“This record is recommended at night thru headphones,” claims Russian Tsarlag’s Carlos Gonzalez from the liner notes, presented in the form of a zine covered in Gonzalez’s art, that accompany “Open Casket.” His advice was taken by this listener, and the consequence is a ghostly pleasurable sound experience. The clangs of unidentifiable percussion seem like leisurely travelling demons dragging and grooving with their chains. Having been liberated from the burdens of human-time they’ve got nothing to do but linger and spook. The minimal song structures, mostly constructed from a dissonant and untuned guitar, only barely hold together as Gonzalez’s remote voice trails along the walls of the murky nighttime caves.
Russian Tsarlag has opened up the casket to let these dark forces out, but the pop tendencies shine in such a way that makes them seem like they’re not really out for vengeance, but for kicks. However, despite all the underlying pop and kick-seeking spirits, “Open Casket” is undeniably a lonely album made from the heroic depths of solitude. It’s almost as if Gonzalez has opened up the casket and released these sound-spirits in order to overcome the slum of the one-man gloom-world. The pull of his newly warmed sound-space is undeniable and almost even flourishing. 7/10 -- Elliott Sharp (24 March, 2010)