Press "Enter" to skip to content

In Ukraine, music most Intense genre is about the front in the fight against Russia

Life at Kharkiv, Ukraine, might have turned out quite differently.

Capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1919, Kharkiv endured throughout the 1930s, first throughout the catastrophic Holodomor famine – that killed millions of Ukrainians – then during Joseph Stalin’s brutal purge of intellectuals and dissidents throughout the 1930s.

Captured by the Nazis in 1941, Kharkiv was nearly destroyed during World War two and thousands of taxpayers – like 15,000 Jews – were murdered.

Adhering to the Maidan protests in 2014, pro-Russians at Kharkiv temporarily raised a Russian flag within an administrative construction and tried – since their compatriots from Luhansk and Donetsk – to declare a Kharkiv People’s Republic. Allied security forces immediately put down the demonstration.

The war involving Russian-backed separatists along with the Ukrainian authorities in the Arabian Donbas has raged ever since. For inhabitants of Kharkiv, to the north of this contested area, it’s functioned as a warning of what might have happened to them.

“Kharkiv was spared in the separatist plague which turned our town into an unrecognized enclave of the Russian Federation.

Konstantin is a part of Khors, among just a small number of black metal bands that have attained international fame. As a genre, black alloy – that originated in Norway – would be the most intense of this sub-genres of thick metal, characterized by rapid, twisted guitar riffs, growled, or cried vocals along with the so-called’burst beat’ method of drumming.

Ever since the 1990s, when members of a small number of Norwegian rings were implicated in a series of church burnings and gruesome murders, black metal’s embrace of intense ideologies – largely infamously, Satanism – and uncompromising musical fashion has fascinated and horrified the people in equal degree.

Since the 1990s, the music has spread globally with black metal bands anywhere from Saudi Arabia to Columbia into China and Japan. Not many black metal artists are Satanists: Most draw influence out of politics, extreme left and right, controversially, intense right also. Some concentrate on environmentalismothers on social movements. Some are not political in any way.

Khors are, however, and Konstantin doubts that following the previous six decades in Ukraine that there are not many bands that aren’t.

“We do not have apolitical bands in metal. Not only in metal, but you can not be an apolitical musician.

However, the attention of black metal rings on the culture and history of the country isn’t a new phenomenon. Perhaps the most famous of these Ukrainian bands globally, Drudkh, predicated its 2005 record’The Swan Road’ at the job of Tara Shevchenko, a poet and national hero who had been persecuted and exiled because of his job and died in 1861.

Questions of nationalism

Drudkh was set by literary celebrity Roman Saenko, a famously reclusive figure on the metal scene that hasn’t given an interview. The group’s 2006 album Hybrid in Our Wells was devoted to Stepan Bandera, the revolutionary founder of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), an alleged Nazi collaborator and among the most divisive figures in history to the day.

It’s the nod to Bandera which has fuelled allegations which Drudkh, and Ukrainian rings more commonly, belong to – or have connections with – a sub-genre of this black metallic sub-genre called National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM). Saenko’s previous bands, Hate Forest and Astrofaes have been connected into the far-right music arena.

Most Ukrainians point out it has long been a method of Russia and its proxies to paint literary nationalism as extreme right or fascist, which nationalism in Ukraine wasn’t – and isn’t – fascist, instead, it’s a cultural and political response to the persecution and even genocide which Ukrainians have endured at the hands of the Russians, Poles and the Soviets throughout history.

Other people state that’s apologism, that nationalism is by its nature exclusive and generally violent, and that anything Bandera – that had been left an aero of Ukraine’ in 2010, to howls of global demonstration – and his ilk didn’t further the reason behind Ukrainian independence, their willingness to, by way of instance, use the Nazis from the Soviet Union during WW2 was inexcusable.

Considering Saenko’s silence throughout his lengthy career – and that knowing black metal’s screeched legends isto enthusiasts, mostly impossible – that the metallic world will probably never learn if among Ukraine’s most famous black metal musicians harbors far-right beliefs.

However, Konstantin, who performed two of the rings in question, is skeptical.

“You know, I performed Astrofaes from 1996 to 2000, for four decades, and we played with black metal with the black metal style of lyrics and we have been interested in domestic socialism or neo-Nazis and things like this,” he explained.

“Afterwards, I combined Hate Forest […]. I played together for perhaps two decades, we played just 1 show. I understand the men very well and they have never been Nazis or even neo-Nazis.”

There were rings in Kharkiv, Konstantin admits that didn’t have right-wing views. On a close-knit scene, there have been instances when musicians from these NSBM bands could have played other, non-NSBM bands. Or times that tags that generated right-wing rings also generated and released records by non-racist bands. This is true in other nations also, Konstantin stated, for example, Poland – however, unlike Poland, it’s resulted in each band from Ukraine being branded, racist.

“You can discover on the net that Khors is a Nazi group, which it isn’t,” Konstantin said.

Khors’ most up-to-date album – published on September 15 – is that their next concept record after 2012’s Wisdom of Centuries, that relies on the foundation of this Kholodny Yar Republic, the final bastion of pro-independence Ukrainians between 1918 and 1922. Even a peasant, Cossack state, the republic was finally overcome and subsumed in the Soviet Union.

The new record, Where the World Acquires Eternity, relies on the background of Kharkiv, along with also an apartment building that in the 1920s set some of Ukraine’s most respected authors, poets, and intellectuals. Even though it started as a utopian dream for its Kharkiv intelligentsia, that the’Slovo House’ finally turned into a prison and a lot of its residents died during the Stalinist purges.

Though Konstantin had lived around the corner in the building when he had been in Kharkiv, he did not understand the background of this Slovo House till four decades back, since he made preparations for his marriage. As a method of getting to understand his in-laws, which is from Lviv, he organized a tour to the household of Kharkiv. This was the tour guide that pointed out the Slovo House.

“I’d lived in Kharkiv for 30 decades but I never understood many stories behind the buildings and the roads. She also told the story concerning the Slovo […] and it was a brand new story for me. I dived deeper into that narrative and found quite intriguing and sad history,” he explained.

The arrests of the very first of the Ukrainian intelligentsia started in 1932 and from 1940, residents in 40 of those 66 flats were victims of Stalinist persecution, many were detained and executed. During the German occupation of Kharkiv, the flat building after dreamed of as a creative hub for Ukraine’s smartest and finest became the army quarters for Nazi officials.

For Khors, it’s the tragedy of this Slovo House – a fantasy ruined by violence and tyranny – which makes it relevant now, in a time once the future of independent Ukraine is again threatened with a strong drive in the east.

“It’s all about our town, about our background, and it’s all about history,” Konstatin explained.

“Why today? Since after 2014 everything associated with Ukraine in Kharkiv is particularly sensitive. All of this stuff blended in us”