LIVE REVIEW: Russian Circles @ Hermanns Bar, Sydney 11/09/11

written by Chris Familton

Lo! set the scene early for an evening that was all about volume and the end of the musical spectrum where things are darker, more intense and music isn’t played out in your standard song structures. Lo! mixed up some hardcore, thrash metal and the  metallic hybrid sound of bands like Converge, Mastodon and Baroness. Their frontman had a great vocal delivery that balanced cookie monster growls and militant bellows while their guitarist kept things tight and taut with rapid fire riffing. Apparently a debut album is just around the corner which should push these guys further into the consciousness of the local scene.

Speaking of Further, they were playing their last show for quite a while but playing to the type of crowd that wouldn’t usually attend a Further gig meant that this wasn’t a celebratory farewell in front of friends. Their post punk, noise pop did convert a few new fans though as they slanted their set toward their heavier tracks, combining those magical ingredients of Sonic Youth and Fugazi with aplomb. Romance! from Punk Rock Vampires concluded their set and reminded that these lads will be missed during their time away.

Russian Circles work in a realm where mediocrity has spawned a thousand imitators. That post rock meets prog metal terrain is strewn with acts that either bore with their atmospheric noodling or just go too heavy too often and lose all sense of light and shade. Mogwai, Tool, Isis etc all do it exceptionally well and Russian Circles aren’t far off the pace. An instrumental trio, they were hidden from view for most of the audience due to their stature and the stage setup but this was music to listen to, not watch. From the first track it became clear that these guys are way heavier live than on record, brutally loud in fact. What made them so great was their ability to separate the elements of their sound, be it a looped guitar riff or glacial, tumbling drums. Out of the massive wall of distortion and pummeling drums they created moments of great poise and and tension before releasing it in coruscating waves of distorted bass and industrial guitar. The album Geneva featured heavily but it was the newer tracks that really impressed. This was futuristic, intelligent and intense music that blew many minds in attendance.

this review first appeared in The Drum Media

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