The eighth album from the ultimate instrumental power trio of post-rock / post-metal, featuring guitar wizard Mike Sullivan, drummer Dave Turncrantz and ex-Botch / These Arms Are Snakes bassist Brian Cook, who currently also splits his time playing with Aaron Turner (ex-Isis) in Sumac (editor’s note: and maybe the potential Botch comeback too).
The album was largely written during the lockdowns of the pandemic, as the three traded ideas with each other remotely with the initial plan of writing some music for a more stripped-back, melodic release. However, it’s fair to say that this isn’t quite how things turned out, as Gnosis (Sargent House) is among some of the darkest and heaviest material of their sixteen-year career.
Right from the off the album opens with the distorted chugging riff of ‘Tupilak’, with a slow and ponderous rhythm section featuring an ominous sounding drum and an intoxicating bass heavy groove. On ‘Conduit’ Russian Circles show there’s no letting up with the continuation of a heavy distorted drop tuned guitar, and an increase in pace, with Turncrantz providing the heartbeat and showing his prowess with some tasty percussive fills, while Sullivan’s tremolo picking provides a wonderfully eerie vibe on a dropped-tuning section.
On the title track, Cook’s bass creates a harsh and powerful tone as the music subtlety builds from the moody synth intro, before it morphs into a pulsating hook, almost dancing with Sullivan’s lead. The track has a mystical opening and progresses through a hallucinogenic main riff to a wonderfully dark ending. ‘Vlastimil’ is a deep and rumbling slice of haunting Doom Metal, while on ‘Betrayal’ the band channel a Black Metal influence, with crashing percussion and a deep dark hypnotic blackened riff.
The record closes out on more of a melodic note with ‘Bloom’, which in contrast to the rest of the album is an uplifting climax after your ears have been dragged through the muddy waters of the rest of the album. On Gnosis, Russian Circles have clearly mastered the dark arts of heavy and discerning instrumental music. They know exactly what to do to pull the listener deep into their rich-textured soundscapes whilst holding them under, and each track provides a masterfully alluring progressive journey.
9 / 10