Russian Circles is a band that has no need to prove anything, neither as a collective unit, nor as individual musicians. Yet, on Guidance, the instrumental post-metal trio's sixth album in 10 years, they sound like exactly that--a band on a mission to prove something.

Throughout the exactly 41-minute runtime of Guidance, Russian Circles masterfully crafts an enormous array of soundscapes, from soft and gentle melodies to massive walls of sound, transitioning from one to the next seamlessly. The quiet, introspective, moments are beautiful and hopeful, especially on the opening track 'Asa', and the fifth, 'Overboard'. Both of these songs serve as stirring builds toward some of the album's more crushingly heavy moments in the openings of the songs 'Vorel' and 'Calla', which firmly belong in the class of heavy music that blows your hair back and hits you squarely in the chest.

These two sides of Russian Circles' music have always been somewhat at odds with each other, though they have always used the tension between them masterfully. Either melody or dissonance will build until they collapse into the other. On Guidance, however, these two are married seamlessly, and this creates surprising and beautiful moments. Nowhere is this better displayed than on the song 'Afrika', the sonically massive and major-keyed crescendo of the first half of the album.

One of the most remarkable things about Russian Circles as a band has been their ability to transcend any limitations that a trio might face and create massive and layered soundscapes. Their music almost never sounds like it could possibly be made by only three people, and Guidance pushes this to a new level. All three members of the band shine at different moments, but also fall back into supporting roles at different times. Throughout the album, I found myself constantly amazed that the sound being created was coming from only three musicians, but the album still somehow never sounds busy or cluttered.

Many instrumental bands look to fill space sonically by continuing to add more and more sound, and Russian Circles definitely does this. However, some of the best moments for each musician comes from the times when they know when they should lay back. This is especially true of drummer Dave Turncrantz and bassist Brian Cook, who frequently play more sparsely throughout Guidance, before building to massive crescendos and torrential waves of sound.

Guidance is Russian Circles' first time collaborating with producer and Converge guitarist, Kurt Ballou, who has established himself as one of the most powerful and talented names on the production side of heavy music today. Over the last couple years, there have been a swath of bands who have reached new heights musically by working with a new producer (bands like Turnover, Title Fight, and MewithoutYou working with Will Yip is probably the most powerful of these examples). Sometimes, as was the case with Turnover and Title Fight, this has been the result of a new direction for the band's sound. Russian Circles' work with Ballou is different, however. It is not that Ballou seems to have pushed them in a new direction, it's that he unlocked something new in what the band has been doing for a while now.

Guidance definitively sounds like a Russian Circles album, but every piece of the puzzle that made up their sound has been strengthened.





Guidance is not only Russian Circles' best album yet, but a standard-bearer for heavy, guitar-based instrumental music. Over ten years into their career now, Russian Circles may not need to prove anything, but with Guidance, they absolutely have.