Since the turn of the century or so the generally accepted phraseology of live music reviews has seen quite an evolution. The most notable instance of course was the decision to drop the once ubiquitous term “face melter”(2004) and its variations from the list of go to phrases to describe the raw musical fury of a given band. Urban Dictionary defines the term as “A heavy metal solo that is so awesome and powerful, it causes one’s face to melt.” While I acknowledge that this term had indeed run its course and needed to go, I do occasionally lament its loss from the relatively shallow bag of idioms we have to draw from, particularly in this instance. So if I may, I would argue that there should be a system in place to allow bloggers to use this term once a year, perhaps employing a punch card system akin to collecting stamps or hole punches to receive a free coffee or hoagie, only in reverse. After seeing Russian Circles this past Thursday night, consider my 2014 hole punched.
Russian Circles, for the uninitiated, are an instrumental post-metal trio from Chicago featuring Mike Sullivan (guitar), Dave Turncrantz (drums), and Brian Cook (bass). They kicked off the most recent leg of their tour at The Ballroom at The Outer Space in Hamden, CT with support from the ever-entertaining Mutoid Man, fronted by ex-Cave In founder Stephen Brodsky. I wore an ear-to-ear smile for the entire set as I watched rows of rabid fans in the front row bang their heads, pairs of index fingers and pinkies thrust into the air, and of course the insanely talented trio as they shredded through a set that essentially covered all of their debut album Helium Head along with covers of Black Sabbath’s “Falling Off the Edge of the World”, and I’m not making this up, The Marvelettes’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” If I am to borrow another passé term, it was epic (2008)!
Needless to say the crowd was more than amped (2003) and ready for Russian Circles to take the spotlight. However, there was no spotlight, just a pair of work lights set on the floor behind each performer creating an almost Fritz Lange-like atmosphere for the performance. Cast in deep German Expressionistic shadows the trio ripped (2001) through tracks from all five of their albums. They opened with “Deficit” from their latest release, Memorial, and followed with “Carpe” off of their debut album Enter and then landing somewhere in between with “309” from Empros released in 2011. As soon as the crowd heard the opening tom rolls and rim shots of their 4th track of the night they responded with wild applause and howling. Among their most iconic tracks, “Harper Lewis” showcased Sullivan’s artful finger tapping technique and Turncrantz’s ridiculous (2003) hi-hat patterns. The sonic barrage was relentless continuing with “1777,” “Station,” “Geneva,” and “Mlàdek.” They closed their set with the anthemic fan favorite “Death Rides A Horse” (video below).
As an artist and art teacher I tend to value content over form more often than not, but this show reminded me just how amazing it is to watch a master technician at his or her craft. Each member was in full control of the sound each was contributing to the sonic fabric cast over the crowd like a blanket. In short, Russian Circles killed it (2006).