Prepare yourselves, kindly readers, for nine minutes of accelerated falling. Russian Circles’ new album is substantially more than that, but the two tracks I’ve selected flow into each-other in such a way that they encompass everything I can get my analytical hooks in concerning this record, and so I feel it all boils down to those nine furious minutes. If you get those, you’ll get the rest. If not, Memorial is not for you. Read on and find out.
I feel this is a good day – well, as good as it can be – to write about this record, since this weekend has seen the passing of a truly unique and staggeringly talented actor. Phillip Seymour Hoffman etched a vivid mark in my memory with this portrayal of Truman Capote, but there’s something ineffable about his presence on screen, something which could never quite be captured in one landmark role, regardless of accolades or lack thereof. I don’t necessarily think this music has any sort of direct evocative quality for this elusive aspect, but I nevertheless find it somehow appropriate for its extinction.
Memorial is a very tense album, so much so that is seems a bit lopsided, a bit “off”, as they say, lumbering and threshing through the listener’s perception with a surprisingly tragic, mournful, disquieting passion, only to offer brief respite, like sudden sunshine through storm clouds, in some well placed nooks and crannies throughout the deluge of sound. It is difficult to isolate songs in this maelstrom. It’s like holding on to the illusion of a face in the turmoil of raging sea foam. But when and if it happens, when that moment clicks into place, it’s bound to stay with you for a while; one of those phenomena you could probably explain, but don’t really want to look into, for fear of damaging some strenuous relationship with the miraculous you feel too important and too evanescent to sacrifice to the gods of Google and Wikipedia.
Russian Circles’ music has evolved quite a bit in this respect since their 2006 record, titled “Enter” – I mention this record because it’s the one that introduced me to them and the one I hold in very high esteem -, trading some more structure and thematic memorability for upgraded ferocity and ability to dumbfound with the sheer towering mass of their chaotic onslaught. “Memorial” seems like another band’s effort altogether, were it not for a certain melodic lineage detectable, a dolorous consistency of harmonies and techniques, exerting their implacable gravity on both records. The Chicago trio have definitely earned their place in the pantheon of post-metal, along with Isis, Pelican, Mono, Red Sparrowes and such – bands for whom they used to open shows a few years ago. So here’s a sort of graduation record, paradoxically dedicated to the past.
Rather than focusing on either of these two songs in particular, I recommend you try and listen to the structural link between then – it is between the lines that this record shines most brightly, it is in the connective tissue, in the unspoken and unsung, in form more prominently than in content (this is my humble opinion and I wholeheartedly invite you to disagree in the comment section). And as always, enjoy!