LIVE: Russian Circles / Cloakroom @ Heaven, London

By Glen Bushell

Putting the word ‘post’ in front of a genre is a bone of contention for a lot of musicians. What does it really mean? Does it really mean anything? Who knows. One thing that is blindingly obvious, whether they are post-rock or post-metal, is that Russian Circles are masters of their craft. Now six albums and over ten years deep into their career, they have solidified their place among the pioneers of the avant-garde side of metal, particularly with their stunning 2016 album, ‘Guidance’.

Another band who have had a number of labels slapped upon their art is tonight’s support, Cloakroom. Last time they were in town it was as main support to current emo darlings, Basement. While their association via Run For Cover Records made sense for them to be on the bill, their angular, exploratory take on post hardcore (there’s that word again) went over the heads of the audience. Now signed to the iconic Relapse Records, their place on a tour with Russian Circles feels a better fit.

Cloakroom’s dense bottom end riffs are interwoven with delicate, subtle melodies that wash through the cavernous surroundings of Heaven. The quiet/loud dynamic of ‘Paperweight’ staggers and swells like the the glory days of ‘90s alternative rock, while newer track, ‘Big World’, trades in earth-shattering fuzz and distortion. Closing out with a cover of ‘Final Transmission’ by Songs: Ohia is not only a fitting tribute to Jason Molina, but ends a triumphant set that welcomes Cloakroom to an entirely new audience.

With Russian Circles, their emotional delivery isn’t as obvious. The instrumental trio let their songs take you on a journey, and live, you get lost in each composition. ‘Asa’ sullenly guides you into their world, giving way to the towering riffs that collide into one another during ‘Vorel’. While it is hard for some bands to hold a listener’s attention without vocals to latch on to, it’s impossible to not be mesmerised by the hypnotic wall of sound created during ‘309’.

This celestial trip last’s for the best part of an hour, and covers all corners of Russian Circles catalogue. Dave Turncrantz off-kilter drumming marries Brian Cooks signature bass lines perfectly during the slow build of ‘Harper lewis’, only to explode into life when Mike Sullivan’s towering riffs meet them half way. And the older material still feels fresh. It shows the evolutionary nature of the band next to the monolithic ‘Afrika’ and ‘Youngblood’.

Watching Russian Circles is a fully immersive, almost cinematic experience. It sends you somewhere other than just standing in room watching a band that clearly transcends any type of genre definition. Call them post-whatever you want, as long it’s preceded by a superlative statement about them being one of the most forward-thinking bands in modern music, that’s fine.