Louna – “Behind a Mask” (2013)

Label: Red Decade Records

Review by Vard Aman

Does Louna really need an introduction? OK, just to be on the safe side: In 2008, two members of Tracktor Bowling, Armenian born vocalist Lousine Gevorkian (or Gevorgyan if you want to transliterate it directly from Armenian) and bassist Vitaly Demidenko decided to form a second band in order to cater for different interests and different styles to Tracktor Bowling; and so Louna was formed, and have since become highly acclaimed. Louna should not be regarded as a side project to Tracktor Bowling, they are a completely separate entity. Tracktor Bowling are stylistically in the realm of Lyrical Alternative Metal, while Louna is heavy protest music with Punk, Post-punk, Metal and Rock influences.

Now, when the words “Russia” and “protest music” are mentioned in the same sentence, the first thing that will come to most people’s minds is Pussy Riot – currently Russia’s most famous protest act, best known for showing the Russian Orthodox Church to be nothing more than a bunch of frightened, insecure bullies who have to resort to censorship and coercion to defend themselves and their ideology, and for exposing their contemptible relationship with many of Russia’s current politicians in a nation that is supposed to be constitutionally secular (Article 14 – look it up. Oh, and look up Article 19.2 while you’re at it… and 29.1, 29.5 and 31). A quote sometimes (mis)attributed to Voltaire is very apt: “to learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize”. Here is another appropriate one (by an unknown author): “Blasphemy is speech that has been outlawed to prevent your religion from loosing arguments”. Blasphemy is the “crime” of questioning or insulting people’s “omnipotent” imaginary friend, who then decide to get “offended” on his behalf because apparently he is not able to do so, or do anything about it, himself – even though he is “omnipotent”. Perhaps the reason for that is, as Louna put it, “there is nothing there”. It would seem that this faith in an omnipotent being is very fragile indeed, because anyone who falls out of line with the status quo it has created is quickly brought into line, not through answering the questions that are being asked of them, or through any rational discourse, but through coercion, censorship and force. Blasphemy is indeed considered a crime in many parts of the world, and in many Islamic countries it even carries the death penalty. Russia’s own recently passed anti-blasphemy laws (in violation of the constitution) allow for a penalty of up to three years in prison for the “crime” of “offending religious feelings”. And this is what Pussy Riot was guilty of: a protest in a church that got them arrested and jailed… turning them into a global household name in the process. Well done Russian Orthodox Church; great own goal there!

But what does Pussy Riot actually sound like? In my opinion, they sound like one of the worst sounding bands in the history of bad sounding bands. Even for Riot Grrrl, they sound terrible. But even calling them a band is a bit of a stretch – performance artists, certainly; but a musical band, no. Louna, on the other hand, are brilliant musicians and they make excellent music. Louna didn’t need the “help” of the Russian Orthodox Church to become famous, they became famous on the merits of their music. This is because Pussy Riot‘s priorities are political protest, while Louna‘s are musical. Louna still get their message across; they’re still just as pissed off with all the subversive power-hungry politics and greed in the world, the totalitarian-like control of information, political correctness, and they still “blaspheme” (against other religions too, including the religion that claims to be peaceful and then threatens to kill you if you don’t agree, while ironically accusing YOU of having some kind of “phobia” – I’m sure you know which one I’m talking about: hint – “child-wife for the prophet’s joy”). Louna tell it how it is! And they still get into trouble with the status quo even without protesting in a church; as they recently found out when the episode of a MTV documentary on protest music, “Rebel Music”, featuring Louna was pulled at the last minute citing “pressure placed on MTV from “unknown sources””. Someone is rather afraid of what Louna has to say too, it seems.

“Behind a Mask” is Louna’s first English album, but it is really a compilation of English versions of the best songs off “Сделай Громче!” (“Turn It Up!”) and “Время X” (“Time X”). The English versions work perfectly, and Lou misses absolutely nothing in her vocal delivery – she might as well be singing in her first language. It is Lou‘s potent vocals combined with the song writing skills that drive this band; and it is a combination that works relentlessly throughout the album, most prominently for me on the highlights: “System Destroys”; “Business”; “Up There”; and “The End of Peace”. Lyrically, as a protest band the lyrics are fairly subtle – not as in-your-face as many other acts of this kind – but the message is present; and that in turn makes Louna far more accessible, whether intentionally or not. There is also another side to Louna‘s lyrics: a side that presents itself in an almost nostalgic kind of way on topics around what the band does; i.e. play heavy Rock Music (such as the tracks “My Rock n Roll”; “Lets Get Louder”; and to a much lesser degree but still present, “Mama”). Personally, as you may have already noticed, I much prefer the this-is-the-state-of-things-told-how-it-is side to Louna over the here-is-what-we-play-in-case-you-hadn’t-noticed side of them.

When everything is put together, Louna‘s “Behind a Mask” is a unique and very potent package, and I would strongly recommend getting this as well as their Russian albums (there’s a new one out right now, called “Мы – это Louna”). I hope they do make some more English albums, because Louna’s music does work well in English, without loosing anything, and it will get their message to more people across the globe – “we are Louna and this is what we stand for”.

Rating – 90/100

 

Tracklist

  1. System Destroys
  2. Fight Club
  3. Business
  4. My Rock n Roll
  5. Let’s Get Louder
  6. Up There
  7. The End of Peace
  8. Storming Heaven
  9. Mama
  10. Inside

 

Line Up

  • Lou Gevorkian – Vocals
  • Sergey Ponkratiev – Guitars
  • Rouben Kazariyan – Guitars
  • Vitaly Demidenko – Bass
  • Leonid Kinzbursky – Drums

 

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