating post-metal melodies can open up a world of musical possibilities for a band. But with each new album comes…
Russian Circles have been coasting on a surprising level of consistent excellence for a band now on their seventh release. Their previous record, Guidance, was a lovely marriage of impressive songwriting and impeccable production. I said that Russian Circles had finally delivered the album I always wanted them to write – not like they actually listened to me or anything, but these ears were particularly pleased with the results. So imagine my surprise when, nearly three years later, the trio deliver an even better record.
After more than a decade of work, RUSSIAN CIRCLES have created six album of highly atmospheric, weighty post metal. Since Guidance back in 2016, there’s been some a growing anticipation of new material, with fans relishing the three years of almost constant touring about the US and with various stints in Europe. Now, RUSSIAN CIRCLES return with their latest album, Blood Year. Coming off the back of that highly acclaimed back catalogue and prior to the release of their new album, we spoke to Brian Cook about the changes in the band’s tonal temperament, their changing lifestyles and what that all means for greater coherency going forward.
Interview with guitarist Mike Sullivan | By Douglas Menagh | Photo by Alicia Armijo
Chicago’s Russian Circles, comprised of guitarist Mike Sullivan, drummer Dave Turncrantz, and bassist Brian Cook, dropped Blood Year through Sargent House on Aug. 2.
Ahead of the new album, the instrumental trio released “Arluck,” a song with intricate and dissonant hooks, search-and-destroy drumbeats, and aggressive basslines. The single is a technically impressive banger that alternates between moments of tranquility and broadly powerful episodes.
Below, Sullivan shares a bit about creating “Arluck,” recording Blood Year, collaborating with producer Kurt Ballou, loving hockey—the game that inspired the name Russian Circles—and what’s in store for the future.