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We attended not one but two Circles dates on their European tour, and caught them with Skyharbor, Bovine and Exist Immortal

Skyharbor UK tour

Sometimes, you have to make the most of opportunities as they present themselves. Cold, hard economics mean that the phrase “Circles UK Tour” is one that is unlikely to be heard all that often. So when I found that it was possible for me to get to two of the five dates the Aussie band tacked onto the end of their European jaunt with the mighty Dillinger Escape Plan, and immediately following their appearance at Euroblast, I booked my tickets with almost indecent haste.

First up was a gig upstairs at the Highbury Garage. Prior to the show, I took Circles vocalist Perry Kakridas and bass player Drew Patton for a quick drink and a chat in a local pub. You’ll be able to read all about that on these pages in the not too distant future.

My early appointment also meant I was in place to watch young tech-metal upstarts Exist Immortal open proceedings. Things are starting to fall into place for this London band. This is neatly illustrated by the fact that once they were done this evening, they were heading to the airport to go and play their first shows in India.

I first saw them play in the middle of a long bill at The Water Rats a year or two ago, and there are clear signs of improvement across the board. Vocalist Meyrick de la Fuente is developing both a strong voice and credible stage presence, comfortably hitting the high notes and getting in the faces of a crowd that is small, but perfectly formed.

New song “The Edge Of Insanity” provides further evidence that the band are refining their sound and finding their true voice. If they can keep up this rate of improvement, then 2014 could be a big year for these guys. Keep your ears peeled.

Up next, and providing a bit of a change of pace, are Birmingham’s Bovine. Combining post-hardcore and stoner rock with some Wildhearts-esque swagger, the band pile through a solid set of big riffs and memorable tunes that engages the crowd despite being a markedly different proposition to the bands they’ve been sandwiched between.

They play a set largely drawn from their album The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire (Bandcamp linky), which tickled the fancies of one of Tim when released earlier this year (review linky), but had passed me by until now. In the process, Bovine set out their stall as a quality, no nonsense heavy rock band. They clearly brought some fans with them this evening, but stand-out tracks like “Ghost Chair” and “Medicine Wife“, the latter featuring a slightly swung riff of which Clutch would be proud, meant they certainly left with more than they came with. Mission accomplished, I would say.

Circles take to the stage with minimal fanfare and pile straight into “Another Me“, the lead single from their brand new full length Infinitas. If you didn’t catch it at the time, my full thoughts on the album can be found here.

Unsurprisingly, the setlist is largely drawn from Infinitas, with a few choice cuts from debut EP The Compass mixed in for good measure. The songs translate well to the live environment, and the band deliver a tight, punchy set, no doubt honed by having spent the last month playing their way around Europe. They do seem a little constricted by the rather small stage, though. Drew has to snake his way between guitarist Matty and vocalist Perry to get to the microphone for his occasional backing vocals before retreating again to a back corner of the stage.

Perry makes for an imposing frontman, and his voice is in remarkably good shape for this late stage in the tour. He comfortably hits the high notes peppered through the set and carries the poppy melodies that help Circles stand apart from the djent pack. Particularly noteworthy is the introduction to Infinitas opener “Erased“, which Perry sings to minimal backing.

Playing the songs live also gives the breakdowns and heavier riffs a particularly satisfying crunch that sets pretty much every head in the house nodding. A small gaggle of kids [stead on, gramps - Ed.] sporadically attempt to start a moshpit, but it lacks the critical mass to sustain itself and fizzles out after a few bars each time. The net result is the opening up of a large sparsely populated semi-circle in front of the stage, which slightly disconnects the band from the audience. This is a bit of a pity.

Its a different story a couple of nights later at The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes, though. In the absence of a local support, Circles open proceedings at around half past eight. The live room at The Craufurd is a larger space than the upstairs of The Garage, so the crowd feels a little thinner despite being comparably sized. However, it doesn’t take much persuasion from Perry to get everyone right up close to the stage. Nobody feels the need to chuck themselves or their mates around, but nevertheless the reception is warm and appreciative throughout the slightly shorter set.

A more generous stage size gives the band more room to breathe. Perry, Ted and Matty stay towards the front, leaving Drew to jump around across the full width of the rear of the stage, hopping on and off the drum riser and dangling from the lighting rig. Without the luxury of their wireless packs, the band do have to dance around each other at the end of most songs to disentangle their trailing guitar cables.

The band leave the stage to an extended round of applause from the crowd, a fitting end to their first overseas tour. We can only hope that we won’t have to wait quite as long for their next European adventure, and that a few more people venture out to watch the band when they do. They won’t be disappointed.

Whilst this is Circles’ first overseas tour, the rather surprising fact is that this show also marks the end of Skyharbor‘s first tour full stop, with previous live outings restricted to one-off appearances.

Prior to the tour, Skyharbor’s last UK appearance had been at UK Tech-Metal Fest, where Anup Sastry’s vacant drumstool had been filled by Monuments tubthumper Mike Malayan, who did a tremendous job considering the terrifyingly short amount of rehearsal time they were able to fit in beforehand. But with Anup back in his rightful place for these shows, the band are clearly scaling new heights as a live entity.

As with the Tech-Fest set, the band open the set with “Dots“, the first track on Blinding White Noise‘s Illusion disc. Not only that, but Dan Tompkins’ introductory vocal line gives me goosebumps again, an indicator that it is a truly sublime piece of songwriting.

The band are all clearly having a whale of a time, guitarist Devesh’s smiles broadly for the entire set, and bassist Nikhil is a constantly moving bundle of nervous energy. Dan twists, turns and sways with eyes closed, lost in the music. They probably don’t want this to be the last date of the tour at all.

The band treat the crowd to a taste of things to come, in the form of new track “Halogen“, which suggests there are exciting times ahead for this Anglo-Indian outfit.

It is a slick, professional show, and the logistical challenges the band face are only really evidenced by the lack of available material they have to play for us. After just 40 minutes, they are done and we are heading back to the station, hoping to catch the last tube trains, but we don’t feel short-changed.

We just manage to catch the tube, incidentally – The Craufurd is a viable venue for weekend gig adventures out of London via public transport. This is worth knowing for the future.

Both Skyharbor and Circles showcase the quality of their label Basick Records’ roster, and the international metal scene at large. Circles have delivered a top notch debut full-length, Skyharbor are maturing into a ‘proper’ band in their own right and both bands are fully capable of performing absorbing, entertaining live sets. Everyone involved in the two tours that culminated here tonight should be rightly proud of what they have achieved.

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