Камаедзiца (Kamaedzitca) | Знают небеса… (Heaven knows…) | | 2017
An endorsement by Degtyarov
Kamaedzitca can be considered one of the Black Ivory Tower ‘house bands’. We do not here refer to intertwinement on a personal level, as is the case with Cóndor; our limited contact with the Belarusian multi-genre project has always been professional in nature. Rather, their artistic vision corresponds to the way in which we look at music ourselves. It emerges from the deepest underground, is difficult to capture in a single definition, and possesses a fierce radicalism that is interspersed with moments of deep emotional introspection. This is not meant to imply that our collective writing possesses a fragment of the significance of the band’s discography, but there is a reason why the current publication has over the years served as one of the few platforms from which Kamaedzitca was recommended to a Western audience without reservation or apology.
Kamaedzitca’s latest album is titled Znayut nebesa (EN: Heaven knows), and it elaborates upon influences that have been present in the band’s oeuvre for many years. It would, however, go too far to call it a predictable release. Since their 2011 EP, Chalavek planety (EN: Man of the planet), Kamaedzitca have been moving steadily towards more ambient, piano-driven compositions under the leadership of their new composer Artsem, culminating in a diverse blend of metal, rock and ambient on their 2012 release Bezmolvnye slova tvoy (EN: Voiceless are your words). In an Ulver-like career move, the Belarusians would even temporarily shake off their metal and rock habits in favour of traditional folk and electronic music on their enigmatic 2014 album xQzTN 3087. By that time, few new listeners would suspect that, in the mid-2000s, this formation was an upbeat folk metal band that sang the praises of paganism in the same way as did their colleagues of (Russian) Arkona.
Paradoxically, their fresh 7-track album Znayut nebesa is another stride forward for the band while it also polishes the memories of Kamaedzitca’s oh-so-different past. From the outside, the album seems to be consistent with recent efforts on the artists’ behalf to develop the metal side of its being away from the recorder-tinged folk metal that can be heard on their first two records. The opening song in particular has a sound and structure that remind us of songs such as “Molodyozh Votana” and “Akiyan azdinoti“: a high variation of melodic riffs with a loud, deep sound for the rhythm section that, together, carry frontman Aleg’s thunderous vocals like a storm through a fateful night. It is remarkable in its execution and appeal, but not completely left-field from a band that went as far as to record an ultra-nationalist rap song but a few years earlier.
Yet, as the album progresses, Znayut nebesa reveals itself not to be a pure metal album. This may not be an earth-shattering revelation in and of itself, as all of Kamaedzitca’s recent releases have contained at least a few songs that landed outside of the metal spectrum entirely. Yet on Znayut nebesa, nearly all of the tracks–whilst possessing a metal and post-rock timbre–display, shall we say, extrametallic underpinnings that recall an earlier phase in the band’s career. Particularly the introduction of electronic segments and backdrops, as well as a few hardcore breakdowns here and there hearken back to Kamaedzitca’s album Vernasts (EN: Loyalty).
Vernasts was released in 2011 alongside the Chalavek planety EP, but it was recorded two years earlier with a different composer/musician. It was the band’s third album, and the first to break away from the folk metal standard that had defined Kamaedzitca’s early years. This record was also a first for the group in regard to its explicitly political (mainly national socialist) themes, with songs such as “Belarusian NS”, “Combat 18” and “Straight Edge Belarus”. As the project drifted away from classic folk metal themes, so did its music. The presence of instruments such as bagpipes and flutes helped Vernasts maintain a folkloric exoskeleton, but structurally, many of the compositions were closer to hardcore punk and derivative styles. While these tendencies would occasionally resurge on subsequent releases, the band never took this stylistic development to its conclusion. A big reason for this is the aforementioned change in guard, that swapped Baravit Vetran, who was a remnant of the band’s original line-up alongside Aleg, for another composer, a fellow multi-instrumentalist who goes by the name of Artsem.
Now, the reason this information is relevant to Kamaedzitca’s new record is that the latter’s music and compositions are attributed to one “B.V.”, who, given some of the stylistic similarities between Vernasts and Znayut nebesa, can be assumed to be none other the man who penned Vernasts and a slew of the band’s early material. There is no definitive confirmation of this as of yet, but the similarities are there. The breakdown in “I pust v odni konets bilet” was not likely to have occurred on any of the Artsem-curated albums, and segments of both the ballad “Pust nikogda tebya ya bolshe” and the title track (listen below) are eerily similar to the riffing style of “Belaruskiya NS”. A coincidence is definitely possible, but unlikely.
Though many aspects of Kamaedzitca’s latest invoke memories of an early phase in their career, it also manages to be a marvellous continuation of what the band has been up to more recently. Znayut nebesa achieves both these feats because sonically and aesthetically, the record still lies close to Bezmolvnye slova tvoy and subsequent metal singles, such as the aforementioned “Molodyozh Votana”. In contrast with the predominantly buoyant first three albums of the band, Znayut nebesa offers the sorrowful, downbeat riffing that characterises Kamaedzitca’s later phase. Aleg’s lyrical introspections are accompanied by pensive, moody melodies that succeed in being bittersweet, melancholic and Romantic without ever crossing the line of full-blown depression or angst.
Another resemblance between Bezmolvnye slova tvoy and Znayut nebesa is the gradual departure from apolitical themes, a process which started on the former album and seems to have reached its provisional conclusion on the latter. Indeed, Znayut nebesa is the band’s least political release since its debut, focusing instead on the narrative of a downtrodden, melancholic lover who contemplates the different facets of life and the universe. A vague description perhaps, but ever since Chalavek planety, Aleg has toyed with lyrical themes that far exceed the limits of his political outlook. As any Marxist will tell you, the personal is the political, and Aleg’s yearning for loyalty and eternity in love and philosophy cannot seen be completely separate from his appreciation of those same elements in his politics. Still, whenever Aleg transcends the carnality of political pamphleteering, he inspires moving and profound melodies rather than the pure aggression as it was displayed on a release such as Vernasts.
Said melodies are delivered with resounding excellence, as the instrumentation on the record (drums, bass, guitars, synth and violin) is nothing short of impeccable. Aided by a deep, saturated production and a healthy dose of reverb, every instrument is clearly audible, with the mysterious B.V. leaving no indication of undervaluing any of the tools in his box in favour of another. Aleg’s vocals are in line with the band’s recent work: he yells 90% of the time, but instead of opting for a flat black metal shriek, he still uses his real voice to give it clear character. What that character amounts to? The ease with which one can picture Kamaedzitca’s frontman being a 6 foot, 260 pound bodybuilder when you hear his invocations plough through B.V.’s music. Lamentably, Aleg’s performance weakens to a considerable degree in the clean vocal sections, but they are largely limited to the second and fifth tracks of the album, which is far from enough to sour the album experience in its entirety.
Kamaedzitca is a band that has the dubious ability to scare away many potential fans in spite of its obvious talent, ambition and artistic vision. Their virulent politics will be particularly divisive in this era when Western metal presstitution is plagued by rabid liberals who demand nothing less than (what they perceive as) unmitigated political righteousness from any artists operating in the genre which they have infiltrated. For those who are not bothered by such puritan impulses, Znayut nebesa is a touching record that shows the band at its most intelligent and poetic. Once more, Kamaedzitca succeeds in doing what it does best: crafting an album that at the same time takes you by surprise while remaining strikingly consistent with its conspicuous aesthetic.
Kamaedzitca will be rejected by many, but it has something special to offer to those who stick around. No, our endorsement of this band’s efforts is no coincidence.
The review of this album was based upon a download made available to the public by Kamaedzitca. A physical edition of the album will be available shortly through På Gamle Stier [email@example.com].