Tales from the East Siberian Sea

Herewith four more Russian items from the “No Name” or Addicted Label of Moscow run by Anton Kitaev. Arrived 11 May 2022.

Now for one by IWKC, another Moscow band who also like to have their blintzes buttered on both sides…by which I mean they aim to cover multiple stylistic modes and reach for a degree of excellence in an assortment of rock-related categories, decamping from the sunlit extremes of psychedelic free-form jams by way of heavy, stoner pummelling. Along the way, this caravan of nomads manage to turn in instrumental workouts that will appeal to fans who’ve been following American underground rock and math rock for the last 20 years, such as Pelican or Old Man Gloom… ‘Samadhi’ for instance isn’t too far away from a lost Earth track, though it’s also cross-planted with quasi-eastern melodies and half-note intervals on the keyboards. The basic quartet is supplemented on this Hladikarna album by a number of guest vocalists and singers, and even a tabla player for another note of exotic spice in the mix. The foursome are a crack team of “muscular” players who don’t blink for a second and sloppy notes are not tolerated in their perfectionist, airless music – very reminiscent of Isis in places. Guitar, keys and bass are mighty proficient, but Nikita Samarin (the drummer) might be the leader of sorts – his high-precision work on the tubs is evidently keeping the other players in line with the force of an iron grid. (Not to be confused with the talented Nick Samarin, who recorded the disc.) If you’re seeking modern heavy guitar music, but tempered with melodic keyboard work, good studio sound, and impressive dynamics, these Russian clonksters will satisfy your cravings on many levels. Fave track for me is the title track, but I’m a sucker for that organ sound (even if it’s probably faked by a digital keyboard). Despite the sunny moments, the IWKC continue to favour a music of aggression with many dark and menacing undercurrents. Witness the cover art, a nice tapestry in psychedelic colourful which might turn out to depict an atomic bomb blast. Far out.

From Yegoryevsk (on the right bank of the Guslitsa River in Moscow Oblast), we have the duo Old Sea And Mother Serpent, who between them turn in a fine epic of sludge on their Plutonian album. Created with conventional rock setup plus added keys, plus remorseless groany vocals, this is squarely in the genres of doom metal / death metal / sludge metal, and it’s about as turgid as three- month-old porridge and as interminable as an MCU movie. In addition to enduring the sensations of walking bodily through deep pools of wet cement, the listener will endeavour to listen to the lyrics and thus decode the “story” promised by the track titles on these four long tracks, most of them clubbing their way through the door at over 20 mins a time…I can’t help discerning a coherent narrative here when faced with songs like ‘The Scrag Temple’ and references to the “serpent masters…highest creatures”, but it’s a Gothic sword-and-sorcery epic gone horribly wrong, mixed with darker supernatural and Lovecraftian tropes, and even the cover paintings promise us an endless journey across a menacing mountain range that would even unnerve the most devoted Tolkien reader. Another major characteristic of these Sea-Serpent boys is their horrifyingly slow pace…they steel themselves for yet another deathly trudge over treacherous terrain each time the axes are plugged in, and if anything the album gets even slower and sludgier as it plods on. By the time we get to ‘Subterranean Solstice’, you’re so far down that you’ll need to be rescued by a deep-sea diver wearing lead boots in a bathysphere. True “crawlmetal” if ever there was.

More doom and sludge from Thy Grave, another Moscow band using two guitars, bass and drums to pound it out “old style” on their album Filth. Thy Grave certainly aren’t attempting any clever cross-genre moves, nope sir – “heavy as a tombstone with huge cast-iron nails hammered into it” is what they offer, and after six of these ghastly tracks your ears, head, and body will admit defeat as surely as if you’d been crushed beneath a granite boulder. Along with the torturous music, Thy Grave incline towards an extremely pessimistic view of humanity, offering us zero hope or solace with titles like ‘Devil from the Void’, ‘The Depth Devourer’, or ‘Approach to Suffering’. “Each opus is a reflection on all that surrounds us,” is their stated philosophy. “Degradation of the flesh has become a brand, and Hell has become the meaning of life,” they continue, confirming that this oppressive misery and doom, mingled with physical decay, is all they can see as they survey the world. The remarkable cover art, drawn by GodLikeIkons, not only endorses this perception of reality, it positively builds on it – conjuring up nightmarish, extremely twisted apparitions of death, mutation, degradation, and corruption. No tier of humankind, be they emperor, peasant, religious, adult or child, is safe from this catastrophic doom, according to the mighty pen of GodLikeIkons.

Further heavy metal and doom from Remote on their album whose title translates as Smoke. Compared to others heard in this bundle, this band from Kaluga are a shade more accessible and eschew the conventions of slowness and distortion in favour of an energised, enriched form of Black Sabbath. The “enriched” dimension comes from the added synths and phased-type pedal effects, which sustain every riff and carry it forward into a ghastly, layered, drone form. They do however share the taste for extreme-metal shouted and shrieked vocals, which tends to skew what is otherwise a fairly listenable album, albeit one still served by a chain-mailed fist by angry hostiles. The band formed around 2012 and have a respectable back catalogue; this might be their first record where all the lyrics are in Russian. I do respect a tough-minded attitude where a band refuses to compromise their vision in the vain hopes of pleasing an American audience or making global sales. Remote aren’t much of a song band in any case, but when the lyrics appear – sometimes sung, or chanted like hysterical headlines by guest voices – they make an unforgettable impact. My fave here is the 6-minute ‘P’epel’, almost pure meandering noise and no attempt at playing a tune; it slithers like a gigantic, malevolent python. But it’s atypical of the rest of the album. Hideous album cover art depicting a Hell populated with dragons, flames, and giant skulls, while horned demons commit depraved sexual acts. Note the almost-symmetrical designs of this artwork, aspiring towards the condition of Black Metal.