Art Against Agony – Russian Tales
They are young, they are ambitious – and they have a mridangam player (at least, that’s what the cover announces): Art Against Agony (AAA) from Stuttgart/Germany (and, since being founded in 2011, joined by more members from different places) describe themselves as a collective for contemporary art, as opposed to just a band. Their names and faces stay in the dark. Besides the music, they also create videos and make photography. You can read more about AAA in our review of the previous EP “the forgotten story”, released just at the beginning of this year, and our interview with the_maximalist (mridangam, anyone?).
Their latest output, “Russian Tales”, is based on the experiences made at an excessive tour (20 concerts!) through Russia in 2016. While musically there is no Russian influence in the five instrumental songs, the outcome is leaving few to be desired.
The first song, ‘Königsberg Präludium’, doesn’t give any hint on what is still to be expected, though. It is a slow start and enchants the listener with a groovy bass line and an abstract melody with some pulled guitar notes.
The destination that “Russian Tales” is heading to gets more clear when the the odd timing of ‘Nothing to declare?’ sets in, and with another groovy bass foundation the song slowly is heading to harder territories after a melodic prog-rock guitar part. The grand finale is marked when squeaking guitars and djent riffs break into a sudden silence.
Now the collective gets out all it’s weapons, swings into jazzy territory and back to staccato guitar riffs, taking a lush proggy direction and heading over to spacey key parts. All that in one song, mind you – ‘Tea for the Dragon’ is a complete mess, but still it makes perfect sense and joins all those pieces into one flowing whole. Still, it is surpassed by the butt-kicking ‘Coffee for the Queen’, which does not hide it’s “Train of Thoughts”-era Dream Theater influences, but modernizes that with sudden breaks and crowns it with sounds of the name giving beverage being brewed, which is definitely something I never thought I would hear in rock music.
Art Against Agony leave us for now – breathless – with the staccato guitars of the heavy djent monster ‘Saratov Incident’, which in the end dissolves into the most beautiful melodies of the past 23 minutes.
“Russian Tales” is a wonderfully composed and crafted EP. Each song has it’s very own agenda, and yet in their combination and dramatic order they play perfectly well together, showing the diversity of the collective’s musical abilities and leaving the listener almost overwhelmed but no less hungry for the next full length album. As for the mridangam? You’re right if you wonder about the lack of Indian percussion on “Russian Tales”: Sadly, the_maximalist (even if stated otherwise) did not yet contribute the unique twang that he describes in our interview – giving the friends of interesting and stimulating music another reason to look forward to the next record.