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  • RUSSIAN CIRCLES
    "Enter" LP

    HWC015
    Release Date: 7/25/06
    Track Listing:

    1. Carpe
    2. Micah
    3. Death Rides A Horse
    4. Enter
    5. You Already Did
    6. New Macabre
    "Its been about 5 months since Russian Circles (RC) released their debut album, Enter. In this span of time, they have seemed to be gaining quite a bit of ground. Touring extensively with some well respected bands (Mono, Pelican, mewithoutYou, The Appleseed Cast, and Minus the Bear), R.C have been quickly gaining a pretty impressive fan base. Coupled with the help of the internet, they are on the verge of becoming one of the bigger bands in the instrumental rock scene. But does all this mean Enter deserves the attention? From the outset, Russian Circles differentiate themselves from most instrumental music thanks to their non-orthodox approach to the genre. Where most bands in the genre prefer structured, carefully paced builds and arrangements, Russian Circles choose to make their music much more spastic. This of course creates an overall product that is constantly entertaining, especially (it would seem) in a live setting. With this approach to a genre people often refer to as dull, boring, or “music that puts them to sleep,” it’s easy to see how many people are attracted to Russian Circles. Yet, appearances can be very deceiving. Russian Circles’ main selling point is also their biggest downfall. While Carpe, Death Rides a Horse, Enter are songs that prove RC can make music that differs greatly from an often overplayed formula, the constantly changing tempos and instrumentation leave a lot to be desired. Russian Circles never really accomplish any unity in their songs, instead creating a series of 5 to 9 minute onslaughts that carry no structure or continuation. Sure its fun to listen to, but to anyone who is familiar with the instrumental genre it lacks depth, especially on the latter half of the CD where Russian Circles' formula falls flat. Complicating the problem, the times when Russian Circles do succeed amidst chaos are downplayed due to their dissapointing brevity. The climaxes of songs are often not extended enough to warrant repeat listens. Instead, I often found myself rewinding or fast forwarding through songs just to find a certain riff or breakdown. Instrumental music should allow the listener to appreciate the journey to the central focus of the song, a place where Russian Circles fails. Don’t get me wrong, what Russian Circles has crafted in Enter is an impressive debut that will surely attract many new fans to the genre. But behind the glamour and constantly shifting music, is a CD that lacks any real depth. Hopefully, the next time around, Russian Circles will be just a little bit “boring” in order to achieve a more coherent piece of music."
    Absolute Punk

    "When an album comes in for review they almost always come with some kind of promotional one-sheet full of words that hype the band. Most of the time, the comparisons and adjectives used to describe the band are way off the mark or quite simply wrong. However, for once in my life I can say that a promotional bio has finally been justified. Within the bio for Russian Circles, a trio from Chicago that formed out of the ashes of Dakota/Dakota and Riddle Of Steel, the writer claims that the band has “it”. They go on to describe why but when it comes to their debut album for Flameshovel, Enter, it is simple: Russian Circles do indeed have it. First and foremost, Russian Circles play instrumental music meaning they have no vocals. Comparisons have been made to the likes of Isis, Pelican, and Red Sparowes, all of which are bands in the upper echelon of instrumental post-rock. With their performance on Enter, there is no doubt that Russian Circles is already a part of this group. Enter defines completeness. Comprised of six tracks that range in length from five to nine minutes, this album flows graciously into itself. The opening tune, “Carpe”, is the longest at nine minutes but there is not a moment throughout that isn’t captivating. Instead of simply relying on shifts in noise level, Russian Circles inject dizzying tempos, theatrics, and instrumentation into their song structure. This song alone relies on what appears to be a never-ending build-up into a crescendo of guitar, drum, and bass. The following, “Micah”, is a bit more scattershot with a lot going on while “Death Rides A Horse” easily stands out as the band’s best track. The prog-rock riffing and equally impressive drumming is the highlight but the reason it stands out is because of its appeal. At around five minutes in length, the heavier and up-tempo nature of the track makes it accessible to people that would otherwise find instrumental music boring and repetitive. As the disc moves on, the remaining songs give the listener the experience that they’d expect. Of the latter half songs, “New Macabre” is one of the best with its technical and jazzy prowess that eventually yields to an aggressive force. This is yet another song that would be a good listen for non-instrumental fans. More so than their peers, I see Russian Circles as a gateway band for instrumental music. With songs like “Death Rides A Horse” and “New Macabre” there’s no doubt that many music fans could enjoy this band. The main problem with Enter lies with its production. While it is not bad per se, it falls short of doing the band’s grandiose sound justice. Aside from this, Enter is short on flaws. When it’s said and done, it’s the way that Russian Circles gracefully write their songs that keeps Enter flowing and worthwhile for any fan of the post-rock genre."
    Acclaimed Punk

    "Enter, a six-song, 44-minute coming of age of Chicago’s own Russian Circles, ably balances lovely clean-channel melodies and big-assed riffs alike. Its deft combinations of interwoven harmonies, rhythmic grooves and nod inducing drum work, along with its significant ability to structure its all-instrumental jams, make the standard-practice eight-minute tune feel much closer to four. And that’s certainly appreciated; far too many groups go the route of writing lengthy songs without keeping them interesting for their duration. But this outfit of drums, bass and guitar, often augmented by guitar effects with the occasional visit from piano or mellotron, knows a thing or two about dynamics. No under-the-breath mutterings of when the buildup will end; no cursing of repetitious material. When you need that rock, Russian Circles are all too equipped to chuck it upside your head. I guess the one knock on these Eastern Bloc chaps is that Enter has a substantial amount of repeat material from their old four-song EP. And it’s not that the musical recidivism is necessarily bad – a broader audience from this Flameshovel release deserves to be treated to the old hotness – but being my greedy self, I was hoping for more material that I had not heard. Regardless, I defy you to pick up Enter and not be head banging by “Death Rides a Horse.” If the near-black-metal riffage that opens up that third track doesn’t get you breaking your neck, few things will. “Death Rides a Horse” then meanders to dueling, distortion-free and palm-muted synchronizations before a well-placed bridge diverts us back to metal in our faces. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the tight-as-nails ability of the man behind the kit. If you haven’t yet had the good fortune of hearing Russian Circles, I implore you to do so."
    Alarm Magazine

    "Since the early '90s, approximately 90 million instrumental-rock bands have filled the underground with difficult time signatures, finger-tapped guitar lines and big dynamic shifts, and none of them has yet eclipsed the colossal figure of Don Caballero. And while Chicago trio Russian Circles aren't there yet, either, they're closing in fast. The band's debut album, Enter, packs the requisite elements--the finger-tapping and distorted swells of "Death Rides A Horse"; the abrupt meter changes of "New Macabre"--but it also flows with a sort of vocal-less narrative grace, weaving its own imaginary storyline in the manner of Japan's Mono, or at least in ways most rock bands usually require a singer to achieve. Of course, with the shortest song clocking in at five minutes, and with the spaces between the (quite awesome) riffs mostly given to the sort of delicate, tentative guitar figures that went out of vogue with Slint's Spiderland, it'd be nice to see a slimmer wheat-to-chaff ratio on the Circles' next album. But at least they kill it live."
    Alternative Press

    "Instrumental rock is a tricky beast, without enough finesse or skill a band can just end up making empty sounds that yearn for vocals to beef them up or become mired in slothful jamming. Thankfully Russian Circles suffer not from a lack of throat work or a tendency to drone. The sound of Russian Circles goes beyond any post-rock scene, they are simply creating rock music, utilising big riffs that recall Karma To Burn yet at the same time they also can pluck their instruments with the same delicacy as any acid fried 21st century folkster. Each track from the rolling metal of Death Rides A Horse to the hypnotic Carpe is in no way a jam, like the recent envy album , these are proper songs with beginnings, middles and ends. Six tracks performed and recorded without a note gone to waste, Enter is a fascinating debut album from a Chicago band that will hopefully do well. On tour in the US just now, let's hope they get over here soon"
    Altnation.com

    "Strictly instrumental albums can be hard to stomach. There are no catchy lyrics or choruses, nothing to transform into an obnoxious jingle about swiffer mops. At the same time, it's that lack of pop-culture-radio friendliness that makes music-centered records memorable. The Russian Circles debut full length, Enter, is a perfect example of this escape from the norm. Out on Flameshovel Records, the Chicagoans combine elements of delicate instrumentation with explosive noise. Containing several lengthy tracks from their self-pressed EP, Enter straddles a thin line between rock and roll influence and heavy emotional old Fugazi meets Sunny Day Real Estate. It may never be a product for the masses, but it's bound to be pleasantly absorbed by those who give the time to listen."
    Amplifier Magazine

    "I've been sitting on this Russian Circles record Enter for entirely too long. I finally got around to writing the review for Pop Matters last week and really regretted dragging my feet for so long. I think I was initially intimidated by the fact that the band plays instrumental rock. I often find that I have a hard time wrapping my head around instrumental music because a) I'm not a musician and b) it often lacks the hook or signature that I usually use to access a band's style. But really those are lazy excuses. So on a long drive before the Labor Weekend I put Enter (released on Flame Shovel Records) into the car CD player and let it rock me. It's unfortunate that instrumental rock music is thought of as less accessible than music with a vocalist and lyrics. Simply put Enter is a powerful record. It's heavy and loud, full of moments of metal, hardcore, indie rock, punk and spiraling slightly psych passages. It's varied and dynamically arresting, often traveling from moments of quiet simplicity to a raging barrage of guitar squal freak out. It was a great record for a long drive. It may not have vocals but the songs do speak. It's a strong record that deserves more attention than it's gotten."
    Bars and Guitars

    "Whenever I come upon checking out a band that is instrumental, a few obvious questions come to my mind. One: Why don’t they have a vocalist? Two: Do they play boring jazz or electronic based music? And three: Is the music sufficient enough or am I wishing they held out for someone with some pipes? Chicago based Russian Circles surpass my instrumental screening criteria. Why? Because I think, quite possibly, vocals could ruin everything I like about their music. The band is modestly a three-piece, but manages to sonically expand to what—at times—sounds like an orchestra, that is if the said ensemble smoked a lot of pot and let their hair grow past their ears and worshipped the blessed time signatures of Yes. Lazy reviewers could easily lump these guys in with any heavy instrumental group that utilizes elements of math rock, jazz, and prog. I am going to attempt to do the boys one better by labeling them apocalyptic mood rock! Once Armageddon comes I want to ride a fucking flamed chariot to the punishing riffs of the approriatly named, “Death Rides a Horse,” and come to the morbid realization I am the only man alive to the sounds of “Micah.” Yes, Russian Circles utilizes elements of math rock, prog, metal, and swooping indie post-rock capacities, but the boys succeed mostly in creating a layered mood. The music is as intense as it is soothingly subdued. At one minute your mother could be grabbing her yoga mat and the next your burnout uncle could be propelling his mighty locks around furiously. It is the weaving of the quiet to loud dynamics that set the band apart. The opening track “Carpe,” fully illustrates the band’s capabilities by opening with a spooky organ grinder-styled guitar loop that quickly resonates into a triumphant sword-wielding explosion. The guitar arpeggios and harmonics skillfully shift time signatures that make this nearly ten-minute song seem like five minutes tops. At times even the use of distortion seems light as if used as a hazy layer to transition parts. The resulting feel of the song illustrates to me a man on the brink of a challenging journey, like the elfish Zelda of our youth or a Dungeons and Dragons character. In addition to the angled atmospherics, Russian Circles uses a supreme sense of technical musicianship. The rhythm section is locked in place with precision and the virtuosity of guitarist Mike Sullivan shines with every finger tap sweep. You’d think these boys would look like some Guitar Center heshers who used to spend their days on the clock shredding the mighty chords of Dream Theater, but in reality these are some skinny unassuming hipsters from Chicago, who’d probably take your mother up for some milk and cookies. Enter is a solid debut for a band that is destined to outdo themselves with each release. Already on the road for most of the year with bands like Minus the Bear, Murder by Death, Pelican, and Isis, this band is making believers out of indie/hardcore kids alike. Go ahead and treat yourself."
    Daytrotter.com

    "Pelican nailed it with “March Into the Sea,” an instrumental epic so impossibly brilliant that it not only served as the centerpiece of last year’s The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw but earned an EP of its own. “Carpe,” the highlight of this likeminded Chicago trio’s new full-length and the self-released demo that preceded it, presses exactly the same buttons. Actually, engineer Greg Norman was responsible for all the button pressing on both tracks. “Carpe” is a gold star, A++ assignment that elbows the rest of Enter out of the way for prime placement on mommy and daddy’s fridge; Russian Circles could slap a variation of this song on every release from now until forever and make many Isis fans very, very happy. The group’s approval rating will invariably depend on instrumental rock’s fluid definition of the golden ratio of volume control. These days, the best pretty parts pop out of the oven in English, Scottish and Japanese kitchens; in keeping with their hometown’s status as the deep-dish capital of the world, the trio excels anywhere they provide themselves a thick crust to chew on. Apparently, Damon Che did not issue the final word on the link between Van Halen and post-rock with the first Thee Speaking Canaries record. Listen as guitarist Mike Sullivan runs his four fingers of death all over the fretboard on “Death Rides a Horse,” communicating a sense of galloping menace that eludes the best of Matt Pike’s storm warnings. But their quietly dramatic songs, such as “You Already Did,” find uneven footing and beg for a little more of that brash showmanship—after all, thunder is what gives lightning context."
    Decibel Magazine

    "In the past couple of years someone has gone and moved the boundaries of post-rock so that this instrumental metal is now contained within it. So with the door open, in walked the likes Pelican, then doom supergroup Red Sparowes and most recently, Russian Circles. And it’s a damn good thing, because for want of a better phrase, "they rock". This new 6-track release is basically material that was on their self-released 4 track but redone and with 2 new tracks. The 4 older songs will be familiar to fans with the prior CD but the arrangement has been changed and some outros have been tacked on to make the album flow amazingly well considering the tracks themselves vary so much. Those who have yet to experience Russian Circles can expect to be dazzled by a band that can plough through riffs and drums comparable to Mastodon but end up making an album full of music you actually want to play in your home at the end of the day (except maybe on “Death Rides A Horse" which is just all out metal – like long hair, sweat, beer, weed and motorbikes metal). The two new songs don’t give any hint that the band intends to settle into any of the niches it carved with the old material either. One of them is the bands calmest moment, "Micah", and the other is six and a half minutes of building rhythm that I’m quite positive was written purely to obliterate all skulls foolish enough to get in its way. I don’t know what more I can say about this band really, they’ve got all the bases covered… If you like Red Sparowes but want it cranked to eleven then go no further but if you are more interested in twinkling guitars and thoughtful interludes then they can provide that too – and damn it I couldn’t make it through the whole review without mentioning Explosions in The Sky; "You Already Did" sounds very influenced by the Texan quartet. In short I cannot recommend this enough, usually I’m into the much more orchestral/classical/'pretty' end of all things post-rock but these guys from Chicago have won me over."
    Decoy Music

    "Thank God for bands like Russian Circles; there aren’t enough of them. That is in reference to the Chicago-based three-piece’s instrumental attack that nails a wide swath of sounds – indie rock, punk, prog, metal, ambient – into one flowing package of goodness. Composed of guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Colin DeKuiper, and drummer Dave Turncrantz, the six songs on Enter don’t shift awkwardly between sounds, but instead weave and layer to make a gorgeous picture. If you are getting the correct image in your head, Russian Circles bring up comparisons to Explosions in the Sky and Pelican. While Russian Circles are heavier, more rock structured, and slightly less majestic than those two bands, there is enough across the forty-four minutes to enjoy. Hopefully, Russian Circles will further progress and unleash mind-blowing uber-tight affairs in the near future."
    Exoduster.com

    "The first thing you should know about the Russian Circles is that they are a three-piece instrumental metal rock band from Chicago. Enter contains six epic tracks that average a bit over 7 minutes with a range from heavy jarring metal to gentle faint sections. The catchy part of this album is its quick transitions, which are essential to keep the listener’s attention. At one point, you can find yourself picking along with the guitar before launching into a raging drum section that just builds with every moment. I think that it takes several listens to Enter to comprehend the different instrumentation in each track, which will keep you coming back for more - air guitar in hand!"
    Fire Note

    "If you’re into ice hockey, the term ”russian circles” should ring a bell for you. I don’t know had Finnish hockey team ever fall into that trick – oh well, they must have – but what I know is, I’m falling quickly in love with Enter, the Russian Circles’ debut album (out May 16th on Flameshovel). Enter includes six songs of instrumental music that roughly explained kicks ass and expands the genre while at it. And no, it’s definitely not post-rock. However, it doesn’t mean that this would not be highly emotional at times. It builds its themes more on destructive rather than constructive goals, having all the energy and the emotional framework rock music provides. At the end of the album listener is gasping for breath or optionally so delighted from the music that he/she is forgetting to breathe. Biography likes to underline the fact that Russian Circles are a live band and I’m not second guessing that. Songs have a lot of catchy hooks, they are huge enough to take over any crowd plus the band plays so well that it must be nice to watch them perform. That at times slick, prog-rock alike playing might be the turn-off for some in Russian Circles case; however those fills are rather few. It’s very hard trying to describe Russian Circles sound more in detail since their interpretation of music takes from so many different sources. If not else, it’s tenderly loud. That should be something easy to appreciate."
    Lupatarkastaja.samizdat.info

    "Explosions In The Sky-esque excursions into dynamic instrumental music often lead to nothing but soft/heavy/soft rhetoric. Oh, and Mogwai comparisons. So instead of rehashing that formula, the following descriptions color in the scenes suggested by Chicago trio Russian Circles on its debut. “Death Rides A Horse” actually kick-starts like a ranch ride gone horribly wrong, where only the strongest ketamine will bring down a stallion that just decided to buck Uncle Henry and head off into the sunset. By the 4:54 mark, only drums can be heard in the distance, popping off through a sea of smoke like shotgun shells. Is it a hunter trying to bring down Mr. Ed? We’ll never know. As for Enter’s most dramatic plot point, that’d have to be the seven disorienting minutes that make up the title track. A steady, serene build starts things off, but by the 3:37 point, it sounds like someone is either being bludgeoned to death or set on fire. Even eye-flinchingly worse at 5:38 is the steady slice and roll of a guillotine assembly line. But then there’s a sudden flute motif followed by a shimmering, magical-mirror sound effect and a sense of serenity. Enter’s remaining four tracks conjure tone-poem verses of palpitating hearts, hypnotist sessions, heavy chopping against cedar bark and a wobbly Frankenstein’s monster as it learns how to walk. My suggestion: Just shut up, shut down and listen."
    Magnet Magazine

    "Though the press may push this group's metal side before even mentioning that they're an instrumental band, Russian Circles' debut adds sparse, though undeniably seamless, moments of heavy metal grandeur to mostly math-rock noodling. Enter has several moments of gnashing guitars, and the band shows discipline and musical chops throughout, but Russian Circles are metal-dabblers working inside of an indie rock idiom, not a cult band who happen to permeate its finicky borders. (Their circle on a Venn diagram would be completely enveloped by their labelmates at indie-friendly Flameshovel, where the circles of acts like Boris or Pelican just overlap slightly at its edges. No, I'm not going to draw it.) These guys are used to playing for audiences who don't want to hear extended guitar solos with mile-a-minute hammer-ons, or-- god forbid-- a percussion solo. So, they've found a new way to show off: with stunning, bludgeoning, consistently surprising transitions. Opening track "Carpe" stakes out a peak the rest of the Enter strains to meet. It has the albums's most breathless false stops and likely its heaviest moments, veering from "Twilight Zone" high note plucking to rubbery fretboard tapping, to punishing power chords and back again. "Micha" is a moody Mogwai knockoff that builds from clean guitar and piano to a thrashing crescendo more naturally, and much less interestingly. Thankfully, "Death Rides a Horse" brings as much muscle as possible, with a tireless guitar riff riding the song's choppy, unpredictable rhythms. The remaining three tracks (doesn't read like much, but these songs commonly stretch past the seven- and eight-minute mark) traverse a smoother, moodier plane, though there are moments, like the halfway mark of the title track or "New Macabre", that are not recommended for pregnant mothers, chronic back pain sufferers, or those with heart disease-- Russian Circles can build an atmosphere so calming and innocuous you'll never see the hammer coming from behind. The band turns on a dime so quickly, however, that it becomes their best and only trick. Enter never feels like head-down noodling, nor does it get muddled by excess, but maybe it could have used a little of either. "Hooks" isn't quite the right word, but the band works so hard on making Enter a seamless slab of genre-melding goodness that they neglected to include any moments that stood out from the rest, so none have a chance of sticking with the listener. The first couple of listens are stunning, and it probably makes for a great live show, but it doesn't leave much of a mark-- just a vague feeling of competency."
    Pitchfork Media

    "It doesn’t take long to realize the Russian Circles are too ambitious to linger with the delicate tapestries most instrumental music is content to stop with. Loud/quiet, verse/chorus, melodic/chaotic, and crescendos of any kind all seem redundant here. Despite naming the album Enter, the Russian Circles have not crafted an inviting landscape. This palace has lions at the gate telling you to approach with fear. The glittering melodies sprinkled throughout are enough to beckon even the least adventurous listener, but the roaring metal histrionics will surely stop some dead in their tracks. Two steps forward, one step back. The album is not about entrance, but passage—a textbook on navigating the intricacies of an unsure path. The opening guitar atmospherics on the Russian Circles’ debut LP glides in on the echoes of the sauntering post-rock of barely-there step cousins Explosions in the Sky. One knows immediately a stage is being set, but the dramatics that wander through the plot spoil any sense of determinacy. Every moment is essential, but it does not concern itself with the push and pull of any available formula. It doesn’t take long to realize the Russian Circles are too ambitious to linger with the delicate tapestries most instrumental music is content to stop with. Loud/quiet, verse/chorus, melodic/chaotic, and crescendos of any kind all seem redundant here. They fold into one another rather than build and descend. The instruments crash against one another then play nice, moving together seamlessly as if the band is dashing off its third album. Not to discount the dense talents of former Riddle of Steel drummer Dave Turncrantz or the mostly understated bass of DeKuiper, but this review wouldn’t be fully honest if I didn’t single out Mike Sullivan’s guitar work. It is the first thing the listener latches on to, and the last thing remembered. It is highly developed and textured. My one criticism would be that it falls into metal cliché periodically, if only for a moment before resurfacing with an unexpected turn. Generally, critics try to pick out an album’s highlights, but to do this with Enter would read something like: Track one, minute four; the main riff of “Death Rides a Horse”; the drums in minute five of “Enter”; the gorgeously woven guitars of “You Already Did”; the understated punk quotes in “New Macabre.” You get the idea. If I had never really listened to classical music, maybe I’d call it symphonic or perhaps operatic. Ideas are developed, then abandoned and picked up again later, whether in the same song or several tracks into the sequence. It is aware of its own coherence, knowing what the format can bear and where the limits can be pushed further. Above all, the Russian Circles have the two qualities any band worth following must: mastery of their craft and dead-on instincts."
    Playbackstl.com

    "There was once a time when being in an instrumental rock band meant being completely ignored within the underground music community. Thanks to bands like Russian Circles however, that is no longer the case. Epic, dense, and powerfully emotive, Enter is easily one of the most musically accomplished releases to come along in recent memory. Each of the album’s six tracks are wide open soundscapes that are both dynamic and meticulously composed. One of this band's most striking features is their ability to seamlessly transition from crushing heaviness to delicate calm several times over within a single song. Album opener “Carpe” and title track “Enter” begin with subdued quiet passages that slowly build into monstrous walls of sound that envelope the listener. On “Death Rides a Horse” however, the band blasts off with a triumphant, galloping `80s metal riff; the kind Metallica only wishes they still knew how to write. Russian Circles blend a wide range of genres and sounds effortlessly with breathtaking soft/loud dynamics in such a way that is entirely their own. Similar to fellow Chicago band Pelican, their music is able to make a strong emotional connection with audiences without ever having to say a word. Highly recommended."
    Punknews.org

    "I always get hyped when a record starts out with eerie pianos- you can’t go wrong with haunting pianos. It always works best when that simple piano melody gets faster and louder until it is joined by crunchy riffs, echoing effects, long bass lines and scattered drumming. Behold Russian Circles. I never seem to be able to think of adjectives when I’m reviewing an experimental instrumental CD. It’s a hard genre to pin down with words due to the lack of stagnancy… sit still so I can pin you down. Do me a favor: get out a thesaurus and look up atmospheric. All of those words will be a fitting description for Enter. This will also work when you look up transcendent and/or enthralling. Basically, Russian Circles deliver crazy musical journeys that mix and meld many genres while maintaining that accessibility that prevents you from skipping songs. Enter has a great way of grabbing hold of the listener and pulling them into it’s swirling, spinning musical tornado. What keeps you there is how beautiful it is when you’re in the eye of the storm."
    Relativetheoryrecords.com

    "Hearing a new band for the very first time can be an awesome experience – it can also be horrible, but that is not the case here. I had never heard of Russian Circles prior to seeing their name listed as an opener for a semi-recent Isis tour. Being curious as to what they sounded like, I scoured the Internet for any information I could find. I was surprised to find that two members of the now extinct Dakota/Dakota were a part of this band; I rather enjoyed them. After further investigations, I eventually I came across an mp3 of the song “Death Rides a Horse.” Needles to say, I was floored by what I heard. If one wanted to be lazy, they could simply describe Russian Circles as an instrumental act in the vein of Pelican and all those other post-rock/metal hybrids. But this would be doing a huge disservice to Russian Circles. Yes, the band certainly draws from the likes of post-rock/metal trailblazers Isis and Neurosis, but there is also a significant draw of math-rock from the likes of Don Caballero, Drive Like Jehu, and Frodus, not to mention, the occasional nod to math-core pioneers Botch. Combine all these influences together and you get the brilliance that is the forty-four minutes that comprise Enter. The album opens with the nine-minute epic “Carpe.” Over the course of the song, the band makes use of interweaving guitar melodies, dynamic drumming, and thundering basslines. The song slowly builds, moving through a number of different segments that highlight each individual's skill at their instrument, before it crescendos in a wall of sound. Following this peak, the song softly resides until there is nothing but the faint guitar tones. On the next track, “Micha,” Russian Circles delve into the slightly more atmospheric and sparse instrumentation of post-rock, save for brief segment of heaviness toward the later portion of the song. The ante is then upped on “Death Rides a Horse,” the song I first heard from the band. There is definitely more muscle to this song that the others on Enter. The riffs are fierce and drive the song, which fuses a plethora of influences - everything from math-rock, metal, and prog-rock - into a cohesive sound. The bands ability to arrange a song with so many varying styles truly exhibits their skill as songwriters. The title track blends everything that we've heard thus far with ultra smooth transitions between building sequences, morsels of chaos, and lulling drop-offs. I especially enjoyed the use of eerie snyths after the completion of the song as an interlude. The final two pieces of Enter/ come together in the songs “You Already Did” and “New Macabre.” The former is another moody post-rock-esque tune in the vein of Explosions in the Sky, while the later defies clear definition, like many of the other songs, as it traverses multiple genre boundaries. With their debut release, Russian Circles have certainly become one of my favorite current bands. A feat that has been further solidified with the help of energetic and awe-inspiring live performances. If you've yet to buy into the craze, do so now as Russian Circles are certainly deserving of all the praise they are receiving."
    Scenepointblank.com

    "Russian Circles are a new band playing in the increasingly popular genre of instrumental post-rock. That’s a tough situation for a new band to step into. However, Russian Circles are not your typical young band. They are made up of scene veterans who have been around the block once or twice with bands like Dakota/Dakota and Riddle Of Steel. Perhaps that is why Enter sounds so mature. In this genre especially it seems to take an album or two for a band to sound comfortable. Russian Circles have quite simply bypassed that with their debut album. Every note on Enter sounds perfectly placed and the band has put themselves into elite company in one fell swoop. Nine minute album opener, “Carpe” has a slow buildup before delving into more heavier waters. The band has the remarkable ability to go from all out heaviness to a more intricate instrumental sound in a split second. The second track, “Micah”, is truly the highlight of the album. The song builds and retreats in remarkable fashion before it succombs to a soft closure of guitar feedback. “Death Rides A Horse” precisely portrays its title with some truly jaw dropping and ominous guitar work. Just when you thought that Russian Circles was all about the riffage the band comes back at you with the a track like “You Already Did” which brings to mind Explosions In The Sky and Mono. The track deals in more atmospheric tones than any of the other songs on Enter. Russian Circles will certainly get compared to genre giants like Pelican but the fact is that the band has already outshined many of their peers on album number one. The question is if the band can keep things fresh. It is something that is remarkably difficult for a band in this genre to do. If Enter is any indication, this band certainly has that potential."
    Soundaslanguage.wordpress.com

    "Enter’ was recorded by Greg Norman, who has also worked with Neurosis and Pelican amongst others. This gives a fair indication of the material on ‘Enter’, a mixture of the progressive metal of bands such as Isis and Envy and post-rock bands such as Mono and Explosions in the Sky. Russian Circles are in fact very similar in terms of sound to Pelican and The Capricorns; they use the dynamics traditional to post-rock but combined with metals love of ‘the riff’. A popular sound at the moment, but Russian Circles do it with style. Without vocals to distract, ‘Enter’ is completely absorbing, the riffs and motifs flow well into each other, too often music of this ilk can simply sound like an assortment of riffs bolted together. But real thought has gone into the composition of ‘Enter’; and this makes it a very rewarding record."
    Tasty Fanzine

    "Russian Circles’ vast, breathtaking and all consuming sound not only helps stir the instrumental revolution’s fire even further, but bolster Chicago’s musical chops. Alongside fellow Chicagoans of Pelican, Russian Circles appear to have all but mastered the construction of steep and enlightened instrumental compositions. Loaded with addictive riffs, bustling rhythms and mesmerizing transitions, Enter is already a stalwart for 2006 even with the bevy of more summer and fall releases yet to come. The six tracks flow like as a singular vision, highlighted by the title track, which exemplifies Russian Circles’ immense depth and raw talent to stretch music to far reaches. Not quite metal, not quite rock ‘n’ roll and not quite hardcore either, Russian Circles’ point of entry is more of a subtle exploration of all facets of the heavier side of things. Enter should mark far more than a splash for this trio, but more of a massive explosion."
    Themusicedge.com

    "If I were a cruel person I might use words like flat, unimaginative, typically somber, or repetitive to describe this record. Now let me qualify that statement. It's a restless meditation on—I don't know what. When I close my mind and try to feel the emotional landscape of the music I don't really see anything. Perhaps Urban Chicago on a rainy day, but nothing too profound comes to mind. Maybe Enter is about the cold banalities of Twentieth Century guitar music, but I hope not. The name of the band made me hope for some kind of electrified post-Soviet Gypsy-Punk. Though this might be a regional miscommunication, the Chicago based band doesn't seem to have anything to do with Russia or its circles. Seething, distorted guitars alternate with sparse four-note melodies, both punctuated by rumbling skins. There emerges a disturbingly predictable hard/soft musical dichotomy. Even the album art suggests light wispy ribbons of sound in stark opposition to familiar splashes of embarrassingly emo-esque ink. I guess I like the minimalism of instrumental work, but usually that means more inventive ways of playing guitars and drums. I'm sorry to say I don't think this record accomplishes that. Still, I bet the band is cool live. I bet they wear sweet outfits."
    Thephiller.com

    "Russian Circles are pretty good. …But? For the right kind of listener, there will be no “but?” Russian Circles play instrumental, technically proficient, monolithic rock-with-a-capital-R, the kind that has been catching on with the indie cognoscenti for a while now, thanks to bands like Isis and Pelican. It’s not quite metal, but draws on its power and dynamic sensibilities, and there are definitely passages you can bang your head to here: check the ass-kicking opening of the apocalyptic album highlight “Death Rides a Horse,” which sounds like Stewart Copeland manning the skins (and writing the music) for early Metallica. Guitarist Mike Sullivan plays acrobatic lines that vault and somersault while maintaining a relatively simple, user-friendly melodic quality; Colin DeKuiper keeps him in check with earth-shaking bass; and Dave Turncrantz propels the music with intricate, charging rhythms that threaten to spill into mathrock land but stay focused. You can tell everyone here are seasoned pros, and performances all around are worthy of the devil horns. It’s all well-planned and executed, with each song blending seamlessly into the next, it’s got terrific production and it’s good. But there is very little to differentiate Russian Circles from any other band playing this in-vogue style. Considering the hype machine’s exaltation of Russian Circles, I guess I wanted something mind-blowing, tectonic-plate-shifting, life-changing. I’ve read lots of press claiming this band is the greatest live act since (insert rock band), and maybe if I got the chance to see the songs here rocked up close and personal, I’d get a different perspective… but on record, Russian Circles are merely the latest in a series of decent instrumental bands. Enter is a good enough album, but not one I’m likely to revisit again and again. If you’re nuts for this style of music, you’ll dig this album, no question. Anyone looking for anything more is going to be disappointed."
    Transformonline.com

    "I by no means assumed an opening band to take me away in their music the way Russian Circles did. I did not even expect a sound like theirs at the show with Lords and Daughters playing, who would have thought. Even my little sXe and scene hardcore friends were clamoring over how good this band was. Well, for those of you who haven’t heard them I can basically portray Russian Circles as Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You or even This is Your Captain Speaking, but with more…edge. That seems suitable. I was actually just inside getting some water since I had figured it would be some atrocious tag along hardcore band but I noticed the stage, dark but pierced by the rays of an illuminating red light. Russian Circles just walked onto the stage singled out their instruments and began playing away, soft and barley able to be heard and revolving it into a full on instrumental breakdown. I even forgot about my water and went to watch them perform their set (don’t worry; she gave it back to me afterwards). To make things shorter and to get on with the review, the show was amazing and I would highly urge anyone to stop by their local venue if you spot them on the list. To be stereotypical, I would simply categorize this as instrumental rock. Russian Circles makes it hard to just slap that on though since they fluently seam together rock, metal and “sludge.” They have been that one band, that fresh revival, that new heartbeat that renews a genre, the rejuvenation of the instrumental genre. Russian Circles went out of the typical sound while maintaining that classic instrumental touch: slow and lingering and hard and riveting but in all the right places. Enter is their new 6-track forty-four minute release on Flameshovel records, which is basically compiled out of their self-released 4 song track but with 2 new tracks and some added outros which makes the album run together astoundingly well. One of their most talked about songs, “Death Rides a Horse”, is just straight up metal rock. It doesn’t even build into anything, it actually starts out hard builds out and then back into that head banging style that was previously heard in the song. This song was skillfully put together that let’s each band member shine for a while on their instrument before throwing all the instruments into one hefty exhilarating breakdown. Enter is all together an awe-inspiring amalgamation of genres that they have brought to create this noteworthy album that I would consider to be one of the best if not the best album I have heard so far this year and this all from their debut album. The album was a little under polished and at times seemed to be inadequately produced but all of that are things you can anticipate from a new band. Russian Circles have fashioned a sound on this album that other instrumental bands pine for and I can only wait to hear even a peep of where they take their sound on their next release. They are truly creditable of all the praise they have received over this year and I would advise you pick up their album Enter but demand that you at least see them live."
    UpBeetMusic

    "As you may have read, I got to check out Russian Circles at the Mono show, and they did impress. I picked up their first and only CD at the show, Enter, and it also is a quality bit of music. Russian is something of a prog-rock, post-rock, metal blend. Their songs are long, multisegmented, complex, and rarely repeat, are instrumental and emotionally effluent, and they're heavy. You can grab one of the tracks, Death Rides a Horse, here. It's one of their heavier tracks, I imagine, and good, but not my favorite. I'd probably pick Micah, which starts with a pretty but heartbreaking picked line, breaks into some metal, returns to slow and pretty again before launching into a pretty badass bass-line lead march of sorts, and then ends with a crunching metal passage. This is definitely one worth giving a go if you're into metal or you're into post-rock. Quality song writing, quality playing, and something a little unique to boot."
    Whysohostile.com

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