The edited version of this that appeared on The SunBreak appears to be lost to the internet goblins. Here's my draft version + links + pictures:
It used to be just the devil horns was enough to show your appreciation for a good metal band. Now, forming your hand into the classic "rock on" sign is simply not enough. Bands these days have gotten so technical and interesting that it takes a little more effort to show how much you care.
The new sign of approval is the "rock claw." To perform this move, imagine you're lifting a golden goblet of fine wine to the sky. Hold it there a moment. Then, slowly crush it and bring your elbow back down to your waist. You've just shown a metal band that they have melted your face off with awesomeness.
Helms Alee provided quite a few rock claws at the beginning of the evening. A local group comprised of Ben Verellen (formerly of local noise/hardcore legends Harkonen, and who now makes a successful line of beautiful custom amplifiers) and two viciously talented ladies named Dana and Hoz. The audience was very appreciative of their -- dare I say it -- grungy and dark sound.
Helms Alee reminds me of this small barn at the intersection of Highway 9 and the Mount Vernon-Big Lake Road. It has been slowly falling down a hill for years now. Gathering more moss, slipping imperceptibly towards the lowest spot it can find. Slowly crushing whatever may take refuge under what's left of it's roof. Some days it takes larger steps, but it's march to oblivion is unstoppable and inevitable. If we could hear the subsonic hum of that barn crumbling to dust, we'd be listening to Helms Alee.
Russian Circles continued to fuel our need for darkness with their swelling and boiling cauldron of instrumental masterpieces. Starkly lit, they appeared as warlocks from the fog of a cold fall swampland. Crushing toads and eyes of newt into a spell that enchanted the Neumo's crowd into yet more rock claws.
Russian Circles are another in the growing list of "instrumetal" bands like Pelican, Mono, Sunn0))), Red Sparowes, et al. Perfect for a rainy fall night, they bathe you in an ocean of sound. Gently swelling and soaring over the audience, but also tough and forceful. Subtle tapping guitar parts and just the right amount of technical prowess appear out of minimal, quiet moments. In a blink, they've crescendoed to rollicking celebration of volume before they come back down to the quiet. Russian Circles craft beautiful, epic songs.
Ladies and gentlemen, I raise my goblet to your bands. And then I slowly crush it and lower it to the ground in appreciation of your efforts.