Released: 2007, The Store For Music
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When my fellow scribe, Arto Lehtinen, asked if I was interested in reviewing some CDs of Russian bands, I thought, “Why not?” Next to my unfortunate exposure to Gorky Park during the Moscow Music Peace Festival back in 1989, my knowledge of Soviet metal is pretty minimal, so I figured this must be an untapped resource of heavy metal talent.
Well, if ANJ is any indication of what the largest country in the world has to offer to the metal scene, my pity goes out to the Russian people. WITH HONOR TO LIVE is ANJ’s latest offering and the simplistic music heard here is easy enough to take but the vocals of Anatoly Zhuravlev may very well rank as the worst I have ever heard. Zhuravlev’s thick Russian accent aside, his barked, tuneless Lemmy-meets-Rammstein rasp and over-the-top vocal tendencies get grating really quickly. The bass and drums figure prominently in the mix for a solid groove here and there but the overly-simplistic music is borderline dunderheaded. Besides that, the band seems uncertain of its own direction, wavering between pop melodies, funky bass-driven grooves, progressive sections and chugging, downtuned riffs. WITH HONOR TO LIVE is a mess from start to finish and hopefully not an indication of what Russian metal is all about.
“Attack of The Clones” shuffles along on an infectious groove but once Zhuravlev takes the reins, the ineptitude of the vocals overpowers the rhythm section of Nikita Simonov and Dmitry Sachko. “Natural Born Killers” kicks off with a meaty riff but quickly turns into a sugary pop song featuring gang-style vocals that sounds like a Eurovision reject. “The Werewolf” sniffs around a mid-tempo pace before Oleg Izotov unleashes a killer progressive-influenced guitar solo from out of nowhere. Just as quickly, though, a positive becomes a negative as Zhuravlev’s clean vocal disaster on “Mikhail Gorbachyov” is so laughingly bad, it nearly derails the entire CD. “No Turning Back,” with its subtle melody and driving riff alongside a gently-played keyboard, makes one wonder: why can’t the band write more songs like this?
I honestly could not wait for this CD to end. If WITH HONOR TO LIVE was ANJ’s first CD, there might be some leverage granted but this band has somehow released three albums now. The fact that ANJ even has a record deal nearly makes me wretch but I suppose someone, somewhere found some merit in this band and decided to give them a shot. My guess is that person is now outposted at the proverbial Siberian branch…and Arto, what did I ever do to you to deserve this kind of punishment???
KILLER KUTS: “Attack of The Clones,” “The Werewolf,” “No Turning Back”