Russian Circles recorded their seventh studio album with producer/engineer Kurt Ballou (of Converge) at Chicago's Electrical Audio and God City studios, where many of their previous records were made. While the group has usually assembled their albums piece by piece, using click tracks to lay down individual parts, this time they decided to record much of the album as complete, full-band takes in order to capture the ferocity of their live shows. Russian Circles have long since mastered a balance of precision and spontaneity that has practically become their calling card, but Blood Year is still one of their most unmistakably raw releases. The walloping drum sounds have a particularly explosive slap to them, and the guitars have more of an abrasive churn than an atmospheric drift. With the exception of two brief, droning guitar pieces, the album's songs are direct and dramatic, forcefully navigating through different sections and building towards a resolution. "Milano" is one of the album's most epic-sounding compositions, building up to a frenzied blast-beat section and lumbering on before bursting back after a false ending. "Kohokia" opens with angsty, disassociated guitar notes and tremolo effects, and while it starts out almost unremittingly gloomy, it seems a bit more hopeful by the time it concludes. "Siniai" is the album's most complex piece, emerging from the soft, ethereal interlude "Ghost on High" and building up an angular, splashing rhythm, only to switch it up halfway through and knuckle down on the track's intensity. Equally focused and vicious, Blood Year is another triumph for Russian Circles.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson