Saturday, August 18, 2012

Russian Metal Week, Day 6: Август - Демон (1987)

This is the second LP from this week that I happen to own in vinyl form:

Август - Демон (Avgust / August - Demon)

Vladimir Trushin - vocals
Pavel Kolesnik - vocals
Gennady Shirshakov - guitar
Lev Lemberskiy - bass
Andrey Kruglov - drums
Oleg Gusev - keyboards

1. "Демон" (Demon)
2. "Как Болит Голова" (What A Headache)
3. "Осень" (Autumn)
4. "Ночь" (The Night)
5. "Судите Сами" (Judge For Yourselves)
6. "Опасность" (Danger)
7. "Колокол" (The Bell)
8. "Рояль И Море" (The Grand Piano And The Sea)

If you thought Ariya was unoriginal, take a look here. The liner notes at the back of the LP case proudly say that keyboardist and songwriter Oleg Gusev and his brothers-in-arms play the 'Wagnerian rock', influenced by both the classical music and famous heavy metal bands, such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Accept and Metallica. Aside from all the pathos, they're not lying - even the most animalistic rockers and ethereal ballads here have an epic feel to them, starting from 'Demon'. This is a nice mid-paced opener with the main riff borrowed from Metallica's 'For Whom The Bell Tolls', but the instrumental work and interesting vocal melodies make it worthwhile. The lyrics are pretty good too, it's a bit interesting how they compare nuclear explosion to a titular demon visiting the main character's home. The purpose of the first song on any album is to get things started, to put the listener in a right mood, and that 'Demon' does do flawlessly.

But the next piece is undoubtedly the album's main hit! 'What A Headache' is a heavy half-ballad with fun keyboard parts and really cool romantic lyrics ('What a headache from nonsensical words, from the painted lips and squint eyes. My nerves are shattering as the naked world has stalled, what a headache from my restrictions'). All in all, it's a very memorable song, most likely the best on the entire record! Contrary to its fun and dynamism, though, 'Autumn' is a dark and doomy ballad with haunting effects and dramatic vocals, partially influenced by the Soviet pop music. It doesn't mean that this song is bad, because variety is always a good thing - and thankfully, this album has a lot of it.

Just to prove it, 'The Night' is an Accept-style speedy rock-n-roll with nice heavy riffs and lyrics somehow reminding me of the 'Streets Of Fire' movie, along with one of the best choruses on the record (the other being 'What A Headache') and an amazing guitar and keyboard solos that go back to back. All in all, it should've been an awesome headbanging concert staple! 'Judge For Yourselves' is another change in mood, though not really for the best, as I consider it to be the weakest song on this LP. It's still an okay ballad, but a little boring one, which makes it a bit worse than pretty similar 'Autumn'. Here, I especially dig the keyboards and bass solo in the middle. To wake you up, the next song, 'Danger' is probably the heaviest number on the record with its Motley Crue'ish main riff and blazing speed. In terms of composition it's obviously pretty similar to 'The Night', though this time the lyrics again touch the anti-war subject ('The Earth belongs to nobody!'). Thankfully, it's not followed-up by another ballad, instead it's 'The Bell', a song equally awesome as 'What A Headache' and definitely the most epic on the album. I'm a sucker for such primitive but pathetic riffs and monumental choruses, and sure this one has a lot of them. The vocals also get a substantial upgrade, which is just appropriate for such dark lyrics (which are not unlike something from The Black Obelisk's '86-88', actually). Overall, this song simply redeems all the flaws before it, showing that the band is capable not only of melancholic ballads and rock-n-rolls, but also something more serious in tone. The album closer, 'The Grand Piano And The Sea', offers something similar, but the other way around - it's a charming melancholic instrumental with nice ethereal ambient effects, not to mention that here's where the promised classical influences are heard the strongest.

Despite some lack of originality and reliance on ballads, this album is still anything but boring. The songs are memorable and varied - we have mid-paced epic number, fast rock-n-rolls, dramatic slow songs, memorable lyrics, classic guitar riffs and strong vocal delivery, not very typical for heavy metal at the time. The band leader's keyboard parts are fun to listen to, and overall the musicianship is top notch. Let the nuclear Demon remain a dream forever!

My Rating: 7 / 10 (some ripoffs are obvious, but still a worthwhile disk)