thenewreview.net [EN] 4/5
Every once in a while, a band or artist comes along to completely contradict your rules on music taste. Everything you’re sure you know about what you like in music, about what sounds good to you, what is allowable in your ears. The Council of Nicea to your sonic Orthodoxy. In 2012, that band is Semargl.
Formed in Kiev, Ukraine in 1997 as a band with black metal and melodic death metal roots, Semargl has come full circle in defining itself. Taking on elements of old-school thrash and death metal, each album since then has seen the band evolve quite a bit. A large part of founding vocalist Rutarp’s drive for the band is the “satanosophy” spelled out in press releases and band bios. This band is not just created for the hell of it (pun intended). Believe me, when you hear their latest album, entitled Satanic Pop Metal, there will be no mistaking today’s Semargl for the Semargl of the past, or even for any band you’ve ever heard before.
Okay. The album is called Satanic Pop Metal. Preconceived notions come flying out right off the bat. I won’t lie, upon watching the band’s promo single and video, I thought this might be a joke band at first. In a not-safe-for-work, bordering-on-pornographic film clip for “Tak, Kurwa”, one of the album’s most infectious songs, Semargl shows that in their upcoming album, they’re serious, and there will be no mercy when accomplishing their goals. If they want to combine Dimmu Borgir’s haunting atmosphere with a fist-pumping, club-thumping beat in the vein of DJ Tiesto with “Labyrinth” they’re going to do it. If they want to let guest female vocals from Iryna of symphonic rock outfit Mysterya take over “Drag Me To Hell” and turn it into a song a sorority sister could dance to, they’ll do it. If they want to write a song called “Suck My Dick”, Semargl will do it, dammit.
Some obvious influences can be found in Semargl’s newfound sound. There’s a fair amount of Rammstein, especially on songs like “I Hate You” and “Loneliness”. Symphonic rock elements and poppy synthesizer find their way into “Join in Fire”, completed by a simple vocal hook from vocalist Rutarp and vocalist/bassist Hannibal. The lyricism varies from philosophy, to war, to sexuality, domination and submission. Rutarp and Hannibal create a very interesting doubled growl in most of the thirteen tracks, largely unvaried in tonality or pitch but also quite intelligible and mix-worthy. The engineering itself is very sensible, blending vocal forefronts from permanent band vocalists and guest singing from aforementioned Iryna as well as a vocalist named Rada, who’s worked with the band in the past. When “Sweet Suicide” suddenly breaks from an ambitious verse, synthesizer beeps travel from one headphone to another, flanging and expanding into a techno dance beat which reforms the chorus. There were many, many times on the album when I audibly said “whoa”. The word boring will never leave your mouth when describing Semargl’s new sound on Satanic Pop Metal.
And that’s what counts, isn’t it? Different bands set out to accomplish different goals. By 2012, a band has to be pretty ambitious to get noticed. You have to do a lot of things right. Semargl may catch a lot of flak from older fans, who may have expected a procession of similar albums to 2005′s Attack on God or 2006′s Satanogenesis. The band name itself is taken from a brutal Slavic winged-lion deity. Not quite something you’d associate with the hot pink nails, fishnets and thonged backside present on the cover for Satanic Pop Metal. No, Semargl is a very different band than they were seven years and seven releases ago. They’re not a black metal band by any definition anymore. The band has kept their corpsepaint and industrial-metal garb, incorporating it into the tiny niche they’ve created for themselves. They’ve given away the shredding guitar work and added techno melodies. They’ve traded blast beats for club beats. To describe Satanic Pop Metal as a product of many genres does not begin to scrape the surface. Combining Static-X simplicity grooves, Rammstein eerie beeps and boops, and what can be described honestly as Lady Gaga-esque synthesizer, an open mind is an absolute requirement for taking in Satanic Pop Metal for what it is. But what they’ve arrived at is pleasantly masochistic, impossibly repeatable, and downright infectious. Part shock-rock, part club anthem, part BDSM scene soundtrack, I hope this album is as enjoyable for you as it was for me. What a ride.