Otzepenevshiye / Vir'
CD (ltd. 300)
Otzepenevshiye were formed in 2006 and by now have already recorded a conceptual split-album with Allerseelen and Neutral (2008, Ewers Tonkunst / Indiestate), have taken part in a series of releases of the Heliophagia label and contributed to several compilations. The band consists of members of the well-known Russian post-industrial projects Sal Solaris and Reutoff.
Vir' dates from 1996, having released some self-made demos, split-releases and two full-length albums: "Lower Forest" (2006, Indie-Go!) and "Horna" (2008, Mosquito Records).
The creation of a collaboration album was conceived by the members of both bands during their collective gig in Kazan'. Through the mutual exchange and editing of material they managed to record not just a split but something more that combined the planes of both acts and surpassed their traditional sound, not always resembling the individual works of both projects. The style of the album is really hard to define but to mark the relative field we could use such tags as sludge / drone doom / industrial / dark ambient.
Roaring guitars and the powerful drive of a live drum kit turn into measured industrial drum-machine rhythms, a clatter of iron sheets, synthesizers and field recordings, then again giving room to overdriven strings and profound insane vocals of Sergey Milushkin (Vir').
Metaphysically this album is a kind of optical device, a magic lantern with opaque glass - matching the anguish and desperation of Russian life. However looking more closely one can distinguish amazing patterns on the black soot of this glass behind which shines the everburning living fire.
Countless conversations end with the promise of getting together, collaborating, creating. Too often these promises never reach delivery and the conversation drifts to the back of the mind alongside trivia and repressed memories. So many bands play on so many bills, it's easy to see how these discussions unfold and ultimately lose their steam. When two bands finally make the time to tolerate one another, the results can be one-sided, watered-down, or entirely disappointing.
Moving beyond the tradition of splits and guest appearances, Saint Petersburg's Otzepenevshiye and Vir' shared the stage in Kazan' and drafted a plan to together craft an entire album. The end result is one that smashes pigeonholes and shreds labels, a clinic of sound manipulation and redistribution. At times a shoegazing drone-metal stack of layered guitars, others a crushing amalgam of sludge despair, the seven-track For a Knife rolls downhill and flattens expectations in a slow-motion daydream.
Opening on 1000 Doors, a cold pocket of immobilized breaths grows into a churning drone. But when the sounds emerge from every corner, filtering through a corridor of tin and wood, the guitar splinters advise against prematurely formulating opinions. Sergey Milushkin (Vir') claws at your feet as you pass, countering the awesomely ambient structures. Unfolding into a static whir of broken mist, the track breaks and blends crust with unsteady, glazed warbles. If the bands' intentions were to pull apart your senses, they've already succeeded admirably.
The storm of choppy sludge rhythms on The Black is the disc's mock of your discomfort. Guitar sustain remains, wraps you in moss, and searches the premises with one eye closed. The dicey balances the droney when banshees circle and cackle. The re-emergence of the tortured/torturous vocal after a three-track hiatus is welcome and jarring. The track invites you to join, basking in the discontent of a death rattle until the abrupt closing.
Long, sustained instrumental passages alone won't pique the interest of seasoned drone- or post-metal connoisseurs, and failure to let a tone fully respire will prove costly. Four of For A Knife's tracks present no vocals whatsoever, relying heavily on steady pacing and slow decay. Kotlovan's industrial churn offers a veil of productivity, masking the insidious drone elements. Sonne de Toten stutters and stumbles on technological breakdowns, panning samples with awesome atmospheres. Slicing guitar tapestries evolve via expanding fuzz, growing thicker as your shirt snags on hidden thorns. And when the field of rotting futures demands a glimpse of strange beauty shuffling through this ugliness, we transition into -273°C. The bird's eye perspective provides both relent and clarity, but the haunting soundscape is as post-impressionist as it is post-metal. The whole of the triptych is just one of the album's aching highlights.
Pull the pin on Ce Qui ne Trompe pas and what unfolds is an avalanche of screams and raining ashes. The dual-note piano drone is endless and somber, and it's the perfect lead-in to the closing title track. For A Knife is more primitive than what's led to it, but there are glimmers of life and rebirth contained herein. Sludge and drone again poke through the cleansing as if to say "don't forget us," but the trickle juxtaposes tracks one through six. Rhythmic plod burns, guitar embers crackle, and the ultimate pain of Milushkin's bark, absent far too long, are all washed away in the final gasp of one incredible album.
That two bands can accommodate one another, let alone so well complement one another, is an exercise in mastery. Forget that divergent methods and habits actually sound this amazing together and view the album on its own merits. This was simply a group of musicians sharing and focusing and brilliantly realizing ideas in the form of seven long, beautiful cruisers. Greater than the sum of its parts? Who cares. Call it what you want, but this sound is undeniably captivating.
Usually, a split-album is a simple exercise: each band brings along its own compositions and both works are then tied together with a more or less consistent leading theme, and there you have it, ready to go! In fact, more often than not, a split-album can easily be divided into two equal parts that share little in common. You'll hardly find any bands which go beyond that state of things to work on a real collaboration. And that is what makes this split-album between Otzepenevshiye from Moscow and Vir' from St. Petersburg very specific.
Otzepenevshiye started in 2006, but the musicians have been involved in their main project, Reutoff, since the late 90's. Vir' also began around that time. So they are quite experienced artists, and you can feel that experience at work on this project, 'For a Knife', which is the tasteful association of both their respective styles: dark ambient / indus for the former, drone / sludge for the latter. Considering this quite eclectic programme as well as the experimental frame we're stepping into, one could think of the band Grey Daturas and their totally messy full-length 'Dead in the Woods'. Fortunately, it needs just a first listen to 'For a Knife' to sweep any doubt away, because the fusion that Otzepenevshiye / Vir' are offering is like a 52-minute, cleverly-elaborated movie: you have sound, obviously, but also pictures, the visual concept being highly enigmatic in this case - in the austere and minimalistic cover art, one can see a dark well lit only by the weak glow of a bulb, making the shadows of the depths more opaque rather than chasing them away. This sense of apprehension and mystery is reminiscent of one of those "abandoned places" illustrations used for the cover art of Raison d'Etre's 'Requiem for Abandoned Souls'.
'1000 Doors' opens with a long descent into an eerie abyss. Venomous layers of keyboard are accompanied by gradually emerging and seriously disturbing vibrations, building up to a climax worthy of the best of Sunn O))). This rite of passage gives way to an oppressive sludge Doom explosion interspersed by some ghostly piano chords.
The Russian collective shows great songwriting skills that manage to make darkness appear richly contrasted. The heavy mechanical beats unveil unexpected surroundings - turning into an electronic machine, on the merciless 'Kotlovan' and 'The Black', which forces apocalyptic visions into the listener's mind in the way Deutsch Nepal / Frozen Faces can do (Lina Baby Doll, the master behind both those projects, released a split with Reutoff in 2009). The ethereal '-273°C' and 'Ce qui ne Trompe pas' counterbalance these destructive pulsations, both tracks entering in conversation with the soul - without harassing it, so to speak: they are modern echoes of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno's early 70's avantgarde works.
As for 'Sonne der Toten', this huge cosmic sequence pays a wonderful tribute to the old Krautrock / Berlin scene – the choice of a German title is no coincidence. The powerful bass guitar lines propel you very high, very far away, towards an absolutely fascinating celestial arch. This track is definitely the highest peak of 'For a Knife': intense and spellbinding. And what could make for a more perfect ending to the voyage than a synthesis of all these elements? That is how this self-titled track has been thought out, working like the final credits at the end of the movie.
If a slight flaw had to be pointed out, I would speak of the vocals, which can be a tad linear. That obviously belongs to the characteristics of Sludge doom, but I feel that this style of singing brings nothing of real value in this case: to me, the instrumentation is self-sufficient and doesn't need any vocals. Fortunately, they are quite sparse, so this is a very minor reproach. I am really happy to have discovered this collective, showing talent and a clever sense of how to make the best use of their influences which, if quite noticeable, are especially well absorbed. The result is as inspired as it is personal: they succeed in creating a synergy between various musical universes to build up a consistent work, where the seven tracks follow one another in fine fade-in/fade-out. And to tell the truth, this collaboration should be appreciated more as it is unlikely to ever be repeated.
Creatures of catacombs... They are not from our world. Their reality is full of gloom and dancing shadows which never saw the light besides the one from smoky bonfire, hiding from the eyes of those walking the surface. They think different than us. They look different than us. They see things different than us. But the bridge between two worlds can be set through communication on the sensual level, for example through the music of a split album of two Russian bands Otzepenevshiye and Vir.
Both projects were born during the post-Soviet era of decomposition and degeneration of the great empire when the country was thrown into the abyss of degradation. While Vir started his craftsmanship in Moscow somewhere around middle 90s', the first more or less officially-known release sees the light during 2003. Their fellow countrymen Otzepenevshiye broke into the local scene with their participation in collaboration CD together with Allerseelen and Neutral during 2008. The vision of those two bands can be seen through the prism of their split album 'For A Knife' and allows the listener to feel all the depth of local desperation and cultural decadence.
The type of the music that is presented on this record is not new for those that keep an eye on the development of industrial scene from its early stages. Sometimes it seems that the roots are already lost and forgotten, that drone scene has nothing to offer and only the big names like Nadja or Troum can squeeze the juice out of it. But if you take 'For a Knife' and give it a big hug, I am sure, you will not be disappointed. The acid mixture of heavy guitars, industrial special effects and the spirit of catacombs is the winning one for that album for sure.
The action starts with the opening ambience of "One Thousand Doors" that dopes my sight with its slow yet deluded flow when the tension is slowly raised by fading in heavy guitars and suddenly explodes on its top with the blast of a structured melody, drumming line and an extreme screaming vocal session. A musty breath of desperation right into my soul, a sip of addled water with a strong taste of rust scratches my throat leaving no light and hope in my heart. The music naturally transforms into "Trench", a totally massive track, where drilling mechanisms are guided by a deep synthetic background and mystical melody; a heartbeat of industrialization. The third composition "Sonne Der Toten" balances on the edge between drone doom metal and deep shoegaze with heavy riffs and drumming machine where the light melody is responsible to keep the track atmospheric, the exact piece for Nadja fans. The artists take a break with "-273" , the absolute zero temperature, a kind of transitional track, where floating solo guitar riffs rules the scene and creates a chilling atmosphere of icy planes.
Don't fall into relaxation too fast and get yourself back to a dirty reality, because the fifth composition "Black" captures the imagination with a ritual of mechanical erection, the deep penetration of drilling mechanisms into the bloody womb of natural destruction when the heavy guitars are back to jerk out on the violent screaming. The impression was ruined a little bit by a short playing time of this track, it could also be much better by adding even more violence into it using some metal parts scratching or petroleum drums hitting or something like that. But instead of it, the sudden change in mood brings a slow and mysterious "Ce Qui Ne Trompe Pas", which is alright track without any special high or lows. The final "For a Knife" has more or less the same atmosphere as "Sonne Der Toten" to carry the wave of sound towards the end of the album and to finalize one of the most surprising releases of Russian scene during last few years.
Vir and Otzepenevshiye don't discover anything new; all the techniques are well-known to the listeners that are familiar with that kind of music. Sometimes few parts are predictable and not mastered too much, but the special energy and impulse compensate the disadvantages and carry those artists towards their goal of creating a good spiritual material. I would like to single out "Trench" and "Black", the two tracks that are the strongest compositions of the whole album for my taste. But all the rest are interesting enough to give them a try too. So, hurry up, go find the door to your private catacomb.
There’s no surprise in that Otzpenevshiye and Vir’ succeed in producing together something fine and new: the latter is a well-established name by now, and the former constitutes from members of Sal Solaris and Reutoff. The album starts with dark ambient that turns into guitar-drone driven, almost doomy layer, to which is then added a set of matching drums and screaming vocals. The result is nevertheless not exactly doom metal, but something between that and ambient, and simultaneously something different from artists like Sunn O))). As the disc moves to the second track, a leap takes place, to instrumental, Megaptera-like post-industrial. After that comes guitar-led, spacey wave-sound, reminiscent of a mixture of Troum and drum machine. Later on there’s for example noise-spiced dark ambient, and at the magnificent end, the disc returns to the early doom moods. Everything is excellently done, but the jumps from one genre to another every track eat away the power of the record. It sounds more like a compilation from various bands than a singular album.
Really good tracks, but more suitable for listening in small segments than as a whole.