Dive into Russian history with epic extreme metal band Voland

The bands you didn’t particularly search for always turn out to be among the best ones – the ones that surprise and fascinate you upon first listening to them.
Don’t ask me how I came across Voland, because I really have no idea. I just know that I wrote their name on a list of bands on Bandcamp I needed to feature at some point, and a couple of months later, here we are.

Voland is a two-man extreme metal project from Bergamo, Italy that started out in 2006. While their lyrics are inspired by Russian history, their sound is rooted in black metal. Especially in the beginning, their compositions were quite atmospheric and had some folk influences. Recently, though, Voland have incorporated increasingly more epic and classical influences into their music. “We started with the idea of writing black metal songs, only to understand that we both found the boundaries of the classic genre very limiting”, says Rimmon, the voice behind Voland.

The first self-titled EP saw the light of day in 2007.  “At that time, I was studying Russian language and literature, I was strongly influenced by it. That’s how the name Voland came to be, it’s the name of the devil in disguise in Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” and that’s about the most satanic thing there is about our project. When confronted with the choice “What lyrics to write for our first song?”, we decided to further indulge in the fascination with Russia, only from a more historical point of view.”

Ten years later, Voland’s second EP was released in celebration of the 1917 October Revolution centenary. For the opening track “1917” , the duo set extracts of poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, the leading poet of the Russian Revolution, into music. On “Ottobre”, Voland aimed to capture the atmosphere of the October Revolution. “Dubina” is inspired by the Russian folk song “Dubinushka”, a song of protest against social injustice, which was considered the unofficial anthem of the Revolution. The track starts off with one of the most famous interpretations of the original song by Russian baritone Fyodor Shalyapin, then the metal kicks in. The EP is concluded by an instrumental outro, which indicates the start of the Civil War after the October Revolution.

When asked about the duo’s choice of lyrical topics and their fascination with Russian history, vocalist Rimmon explains: “Many events from Russian history have had major repercussions on world history, often shaping its course. For us Western Europeans, Russia is something that is both familiar, with close ties to our own history, and distant at the same time, remote in terms of space and mentality. A very small portion of events from Russian history is commonly known in the “West” and even those approximately so. Russian history is very complex and often very violent. Wars, revolutions, heroism… as tragic as some of these events may have been in real life, they surely do make for some epic tales, especially when narrated through metal music.”

When it comes to the future of the band, it doesn’t seem to be certain yet. “We do not have contractual obligations for Voland, it’s a genuinely underground project and we publish our music for free digitally”, Rimmon continues. The band has recently started collaborating with Masked Dead Records and Xenoglossy Productions to offer physical copies of their music. Rimmon concludes: “Surely I would love to go on with the project, but only when we will be sure of the quality of new material.” So we may stay tuned for more.

You may think that Voland sounds like a band that will only please a special audience. However, don’t hesitate to give them a try, as their melodic and memorable compositions are a lot more inviting than you might think. You truly don’t have to be a huge extreme metal fan to enjoy what the two guys are creating. Everyone with an interest for history and epic or classical music will surely enjoy this hidden gem.

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