Characters of literally all shapes and sizes flocked to the El Rey Theatre on Monday, March 10th, for instrumental metal act Russian Circles’ return to Los Angeles. Ladies and bros, midgets and monsters, handicapped and incapacitated; pretty much every lunch table from Freshman year was present. And everyone in attendance was stoked to be there. I stopped counting the amount of air guitarists I saw, with some solos even bleeding into the lulls between sets. Needless to say, metal has the power to unite.
Supporting acts were universally heavy and wonderfully eclectic. Canadian three piece KEN mode quickly stirred up the crowd’s thirst for blood with a loud and angry take on all things chaotic.
Breaking through the genre’s testosterone fueled glass ceiling, Seattle based 3-piece Helms Alee flaunted not one but two females, including one very intense drummer/vocalist. Their music was again, very heavy, but remained far more accessible than KEN mode. With the phrase “fuck yeah, drummer!” being chanted at the end of their entirely too short set, it became clear that Helms Alee made some new friends on this particular night at the El Rey.
After what seemed like an unnecessarily long interlude, Russian Circles took to a pitch black stage around 10. Despite having only three members and zero vocals (“I know all their lyrics”) these guys can pack a punch. They can transition from headbangingly heavy to beautifully nuanced with ease, and very often do. Echoing bands like Isis and Pelican who pioneered this brand of instrumental heavy, Russian Circles require some degree of patience. But this investment seemed to pay off in spades for everyone this night as they sounded tight, loud and flawless. With blasts of light punctuating their somber lighting setup, Russian Circle had quiet theatrics that fit with their overall unique approach to metal.