Sound — 8
Russians Circles have been on a steady climb in the post-rock/post-metal scene since their inception over a decade ago. After their humble debut album, 2006's "Enter," had the band parlay into a record deal with reputable indie label Suicide Squeeze Records to release their 2008 follow-up album, "Station," Russian Circles would really hit their stride a year later when they teamed up with producer Brandon Curtis (formerly of Secret Machines) for their grander third album, "Geneva." Seeing a substantial creative connection with Curtis, the band would continue to have him produce their records, and with 2012's "Empros" attempting to get heavier to good reception, their following 2013 album, "Memorial," would fine-tune their metal side while also tending more to the ethereal side by recruiting Chelsea Wolfe to provide vocals on the eponymous closing song, resulting in their most well-lauded album to date.
For their sixth album, "Guidance," Russian Circles show more change in their compositional matter, imperatively affected by their choice to have the esteemed Kurt Ballou (guitarist of Converge) produce the record. With his presence, the elaboration of their softer side in previous albums is swapped out for more elaboration on their metal side - you won't find any string sections or acoustic guitar in the album, but the metal moments pop out with much more aplomb, whether in the tremolo-loaded likes of "Vorel," the blastbeat and techy riffing that outclasses the elementary tapping riffs of "Empros" found in "Mota," or the sludgy despair that covers "Calla."
Though their metal side in the album comes off even more cultivated and powerful than their previous two albums, the airy post-rock side of Russian Circles still manages to soar above that density rather than be buried by it, contrasting itself to the heavy energy in the triumphant-to-tense metamorphosis of "Afrika" and the spacey-to-grainy closer of "Lisboa," as well as getting its own moments to shine alone in the delicate 5/4 opener of "Asa" and the soothing 7/4 cut of "Overboard."
Lyrics — 8
[There are no lyrics in this album.]
Overall Impression — 8
As Russian Circles continue their journey of emphasizing the metal aspect of their post-metal sound, the next step they take in "Guidance" makes for a solid move forward. Their cooperation with Ballou to properly strengthen their metal muscles while still managing to keep the album from being too aggro and top-heavy results in "Guidance" being a strong display of Russian Circles wielding the best of both worlds with dynamic aptitude - keeping a foot in the roots of their ethereal post-rock nature, and wielding their metal energy with a tighter grip.