Tag Archives: Russian Circles

The Best Metal on Bandcamp: August 2019

metal

August’s roundup of the best metal on Bandcamp includes a late-career triumph by Swedish power metal lifers, a stirring instrumental post-metal album by a stalwart of that genre, and plenty of harrowing black, death, and black/death metal.

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Russian Circles Strive for Timelessness

Russian Circles
Russian Circles.

On May 27, 2016 Mike Sullivan, guitarist and co-founder of the primarily instrumental group Russian Circles, was driving the band’s tour van when he was hit dead-on by a reckless driver. The van was totalled, and all involved suffered serious injuries. “After speaking with the nurses and doctors, I realized, lying there and making jokes, just how lucky I was,” he says. Although it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, Sullivan sustained trauma to his neck and back, and still has lingering migraines. For a guitar player, the neck and back injuries are devastating. Shows had to be canceled, and Sullivan still can’t wear a guitar for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time. He has as positive an outlook as possible, though. “The crash couldn’t have come at a ‘better’ time,” he says. “We had finished recording and were really in a lull before tour.” Thanks to a steady regimen of painkillers, and a whole bunch of rest and relaxation, Sullivan is now ready to get back in the van and share Russian Circles’ new album, Guidance, with the world.

When I call him, he’s working on his guitar. “Going down a wormhole after which I’ll have to call my friend and say ‘I fucked it up, can you fix it for me?’” he jokes. Sullivan says that the band’s music “comes from a dark horrible place,” which makes it even stranger when fans “come up and let me know that our music is the soundtrack to their sex lives.” But the nuances of perspective and interpretation are familiar to Russian Circles. The cover art for Guidance features a man, “marching to his execution to be decapitated,” says Sullivan, “Yet there’s a sense of inner peace that resonated with us. One person can look at it and see an element of despair and hopelessness, while other people might see the peaks and valleys around the corner. Good and bad construction, creation and destruction—they all exist together, side-by-side.”

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Sumac Expand and Explore on “What One Becomes”

Sumac

“I think being from an area where there was so much open land, and such a deep awareness of the environment also carried over into the music.”—Aaron Turner

Even after all the years he’s spent in legendary metal bands like Isis and Old Man Gloom, Aaron Turner keeps searching, remaining open to new approaches. Playing in Sumac with drummer Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) and bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles) has allowed Turner to experiment with ideas that wouldn’t fit comfortably in any of his other projects. “All three of us are pretty excited about what’s happened so far,” Turner reflects.  “I feel like, for me personally, the work that we’ve done with Sumac achieved some creative goals that I’ve been working towards for quite a while. I also know that I’ve found an outlet for these specific ideas and the right people to work on them with.”

Unlike on the group’s 2014 debut album The Deal, Sumac’s immense and powerful new album, What One Becomes, was a full-band collaborative process. “Brian [Cook] was around for the finishing process where we all got together to solidify the structures, and also fine tune the parts as well, which didn’t happen with The Deal,” Turner explains. “Nick and I pretty much did all of the writing and construction for The Deal and recorded all of the foundational tracks for it before Brian had even played with us. This time around, all of us were together at least for the final session leading up to the recording, which I do think made a big difference.”

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