Russian Circles sell out Bowery Ballroom NYC 2-20-14

After the release of one of the most talked about rock albums of 2013, Memorial, Russian Circles announced a headlining tour in December with special guests KEN Mode, and Inter Arma. The lineup proved to have quite the variety when it comes to musical styling, with Inter Arma having more of a doom/sludge approach with black metal elements, KEN mode having a hardcore/rock sound, and Russian Circles being an instrumental band playing post metal/rock. The tour kicked off in Iowa City, IA on February 4th and will conclude in Chicago, IL March 16th. Among the many stops along the way, Russian Circles made the first of two appearances in New York City on Thursday February 20th in front of a sold out crowd at Bowery Ballroom.

Richmond, VA band Inter Arma were definitely a brutal introduction to the evening of music. Having originally formed back in 2006, the band’s sophomore full length album Sky Burial (2013) has been described by critics and fans as haunting and beautifully grim. Consisting of Mike Paparo (vocals), Steven Russell (guitar), Trey Dalton (guitar), and T.J. Childers (drums), the band put on an intense set throughout. Filled with muddy tones of despair, one could not help but feel each and every note this unique group of musicians played. Unknown to many, it is safe to say that Inter Arma are on the verge of breaking through, and they gained themselves many new fans after this show.

From north of the border, KEN Mode of Winnipeg, Canada were up next. Established in 1999, the band has made a name for themselves in the Canadian scene and is starting to make noise in the USA as well. After completing a successful tour with Vanna back in the latter part of 2013, the band finds themselves fitting right in on the current tour. Jesse Matthewson (vocals/guitar), Shane Matthewson (drums), and Andrew LaCour (bass) provided an excellent transition into an extremely heavy style. As a three piece band they dominated the stage with a sound heavy in constant guitar riffs and numerous tempo changes, keeping the audience guessing. Matthewson’s blistering screams meshed well with the dramatic feeling of KEN Mode’s music. Making the performance even more compelling, some songs performed by the band featured no rhythm guitar and two bass guitars by Matthewson and LaCour hitting you with an unbelievable thick sound. Their latest album, Entrench, is out now and is worth is listen if you are interested in some heavy complex music.

By the time Russian Circles took the stage the floor was packed with raging fans. Celebrating their tenth anniversary as a band in 2014, Russian Circles are veterans to a post-rock scene they helped revolutionize in the early 2000’s. Having released a total of five full length albums now, with each album and tour cycle the band’s unmistakable sound becomes more popular with each passing year. Their talents were shown to a bigger audience in 2013 when they played the world famous Radio City Music Hall with Between The Buried And Me and Coheed And Cambria. Now the Chicago rockers were ready to show their dedicated fans what they are all about in this performance at Bowery Ballroom.

Creating an atmosphere from the start, Russian Circles started the journey into sound with “309”. With subtle background lighting, a mood was set that no one could deny. After the eight plus minute opening track of thick bass provided by Brian Cook, ambient guitar work of Mike Sullivan, and backbone drumming of Dave Turncrantz, they went into “Harper Lewis”. With its addictive tension-building opening groove, the magic lifted off when the melody kicked in. The band has the ability to create a full sound most five piece bands only dream of. Sullivan has impeccable timing and feel for the music; playing one piece of music, recording it, looping it, and playing another piece of music over it. This is something he has been doing for years live and, as always, it was fun to watch.

The band went on to play a heavy hand of tracks off Memorial including “1777”, “Deficit”, and “Burial”. This mixed in nice with older tunes such as “Geneva”, “Schiphol”, and “Mlàdek”. Each song played told a story through the music and there was never a dull moment with the constant changes, so much so that you could see the wide eyed looks on the audience soaking up every moment of the set. One of the most dream-like sequences of the performance was when “Carpe” began. For many this is a Russian Circles tune that introduced them to their world and still stands strong a decade later. Filled with the eerie sound of guitars and tension-building tones, the song sounded as perfect as ever live. It is tracks like these which show the true talents of a band to be able to pace themselves and keep everything flowing in the fashion it is meant to.

The nearly two hour long set closed out with an encore Station (2008) song “Youngblood”. Dark and full of unsettling notes, the song was a fitting closing to an amazing set. Russian Circles mix of heavy metal guitars and delicate melodies continues to enchant audiences and selling out The Bowery Ballroom is further proof of such.


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