Live Review: Russian Circles/Earthless @ Underworld, London

Live Review: Russian Circles, Earthless
Venue: Camden Underworld, London
Date: 13/04/10

My dad is with me tonight. There’s got be something to be said for a gig that can attract both a 21 year old student and a near 50 (sorry dad) rocker. I’m not too sure who it reflects on the worst – myself, the old man, or the bands squeezing onto the Underworld’s legendary stage.

Openers Earthless are the kind of band resolutely stuck in an era where mind altering substances weren’t just conducive to song-writing – they were an essential ingredient.

Technically they only play one song tonight. Like a hurricane, their 45 minute set is monstrously relentless, with Hendrix-inspired guitar solos screaming over some of the funkiest bass work that Camden has ever seen.

Sadly, no-one here is indulging in nature’s sweet green treat, so after a while the constant tempo of the set begins to wear everyone out.

At the end of the set it’s scary to admit that the old man and I are in agreement about Earthless. As amazing as the jam session was, the band could do with changing the tempo a bit. Perhaps I am gradually turning into my dad.

If there’s one thing that emphasizes Earthless’ one-speed set, it’s when Russian Circles take to the stage. Delicately balancing their incredibly heavy tracks with the moments of brooding and atmospherics, the band play a set that rises and falls like storms and summer evenings.

Russian Circles is a band whom the word dynamic was created for. Tonight’s set is bristling with electricity. Since their first album ‘Enter’ they’ve always been incredibly adept at creating swathes of atmosphere, even if the tracks that make an appearance from that album (the destructive Death Rides A Horse a particular highlight) sound just a bit simple when put next to the band’s more recent output.

Their true magic however is recreating the intensity that imbues all their albums. The material from latest release ‘Geneva’ is incredibly dense, intricate layers of riffs creating such a phenomenal atmosphere that it’s hard to believe that only three people and Christ knows how much money’s worth of electronic pedals is behind it all.

Let’s not forget that this is the band Brian Cook has decided to throw all his weight behind since the demise of These Arms Are Snakes. Any memories of time spent in Botch have all but dissipated, but one key element remains – he hammers his bass like a lunatic at the steering wheel of a monster truck, sweat pouring from every conceivable body part by only the second song.

Russian Circles are developing into one hell of a band. Their records have been consistent, and show a band in the throes of discovering what they can do with their dynamic, while their live shows are just as intense as listening to those records on a massive pair of headphones during a thunderstorm. They’re bringing a new slant on instrumental rock that does away with the laborious pretensions of classical music, instead throwing a healthy dose of heavy metal into the cooking pot. They are a magical thing to witness, and each show just proves how fantastic they are.

And what did my dad think? Well, for a guy who was brought up on the likes of Pink Floyd and the Sex Pistols (now there’s a healthy combination for you) it was heartening to see him just as blown away as me, proving that Russian Circles is for everyone of all ages.

Originally published on The Line of Best Fit.

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