Russian Circles


It’s impressive what Russian Circles can do with a basic guitar, bass, and drum setup. There are plenty of metal-leaning instrumental bands who dial up big climaxes, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one that creates such an array of textures and emotions with so little. Bassist Brian Cook also uses keyboards, and on the Chicago trio’s excellent fifth album, Memorial, they bring in guest cello and violin. But the core, buttressed by imaginative arrangements and strong compositional skills, is strong enough that there would be more than enough chills without these add-ons.

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VICE NOISEY names Mike Sullivan in its list of most underated but great guitar players you need to know

Alongside guys like Kerry McCoy and David Knudson (both of whom have toured with Russian Circles), RC guitarist Mike Sullivan is also redefining what being a guitar player in a heavy band means by figuring out a way to implement chugging hardcore riffs into an atmospheric arena and making both dynamics more powerful in the process. Sullivan can also two-handed tap and live loop like a champ, making him a triple threat onstage. To be honest we have no idea how he’ll be able to pull off some of the sonic textures on the band’s latest album Memorial—but we have no doubt he’ll find a way to do it in stunning fashion.

See Full List HERE by Jonah Bayer for Vice Noisey

Pre-Order a Russian Circles limited edition Dwarfcraft Devices “Eau Claire Thunder” Pedal


Wow, the pedals are all now SOLD OUT with a long waiting list - we did not realize how much you all would like these. Perhaps we will do another edition down the road.

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The first and final tracks on post-metal band Russian Circles’ new album show what the band could be it wanted to conform to more conventional expectations for popular music.

The Chicago-based three piece is deliberately without a vocalist and its new album “Memorial” commences with an instrumental. The band reprises the song at the end of the album, but Gothic folk singer Chelsea Wolfe provides a buried melody that gives a taste of what the band would be if it followed a more traditional path.

“Memorial” is a darker affair than 2011’s “Empros” but it is not bleak. Now, the drums are more in focus. Textural guitars work on a scale that suggests mountain landscapes and grey skies. The bass provides both counterpoint and drone, drenched in fuzz.

Russian Circles’ sounds come from guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook and drummer Dave Turncrantz. On “Memorial,” they augment their sound with strings, piano and electronics.

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We’ve long been fans of Chicago instrumental trio Russian Circles, but their new album, Memorial, might just be our favorite release from them yet. Bleak, brutal and beautiful, it moves from blackened metal to haunting, ethereal layers on a compelling journey that offers a complete experience, rather than just a collection of strong songs.

It’s one of our favorite albums of 2013, so naturally, we wanted to probe the creative mind of their amiable guitarist Mike Sullivan on everything from mini amps to fully collaborating with a vocalist.

Your last album, Empros, had its dark moments, but there are parts on Memorial that are a whole new shade of black for the band. What was the mindset for this album compared to its predecessor?

"Once we finished Empros we were terrified because we were worried how the album sounded with the fidelity limitations we were working with. While that album was written in the studio and changed around – and was my favourite record up to that point – we knew we could do better. We knew we could get better tones, better sounds, get our ideas across clearer. We thought that album was going to screw us; we were proud of the songs but we weren’t sure whether it came out the way we wanted it to be.

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Seattle’s Line Out : Album Review and Interview with Brian Cook

The music of Russian Circles’ fifth album, Memorial, banks and pans through a series of cliffs and cliff dwellings. The release is out today on Sargent House, and its instrumental sonics could be soundtrack for an Andean condor searching the altitudes over a cathode tundra. Sections of stretched melodic stasis fall steeply into dives pulling massive distortion-washed G’s. Guitarist Mike Sullivan, drummer Dave Turncrantz, and bassist/keyboardist/Stranger contributor Brian Cook adeptly rivet titanic emotive velocities to quieter movements of melancholy. Chelsea Wolfe guests, lending her expansed vocals to the title track. The album alternates fire/ice, high/low, living at times on the centrifuge of Turncrantz’s hi-hat, 16th note piston-code. Once Memorial begins, it’s hard to stop. The album ends and begins itself again, floating and careening with immense weight. Russian Circles, what an epic triangle they are. Brian Cook spoke from Birmingham, England.

How are you? What’s going on? I think you’re about to go to Germany. What are you thinking about?

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Russian Circles “Memorial” available everywhere today - October 29, 2013


Artist: Russian Circles
Album: Memorial
Label: Sargent House
Release date: October 29th, 2013

Full Album Stream HERE

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Chicago’s Russian Circles has been described as instrumental, metal and even post-rock but any characterization abandons the subtle nuances of their music between the loud and soft or the chaos and redemption.  The new album Memorial, their fifth full length in total, captures this ideal even more so than before where the beauty lies in transition.

Ghettoblaster recently spoke with Russian Circles’ Mike Sullivan and Brian Cook about this new record, the music scene in Chicago and even how Step Brothers should have won an Oscar. This is what they said.

There seems to be a harder and more emotional edge on this album than previous Russian Circles works. Can you explain where your mindset was during the making of this record?

I don’t think there’s much to explain, really.  We don’t write records with a preconceived notion of what we’re going to create.  There are some minor variables that might be considered on the front end — in this instance I know there was some talk of emphasizing groove over technicality — but generally it’s just a matter of finding sounds that resonate with us at the time and I don’t think that’s something we can usually articulate.

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Heavy “Bass” Interview with Brian Cook


Brian Cook is a name that should need little introduction, but for those that need it he is the bass man with acclaimed noise-mongers Russian Circles and is formerly the bass player with Botch and These Arms Are Snakes. Alongside this already impressive musical CV, Brian has also contributed to recordings by Mouth Of The Architect and Mamiffer.

Many will be well aware of Russian Circles - A true tour de force of musical power. The wall of sound that comes from 3 men on a stage is rarely rivaled by what Russian Circles are capable of. Dark, brooding, ambient, but crushing and at times, truly devastating. 

Check out Russian Circles live:
  • How long have you been playing bass, how did you get started and why is the bass your instrument of choice?

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ADVANCE: Full Album Stream “Memorial” now live

Russian Circles “Memorial” is now streaming in full on Pitchfork’s Advance a week before release date HERE and features a slide show of photographs by Ryan Russell.

All vinyl and cd pre-orders of Memorial from the bands store are shipping immediately. To order go HERE.

Russian Circles are on TOUR in EUROPE NOW - see all shows here

US Tour to be announced in the next few weeks…

Russian Circles and Chelsea Wolfe photographed live by Hillel Zavala in Bologna, Italy on October 14, 2013 at their sold out Locomotiv Club show part of their European co-headline tour together. See full photo set HERE.


Memorial live from Prague featuring Chelsea Wolfe.. Metal Sucks reflects

Russian Circles and guest vocalist Chelsea Wolfe recently performed the title track from the band’s new album, Memorial, and it sounded so beautiful that I wept as though I were Dave Mustaine in a therapy session with Lars Ulrich.

Russian Circles and guest vocalist Chelsea Wolfe recently performed the title track from the band’s new album, Memorial, and it sounded so beautiful that I wept as though I had invested in the film Through the Never.

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Varied textures and technical proficiency are just about as common as a big chap grunting into a microphone in the modern metal world, but Chicagoan’s Russian Circles continue to break new ground. Over four previous albums they’ve stretched the boundaries of the genre and molded it as their own with some breathtaking arrangements and instrumental skill. Memorial adds further weight to their reputation. 

You’ll again be wondering how the hell the bludgeoning sounds of Deficit could be created by a mere three piece while 1777’s juddering drums and contorted guitar turns the track into a genuine thrill ride. Soft cooing guest vocals from dark ambient chanteuse Chelsea Wolfe shouldn’t belong here at all, but not only do they work, the music adapts around them, and as the title track slinks to a close you could be forgiven for thinking a Mazzy Star number has been popped on by mistake. But that certain je ne sais quoi remains Russian Circles’ overall strength. [Stu Lewis]

Russian Circles start their European tour on 12th October 2013, keep up to date with all their shows here.