Ordo MCM sets February 15th, 2019 as the international release date for ROSS‘ “Sing, Guslar!” on black vinyl and limited blood-red LP formats. Otherwise known as POCC, ROSS is the short-lived yet important precursor to Russia’s cult SCALD. Maintaining a similar poignancy and raw honesty, ROSS created a small clutch of songs that brimmed with triumph and tragedy. Rough-hewn they may be, but such were the times in Soviet-era Russia; nevertheless, the roots of SCALD‘s masterful ‘n’ majestic pagan doom were planted with Ross’ nine-song repertoire. Now they’re being presented for their first time ever in one place, remastered from the original source audio, on “Sing, Guslar!”.
In 1988 in Yaroslavl (then USSR), three friends – Maxim Andrianov, Anatoly Dmitriev, and Eugene “Jack” Baranov – decided to start a rock band. They had neither experience nor skill, but their desire to play so-called “Russian rock,” with lyrics that explore social issues, was very strong. Maxim became the vocalist and guitarist of this newly formed band, Anatoly started to play bass, and Eugene became the drummer. The guys came up with a catchy (in their opinion) name for the band: 220 Volt. With this lineup, they wrote and recorded several songs; the recordings were made at the same place where they used to rehearse. But in 1989 – 1990, some changes took place: it was time for Eugene to fulfill his military duties, so he had to leave the band. Other, more experienced musicians joined the band: Aleksandr Kudryashov (drums) and Sergey Topolenko (guitar). Since that moment, vocals became the only responsibility of Maxim, even though he still played guitar while recording the songs.
During this period, Maksim discovered the music of MANOWAR, which proved to be very inspirational, and he also watched the movie “The Primordial Rus”, dedicated to the life and beliefs of the pagan Slavs in 5th century A.D. A tribe called Ross was, among other things, mentioned in that movie and caught his attention. All this made him rethink the direction his band was taking: he suggested the new name for it – Ross. He also decided that they would play powerful heavy metal in the vein of MANOWAR, with lyrics glorifying ancient Slavic culture.
In those years any materials to work with in lyrics writing were hard to come by, so often some scenes from various Soviet movies about Russian history were used. Thus, the song “Pogrebalniy Koster” was inspired by the aforementioned movie “The Primordial Rus”, and “Poy, Guslyar!” was based on the movie Alexandr Nevsky. At the same time, Maxim started working on his vocals, trying to make it perfect and modeling himself after Eric Adams of MANOWAR.
By 1991, ROSS had enough songs to play for an hour. Unfortunately, in those years, bands like ROSS had almost no chance of performing live in Yaroslalvl. However, they managed to participate in two or three festivals and record their songs live and in the studio – the only “professional” studio in Yaroslavl back then.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, the public’s interest in history increased considerably and many new books were being published, including those on medieval Russia and its relations with Scandinavia. Under the influence of such books, Maxim decided to make Scandinavian mythology a part of his lyrics. At the same time, the guitarist Sergey Topolenko was greatly inspired by BATHORY‘s “Hammerheart” and decided to use folk elements in his music. But soon after that, it was Maksim’s turn to fulfill his military duties, so he was gone for a year and the band was on hold during that time. After his return, coinciding with Eugene also being back from the army, the band (now consisting of five members) started working on the new material.
Around this time, Maxim discovered CANDLEMASS and was fascinated with doom metal; he was also influenced by Messiah Marcolin’s vocals. Two songs – “Kanun Ragnaradi” and “Pogrebalniy Koster” – were composed and recorded during rehearsals. Maksim started thinking about changing the band’s name into Scald. But in summer, 1992 Sergey Topolenko, Anatoly Dmitriev, and Eugene Baranov joined an Evangelical cult, in consequence of what they refused to play any music which was not praising Christ. Maxim and Aleksandr, on the other hand, wanted to pursue the chosen direction – namely, pagan Rus and Scandinavia. Thus, the band split up and ROSS ceased to exist.
But Maxim Andrianov and Aleksand Kudryashov didn’t want to give up that easily, so they found new young musicians to continue the band with. They were Ivan Sergeev (guitar) and Ilia Timashev (bass). Together, the four of them formed a new band – SCALD – and, as Maxim suggested, adopted proper nicknames (Maxim became Agyl, Aleksandr was now called Ottar, Ivan’s choice was Harald, and Ilia was given the name Velingor) and started to write their lyrics in English. Later on, a second guitarist joined the band: Vladimir Ryzhkovsky AKA Karry. But this is a different story – the story of SCALD…