Olegh Kolyada is a man whom has become quite the personification of his country’s willful, tough and historically militant and fiercely independent spirit. His previous release, “Lux Aeterna”, saw his very unique style of martial neoclassic orchestrations subdued, utilizing them into a strikingly sombre masterpiece on Gradual Hate Records and Twilight Records that was constructed in order to pay homage to the millions of Ukrainian men, women, and children whose lives were lost at the hands of the Soviet-controlled man-made famine of 1932-33. This follow up to that release, “Ukrainian Insurgent Army”, which has been produced by Olegh’s own label Old Captain, takes us back to the fight for Ukrainian independence during and after World War II, focusing on the obvious inspiration behind the release, the UIA. The resistance’s roots lie far deeper than their official founding date implies — October 14, 1942 — stretching back all the way to the late Middle Ages when the Kyivan Rus polity still existed and maintaining a centuries-old struggle for sovereignty.
The resistance, despite having no outside support (financial, weapons, or otherwise), was a strong force in those days, somehow mobilizing, against all odds, into highly organized groups and successfully defending the people of their country well into the 1950’s, as well as guiding them through post-war struggles, including yet another devastating famine. This resistance represents courage in its finest hour, especially in the days of World War II — men mobilized and armed, surrounded on all sides by Nazi and Soviet invaders, fighting a battle that was unwinnable, but sewing the seeds for future Ukrainians to finally recognize their dream of sovereignty. Soviet Russia’s war crimes involving Ukraine were great, and involved acting as imposters of the UIA, committing acts of violence in their disguise even after the war had ended. This is in addition to vast deportations and ethnic cleansing. Today, only a portion of Ukraine’s population observes the founding of the UIA because, in large part and for reasons unknown to sensible minds, the Soviet version of history is still the prevalent account. This makes Olegh’s humble album a very important piece of history — not only because it spreads the history of Ukraine’s struggles and the incredible courage of the men whom were part of that struggle, but because it is a public celebration of his country’s past; a country whose leaders still don’t seem to want to face that past even today.
It should be said that the UIA isn’t without criticism and war crimes of their own. There are those that view the resistance as being interwoven with the OUN (“Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists”) and thus representing a form of fascism in their own right, as well as a murky part of history involving multiple Ukrainian militant groups that ended with the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilian Poles in Eastern Galicia and Volhynia.
Each track on the release is broken down into a specific dedication and reasoning, as well as notes as to what was used for its composition as many songs within utilize samples of religious hymns and traditional marches. Additional levels of depth behind some tracks are reached by the inclusion of various other post-industrial artists including While Angels Watch, :Golgatha:, Luftwaffe / Gnomonclast, Our God Weeps, Dissonant Elephant, and Furvus. The opening track, for instance, features a poem written and orated by the heavily British voice of While Angels Watch. This poem discusses a lone protagonist whom crafts a bow and wand from Yew tree wood while experiencing a metaphysical state where the forest breathes and the soil bleeds the blood of his ancestors whom are tied to the land in a metaphorically blut und boden type sentiment. The poem otherwise paints a picture of a völkisch man who is focused on the traditions and remembrance of his ancestors, all the while weaving overtop of strangely Eastern-sounding traditional Ukrainian instrumentation (kobza and flute) as well as Gregorian Chant-like samples of a Volodymyr Kushpet performance.
This modest hint at a religious theme is brought into full materialization with “Pantheon of Glory” which is in reality the Church Hymn of Ukraine, “Oh Lord, Almighty and Gracious”. These two tracks, along with a third, “Into the Woods Whence Mouth-organ Heard”, represent a proverbial “calm before the storm” — a glance into the rural portions of Ukraine in those days, the peace and content lives of religious nationalist Ukrainians and, in the case of “Into the Woods…”, the care-free wandering harmonica / “mouth-organ” playing of a boy in his countryside, supported by field recordings. Along with this track is the lingering presence of a speech by Stepan Bandera, only hinting to the conscious mind that war is approaching, and the true martial elements of Olegh’s compositions are about to unfold with full fury.
Enter “Triumph of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army”, where a tension-filled string composition builds slowly over those country-side field recordings to hint at the coming of something dark on the horizon. This tension climaxes and is dispelled suddenly, welcoming only violent sound of artillery and an eventual epic brass horn requiem that ingeniously simultaneously represents the glory and the hopelessness of the arrival of that moment in history. This momentum is not kept up, however, instead welcoming another, this time very medieval, religious psalm in “Blazhen Toy Muzh” (“Unvanquished Knights” on the album). I’m unclear as to what is trying to be said here, but it appears to be attempting to connect the soldiers of the UIA to their previously mentioned historical ancestors in the late Middle Ages in Kyivan Rus.
“Parakleisis” is interesting as it stands on its own, both as an original composition with rhythmic electronic elements and as a composition by artists of which neither is Olegh: Dissonant Elephant and Lonsai Maikov. The track features beautifully harmonized male vocals that fit the sombre elements of the more spiritually themed tracks on the album, but the electronic elements seem out of place. These rhythmic elements persist, however, and bleed over into the following track, “Born in the Great Hour” which is a Ukrainian ritual process with thick tribalistic percussion and a flowing, inspiring if not victorious choral performance. “Under-aged Veteran (Gone) is also of interest as it features J1 Statik and NII Itiniti of Gnomonclast and the now-defunct Luftwaffe on vocals. The song serves as a moving liturgical tribute to the under-aged soldiers that fought for Ukraine’s independence as well as to the composer whom was murdered by a Soviet on a Christmas evening in 1921. This track is humbling and means something to me on a personal level as, in discussion, NII once told me “I have always taken the side of a child with a rock in his hand over a national force deploying tanks and drones” — thus it was a moment of deja vu where things tied together in an unexpected manner.
“Stray Souls” is one last unique composition by another artists on “Ukrainian Insurgent Army”, this time by the all-too-quiet as of late János Madura aka Our God Weeps, whose last published work outside of compilations was the Prodromus 7″ on Italy’s Ars Benevola Mater. This track is pretty typical of his previous compositions, featuring layers upon layers of epic orchestral and choral grandeur, albeit now seemingly much more professional sounding as his earlier works were compromised by an inferior recording quality. “Martirologue” is a harrowing and understandably melancholic requiem to the soldiers of the UIA, while “Black Forest” maintains this mood with another tension-filled composition, the Cossack pensive yet determined march, “The Wind does Blow”, which is one of the strongest highlights on the album and features an array of field recordings that instill a gloomy and Autumn-esque atmosphere. Fitting as an end, “Mnohaya Lita” is a religious march that is used as a wish for long life, effectively sending the listener off to “Go with God!” and with good cheer.
Some may call me an enthusiast of Kolyada’s music, and others still will undoubtedly call me sympathetic to nationalist militant groups because of this, but let me be frank: there isn’t nearly enough music in the post-industrial world right now that is this sincere. This music has sentimental and historical purpose, it reflects and educates on a time and place in Europe forgotten or unknown to many the world over, and it is simultaneously beautiful and experimental all the while utilizing an incredible array of both historical, often religious marches and contemporary musicians. We often talk a great deal about these subjects in neofolk/martial music, but how often do we actually come across a release with this kind of depth in so many angles? It is my opinion that Olegh Kolyada is one of the genre’s best kept secrets and most criminally overlooked composers and experimentalists, and if there is any doubt, this album is absolute proof to his dedication to his craft and his country. It’s a deserving tribute to the men that fought to preserve Kolyada’s ability to not only have a country to be so prideful of, but to exist at all. Without the protection of the UIA, who knows how many scores of families would not have made it through the terrors of Soviet and Nazi occupation.
Unfortunately only 200 people will get to experience this album in its full capacity, with a lucky 10 of those already possessing a sold out special edition which exists as one of the most elaborate editions known to the genre today.
01) Willow & Arrow-wood (Feat. While Angels Watch)
02) Pantheon of Glory
03) Into the Woods whence Mouth-organ Heard
04) Triumph of Ukrainian Insurgent Army
05) Unvanquished Knights (Feat. Furvus)
06) From Dreams into Ranks (Feat. :Golgatha:)
07) Parakleisis (Composed by Dissonant Elephant, Lonsai Maïkov)
08) Born in the Great Hour
09) Under-aged Veteran (Gone) (Feat. Gnomonclast / Luftwaffe)
10) Stray Souls (Composed by Our God Weeps)
12) Black Forest
13) Mnohaya Lita