Truth be told, I almost entirely overlooked this album as it was packaged with another I received from Electroschock that I already reviewed a short while ago. When I popped this into the CD player, I couldn't believe my ears! WTF was this??? Surely this band couldn't be on the Electroshock roster. Everything I've ever heard on this label has either been avant-garde, ambient hybrid or cutting-edge electronic music. So, uh'¦what is a progressive art rock cum metal band doing on the Electroshock label? Frankly, I don't know. Maybe Orgia Pravednikov (Orgy of the Righteous) is very big in Russia and Electroshock needs a major rock act to bolster sales. However, this band isn't just your typical prog-metal band. Orgia Pravednikov are the most bizarrely pretentious band in the world that I know of, and that's why I'm even taking the time and space to give them a review, because this music is just too, too, weird to ignore.
My reaction on first listening to 'For Those Who See Dreams' ranged from puzzlement to jaw-dropping incredulity as this outlandish odyssey unfolded. I have to admit that although I've heard the many influences of what's going on here before, I've never heard anything that even remotely resembles Orgia Pravednikov's 'For Those Who See Dreams'. To begin with, the entire album is sung entirely in Russian by Sergey Kalugin, who I assume is the leader of this outfit. I suppose that would be normal for a Russian rock band whose market must be primarily Russian, but Sergey's baritone vocals are so overtly ostentatious and melodramatic that Rammstein and Laibach combined would be hard pressed to compete with them in their sheer audacity. Yet, unlike the consistently dark and heavy music of those two bands, Orgia Pravednikov employs a progressive rock style that harkens back to Jethro Tull, Queen, Marillion, Styx, and bands of that ilk, with florid arrangements that often include baroque brass sections, flutes, strings, acoustic guitars, etc.
In order to really understand what's going on here, some context is in order. Generally speaking, in contrast to Western rock, Russian rock often is characterized by different rhythms, instruments and more involved lyrics. Considering its poetic roots of Russian literature and bard music, it is not surprising that lyrics play a far larger role in Russian rock than Western rock, and there is a pervasive Russian classical music influence as well. If you've ever heard Russian bands artists such as Aria, Aquarium, Splean, Pytor Nalitch, Alisa, Kipelov, etc. you know there is an element of overwrought romanticism and touch of sadness to the music. If you consider how long these people have been oppressed and downtrodden throughout history, it makes sense. Orgia Pravednikov take their Russian heritage very seriously. Many songs come off sounding like fiercely patriotic anthems, while others sound like modified drinking songs and folk dances. In fact, on their MySpace site, they even have a track titled 'Our Motherland is USSR!' (Not on this album.)
I will give the band credit for their musicianship, which is impressive to say the least. I will even give them credit for preserving their (Russian) music heritage. However, there is no doubt that the bulk of the material on For Those Who See Dreams' comes across as cringingly pretentious, at least to these Western ears. One possible exception is track 9 (with a title in Russian that might be untranslatable) based on the 'Song of Solomon' from the Bible. The sorrowful solo cello opening is quite a contrast to what follows. Band member Artemiy Bondarenko (bass, keyboard, guitar, etc.) contributes deep demonic lead vocals over a nearly Black Metal musical backdrop, while the cello weaves melodically throughout. It is all very proggy and frenetically paced, and even Sergey's rapid recitation that begins mid-tune seems appropriate. Unfortunately, this atypical track is the only one on the album along these lines.
Maybe, just maybe if you have deep Russian roots, this album could grow on you. I'm still not exactly sure what the album concept is about, even after reading the translated lyrics a couple of times. It seems a bit like a personal quest'¦truth, love beauty'¦that sort of thing. Don't let my low rating put you off from checking them out though. You just might find this music so odd, that you'll be compelled to share it with your friends. A fifth of vodka might not hurt either.