Russian Circles at Lincoln Hall | Photos and review
The heavy, instrumental rock of Chicago’s own Russian Circles takes on a heightened anticipatory quality in the live setting, lulling crowds into the sporadic rhythm of tracks punctuated by sudden, mosh-pit inducing stabs of bass and guitar. At their Lincoln Hall homecoming on Thursday night, the group milked this formula for all it was worth, extending the feeling of suspense throughout the evening’s proceedings. At times, the wait bore fruit, most notably through the bill’s inclusion of Chelsea Wolfe, whose opening set of gloomy rock balladry with ethereal vocals from the cloaked songstress established an appropriately dark tone. By contrast, the nearly ten-minute-long pre-recorded introductory track that preceded the headliners was one interlude that could have been excised.
With the room dark save for the glint of smartphone screens and a starkly backlit stage, Russian Circles made a cathartic entrance to the thrashing opening strains of “309.” With the band’s latest record, Empros, conceived with live performances in mind, it wasn’t surprising to hear precise renditions that captured the intricacies of each song. From the cascading, looped guitars of “Mládek” to the explosive breakdown of “Schipol,” the compositions were seemingly formulated to inspire equal amounts of technical admiration and head-banging appreciation. Though the group employed feedback-ridden breaks between songs that often tested patience as well as eardrums, all was forgiven by the time the band tore into the relentless cadences of “Death Rides a Horse” as the evening’s encore. Uniting a disparate cross-section of music fans with its blend of boisterous metal and meandering post-rock, Russian Circles delivered a thunderously indulgent performance that was ultimately worth the wait.