Interview by Robin Stryker
Alkonost is an epic folk metal band from the Republic of Tartarstan (Russian Federation). The band draws its inspiration from medieval music and Russian folk music, with mighty power metal riffing, black metal growling and symphonic metal operatic vocals added in. Femme Metal chatted with vocalist Alyona “Alena” Pelevina about Alkonost’s newest album, “On The Wings Of The Call”.Hello Alyona! We’re excited to talk with you about Alkonost’s new album, “On The Wings Of The Call” (Einheit Produktionen 2010). Hail! It’s very pleasant for me! We’ll be happy to talk.
Let’s start with the band’s name. What does Alkonost mean? Alkonost is an ancient image of a female guardian spirit, which is a light side of fate with an appearance of a semi-woman and a semi-bird. As the legends say, when she gives birth, the sea keeps dead calm for 6 days. And by the way, she sings uncommonly well and brings joy and happy vein.
What have been the biggest influences on the musical style of Alkonost? Our style was influenced by such bands as Iron Maiden, AC/DC, My Dying Bride, Bathory, and, of course, medieval Russian and West European music, as well as Russian folk music. And, definitely, the style of ancient legends had an influence upon the nature of our music.
When the band first started in 1995, it was a male-fronted band with Alexey Solovyov singing and screaming. How did you become a member of the band? I couldn’t even imagine my future with a band of such kind. In 2000, Alkonost was looking for female vocals to record choruses in bonus tracks to the “Songs Of Eternal Oak” album and owing to the greatest fortuity, I managed to become one of performers. Probably my voice impressed the guys, so they discussed for two days my candidacy as a leading vocal and had given up thoughts concerning participation of male vocal. At once after that, I entered upon my new duties.
It sounds as though you have had classical training. What is your musical background? Were you in any other bands before Alkonost?
I have 8-year experience of music school of choral branch and 2-year experience of musical lycée. In the lycée in the beginning, I was engaged in variety vocal but as the teacher left his job, I had to occupy myself in classical vocal, so I learned in this way. On graduating from the lycée, I was eager to enter the academy of music and then the conservatoire. But as I strained my voice shortly before the entrance examinations, I had to go to training to be a psychologist. But I had a desire to sing; therefore I looked for any possibility and ran into Alkonost. Before that moment, I didn’t sing in any bands, and even didn’t think about it.
Would you introduce us to your colleagues in the band, and tell us something about their personalities? The band’s founder, Andrey Losev, is a guitarist and the band’s brain, as well as a composer and a rhymer, a hooligan and all innovations proceed from him. Dmitriy Sokolov is the second guitarist, a very strict and attentive person. All tours and negotiations bear heavily on his shoulders; he knows how to count money and to be unscrupulous. Anton Chepigin is able to play drums. He is very creative and he is a very sensitive person. When he is in the mood, he writes songs, and is engaged in designing of our web sites in the Internet. He is also a hooligan. Almira Fathullina, she is a good hand at the pushing of keys on her synthesizer. She is able to effervesce the spirits of everyone. She speaks six languages fluently, including German. Alkonost has previously recorded songs in English, as well as Russian. Why did the band decide to use solely Russian lyrics for “On the Wings of the Call”?
It is just a financial matter. We just didn’t have money for recording an English version of the album. Although, probably, there is an exclusive element in it.
Does the band intend to record an English version of the new album, like you did for “Between the Worlds”? Yes, most likely the next album will be released in both variants. Comprehension of our songs by ear is very important for us.
Despite having been a member of Alkonost for 10 years, did you still feel nervous waiting for the reviews of “On the Wings of the Call”? Have you been pleased with the response from reviewers and fans?Of course, I worry very much waiting for reviews of the album, in spite of the fact that I sing for 10 years. As listeners gradually change, new listeners appear so it is very interesting to know their fresh opinion.
The songs sound mysterious and haunting to my ears, and I am very curious to learn more about the lyrics. Would you select a few songs, and tell us what the lyrics mean?
I suppose that I won’t retell lyrics, as they are in two languages in the album booklets, so most likely I’m eager to share my impressions concerning some songs. “Nivushka-niva” is a witness of bloodshed fight, it absorbed tears, bitterness and blood of the battle. “Nivushka-niva” is a very sad song for me, a hymn for the fallen ones. “Night Before the Battle” is anticipation of forthcoming battle in the morning. All power and fury are shown here. It invigorates, raises and induces very much. Well, the main theme of “On the Wings of the Call” album concerns a road, and it is not known where it will lead and it is not known where it will come to an end. Our roads never come to an end and leave from plains through the Ural mountains into the dark taiga thickets full of secrets and adventures. And there is no return way anywhere. Which song from the new do you think would make the most interesting music video? If you could create anything you wanted (without worrying about cost), what would your video look like? We have already shot a video clip for “Ineffable Light” song; solely Andrey was engaged in the creation of the video sequence. I consider that his approach to video stories is the most unusual. But I would like to have a video for a song “Bird-Ship” where a combination of a play of light and night would be used, which would be very complicated for shooting but impressing with bright colours. Alkonost is one of the most established folk metal bands in the Russian Federation. What do you think about the band’s sound today, compared to when you first started with Alkonost? Certainly I see my development both on stage and in a voice, which is the main achievement for me. I had learned to vary my voice, thereby helping to reach integrity and intelligence of songs. Early albums were recorded with atmospheric sound — more traditional for black metal. But it seems to me that now we have a lack of this primitive rawness and aggressiveness, and it would be difficult for me to express it, as my voice is gentle enough for this purpose. When I had just appeared in the band, I had heard such kind of music for the first time and it’s fabulous sounding, in spite of aggressiveness, was a redeeming feature for me. Congratulations on signing to the German label Einheit Produktionen. What made Einheit a good match for Alkonost?
I guess their serious approach to work for all that.
What is the metal scene like in the band’s home of Naberezhnye Chelny? With the Internet, does a band’s geographic location even matter anymore? Besides us there are folk metal groups and groups playing brutal death of every sort and kind in our city and I even can’t imagine how many of them here, as our city is of industrial type, and such kind of things is very widespread. The Internet really erases borders, so anyone can present himself for the whole world.
Alkonost first toured outside Russia in 2007. Did you notice a big difference between fans in Russia and other countries? There is not any big difference in it; fans receive us well and warmly everywhere, although Europe receives us better than in Russia. It’s very difficult to define differences between fans, as they have absolutely the same clothing style and the way of chilling out… They drink alcohol in different ways, but aside from that, all fans are affable to us. I was so disappointed to read that the tour in Germany and the Czech Republic had been cancelled. What happened? Will fans outside of Russia have the chance to see Alkonost live this year?
Believe, it was sad for us too and it is a pity, after all we were waited for by many of our fans… And unfortunately, this year we won’t go to Europe anymore. But next year we will necessarily go to the next tour across Europe in April, to all appearances. 🙂 Other than Russia, in which countries are the most enthusiastic fans of Alkonost found? There is no saying, because any special difference doesn’t exist… perhaps it is necessary to mention our German fans and friends. 🙂
Alyona, thank you so much for talking with us today! Do you have any parting words for your fans at Femme Metal?
Certainly! See you!!!!!!!