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Sunday Old School: Aria

It’s interesting to think that this week will see a new album from one of the biggest metal bands in the biggest country in the world, one which has a long lasting love of metal music too, yet many, many head bangers will not have heard of them. We all know that back in the days of the Soviet Union, many freedoms were restricted by the regime, but this didn’t stop heavy metal music from leaking in and influencing the Russian youth to create their own bands. One such group hailed from the capital city of Moscow and was spawned when two Muscovite metalheads named Vladimir Holstinin and Alik Granovsky decided to pursue their beloved music with a new project named, Aria.

They chose the moniker so that it would be short, sweet and easily translatable, a memorable name inspired by the brand of guitar which Holstinin owned. They finished writing enough music for a full length album and began the process of looking for a singer, which they eventually found in the guise of Valery Kipelov. Before the end of 1985, the band released their debut album, "Mania Velichia," which attracted the attention of many rock fans in Russia because it was very different from anything else on show in the country at the time. It was even able to produce a music video for the song, "America is Behind," something which was not common for rock bands to do at the time.

A few months later, Aria performed their first live show after adding second guitarist, Andrey Bolshakov, which was well received by the audience, though ignored by the state run media. Their popularity did increase however, especially after releasing their second album, "S Kem Ty?," which translates into English as, "who are you with?" There was some discontent within the band however and four of the six members left to form a thrash metal band named, Master, leaving Holstinin and Kipelov to recruit a new lineup, which they found in Sergey Mavrin, Maxim Udalov and Vitaly Dubinin.

This new incarnation embarked on a tour which proved to fans that there was more good times ahead, which was solidified with their third album, "Geroy Asfalta." It was very well received and is still considered by fans to be one of their best records to date, as well being particularly noteworthy for it being released via the state music publishing company, Melodiya. It spawned another music video for the song, "Rose Street" and sold very well, leading to each show of their two year touring schedule selling out.

After Udalov quit due to a frosty relationship between the band and their manager, he was replaced by Aleksandr Maniakin, who soon recorded his first album with the band, "Igra S Ognyom," which featured a striking character which would appear on later album covers, including their next release, "Krov Za Krov," which was released in 1991, the year in which the Soviet Union dissolved and the Russian Federation emerged.

Despite the opportunities one would expect to emerge with the band now having less restrictions on performing abroad and such, Aria decreased their output and performances significantly and after a tour in Germany, relationships began to sour, eventually leading to Kipelov’s expulsion from the band when he was found to be playing with their rival group, Master. He was succeeded by Alexey Bulgakov, whose tenure was to be short lived after the group’s record label threatened them with legal action over the firing of Kipelov, who returned to record the band’s first album in four years, "Noch Koroche Dnya." They followed this with their first live album, "Made in Russia," which shot up the charts and helped keep their name relevant in the new Russia.

Following some side projects and other endeavours, Aria released a new album in 1998 entitled, "Generator Zla," which featured the single, "Hermit." Though the album did fine, it’s successor, "Chimera" was to prove a much greater output for the band, thanks largely to the single, "Lost Paradise," which received regular airplay and helped the band gain new, younger fans. Unfortunately, this was to be the last Aria album recorded with Kipelov, who during a turbulent tour which saw the band perform with an orchestra, made it clear that he did want to record a new album and instead was eager to pursue a solo career.

Though Kipelov’s departure raised some questions about the group’s future, in November 2002 they confirmed that they would continue with a new lineup, most notably with a new singer named, Arthur Berkut, who was known to Russian rock fans for his tenure with the group, Autograph (not to be confused with the American outfit of the same name,) as well the return of Maxim Udalov on drums. Berkut’s first release with the band, "Kreshchenie Ognyom," was commercially successful, boasting hits such as, "Kolizey," "Tam Vysoko" and the title track, but wasn’t received too well by long time Aria fans, who felt that his voice did not suit the band.

Aria stuck with their singer however and in 2006 released a new album, "Armageddon," which incorporated some power metal influences into their sound. The subsequent touring for the album focused more on their past glories, celebrating their old albums and inviting former members to perform with the band, most notably at a series of concerts in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg dubbed by the media and fans as AriaFest, where Kipelov joined the band on stage, including duets with Berkut.

One year later, Berkut announced his departure from Aria and although many fans were hoping for the return of Kipelov, the group instead opted to hire Grand Courage frontman, Mikhail Zhitnyakov. His first album with Aria followed later that year, in the form of the excellent, "Feniks." Now seeking to firmly install Zhitnyakov as their permanent singer, Aria will be released their new album, "Through All Times" this week. Whether it stands up to past material remains to be seen, but certainly Aria’s legacy as one of the greatest metal bands to ever emerge from Russia has been cemented and hopefully with the release of a new album, more ears in the West will be turned towards this Moscow metal machine, and surely they will like what they hear.

Aria - "Will and Reason"

Aria - "Street of Roses"

Aria - "All That Was"

Aria - "Hermit"

Aria - "Chimera"

Aria - "Colisseum"

Aria - "Viking"

Aria - "Atilla"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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