Interview with Oleg Aryutkin of Desert

Through meeting a new friend in Kostya Aronberg of Globmetal Promotions we have been introduced to some real treats and pleasures in the shape of bands and music from around the globe. One of the biggest enjoyments came in the debut album Star Of Delusive Hopes from Israeli metal band Desert. The album was not particularly demanding or challenging but was one of the best examples of honest and irresistible impressive metal. Given the chance to find out more about the band we took no time in bombarding keyboardist Oleg Aryutkin with questions.

Hello and thank you for talking with us at The Ringmaster Review

Please introduce the band.

Hi, and thanks for the opportunity.

We are Desert, a band of six guys who just enjoy playing a decent metal song!

The music we play is a blend of good old heavy metal and something we hope is unique.

With Desert you get epic feel for the lyrics and sing-along choruses from power metal Stratovarius, Dragonforce,, but also punchy beats and riffs from heavy metal, and crapload of keyboards to give it a more theatrical vibe.

How and when did Desert begin?

Sure. Let’s see… Our lead guitarist, Max, started a band back when he was in the military service, just to play some cover tunes he enjoyed. It was Stratovarius, Dragonforce, stuff like that, fast melodic power metal. People joined, people left. Around 2004 stuff got more organized, Max played a gig or two, I’m sure you know these really obscure gigs in basements with soundmen selling pot at the entrance :)

Is there any relevance to the band name?

Heh, you be the judge of that. Back in 2004 we all used to literally live in a desert, with camels and what not. So when it came to choosing a name, the guitarist simply looked out a window and went “oh well..”

Just like that.

How has the band evolved over its decade of existence?

It sure did. First, we all learned to play our instruments a bit better. We also managed to find our voice, and not simply copy the music of famous power metal bands like we used to.

Max used to be the sole songwriter, over the years he found the way to come up with these weird riffs I didn’t hear before.

After some time I too started writing, and my approach is completely different.

You have had a few line-up changes during your time as a band too, have these had major impacts on the way your sound has grown?

hmm. we did go through few drummers and bass players. I guess every time it just sounded better and better!

A big upgrade was when we invited a second guitarist, about two years ago, right before the album release, it really gave our live sound more punch, and more aggressive direction to the songs.

For those new to the band how would you describe your sound?

hh, like I said, simple sing-along choruses, low baritone vocals, phat guitars, and well, it’s heavy on keyboards :)

We like to keep it technically simple, so no weird breakdowns, but instead we go for almost theatrical vibe, each song is a story.

You bring many elements to your heavy metal sound, what are your major influences that have inspired this?

Talking about our rock ‘n’roll heroes, we grew up listening to Grave Digger, Freedom Call, Helloween, Ozzy, stuff like that.

I look for influences. I really try to absorb everything I hear, be it the new Behemoth CD or a dubstep track I heard on Youtube.

I guess closest to my heart is 80’s music, both metal and popular.

But in the end it all goes through a filter, so no, we’re not black metal meets A-ha :)

Star Of Delusive Hopes is your debut album released via Greek label Sleaszy Rider. How long was it in the creating?

Wow, a long time. It was a first major work, we worked the hell out of each tune.

The lyrics went through numerous revisions, the solos were practiced and thought through.

I’d say it took some 3 years to complete the writing. Then, a month of pre-productions, and three weeks in the excellent Nick Savio’s studio.

The album was recorded with Nick Savio (White Skull, Cyber Cross) who you just mentioned, and subsequently mastered by Andy LaRocque, the -nominated guitarist of King Diamond, both doing a great job with your excellent songs. How did you get them on board?

I think we found Nick on-line, and we really liked his work as a producer, so we went for it. Was a right decision, Nick really knows his stuff. And a great guy, too! Spent three weeks in his studio in Vicenza, Italy, so cool!

hm, Andy was an on-line acquaintance, too. He mixed by himself, we did not want to humiliate ourselves by suggesting stupid ideas. We just trusted him to do what he does! It’s funny how he sent us a first mp3 file, going “here guys, it’s like a pre-pre-pre-beta version, suggest something”, and we were like “yeah, don’t touch anything, it sounds golden!”

Can you tell us about the theme and stories that storyboard the songs within Star Of Delusive Hopes?

It’s kinda concept album, or maybe an idea album. All the songs share the same direction. It’s about the struggle for freedom. Most of the songs deal with and tell stories of historic personalities and events, like the title track, which is about the French revolution and the fate of Napoleon, or Victim of the Light, which is about Joan of Arc. We are really into history, and try to take our view on events and why we see them important.

Some songs are more ‘abstract’, like Whispers  – it’s about an inner struggle within a person, I created the spoken intro to help understand the song. And there’s even a pirate song, Letter of Marque, which was kinda meant as light-weight, lyrics-wise, but came out pretty ‘honest’, and I’m really proud of it.

It’s not called Star of Delusive Hopes for nothing. The stories told are all with a touch of bitterness, we tell about betrayal, delusion, failure, but also hope – the whole deal. We try to describe real life, not a fairy tale.

The ideas and song inspirations are quite intense but your music also carries a surprisingly light and exuberant feel within its powerful sound. Was this a determined aspect or something that simply emerged whilst writing the album?

Hmm, never thought of this. I guess it’s just something we did, the way we write. I like a punchy riff, and a good uplifting chorus!

But we always pay attention to unity of music and lyrics, they should deliver the same message, fortify each other! There are tracks like Letter of Marque, with epic feel and a cheerful vibe, but there are also tracks like Whispers, which is darker, since its lyrics are nothing happy…

There is a sense of theatre to your music too would that be fair to say?

I’m really glad you’re mentioning it. There is, I think… Not as theatrical as some progressive or gothic bands, who create almost full-scale theatre plays, like Silentium.

We weren’t set to create a theater music project. It just came out that way. I realized that our songs have a lot of this after Whispers was written. It actually has spoken parts, monologues of sorts, and these weird sound effects that I created, to increase the sense of madness going on.

One track one the album which also became a single was Lament for Soldier’s Glory, It also featured a guest performance from Joakim Broden of Sabaton. How did that come about?

We met Joakim back in 2008 I think when we opened for Sabaton in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Joakim and the guys turned out to be a great bunch, full of life and super-friendly. So we chatted, drank some beers, but no business talk at all.

Some months later, we were working on the album, and this particular song demanded a male duet, at least in my head. So we started thinking who’d be right for the part. The song being about the WWII, Joakim’s name came out first. I was like, ‘yeah, right’. This guy never collaborated with anyone before, and actually refused some serious offers. But we gave it a shot, asked him. And he agreed to take part!

The track came out just perfect in my opinion. Joakim’s vocals fit the tune like a glove, it’s like we wrote it for him. Perfect.

Since then we’ve met quite a lot, Joakim flew in for our album release party, and later performed with us live in Israel, Sweden, and Cyprus. I hope its right to say we’re good friends now.

Desert is renowned for its live shows with you having shared stages with the likes of like Sabaton, Draconian, Nightmare, and Tim “Ripper” Owens. Live shows are a very important aspect of the band for you?

Heh, you forgot Helloween and Stratovarius :)  I loved these particular shows! Oh, and Van Canto, they kill!

But let’s get back to us, he-he.

The most important. Desert is all about live shows. We put a lot of effort into rehearsing, thinking through the set, preparing all kinds of interactive experiences with the audience.

And we sure go crazy on stage. We run and we jump, and scream, like there’s no tomorrow!

The moment when I finally got my hands on a keytar (google it!) was a game changing one for me. Finally I can jump off the amp stacks, run into the audience, climb the lights, whatever, while still playing! I just LOVE playing live shows.

Do you see live performances and shows have in a time where people do not seem to be buying music now as more important than making recordings?

As I said, I value live music a lot, and try to attend as many live shows as possible.

But making records is still necessary, you gotta document your creations, and people enjoy the live performance more if they already heard the song, and read the lyrics.

How do you find things as a metal band in Israel, is there a strong scene for you  and others there?

It’s tough, like everywhere else.

In Israel metal is not mainstream, it’s in the underground. But the scene, while not that big, is really strong in the sense of connection between people – bands, fans, writers, photographers, journalists. People are warm, and there are some great bands, too!

We have plenty of shows here, and many bands from all over the world come visit, and they are always amazed by how people here make them welcome!

How effectively has the internet taken you beyond your homeland borders into the wider world?

We have great friends all over the world we wouldn’t have a chance to meet if not for the web.

We have great friends and fans in countries like Poland, Bulgaria, Italy, Mexico, Canada – people write us and buy records.

So yeah, internet is super. Still, there’s no substitute for a good live show! Hold on, we’ll get to play everywhere eventually, and meet all these great people in person!

What has the rest of 2012 got in store for you or rather you for it?

hhh, I like the play of words. Well, we kinda took few months off to finish the next album, that’s what we’re after now – releasing a great album. I hope it’ll be ready by the end of the year.

Still playing some live shows, because its great fun and we don’t wanna get rusty!

Do you set yourselves any targets or aims during a year or just let things evolve?

We do set goals. Otherwise things just don’t move. When recording or rehearsing there’s a real schedule, a plan. We take music-making real serious.

Writing, on the other hand, is out of control. We can’t say, ‘ok, we’ll write two songs by next Friday’. Doesn’t work like that, unfortunately.

Again thank you for talking with us.

Would you like to leave with any last words for your fans old and new?

Thanks for the chance to chat about the band!

We are Desert, we love what we do, we believe in what we do, and we’ll make your head go Bang!

Stay true, stay metal, and go see a good live band next chance you get!

Read the Review of  Star Of Delusive Hopes http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/desert-star-of-delusive-hopes/Star Of Delusive Hopes

The Ringmaster Review 31/05/2012

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Desert: Star Of Delusive Hopes

Photography and copyright - Guy First

Every now and then an unexpected treat comes forth to pleasure the ear, a band or release sent to or appearing from nowhere to play with and for the senses to give a fully enjoyable experience.  The latest album from Israeli metal band Desert is the latest fine example. Star Of Delusive Hopes is a great release that quite simply gives one a great time. It is not particularly demanding , challenging, or comes offering anything starkly new but the nine track epic album is just an irresistible and lively bundle of engaging metal to make it a more satisfying listen than many other offerings elsewhere lately.

Formed in 2002 in the city of Beer-Sheva by guitarist Max Shafranski, the band took more serious steps with the addition of vocalist Alexei Raymar and keyboard player Oleg Aryutkin a couple of years later. This same year saw the release of their demo The Way To Honor, followed in 2006 by their debut EP Prophecy Of The Madman, both bringing strong acclaim towards the band amongst the underground media. After a line-up change with the adding of Sergei Dmitrik, drummer Zohar Telor, and guitarist Sergei Nemichenister to the original members, Desert worked towards this first album. Through their formidable live shows and the release of Star Of Delusive Hopes via Greek label Sleaszy Rider the band and their stock grew and now with the album coming to the attention of the wilder world one can only see more praise and stronger ardent followers switching on to Desert.

The album was recorded in Italy with Nick Savio (White Skull, Cyber Cross) and subsequently mastered by Andy LaRocque, the -nominated guitarist of King Diamond, in his own Sonic Train studio in Varberg, Sweden. The songs within Star Of Delusive Hopes are themed with tales of great men and women who lived and gave everything for freedom and beliefs, the tracks all stories of lost hopes and betrayal and based on the likes of Giordano Bruno, Joan of Arc, the heroes of Massada siege, and unknown soldiers who fought and died in the fields of Russia. With this premise the album is surprisingly light and exuberant and though mighty in power does not bludgeon the senses at any point. The music of Desert is often tagged as power metal which is a strong feature but with elements of symphonic metal, folk metal and classic metal smoothly mixed in, the sound is a feisty and inviting hybrid. The likes of Moonspell, Hammers Of Misfortune, Rammstein and Tyr all come to mind as the songs with their theatrical grandeur envelope the ear with passion and gusto.

The album opens on one of the two best tracks on the release. The Unsubdued saunters in with a persistent addictive riff, excellent deep clean vocals from Raymar, and the keys of Aryutkin that wave with mesmeric grace from on high. The song spreads in to a rampaging feast for the ear, the guitars of Shafranski and Nemichenister taking control with incisive riffs and firm intensity whilst the rhythms of bassist Dmitrik and drummer Assaf Markowitz lead one into the addictive wealth within the song without needing to bring a brutality to the beckoning.

This song is matched by Victim Of The Light, the other song grabbing the tightest and deepest. As the keys sway and tease like an exotic dancer the riffs consume with muscle and eagerness whilst Raymar unveils the songs tale. With a flowing melodic charm the song wraps itself around the listener like a friend offering a warmth and surety along its length. This is merely a ruse as Desert then twist things, disturbing the safety with firstly a dramatic emotive vocal and piano aside soon joined by coarse growls and glorious discordant keys and a bedlamic intrusion. The song is a triumph and with the opener alone makes the album worth checking out.

The rest of the release is well worth the entrance fee too it should be noted, tracks like the enthused Letter Of Marque, the heart pumping Soul Of A Wanderer, and the impressive Lament For Soldier’s Glory (Order 227) featuring the additional vocals of , all leave one satisfied and grinning. Star Of Delusive Hopes as mentioned does not bring anything new to the table but against that there are not many other similar sounding bands that bring it with the skill and pleasurable energy as Desert either. A great time is guaranteed what more do you want?

https://www.facebook.com/DesertOfficial

RingMaster 23/03/2012

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