5 Underrated Instrumental Albums: Russian Circles' Picks | Revolver

5 Underrated Instrumental Albums: Russian Circles' Picks

Mike Sullivan hails gems ranging from "Kraut-rock worship at its finest" to instrumental music's "high watermark"
Russian Circles 2022 press photo 1600x900, William Lacalmontie
Russian Circles
photograph by William Lacalmontie

Russian Circles are one of the premier instrumental bands in heavy music. The Chicago trio have been at it for nearly two decades, cranking out quality releases every few years that blur the lines between the epic dirge of post-metal and the atmospheric beauty of post-rock. Their new album, Gnosis (due out August 19th via Sargeant House), features some of the their heaviest material yet, and to celebrate the group's continued mastery of music of the vocal-less persuasion, we asked guitarist Mike Sullivan to choose five instrumental records that don't get nearly the amount of shine that they deserve. 

From "Kraut-rock worship at its finest" to instrumental music's "high watermark," here are five criminally underrated instrumental albums that everyone needs to be familiar with. 

The Fucking Champs - III

Featuring members of Nation of Ulysses and black metal cult heroes, Weakling; the Fucking Champs carved out their own niche of primarily instrumental metal. Incredibly catchy harmonized riffs combine with a tight production to make them standout from their peers. This first record of theirs best captures their freedom of expression and experimentation. 

Tristeza - Dream Signals in Full Circle

Such a dreamy and beautiful album. Jangly Fender guitars blend with textural keyboards and hypnotic drums to create a serine and dreamlike environment. Each song blooms in a natural way yet serves the greater vibe of the record. 

Turing Machine - A New Machine for Living

Kraut-rock worship at its finest. With the benefit of a raw and aggressive approach, this record feels much more modern and unhinged than the genre's trailblazers of the 70s. This record serves as a great study in minimalism and repetition in contemporary rock music.

Tortoise - Standards

They may've influenced thousands of bands but no other band sounds like Tortoise. One of the band's strongest assets is their sonic diversity. This record exemplifies this about as good as any in their discography.  By fusing all types of genres with immense groove, Tortoise sets a high watermark for what instrumental rock music is capable of producing. 

Heldon - Allez Teia

I wanted to throw in at least one older submission and Heldon is an amazing project that deserves more attention. Despite being primarily an electronic-based band, this record features some rather amazing guitar work. Between the phased-out opener of "In the Wake of King Fripp" and the acoustic beauty of Aphanisis, I'd love to hear more guitar-based albums by the band's main writer, Richard Pinhas.