A great metal track feels like a punch in the gut. The bass, drums and guitar hit you like a tsunami and you get caught in the undertow, leaving you battered and bruised, but ready for more. Whether you’re listening to speed metal, post-metal, or any other subgenre, you come to expect this visceral reaction. Sadly, the fourth album from instrumental post-metal trio Russian Circles, Empros, fails to meet these expectations.
Obviously there are moments of crunching, feedback-heavy catharsis to be had in this album – the powerhouse opener “309” and the ascending climax of “Batu” stand out in particular – but they are few and far between. Where other progressive- or post-metal bands would have complex rhythmic structures or prodigious guitar solos, Russian Circles has weak attempts at genre-bending that equally recall U2 (in “Mladek”) and ambient rockers Explosions in the Sky (in “Praise Be Man”).
The results are disappointing, especially considering the bands that Russian Circles has associated with since their formation in 2004: an impressive lineup that includes Coheed and Cambria, Tool, and Pelican, three groups who have perfected the balance between relentless noise and soothing soundscapes. They can deliver the “punch in the gut” that makes for a great metal band; Russian Circles could learn a lot from them.
– Beth C-C, host of One Nation Under Prog, which airs Wednesdays at noon EST on WGTB