When broken down into its individual elements, so many aspects of Russian Circles‘ music shouldn’t work. The delightful yet digestible complexity of its melodies. The hard-hitting riffs emphasized by the lack of a vocalist. Oh, and the fact that three individuals can create an all-encompassing fog of metal-influenced bliss in the confines of whatever venue it’s playing in.
I found myself a part of the gathered crowd in one such venue on October 13th 2012 at the slick “TAB” in Singapore, as the trio from Chicago played a one-night-only show co-organized by KittyWu Records and Incursive Productions. While Russian Circles’ music might often be described as intense and otherworldly, the band, consisting of guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook and drummer Dave Turncrantz, were anything but that as they strolled on to the stage a few minutes after 8.00pm. That isn’t to say that the band weren’t confident or at ease on stage; this was after all, their second time playing here, having made their live debut here in late 2010.
With a little wave and a nod to acknowledge the cheering audience, the band took their positions on stage and proceeded to launch everyone in attendance into aural bliss. Opening with “309,” taken off their latest record Empros, the well-orchestrated use of lights, lasers and strobes, interspersed with the restrained use of smoke machines, immediately propelled the crowd into a head-banging trance. I like to think of Russian Circles’ discography as my choicest soundtrack to interstellar travel and I must say, all that was holding everyone back – quite literally – was the presence of gravity.
Though not known for their movement on stage, the band still managed to engage those in attendance, as evidenced by the crowd favorite “Carpe,” from their 2006 debut Enter. Sullivan’s riffs served as the perfect foil for Turncrantz’s metronome-precise drumming. Cook’s bass lines packed an even harder punch live than on their studio releases, making the transitions from soft, palm-muted chords to the frenetic melodies and crashing riffs all the more pronounced.
By the end of the show, the band had me – along with the majority of those in the audience – leaving the venue disoriented, heart-pounding and clamoring for more. Russian Circles, you say? Felt more like Bermuda Triangles to me. - Photos and Review by Shaun Tan