Sila Slona – Sila Slona (Zero Hero Recordings, 27 January 2017)
Montezuma’s Revenge – Them (Zero Hero Recordings, 03 March 2017)
Anyone who has read or watched any sort of news in the United States over the past few months may have noticed that Russia is being mentioned in connection with nearly every story that’s being reported these days. That country is currently discussed more often in this country, than any other time in the past several decades — at least since August 1991. Not even during the Sochi Olympics do I recall having heard about Russia nearly this often.
But I’m not here to talk about political matters, and you certainly aren’t here to read about such nonsense either. So it seemed like a much more fitting idea would be to discuss some Russian music. Specifically, here are albums by two different bands from Moscow, which were both released earlier this year by Moscow-based Zero Hero Recordings. Enjoy!
Having been on the scene for at least two years now, self-described “contemporary punk” band Sila Slona have put out their first official release, a self-titled EP, back in January. The four tracks found here represent an exploration into a variety of styles — none of which would necessarily be considered “punk” in the conventional sense. But here and there we do get glimpses of what they mean by using that descriptive phrase, such as in opening track “1/10” which generally seems to show kind of a Baroness-like heaviness and melodic sensibility, featuring touches of sludge and progressive sounds, but constructed on top of a more-or-less punk aesthetic. The longest of the songs (at about eight and a half minutes), “Каждый день” (“Everyday”) definitely starts off a bit more punk-sounding for about the first two minutes, but then breaks down into more of a post-punk territory for a bit, before some really heavy sludgy guitars kick in; later the track wanders way off into space-exploration mode.
Similarly, the second track “Из поколения в поколение” (“From Generation to Generation”) introduces analog synth sounds and some organ-like overtones that give an overall spacey/psychedelic feel to the music. And closing things out, the mostly-instrumental “Б.нП.Н.Г.Д.” also deviates from a traditional punk sound — or maybe it would be more accurate to say it rebels from the normal sound, exactly in the way you might expect from someone who displays a non-conforming punk attitude — in a rather interesting way, by employing a quick double-time two-step feel, as though heavy metal aggression had been injected into some sort of folk dance.
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Formed way back in 2005, Montezuma’s Revenge unleashed the second album of their career a few months ago, entitled Them. The title is a reference to the anonymous conspiratorial masses, who you might fear are all out to get you. This lyrical concept is threaded throughout the album, starting with the crushingly heavy sludge anthem “Day of Saturn” whose Tad-style vocals (and riffs) refer to bouts of paranoia and everyone being after (the narrator). The album’s theme is most clearly stated in its title track, though, which opens with a quote from the movie In the Mouth of Madness about the paranoid-schizophrenic concept of “them,” followed by a short burst of spastic, chaotic and confused music.
These eight tracks essentially span the whole spectrum of sludge music: for example, “Christmas of Death” features multiple vocal parts, some growl-shouted (more Crowbar-ish here), some shrieked; later, some semi-clean deadpanned in unison with a super harsh robotic sort of gurgle. “My God is a Bad Cop,” with its many literary and historical references, presents the vocals in more of an EHG style, while much of the considerably slower “Black Illuminator” sounds slightly more Melvins-y.
And then there’s “Prey for the End” with its heavy-as-hell riffs (sometimes doubled with an analog synth sound) and “My Muspilli” (named for an old poem that describes the trials one undergoes after death) featuring shrieking and screaming galore — each of these songs gives off a bit of a Neurosis mood at times, although for different reasons in each case.
While it’s not entirely clear how the monologue fits the album’s titular concept, the sample introduced in closing track “Black Illuminator” consists of Matthew McConaughey‘s rambling from the tv series True Detective, introducing his character’s “time is a flat circle” theory that would return numerous times throughout that season — certainly in keeping with the idea of paranoid or delusional people and their not-quite-tethered-to-reality ideas. Also, coincidentally, this marks the second time material from that particular character on that show has appeared on an album we’ve covered this year. Later in the track, a bit of ghostly vocals lead into a guitar solo a few minutes from the end; until, like our hypothetical protagonist and his outward facade of normalcy and well-adjustedness, eventually it all comes crashing down.
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