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By Greg Kot for Chicago Tribune Russian Circles works in a relatively esoteric area – an...

By Greg Kot for Chicago Tribune

Russian Circles works in a relatively esoteric area – an instrumental trio that finds the sweet spot at the intersection of metal, hard rock, progressive and experimental music. Its five albums, culminating with last year’s elegiac “Memorial" (Sargent House), demonstrate just how expressive and dynamic a rock band without a lead vocalist can be. If an album can be both thrashy and poignant, “Memorial” is it.

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Metal Assault Live Review: Russian Circles at EL Rey w / video of Chelsea Wolfe performing "Memorial"

March 10th 2014, The El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles CA: Chicago-based instrumental heavy rock trio Russian Circles have been going from strength to strength in recent years, and since the last time I saw them headline the Troubadour in December 2011, they’ve traveled quite a fair distance as a band, literally and figuratively. Their latest album ‘Memorial’ has gained widespread praise and as a consequence, they’ve been getting booked on plenty of tours both as headliners and opening act. Currently, they’re approaching the end of a headline US tour with support from Helms Alee and KEN Mode, and played at a Sold-Out El Rey Theater in Western Los Angeles last night.

Rock/metal shows here are few and far between, but it’s always great to visit this lovely venue and last night was no different in that regard…
SEE FULL SHOW REVIEW OF ALL BANDS AT METAL ASSAULT

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"309" by Russian Circles an Interview By Andy Downing Instru-metal trio Russian Circles long has...

"309" by Russian Circles an Interview By Andy Downing

Instru-metal trio Russian Circles long has been a heavyweight presence in the local scene, releasing five albums, including last year’s monstrous “Memorial,” over the course of its decade together. Now that the band has both a burger and a beer to its name, though, it’s safe to say the guys have really made it.

Just this month the crew landed a burger on the menu at hard-rock haven Kuma’s Corner — a grilled patty topped with braised venison, fried beets and more — and DryHop Brewers released a Russian Imperial Stout named for Russian Circles’ 2006 song “Death Rides a Horse.”

It’s certainly not the group’s first brush with fame, however. Band members Mike Sullivan and Dave Turncrantz actually graced the RedEye cover just last year. For an article about an outdoor hockey league.

"There was no mention of the band whatsoever," said guitarist and Logan Square resident Sullivan, by phone. "It was just a picture of us two longhairs playing hockey outside and some [headline] like ‘Hockey’s back!’"

Are your Google Alerts going crazy with everything that’s happening in Russia?
That’s funny. Everything that’s going on in Russia I found out through our Facebook page. There’s all this Russian spam all over the site, so it’s like, “All right, here’s what’s going on.” I don’t think we’ll be going back to Russia anytime soon. That whole scene is dramatic and unfortunate. Hopefully it doesn’t get worse, but it’s not looking too good.

Have you played there often?
We played there on three different tours. We did St. Petersburg and Moscow last fall.

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Rock trio Russian Circles sold out Neumo’s Tuesday, and the entry line was accompanied by...

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.

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Invisible Oranges Live Review, Full Set Video and Photos

I’ve written about all three of these bands’ power in the live realm over the past year: Russian Circles here, KEN mode here, and Inter Arma both here and here. There’s not much more to say about them, beyond that all three seem to get better the more time they spend on the road. (Which is a lot.) If any of these bands comes to your town, go see them, especially if you haven’t seen them before. If you have seen them before, go again. If you live in the sticks and despair of the possibility, you can witness some of the magic via Unartig’s full-set videos of each band HERE.