Arriving ten years after their 2006 debut Enter, Guidance is Chicago post-rock/metal trio Russian Circles' sixth full-length and third for Sargent House. As much as any of their previous works, this album proves the band masters at controlling dynamics, shifting from heavy, explosive sections to more delicate passages with grace and ease. While the group has previously utilized strings and vocals on very few occasions in the past (with Chelsea Wolfe guesting on the closing track to 2013's Memorial), this album sticks to their standard formation of guitars, bass, and drums. As on Memorial, the songs are generally shorter than on previous releases; nothing here reaches seven-minute mark. Russian Circles' songs tend to flow freely and avoid typical song structure, and they don't fall into predictable formulas of building up to an explosive crescendo. There's an undeniable spontaneity to them, but they sound carefully considered rather than fully improvised on the spot. Many of the selections on Guidance segue into each other, with the lovely atmospheric drift of "Asa" interrupted by faintly screeching feedback that turns into the overwhelming wallop that is "Vorel." Beginning with an anxious drum roll and quickly escalating to intense clobbering and angry storm clouds of guitars, the menacing, hulking song actually sounds quite frightening when played as loudly as possible. Seguing through chugging metal riffs and swarming feedback, the group pack several ideas into the song's five-minute duration without sounding scatter-brained or random; there's always purpose and conviction to their explorations. "Mota" follows, beginning with lightly picked arpeggios that lead into a more poignant melody, in contrast to the aggression of the previous number. Crashing, panoramic drums and bulky bass guitar lines drive the atmospheric guitars which continuously elevate and become more dramatic, ending with a squall of screeching feedback at the end. "Afrika" similarly balances moments of solace with sludgy rhythms and triumphant melodies. "Calla" begins with a compressed guitar that might trick you into thinking you're listening to radio-ready tough guy aggro-rock, and it's not hard to imagine testosterone-heavy growling over the song, but the song's combination of suspense, metal crunch, and ambient drift is simply beyond the abilities of most mainstream bands. Rough and explosive yet perfectly controlled, Guidance is yet another powerful statement from the heavy instrumental rock behemoths.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson