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- In the middle of the 80s an enormous number of domestic heavy metal bands came to stage. We could say it was the first wave of Russian Heavy
Metal. What can you say about that time?
- I just don’t know… I feel nostalgic about those years. Back then we had to constantly be on our toes – we always had some committees or administrators getting in our way. There was this wall that messed with our lives, but our lives were interesting. Right now the wall is gone, and it is not clear what to do next… All people want nowadays is to make some money and retire… Some still have their drive, their energy, but life gets more and more difficult. Apathy is everywhere…
From a 1992 interview with Valery Kipelov, Aria’s vocalist
Now, in 1999, seven years, two full albums and several independent
projects later, Aria is still going strong, filling up the largest stadiums
and arenas, and selling out practically every concert.
It all started back in 1984, when Vladimir Holstinin, a lead guitar
player for a group called ALFA decided that he wanted to play something
heavier and left the group in search of others who shared his views. With
the help of Alexandr Granovsky, an old friend and a base player, and a
lucky meeting with Vladimir Vekshtein who agreed to become their manager, a
new group was born. Finding a worthy vocalist was only a matter of time.
It did not take too long, since the very first candidate won everybody’s
affections. It was Valery Kipelov, a former vocalist for a band called
Leisja Pesnja. With Aleksandr L’vov at the drums and Cyrill Pokrovsky at
the keyboards the fist album named “Megalomania” was recorded in 1985. The
group called themselves Aria, which bore a hidden challenge, since the
musicians and the fans alike called themselves “arians” – a name
displeasing to the authorities at the time. Despite such a name, the
group never associated itself with nazi-type outlook on life.
The communists did not even allow printing posters with the bands’
name, but despite the lack of publicity the first album was a hit. It
showed the need for heavy metal in the Soviet Union, the unwillingness of
young men and women to follow communist propaganda, to listen to the
popular music they were presented with on the radio and TV. They were
willing to risk their futures and freedoms to live the life they wanted.
The tension around Aria was growing, and it turned into a riot at the very
first concert of the band in February of ’86, when 40 people ended up in
jail. But that was only the beginning. At the “Rock-Panorama” festival
same year someone spilled water on the electrical equipment during the
band’s performance. The music had to stop for almost an hour, but no one
from the audience left. Aria was named the winner of the festival, despite
lousy sound and lack of special effects due to water damage. «Melodia» –
the official recording studio in USSR – later released LPs recorded at the
festival – Aria’s performance was not included on the LPs. Due to that
incident, the poets at that time refused to write lyrics for Aria,
presuming that none of Aria’s future songs would ever be recorded. In
spite of the future looking glum, the band continued touring and getting
enormous audiences everywhere it went.
At the end of 1986 after recording the next album («Whom Are You
With?») disagreements caused the band to split, leaving only Kipelov and
Holstinin as members of Aria. Alex Granovsky led the others to create a
band called Master, which focused on playing trash metal, while Aria
continued to play the melodic heavy metal of their idol, Iron Maiden. The
album was named after one of the songs, but the name also signified the
break, leaving the fans with a choice to make.
Despite the loss of the larger part of the band, its spirit was still
strong. About half a year after the break, the “new” band released a
fantastic album “Hero of Asphalt”. The words for this album were finally
written by a professional poet, Margarita Pushkina, whose lyrics enhanced
and empowered the band's music. The album is still considered one of their
best, and the songs that comprised it are played at every concert. Unlike
the first two albums, this one was released on an LP rather than on tape.
The communists finally recognized the band – and LP release was official.
However, they renamed the album without ever consulting the band (the
original album name was same as one of the songs -- “Serving Evil Forces”)
to make it “less offensive”. Also, they chose not to pay the musicians a
For two years after the release of “Hero of Asphalt” Aria was on
tour, going from city to city in Russia, as well as the satellite
countries. However, when an invitation came in 1988 to go to the Capital
Radio festival in London, the government informed the festival authorities
that the band did not perform live. They were clearly threatened by the
effect the band might have on the opinion of the West, as well as the
satellites, by going to an international music festival.
Same year the first music video got filmed for the song “Street of
Roses”. The filming caused chaos, since instead of having two or three
hundred onlookers, about seven thousand people showed up for the filming;
as a result the musicians were practically torn to pieces by the adoring
fans that wanted to get close to their idols. The musicians and the
administrations learned a lesson in popularity, and the video took the
number one spot in the rating.
In the summer of the same year, Aria finally went abroad to Germany,
where the musicians got an invitation to the “Days of the Wall” festival,
where they surprised everybody with their music and won the sympathy of the
Around the same time the band's manager, whose outstanding leadership
took the band past all the barricades built by communists, suddenly lost
interest in the group. He told the band that their music was loosing
popularity, that they should try to give as many concerts as possible and
retire. He insisted that there was no need to work on a new album. The
lack of productivity and the uncertainty of tomorrow took its toll; the
drummer, Maksim Udalov, left for a band called Zenitsa Oka. Aleksandr
Manjakin took his place. In the fall the band was forced to retire its
manager, since the musicians were not ready to give up what they have so
hard worked for. Their next album titled “Playing with Fire” was released
the following spring. Margarita Pushkina became the official writer for
the band, Yury Fishkin became the manager.
Another long tour followed, with visits to Germany, where the group
lost its guitar and base players to a local band. Their places were taken
by Dmitry Gorbatikov and Andrey Bulkin. The tour continued, but
professionally, the band was going nowhere. Fortunately, the two
“traitors” come back, just in time for their fifth anniversary shows in
October of 1990.
The next album “Blood for Blood” was released in the fall of 1991.
The album had a new crisp sound, the band was experimenting with new types
of guitars, but their theme of Good vs. Evil continued. However, Sintez
Studios where the album was recorded was definitely not equipped to handle
the heavy guitar riffs or the drumbeat the band produced. The recorded
version sounded distorted, but the tour that followed the album release
made up for that and once again crowds gathered in all parts of the country
to see their idols perform live.
In 1993 Aria decided to create its own recording studio in order to
avoid the problems they faced with their previous albums. In 1994 they
signed a contract with MOROZ Records – one of the largest recording
companies that produced for many of the artists that came out of the Soviet
era. The studio released compilations entitled “Legends of Russian Rock”
with digitally re-mastered sound for such monsters as Alisa, Akvarium,
Kino, Krematorii and many others. Since then Moroz Records had re-released
all five of Aria’s earlier albums, and published all of their following
In 1994, after their fourth Germany tour, the band came to the brink
of extinction, when the vocalist abandoned Aria for Master several months
before recording their next album. Sergei Mavrin (guitar) became
discouraged and also left. Fortunately, Sergei Terent’ev, a very talented
guitar player who had just recorded his solo album at Aria Records offered
his services. After several months of trying to record with Aleksei
Bulgakov (vocalist from Legion), the band got Kipelov to record the vocals
for the new album. It took a threat of pressing charges for breach of
contract from the owner of Moroz Record to get Kipelov to come back.
“Night is Shorter Than the Day” was released at the end of 1995. The
album was still Aria style, but the style seemed to be changing; in
addition to their usual crisp, angry, Good vs. Evil songs, there were
several mellow songs, more associated with rock than heavy metal. Opinions
about the album split. Some called it the best to date, while others
attributed it to the death of metal.
The tour following the release of “Night is Shorter Than the Day” was
in the best traditions of the 80’s, loud and nerve-wrecking for local
governments. This could be attributed to the new manager Sergei Zadora,
who did a large advertising campaign for the tour. It is on that tour that
the band celebrated its ten-year anniversary and released a live album
titled “Made in Russia” as its gift to all the fans.
In 1997 Moroz Records released the second of its “Legends of Russian
Rock” series, with Aria being one of the six performers in that series.
The compilation is a “best of” collection, with digitally re-mastered sound
and a detailed band history booklet. It also included the song “Give Me
Your Hand” previously only released on the tape version of “Hero of
Asphalt”, a song that was for marketing reasons excluded from the re-
mastered CD version of the album re-released in 1994. The song expressed
the musicians’ feelings during the break in 1986 when Master was created.
Also in 1997, the musicians decided to realize their differences in
music without jeopardizing the band; they recorded individual projects.
Valery Kipelov, along with his old friends Alex Granovsky, Sergei Mavrin,
and Pavel Chinjakov recorded a pure hard rock compilation that is full of
patriotic and cultural themes of Russia. At the same time Vitaly Dubinin,
Vladimir Hosltinin, and Alexandr Manjakin recorded a “hits re-mixed” album
titled “Accident”, where old hits were given a new life when played in a
mellow soft-rock style. The album was somewhat comical, which was
reflected in the album title, and even in the caricature portrayal of the
musicians on the cover. Nevertheless it was not to be taken lightly – it
took a lot of work, and it contained two new songs.
In 1998 the band released another masterpiece for its fans. The
quality of their work was getting better and better, which was possible due
to fewer disagreements among the musicians and less shuffling between other
bands. The reason for the latter was a lack of new bands being created,
and the old ones settling their ranks. One way or another “Generator of
Evil” once again topped the charts and brought the band’s fans together for
yet another tour. The songs in this album still followed the Good vs. Evil
theme, but they were more down to earth, creating more realistic images
than those of Pontius Pilate as does “Blood for Blood”, or Queen Zhanna of
France as does “Street of Roses”. The songs convey the messages that were
too dangerous during the communist reign. Being a decade too late with
their messages was the price they paid for freedom to perform for the past
In 1999 the first part of the long anticipated “best of” album was
released. It contained hits from 1985 to 1989 and brought new popularity
for old songs. The album was meant to be a taste of what the future holds,
with the next album anticipated early in the year 2000. The times that
were chosen to separate the “best of “ album were meant to divide the music
into pre- and post- communist periods.
Aria is unique in many ways. No other band in Russia has known so
much popularity for so long, no band has been able to attract generation
after generation of fans for fifteen years. Not too many bands during
soviet time were able to perform their music so close to what they wanted
it to be; almost none were known to be as much trouble for the government
and were still kept around. Aria started out as “Russian Iron Maiden”.
Many still say they are. However, you will never hear Maiden address the
themes encountered in Aria’s songs – love, loneliness, as well as the usual
themes in Heavy Metal – Good vs. Evil, tales of things from long ago, and
mystical heroes. Very few bands outside USSR ever had cope with censorship
in music and lyrics in order to play. In Russian Rock, emphasis is placed
on lyrics, people sing to express themselves, Aria expresses everything
through music, perhaps because lyrics were off limits for a long time.
Very few bands went through so many changes and still stayed together.
Aria is inherent to Russia – its’ success anywhere in the world is highly
To address the extract from a 1992 interview with Valery Kipelov in the
very beginning, the future is not as dark as it seemed back then. A new
generation of “arians” is born every year – and as long as the group exists
they will find all the motivation they may ever want in the eyes of a
fifteen-year-old coming to an Aria concert for the first time in his or her
1. Who is Who in Soviet Rock, Alekseev, Aleksandr, “Ostankino”, Moscow
Back in the USSR, Troitsky, Artemy, “Omnibus Press”, Great Britain, 1987
2. Legends of Russian Rock 2, “Moroz”, Moscow 1997
3. Moskovky Komsomolets newspaper, various issues 1990-1995
4. FUZZ magazine, July 1998, April 1999
Rock City magazine, 1991-1992
Argumenty i Fakty Kuban’, 1996
Muzykal’noe OBOZrenie, 1996
Moja Gazeta, 1995
5. Album inserts, Internet information, private accounts
(conversations with fans).
ARIA – THE HISTORY OF A LEGEND.
PROFESSOR: JOHN BAILYN
STUDENT: YEVGENIY GOLYANOV
DUE: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16
 “Rock City”, Vol. 2, 1992
 “Argumenti i Facty Kuban’”, Vol. 10, 1996.
 “Muzykal’noe OBOZrenie”, April 19, 1996
 “Rok Citi”, vol. 2, 1992
 “Moja Gazeta”, May 4, 1995
 “Muzykal’nyi Olimp” – quote found in Cyrill and Methodius knowlegde
 “Legendy Russkogo Roka 2”
 “FUZZ”, April 1999