Rock trio Russian Circles sold out Neumo’s Tuesday, and the entry line was accompanied by late-arriving fans, desperately trying to purchase second-hand tickets.
The band opened with a dose of feedback as they set up and settled in, then broke the calm with an onslaught of noise that rode peaks and valleys, but never really stopped. They put “309,” the twisted album opener from 2011′s “Empros,” on full display, and from their latest album, “Memorial,” the eloquent guitar-tapped interlude “Ethel” was used as a lead-in to a punishing wall of riffs.
It was an exceptionally well-thought-out set that flowed like a river through tranquil spots, then crashed like a waterfall over rocks. Not a word was spoken the entirety of the set, nor did one need to be.
Like their albums, Russian Circles’ live performance is a rhythmic experience. Their timbre and chord sequences are powerful, as well, but their masterful control of tempo and shocking entry and exit points are perhaps their most prominent feature. Their breakdowns don’t only kill with brute force, but often catch you off guard when they fly in from the side.
Before the band took an encore, an apparently drunk fan jumped onstage and begun dancing in the area where a lead singer might stand. Without breaking from the song, guitarist Mike Sullivan sauntered over and shoulder-checked the man back into the audience. It was the kind of calm-yet-forceful act that came through in the music all night.
Before the headline act came on, Canadian openers Ken Mode treated the crowd to an intense set. The heavy metal trio dished out grinding riffs one after another, dripping sweat and wearing dead-faced stares.
Seattle/Tacoma heroes Helms Alee followed up with a blistering set. Bassist Dana James stood in front of a stack of Verellen amplifiers, the product of guitarist/vocalist Ben Verellen’s successful custom amp company. The whole band (rounded out by drummer Hozoji Margullis) shared singing duties, layering spot-on harmonies between thunderous crescendos, often capped by Verellen’s throaty roar. Margullis also stood out as one of the most powerful and technically concise drummers in recent memory.
by Todd Hamm