Russian Circles and Helms Alee have both just released stellar new albums on Sargent House, so it only makes sense that they would join forces and tour together. So it was that this dynamic group of musicians graced a sold out Warsaw in Brooklyn on a textbook rainy fall evening – an evening that may have felt just like home for Helms Alee, who originate from Seattle.
Helms Alee tours in support of Stillicide. This forty-minute, beautifully heavy album is difficult to categorize and that’s one of the main things I love about it. It’s got a good doom vibe with drum stick-splintering beats, but manages to just pull back from going over the edge. Hearing Ben Verellen sing makes me remember how much I loved his vocals even during his days in Harkonen. I think his vocals fit better with this sound, combined with the complementary accompaniment of Dana James on bass and Hozoji Matheson on drums. With such a dynamic range of vocals and sound, it’s easy to see why so many people are drawn to this band.
Russian Circles hasn’t been out this way since January, when they played two nights at Saint Vitus (which were also sold out). Much like label mates Helms Alee, Russian Circles has a really broad appeal. While they have that heavy edge you can really sink your teeth into, I think because they are an instrumental group, more people are able to find their own place within the music.
The beauty of an instrumental song, no matter how heavy or technically complex it may be, is that you can find any emotion and any experience within the notes. Take “Afrika” for example, a new song from their latest album Guidance, which Mike Sullivan, Brian Cook, and Dave Turncrantz created at GodCity Studios in Salem, MA early this year. To me, the beginning of the song starts out with a hopeful notion, but with the beautifully intense drumming of Turncrantz it slowly crescendos into something which feels much more raw and energized. The person standing next to me by the stage may feel something completely different from this song however, as there are no lyrics to guide us in what the band may have been feeling or trying to express. Each song is potentially a very personal stream of consciousness and invoked emotions, and to me that feels like a beautiful idea.
Helms Alee have completed their run of tour dates with Russian Circles but have two upcoming November dates on the west coast. Russian Circles have just embarked on a month-long tour of Europe with support from Helen Money, who has just released Become Zero on Thrill Jockey.
Check out the photos below!