100 Russian Horror Movies

Herewith more Russian items from the “No Name” or Addicted Label of Moscow run by Anton Kitaev. Many of them are in the area of doom rock, noise, stoner and such like. Arrived 11 May 2022.

Her Highness are a duo known only the initials K.T. and K.A., and on their album Visions Of A Lower Life they offer six tracks of extreme heaviosity blasted out in the “doom” area with much emphasis on low end and menacing, shifting bass sounds…I kind of prefer the rare atmospheric moments, such as ‘Possibilities of a Deviant Rebirth’ or ‘Acceptance and Annihilation’, but that’s untypical of most of the album which is straight-ahead riffing and drumming. Would their act improve if they had a vocalist? Maybe, but there’s also a lot to be said for their pure instrumental bass and drum mayhem. The duo are not Russian – they come from Budapest and they’ve been proudly bludgeoning citizens since 2014 with their “depravating musical vision”, as they call it. They’re especially pleased that they do it all with bass guitar and drums alone. These “six hymns of despondent sludge” were penned between 2016 and 2019, but they recorded the album in a studio during the pandemic. The chap on the cover looks exactly like the “Pinhead” character in Hellraiser, except he’s stuck with hypodermic needles. The limited sonic range here produces nauseating effects after prolonged listening, which might be their desired outcome.

Detieti amused us for ten seconds with their slightly wacky Frogressive Punk album in 2018, but this Moscow band seem to be taking a new direction on Serious IV. Fairly large number of personnel involved in its making, playing synths, guitars, percussion, electronics, and samples…they’re mixing up any number of musical styles and genres here, exhibiting proggy-styled jazz-fusion riffs with complex time signatures sometimes spliced with modern-sounding sequencer patterns and sampledelic episodes. The lead guitarist – I think it’s Alexander Kosarenko – doesn’t quit when he gets the shredder in his mitts and pushes down on his effects board, and his tireless space-filling runs are impressive, but can also be quite exhausting to listen to. They claim “classic prog” as their basic model, but they’re certainly not harking back to Camel or King Crimson or any 1970s bands (except maybe Rush) – it feels like their inspiration comes from the 1980s second wave like Marillion, or even later. The opening cuts ‘Disorienteria’ and ‘Milky Squid’ will please listeners who like a rich, over-crowded dish with plenty of high-speed energy bursts and colourful crazy sounds; ‘Reflective Architect’ is slightly more approachable, and gives the keyboard players a chance to demonstrate their tasteful, melodic moves. “Detieti are still inspired by sci-fi movies from the 80s, [and] they come up with funny cartoon characters,” we are told; “all this helps to compose new music.” They’re referring to their overall method – part of their ambition is to create, or suggest, imaginary film soundtracks, hence the colourful cartoon images on the insert, drawn by Mikhail Ivanov. Like the songs, these images pass on the impression that Detieti are not entirely serious, yet they still contain traces of oddness and mildly surreal events.

Izrazets here with self-titled album…six energetic cuts by this gtr-bass-drums power trio from Moscow, Dmitry Kuzovlev, Dmitry Lapshin and Oksana Grigoryeva, who lash it out going hell for leather. Album came out in 2021, but these studio recordings date from 2017. If it’s prog moves you’re after, then Izrazets propose something rather different to the florid, over-produced mode of Detieti – their sound is much leaner and more aggressive, and they’ve got their declared elements of free jazz and dub music too. In places, like the unhinged see-saw motions on ‘Friends With Benefits’, I can almost hear a Robert Fripp fixation struggling to make itself heard among the restless bass and amplifier hum. I mean there’s a concern with detail and complexity in the guitar work, aiming to balance large clusters of notes with a frenetic New Wave spirit. Other New Wavish or post-punkish devices can be heard too, such as the harsh “angularity” evident on ‘Necklace’, where the tricky rhythm section zig-zags are spliced with nasty noise bursts from the guitar. Also try ‘Slippery Game’ if you’re craving a quick dose of Sonic Youth-styled hammered string-attack mayhem. There’s also the general tendency for the trio to keep shifting their course mid-stream, so each tune may showcase at least three or more genres or styles within the same frame. Yet they manage to keep their balance while doing this, and don’t contextualise these changes with anything so pretentious as symphonic-styled “movements” or clever titles, which can be a pitfall with a band who wants to signal their “cleverness” to the listener. This one’s growing on me…the players, who have connections to the bands Brom, The Rig, and Rudolf, work hard to milk every second of juice, dynamism, and musical variation out of their simple set-up.

Pretty horrible “grindcore” record from MxAxMxA, another Moscow band…their Long-Awaited Firstborn contains 13 short tracks, most of them around the ultra-short length I’d associate with Napalm Death or Discharge, and delivered with concomitant high-speed guitar aggro, insane drumming, and screeched vocals (alternating with howled and pained vocals). Some track titles, ‘Graveyard’ and ‘Werewolf’ suggest we’re also dealing with a supernatural horror subtext, one that’s also suggested by the grim cover artwork featuring a baby’s pram inside a cage suspended in a dungeon – like Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen updated for the ultra-violent 21st-century horror-movie junkie. Once you can get past their initial defences – acid sprayed in the face, barbed wire, flamethrowers, deep pits with spikes at the bottom and such – you’ll find MxAxMxA are capable of throwing in a few surprises and calmer moments during this short, but intense, album. Seems to have been released in Portugal as a cassette, and as a CDR in France…