Russian Circles at The Nile, Arizona, 2019. Photo by Eli Jace.
Russian Circles at The Nile, Arizona, 2019. Photo by Eli Jace.


The drummer for Russian Circles has the right foot of an antagonized brutish wildebeest.

It took over half of their set last Monday for me to realize and confirm that, David Turncrantz, their drummer was only using one single foot pedal for the bass drum. He was machine-gunning, I thought for sure he had a double-bass set up. He stomped on it like a quarterback dipping and pivoting down field. His foot fidgeted in rhythm, almost hovering the entire night right above the bass pedal. He provided the constant thumping ricochet that rumbled through each Russian Circles song and shook everybody’s organs.


Russian Circles have always been an instrumental incineration. Metal from the earth. No vocals, no angst, no cries, just music crammed to the bone. Guitarist Mike Sullivan and bassist Brian Cook combine to add an atmosphere of destructive energy. Their riffs crank along with the drums, building each song up to deathly peaks.


The three-piece crossed into Arizona midway through their current Blood Year North America Tour to play the fabled Nile Theater in Mesa.

Russian Circles at the Nile, Arizona, 2019. GIF by Eli Jace.

The tour is in support of Blood Year the Chicago group’s new seventh studio album, and second with producer Kurt Ballou. Their last was 2016’s Guidance. Read my review of Blood Year by Russian Circles.  


The Nile is a great room for a big loud rumbling concert and Russian Circles filled up the space. Russian Circles walked on with “Hunter Moon,” the opener of the new album, playing from the sound system. Then they smashed into “Arluck,” with Turncratz getting a running start. “Quartered,” off Blood Year, started with the bass drum drilling, pumping dust off the walls, until the song climbed and took off.


Lights were kept low.

Maybe three or four lights flashed off and on with one blue setting. Each player was lit in their silhouette of silverlined light. Other than Sullivan moving forward one step to change pedals, he nor Cook moved around the stage.


They were stuck in place, frozen by the hard-charge of their metallic muster. Cook held onto his corner of the stage, switching to a 6-string guitar for a few songs. He hopped and splashed around, knuckling his bass down low and shooting up into the air. In his own world, he’d hunker and squat, light shadows twitching his expressions.


Russia Circles barbecued the Nile Theater for the privileged few who bothered to show up.

I’m not complaining about the freedom of movement, or lack of disinterested people, but we could’ve packed a whole lot more fans in there. It’s time artists start pulling away from Mainland Phoenix and play some damn shows at The Nile.


Continuing with the Blood Year North American Tour, Russian Circles finishes the first leg in hometown Chicago on September 28. Facs, also out of Chicago, have been supporting Russian Circles from the start. Windhand will take over the opening spot when the tour’s second leg begins October 18 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Russian Circles at the Nile, Arizona, 2019. Photo by Eli Jace.
Russian Circles at the Nile, Arizona, 2019. Photo by Eli Jace.






















































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