Foreign travel can be a satisfying experience. This year alone I've been lucky enough to spend time in five different countries, and have thus enjoyed varied cultures, types of public transportation and (perhaps more importantly) experienced five varying degrees of cleanliness among the populations of these countries. As great as this all sounds, I've also found myself cursing about the horrible state of bathrooms in five different countries, and I've also been let down by how terrible one thing or another is in specific places around the world. Andorra's bathrooms are okay, but have you tried to get a decent sandwich there? Why is it so hard to get a burrito in South America? It's for these reasons that today we are offering a free, transatlantic trip to all of our readers. Why pay for expensive airfare when you can enjoy other cultures from the comfort of your own home?
Today we are going to Russia (virtually, that is), and will learn about its culture and customs the only way we know how...by looking at some of its record covers. These were sent to us by one of our readers, who I will assume looks like Borat. I know what you're thinking, Borat is a fictitious character played by a Jewish guy from England, and it incorrectly portrays a Kazakh person, not a Russian, and the movie was partially shot in Romania. Oh well, Kazakhztan used to be a part of the Soviet Union...so for most of us, that's close enough.
For most western metal fans, their knowledge about Russia is limited to the following:
- The Scorpions had that song "Winds of Change" about the Berlin wall, which references "Gorky Park". I should tell you that Mr Gene Hoglan's Balls and I have sung (or is that "sang"?) this song in kareokee multiple times, and we always forget how hard it is to follow along. Like a lost puppy finding its way back home, however, we always manage to nail the "Gorky Park" line.
- There was a band called Gorky Park, and some of us saw a picture of them in Metal Hammer back in the 80s, but we can't remember what they looked like, much less what they sounded like.
- James Heatfield went to Russia to hunt, and talks about it in the Some Kind Of Monster movie, where he describes drinking vodka with the locals during this trip. Like most of you, I was hoping a mountain lion of some kind would have ripped the remaining part of his face that the acne didn't damage during this teenage years. Either that, or perhaps a bear could have eaten him whole. Sadly, the only thing that happened during the trip was that he became a full blown alcoholic, and subsequently made the band suck worse.
- Metallica and Pantera played that huge show there a long time ago, and the footage features soldiers that are either getting into the music, or beating people who are getting into the music...but can you blame them? If you had a stick, and the ability to beat Pantera fans in their face and neck area, wouldn't you? I know I would.
That's about all most westerners know. So although I'm sure that entire region of the world is now filled with black metal bands (what country isn't?), horrible R&B and Wu-Tang-like hip hop..we have chosen instead to take a step back and look at album covers from the heydey of Russian musical production. Since we do not have access to the actual records, or background information about the artists, but we want to review them anyway, I will make some educated guesses about their musical content and share them with you.
Having left the band he started and helped him rise to popularity, Kris Kelmi (real name Saul Rabinowitz) opted for a more pop-based approach to his first solo album. Titled "open your sesame", this amazing musical effort takes its name from a sexual slur that is commonly used around asian prostitutes in Moscow's red light district. Having sworn to never use keyboards on his records, Kris widened his musical spectrum in this release, much like an asian prostitute opening her "sesame". Critics have often said that the albums tone and musical direction was highly influenced the Page & Coverdale album, but they are wrong. Only his hair and silver sport coat were influenced by Coverdale...the music is so horrible, that it has no predesessors.
As one of the leading bands in the prog scene in Russia, these guys were true pioneers. Not content with simple musical structures, Aria (or Apur, or whatever that logo says) opted for complex time signatures derived from traditional Russian music. Like most other prog bands, Aria produced only concept albums. This album in particular deals with an giant robot overloard known as "Kzchecheuz", who rules the land and shoots down helicopters that are transporting illegal jeans from America. Kzchecheuz, the robot overloard, seeks to control all denim production, and will stop at nothing to control the making and distribution of low-grade and premium denim throughout the world. Highlights of the album include:
- All Denim Is My Denim
- Wait In Line For Jeans, This Will Be The Way
Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Aria changed musical and lyrical directions. Four out of the six band members are now in a Boyz II Men tribute band.
With influences ranging from Slayer to Manowar, Abivct (or whatever that says) were a groundbreaking act in the Ukranian metal scene. Before the Soviet collapse, the band members recided and worked in the greater Chernovyl area, and as a result all of them emit a soft reddish glow that is only captured in photographic film. As a result of their exposure to severe amounts of radiation, the band's singer also sprouted a sword made of light which he uses as a stage prop. While this makes for great theatrics, sleeping with it permanently attached to his palms has turned out to be a bit of a pain. Similarly, his clothes and drapes have been torn to shreds. See the bottom of his shirt/smock? It's not cut up for fashion's sake, that fucking sword will cut any fabric like a hot knife through butter. When this guy says "wimps and posers leave the hall!" you better leave, or else he will kill you with his radioactice supersword!
South Florida's Nocturnus were a pioneering act in the world of death metal, primeraly due to their use of keyboards. Althoug you'd think that merely using an already existing instrument in poorly written music, and burrying it in the mix would be rather par for the course, the guys from Nocturnus congratulated themselves for this stroke of genius for the better part of a decade. Why do I mention this? Because the effects of Nocturnus and their innovative use of a horrid instrument are still being felt behind the no-longer existing iron curtain. Inspired by the Florida death unit known as Nocturnus, this Russian dude (whose name I can't decipher) has chosen to use the very latest technology available in Russia (which is basically an Apple IIe) and blended it with lyrics inspired by the pages of Keyboard Magazine. And why does he do all this? Is it for the sake of musical exploration? Well, yes...but it's also to seduce Saturday Night Live alumni Victoria Jackson, who has apparently ended up living in Russia and working in his makeshift recording studio.
More to come in Part 2.