Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Смещение - live [1982?]

Artist: Смещение
Title: live tracks
Genre: Classic Rock, Hard'n'Heavy
Country: USSR
Release date: circa 1982

Track List:
  1. Дорога
  2. Джинсы
  3. Ритм
  4. Смерч
  5. Любовь
  6. Собака
1980 was an important year in the history of Soviet rock music. First of all, I should mention the Tbilisi Rock Festival which took place in early spring of 1980. While I seriously doubt it was the very first official rock festival in the USSR (at least semi-official rock festivals were held since late 60s), it certainly was the first such event of really big scale, featuring both professional (VIAs) and underground musicians. While a lot of these bands were playing hippie rock of late 60s and early 70s which sounded quite outdated in 1980, at least the acts like Aquarium (who shocked the organizers by their punk-inspired performance, even if it was quite tame by Western standards), Gunnar Graps's Magnetic Band, Autograph and Gunesh were interesting enough, and the whole event greatly helped the "serious" rock music to break into mainstream:

An year after, the first official rock club was opened in Leningrad, after 4 unsuccessful attempts since 1973. Around the same time, several Western hard (and not so hard) rock albums were officially released on vinyl, including "Innocent Victim" by Uriah Heep - probably the heaviest record officially available in USSR by that time. Before that, the official licensed releases of Western rock were rare and mostly limited to stuff like The Beatles (and related projects), CCR, Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John, Smokie, Bee Gees, Eagles, Dean Reed and some others - usually no more than 5 titles per year. There were also several unauthorized vinyl compilations of Western pop and rock music with some Deep Purple and Queen songs here and there, but no full albums. You can use this list for a reference, but keep in mind that a lot of releases there have little to do with rock.

By 1980, the sound recording equipment of more or less satisfactory quality became available to most Soviet underground rock bands, so home-recorded tape releases started to pop out more and more often. The band I'm going to review right now haven't made any proper recordings (except for these 6 songs which were recorded in poor quality at a live show circa 1982), yet they went down in history as one of the most innovative Soviet bands of that time.

Смещение/Shift was formed in 1980 by Alik Granovsky (who would later become one of the founding members of Aria, the best known Soviet metal band) with an intention of playing something in the vein of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Rush. The original line-up consisted of Alik Granovsky, Andrey "Cruster" Lebedev, Sergey Sheludchenko (all former members of a hard rock band called "Milky Way") and Olesya Troyanskaya, who was admitted into a band because of her unique voice and thus became the first female vocalist in Soviet hard rock. Their first live show took place in November 1980 at a tram depot in Moscow which was used as an improvised venue. They shared the stage with another innovative band of that time - Center, and the audience was completely stunned. During late 80 - early 81 they gave a total of 10 concerts before some of them decided to became professional musicians and put the band on hiatus. In 1982, the band was reformed with a male vocalist (Olesya Troyanskaya was fired from the band by then, mostly due to her lifestyle - remember everything bad you've ever heard about hippies, and you'll get the idea), but that attempt was largely unsuccessful, so they finally split up in 1983.

They're frequently cited as being the first metal band in the USSR, although that's very dubious. Their only surviving recording, which was made with a male vocalist around 1982, features mostly classic/progressive rock with lyrics on mundane subjects such as love, roads, jeans and dogs. There are some heavier moments, but they aren't very prominent. It's quite possible, however, that their early program was significantly heavier (judging from the names of their early songs - "Storm", "Hunger Plague", "Into the Fire" - it's very probable, although the latter song might be a Deep Purple cover) and they decided to "soften" their sound in 1982 to make their music more acceptable to broader audience, but no recordings have survived from their early period. The other contenders for the name of the first Soviet metal band - Legion - started playing live only in 1984, but they're rumoured to have recorded some metal songs in 1980-81. All in all, there certainly were several borderline metal bands in early 80s USSR, but their "metalness" is very dubious, and the first proper Soviet metal release that broke into mainstream was the debut album of Aria, released in late 1985.

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