Last weekend I had the overwhelming delight of watching post-metal instrumental trio Russian Circles sonically annihilate a sold out crowd in a small venue in Asheville, North Carolina. Performing alongside them were Yautja, another three-piece that were no strangers to devastating entire audiences with an unrelenting rhythm section drenched in savage and scathing riffs.
This show in particular was a special one – Russian Circles were opening for Mastodon and Eagles of Death Metal on tour and this happened to be an off date.
I’ve had the pleasure of viewing both bands in separate settings in the past, so I was looking forward to seeing both Russian Circles and Yautja under one roof.
The Mothlight was a relatively small venue nestled in West Asheville. The dimly lit showroom gave way to a small arcade toward the rear of the building. The stage rose only two or three feet above the ground, making for what would surely be a very intimate experience. I avoided the bar, as I had decided to go for the budget-friendly PBR 40oz for the night (an option not found in Florida), but being surrounded by renowned breweries such as Oskar Blues, New Belgium, and more, surely there was a great selection of craft beers and other drinks for purchase.
Since the show was sold out, by the time my friends and I had arrived at the venue it was already filling up with people eager to hear Russian Circles songs both old and new, and even Yautja had some new material to tout. Most people I spoke with had never heard of the latter, and were certainly in for a pleasant surprise.
Playing a unique blend of sludge drenched metal-grind, there’s something for anyone who enjoys heavy music to be found in Yautja’s music.
The band played a slew of songs spanning their two-LP discography, ending with their newest track “Dead Soil” from their upcoming EP of the same name. It had been about a year since I had seen Yautja as a band, but not some of it’s members. Each member of the band seems to juggle playing in multiple different bands, one of which I was able to see in Orlando a few months back playing drums in a band called Sallow.
That being said, every member of this band has a slew of talents to bring to the table, particularly the drummer Tyler. Listening to Yautja’s music, you would without a doubt think he utilizes double bass pedals for fast sections, but sure enough he only used one bass pedal and created a double-bass “feel” by using his floor tom in conjunction with his bass pedal – a technique you really have to see to believe.
Following this set that went by way too quickly, Russian Circles began setting up and the anticipation in the room was through the roof as everyone moved in to have their bones rattled.
I was particularly excited to see the band in this location, as the last time I had gotten the chance to see them was two nights in a row opening for Between the Buried and Me and Coheed & Cambria in Florida back in 2013 at much larger venues. The band opened up with some older material, and my friends and I both agreed that the beginning of the set was a little underwhelming. Maybe it was that the older songs weren’t as developed as the bands later material, maybe it was something else, but as soon as the band started playing songs from Geneva and Station as well as some tracks from their latest album Guidance, my favorite release of theirs, the bar immediately went from a mild 8 to a 10.
Sometimes instrumental bands have a tendency to lose the interest of listeners rather quickly, but Russian Circles assure focus is not lost through the weaving of beautiful melodic passages that progressively explode into crushing waves of sound.
The emotional and heavy-hitting arrangements translated beautifully to the stage. Most intriguing to me was bassist Brian Cook’s use of a Moog Taurus synthesizer to further enhance the low end punch. I had played around in the Moog Museum shop that was right up the street earlier in the day and was even afforded a peek into the factory where Moog instruments are built, so seeing a live implementation of their exquisite and complex machinery such a short time after playing with them myself really drove the performance home for me.
This was most certainly the best overall performance I’ve ever received from Russian Circles.
And like with any great show, listeners surely left the venue feeling the desire to practice their respective instruments a little more. I can only hope it’s not another four years before I get to see them again.