Russian Circles / KEN mode / Inter Arma - live in Cambridge (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Russian Circles / KEN mode / Inter Arma

live in Cambridge (2014)

live show

I walked into a sold-out, crowded Middle East venue right in the middle of Inter Arma's set. The Richmond, VA, five-piece were right in the thick of opening things up for this (very) "alt"-metal extravaganza–emphasis on "thick." The band played drawn-out, stonery/sludgy metal with some black metal flourishes. Anytime it'd be singer Mike Paparo's turn to cackle or howl, he'd glare across the audience, whites of his eyes illuminating the room. Classic sight. The crowd seemed into it enough, getting their necks loose for the rest of the show. I concurred a bit with the exercise.

KEN mode came up next and more or less slayed. Interestingly, they toured with Pelican in 2006, so it was almost inevitable they'd end up doing something with Russian Circles as well (who themselves at this point are probably bigger than they've ever been- selling out a 575-cap room isn't bad). The power trio rumbled through their signature brand of hybridized noise rock/metallic hardcore fury, with guitarist Jesse Matthewson's loose, manic shout coming off a little more sassy than on record (and more than I remember him being when they opened for Torche down the road at The Sinclair last June). Actually, like Paparo, he also had kind of a spooked, crazy-eye look that complemented the unpredictable, spastic tendencies and serrated edges of his own band's set even better. The lion's share of songs came from last year's very solid Entrench, naturally. They had a small but involved following up front and plenty of onlookers expressing interest scattered further about the crowd. It also seems worth mentioning that by this point in the show, the audience. while responsive and energetic and fed off well by all of the bands, were also super polite and considerate for one another; there wouldn't be any obnoxious Warped Tour push-mosh or old-guy Slayer pits tonight whatsoever. It was cool to be at a heavy show where there wasn't a single person in sight being a dickhole.

Setlist (9:57-10:34):

  1. The Terror Pulse
  2. Obeying the Iron Will...
  3. No; I'm in Control
  4. The Romanticist [?]
  5. Counter Culture Complex
  6. Daeodon [?]
  7. Romeo Must Never Know
The last time I saw Russian Circles were on one of those randomly assembled–but nonetheless awesome–one-off "college show" lineups that also included Native and HRVRD, back in April 2013. (At that point, I think it was my first time seeing them since October 2006 with Minus the Bear.) 2011's Empros was quite good, but sometimes you just need that reminder of how reliable a band like that can be, not only turning out one interesting album after another but playing them live with fine attention to detail, an arsenal of effects pedals to mix up the sound, and enough thickening churning to make it a very worthwhile time. That reliability was on display tonight, with the modern post-metal standard-bearers steady and unwavering through a nearly hour-and-a-half-long set (drummer Dave Turncrantz had an off moment or two, but he was pretty on-point otherwise). They pulled from across their solid catalog, with each album represented by at least one song (if the setlist I found is accurate at all; I get sketchy trying to recall song titles by these types of bands), and almost half of both their last two albums (Empros and last year's Memorial). I couldn't complain about song choice, since they definitely stuck to their more dynamic and notable material (or as I like to professionally call them, "that one with the heavy-ass-practically-a-mosh-part," "the one with the gnarly bass riff," and "that one with the really cool rhythm"). But I would have LOVED to hear the "Memorial" title track, easily one of my favorites from RC's three dozen songs or so–there had to be someone around that could pull off Chelsea Wolfe's haunting delivery well enough, no? Nonetheless, it was a good time, one that quite literally physically exhausted me from all its power and detailed articulation from the three gentlemen.

Setlist (10:58-12:10):
  1. 309
  2. Harper Lewis
  3. 1777
  4. Geneva
  5. Schiphol
  6. Deficit
  7. Carpe
  8. Burial
  9. Mlàdek
    Encore (12:11-12:21):
  10. Youngblood