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Order of Victory – Nemo Oblivioni Tradita est, Nihil Oblivioni Tradita est

Order of Victory

I find it, at times, difficult to fathom how certain intangibles in a nation’s perceived character can come to define their spirit as a culture and as individual people.  It has long been a noted understanding, perhaps even a cliche, that the Russians have ice running through their veins; a toughness that is both uncharacteristic of the rest of the world at large and borne from their own environmental and long-standing political realities.  While common sense would tell us that Russia indeed houses their fair share of cowards and fragile spirits, it cannot be argued that the Russian soldier has, throughout history, garnered respect from war-time world leaders such as Winston Churchill and Napoleon Bonaparte for reasons both inherently good and incontrovertibly sinister — reasons that can easily be traced to any once-active army in history due to perceived necessity and highly charged in-the-moment emotions.  This release, like the image of Voronezh’s Monument of Glory that dominates the front cover, pays homage to only one side of that eternal nationalist schism; an ode to the glory, the strength and the inherent pride of Russia’s soldiers throughout the first half of the twentieth century, until their existence in a war-torn era came to a climax with World War II.

Nemo Oblivioni Tradita est, Nihil Oblivioni Tradita est (No One is Forgotten, Nothing is Forgotten) is the début album from Russia’s duo of Shilov and Voinova, known here as Order of Victory.  Their message is simple, though it is said through poetic verse and a classic militant vision that is cemented in remembrance and is thus subject to both the unrelenting storm of steel that is martial industrial and the sombre atmosphere that is associated with mourning the past and those lost within it.  Much like Oda Relicta‘s recent Ukrainian Insurgent Army, it is a symbol of their admiration for the countrymen and women whom lost their lives long before either musician came into being in this world.  The timeline for this release stretches the space from the beginning of World War I in 1914 until the end of World War II in 1945, and opens in the present day with “Pray” — a track that is a simple two-verse prayer that sends our historical memory (from a perspective that can only be given to us through written word) spiraling back in time as we beg forgiveness to the life-giving sun for the past and the atrocities committed in those years.

Musically, the album is mostly a combination of exceptionally produced bombastic percussion, multiple layers of synth, brief samples, and a bold Russian vocal performance that is veiled behind the synthetic distortion of a Micro Korg or some other sort of vocoder.  The vocoder isn’t necessarily utilized to keep the vocals on key in this case, but rather as a simple means to implement some semblance of surrealism to the release, perhaps as a voice speaking from the past.  That said, there isn’t a great deal of originality offered by this release on the music-front; in fact, it’s a fairly straight-forward effort that reminds of everything from contemporary influences such as most of Rage in Eden‘s catalog and Svalbard to the likes of The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud and Death in June, the latter of which whose influence can be seen even in the band’s promotional photos.  The vocal approach of the project offers up a bit of different flavor to their style of martial industrial, but it isn’t enough to elicit a compliment out of me for any kind of legitimate originality.

Battle of Lake Khasan (Red Army Soldiers)

Battle of Lake Khasan (Red Army Soldiers)

Though the music may not be the most original, nor does it venture away from its defined comfort zone from start to finish with the exception of the mildly progressive “White Dance of Death”, the ultra complex packaging of the release and the way that it interacts with the lyrics of the tracks makes up for some of the flaws within the music itself.  As mentioned, the songs appear to be on a timeline, and the album — in addition to the folded cardboard sleeve that it comes in — arrives with both a two-sided poster with a band photo and alternate cover art and a two-sided large-format newspaper page that contains English lyrics on one side and Russian lyrics on the other, as well as a map that covers the timeline of the lyrics.  The lyrics are the most interesting part of the release, so the English translation is a welcome addition.  Tracks range from “The Worker”, which follows the life of a bullet from its creation by a dedicated war-time ammunition producer to its ultimate resting spot in the chest of the narrator, to “Lullaby for the Angels”, which specifically pays homage to those thousands of soldiers whom died as a result of their mistreatment at the hands of Polish war crimes at the Tukholi Camp — a cruel death to face after surviving what must have seemed like an unending march of destruction in World War I, the Russian Civil War, and the Soviet-Polish War.

“The Blood of the Dead Summer and Bitter Tears of Winter” is perhaps the most appropriately titled track on the album as its lyrics span a short but extremely violent period between 1938 and 1940 where Russia went from The Battle of Lake Khasan with Japan (Manchuria) through the Battles of Khalkhin Gol, and finally ending with the Winter War with Finland.  These were extensive, brutally violent years for the country where the loss of life was obviously enormous.  The entire second half of the album is dedicated to the struggles on Soviet soil during World War II.  In the end, the album itself isn’t as bleak as the lyrics imply, especially considering the connotations of the closing words of the album — “No Hope, it has left.  Despair stayed instead.”  Only in theme is it gloomy — the attitude of the release appears to be stern and strong, if not glorified in moment, celebrating the lives of those whom came before.  With that, it seems that the name “Order of Victory” is more than appropriate, as it was the highest military decoration awarded in World War II to Soviet soldier.  The music can be seen as that honor personified in art, and handed down in remembrance.

The main thing outside of the music that bothers me about this release is the same thing that bothered me in regards to Oda Relicta’s Ukrainian Insurgent Army.  This nationalistic approach to martial industrial is one-sided and biased, often voluntarily, even eagerly, remaining blind to the fact that both sides of any of these wars have committed documented atrocities, especially, in this case, in regards to the Soviet-Polish War.  This was a harsh time for the world in general, and as a generation that has thus far escaped the consequences of a third world war, I feel it is important to give a full picture of any conflict.  It is important that we learn from the past and while this glorification of Russia’s militant past is by no means unwarranted or unwelcome, we should remember the other side of every one of these conflicts as well and the men and women and civilian families lost due to what amounts to, especially in the case of the ridiculous Battle of Lake Khasan, bureaucratic bickering.

Track List:

01) Pray
02) The Worker
03) Lullaby for the Angels
04) The Blood of the Dead Summer and Bitter Tears of Winter
05) White Dance of Death
06) Artillery Bombardment
07) Citadel
08) Hope

Rating: 3.75/5
Written by: Sage
Label: Casus Belli Musica (Russia) / CBM017CD / CD in Custom Cardboard Sleeve
Military Pop / Martial / Neofolk