Russian Circles | 12.13.07 | Chicago

Words by: Cal Roach

Russian Circles :: 12.13.07 :: Double Door :: Chicago, IL

Russian Circles by Owen Richards
With the future of Russian Circles up in the air, fans had to jump at the chance to see the Chicago trio for free at the Double Door. The place was pretty packed when opening act Holy Roman Empire took the stage. Vocalist Emily Schambra really grabbed the room from the get-go. Schambra is a singer who actually knows how to use a mic and rise above the post-hardcore din without fully separating from it. The band's sound was a heavy dose of Appleseed Cast melody and cadence over a Helmet-esque pop-hardcore timbre, which probably sounds less reconcilable than it actually was. However, Schambra's vocals alone aren't enough to separate HRE from the pack. The band played with real passion but the only song that really stood out was the finale, which hinted at something bigger and possibly signaled the young band is just beginning its evolution.

These Arms Are Snakes was weighed down by some excess baggage, or rather, a lack thereof. Some of the band's equipment was lost in transit, so the group had to make do with borrowed pedals and on-the-fly keyboard settings. Even so, the group sounded better than the last time I'd seen them opening for Isis in 2004, but it's often still difficult to get past vocalist Steve Snere's bland rap/shouting, which seems more gimmicky as time goes on. There's nothing nu-metal about TAAS, but Snere needs to develop a distinctive style to set himself apart from the hundred other Zach de la Rocha imitators out there. Musically, the group has coalesced a bit, though much of the approach was still very disjointed, though some of this might be written off as equipment problems. Bassist Brian Cook made the best impression. His lines were often complex and forceful, and he was a grounding force in a performance that might otherwise have been a sloppy mess. The guitar work of Ryan Frederiksen was impressive at times, too, but he gives you very little melody to latch onto, and it mostly washes out like most over-busy post Nirvana grunge. The promise of this group is that it seems to be slowly honing its sound with some very talented musicians, but it still has a lot of work ahead to find something truly original.

Russian Circles
Chicago's so-called "instru-metal" scene may be the most vibrant in the country, and Russian Circles, along with Pelican, are leading the charge. As new cookie-cutter post-metal acts pop up every other week, there are still bands creating a distinct sound amidst the generic ruckus. Russian Circles have a gift for combining the swell of bands like Sigur Rós and Mono with the intricate riffing of prog-metal. The group's short set was a full-on display of all its talents. Bassist Colin DeKuiper recently left the group, and TAAS's Cook filled in with the awareness of an obsessive fan. Through five songs, Cook seemed completely in tune with the band's visceral assault.

If you've ever dreamed of what Mogwai might sound like reinventing Metallica's "Orion," the Circles deliver the answer. The band debuted new material from its upcoming 2008 release at this show, and it was all just as thrilling and dynamic as any of the band's back catalog. Closer "Death Rides A Horse" brought on the biggest response of the evening. The instrumental interplay was mind-bending, the riffing vicious - a truly astounding piece of music. There was no encore, and it all seemed to be finished too quickly, but this band will no doubt find itself a permanent bassist and continue to produce powerful music for years to come.

Russian Circles tour dates available here.

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[Published on: 1/9/08]

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