Live: Russian Circles

Apocalyptic brethren encounter mixed fortunes

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At first glance tonight’s co-headliners don’t make obvious bedfellows, with their styles of music and message seemingly poles apart.

However, both have forged individual paths driven by a singular goal and fearless dedication to their art, demanding unrestrained devotion as a result. The sight of extreme metal fans completely losing themselves in WOVENHAND’s [9] hypnotic melting pot of folk, country, post-punk and Christian-inspired sermons that pour from the stage only partially encapsulates the band’s enigma.

Celebrating last year’s mesmeric Refractory Obdurate, they’ve forsaken their stripped-down, low-key performances with an exuberant, commanding display of peerless showmanship and total conviction. With maximum volume favoured over clarity, David Eugene Edwards and band tear through an unhinged set, drummer Ordy Garrison in particularly imperious form on the stomp of Field Of Hedon. The frontman immerses himself in the experience, crooning his dark sermons that are barely distinguishable through a heavily distorted mic, twitching and shuffling like a possessed oracle. Corsicana Clip’s psychedelic crescendo reaches a majestic zenith, The Refractory’s delicate harmonies stir the very soul, while Good Shepherd ends proceedings in a state of anthemic euphoria, David finally releasing himself and admirers from his spellbinding trance.

It leaves RUSSIAN CIRCLES [7] up against it from the start and, despite a fervent crowd and set that bristles with boundless fire and propelled by sheer will, the stars refuse to align for the US trio. The opening notes of Deficit sound enormous, filling the room with an apocalyptic tsunami of unsettling dysphoria, before the relatively straightforward riffs of 309 get heads banging. It’s a testament to the simmering power of their instrumental post-metal that the crowd are totally engaged without a word being spoken or sung, with each song’s continued descent into the abyss the only link between band and admirer required. The quickening tempos of Geneva and transcendental sweep of 1777 keep hearts and minds focused, but two disastrous glitches from guitarist Mike Sullivan stop the band in their tracks and cruelly rob the set of any momentum. Finishing triumphantly with the multi-headed Mladek and Death Rides A Horse’s explosion of notes and textures gives a tantalising glimpse of a gig that was very nearly one of the most audacious successes of recent times.