Russian Circles are currently touring their latest album “Empros”, and thanks to a joint effort by promoters Metal Sensor and Distorted Time, Taiwan got its first “post-metal” experience. Many people think Post Metal = Post Rock + Metal, but Russian Circles is definitely something more than that.
I'll be honest, Russian Circles was a band I was only lukewarm about seeing, perhaps because their recordings are too hi-fi, but live is always a different experience so I was willing to give them a chance.
vuLner, a young instrumental trio, warmed up the show playing Tool-style progressive metal/rock. I was impressed to see they brought their own amps and each had a decent amount of equipment. Strong, technical drumming, weaved with solid guitar and bass rhythms and melodies, these guys play complex and tight. All of them are college students, but they showed seriously mature technique. What would've made it more perfect for me was if there was more attention to the lower frequencies, just to give it a thicker, more “metal” sound.
After a half hour beer break between bands, Russian Circles took the stage in near-dark, the only light provided by three dimly-lit bulbs, but with the addition of a little dry ice they managed to create a whole lot of atmosphere.
Their first song started with guitarist Mike Sullivan’s tapping, an amazing sight to see live, and with delicate and precise loop effects made one guitar sound like two. Mike’s skill and the tone he creates reminded me of some classic shoegaze bands. To my surprise, drummer Dave Turncrantz was using a simple cut-down drum set, but that just served to accentuate his prowess behind the kit. These two members are awesome, especially Mike’s guitar-work, which for me is the spirit of Russian Circles, but together they don't create that “Post Metal” sound.
For the duration of their set I stood right in front of bassist Brian Cook’s amp and although I was afraid it might affect my ability to listen to the other elements, once he started playing, nothing else mattered - it was just such a great bass sound! Heavily distorted but still thick as fuck, the air vibrated each time he played, and he often played his bass as you would a rhythm guitar, with a lot of chords. Each song was segued with multiple noises by his complex pedal sets and Moog synthesizer. Cook is the half reason why Russian Circles amazed me live.
Not a single word was spoken by the band from beginning to end, and they didn’t even let people wait long for the encore. A purely “instrumental” band in every way. Their one-plus hour show was so tight, and seemily gaining energy from song to song, which sparked a big mosh-pit in the front. Having experienced such an epic show as this, I'm now wondering if there’s a chance to see more bands of this genre (Pelican!) here in Taiwan. I seriously hope so.