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RUSSIAN CIRCLES w/ KEN Mode and Inter Arma

  The EARL  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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"Hey guys!" i emailed the gang, "There is a metal show i want to see. Anyone up for it?"

And so, on the day after Valentine's Day (which, given the bloody death St. Valentine faced, should be a pretty metal holiday) i went with the girlfriend and two blogger friends to The EARL.

There was a pretty big crowd in the music room, but it wasn't as packed as the EARL sometimes is. Maybe this show didn't sell out after all. I was kind of expecting it to, seeing as other people i mentioned it to had heard of Russian Circles. I just sort of stumbled across them reading end of the year best of lists on other blogs, but people seemed to know the band. They are, apparently, touring for their fifth album, and a band doesn't get to album five without some kind of fan base.

And their fan base is... well, it was not the long haired overly tattooed metal dudes that i kind of expected. Oh sure, there were some of those guys, but no more than you get at The EARL on any day. No, the crowd at this show was pretty much like any other EARL crowd. Huh.

This means that the crowd was overwhelmingly white, which caused my girlfriend to inquire, "Why don't more black people like metal? Don't they get into the anger?" But that can't be right -- there is a lot of anger in much of rap. So why don't black people get into metal? Is it that the bands are almost uniformly made up of white guys with longer hair? Is it the obsession with satanic / anti-Christian imagery? Hmm. I have no answer.

I fact, i often noticed that concerts in general seem to experience a sort of racial self-segregation. Why is that? Any ideas out there in reader land? I would be curious to hear theories. Email them to me, and maybe i will write something here later about the discussion.

Anyway, moving on. The first band is a Virginian act called Inter Arma. They are a five piece band with two guitarists, drummer, bassist and vocalist. About half of their set was instrumental; the band riffing away like early Sabbath with the singer stood and looked at the drummer while bouncing in place. That half of their set was awesome. Those boys can play some guitar, and i liked the dark psychedelia of they were doing.

But then, after a nice long jam, the singer would turn to face the crowd, grab his mic and do that metal throat growling sort of singing. I can never understand the words when people do that, but as a Cocteau Twins fan denotative meaning is not that important to me. However, listening to someone growl like that while screaming just ... it looks and sounds like it hurts. I watch people do this, and i want to gargle my throat with a nice soothing warm salt water bath. Does it hurt to keep doing that? Do these singers do long term damage to themselves? Is the reason the vocalist only sang half of the time is because he needed the instrumental jams in order to rest and not, i dunno, break something?

Let's just say, i am not a fan of that kind of singing. So Inter Arma were a mixed bag. I liked their instrumentals.

The next act was a three-piece from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They called their band Ken Mode, and at first i thought it was a Mattel toy reference. To be in Ken Mode is to be plastic, like Barbie's boyfriend, so i thought. But it turns out they are KEN Mode, where KEN stands for Kill Everyone Now. I guess it is a first-person shooter reference. I, however, am not a video gamer. But, whatever.

The name is pretty metal though, and that is weird because, in a different context, i would not have called this a metal band at all. To be honest, their music was loud, with many oddly jerky rhythms. I found myself comparing them a lot to local stalwarts The Liverhearts. There was a similar sort of thing going on here, except KEN Mode are metal and The Liverhearts are post-punk.

Again, let me stress that i do not understand genre distinctions. The two bands are doing very similar things, with the same energy and intensity.

At any rate, i really liked watching KEN Mode play. Lots of fun, and their rhythm section is great.

Finally it was time for Russian Circles. They played in the dark and the crowd mostly stood around with arms crossed bopping their heads. Just like a post-rock show, and going in i told people that RC were like a heavier Explosions in the SKY. The fans act the same... However, a few times people in the crowd cheered the start of a song and through up The Horns and headbanged along.

I guess they played from all of their records. I am pretty sure they played 1777 and one more song off of Memorial, the only album by them that i am familiar with.

However, it was worth it. I really enjoyed their set. Their music does that ebb and flow thing that post-rock is known for, expect their ebb was light psychedelia, and their flow as headbanging thrash! A slightly different mix than the ambient pop into crunchy punk that most post-rock bands to, but not really too dissimilar.

I mean, my god, look at the pedals:



Related Links:

Russian Circles:
KEN Mode:
Inter Arma:


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