Across the span of their previous seven studio albums, Chicago-based instrumental trio Russian Circles traversed a diverse topography of sounds, moods, and approaches with their limited armory of drums, bass, and guitar. It’s difficult to chart an evolution in their sound when their records have always felt like well-curated playlists. It wasn’t uncommon to hear drone-heavy meditations, dazzling prog exercises, knuckle-dragging riff-fests, haunting folk ballads, and tension-baiting noise rock all within the span of one album.
Still, it’s difficult to ignore the progression from the pensive and intricate melodies of Enter (2006) to the layered distorted dirges of Blood Year (2019). It’s been a gradual sonic shift owing to the band’s rigorous tour schedule and a predilection towards playing their more authoritative material on stage. But with their latest album, Gnosis, Russian Circles eschew the varied terrain of their past work and bulldoze a path through the most tumultuous and harrowing territory of their sound.