Emerging from the Belarusian capital of Minsk, Kamaedzitca started out in 2000 playing rather typical, Arkona-flavoured folk metal. Now, sixteen years and several stylistic turns in the road later, it is hard to believe that this is the same band that debuted in 2004 with the folk metal/melodic death blend of Dzetsi leta (Children of the Forest). As the band lost most of its original line-up, the medieval outfits were ditched in favour of bodybuilder aesthetics, and the band got more openly involved with far-right ideas and associated nationalist scenes in Belarus and Russia. Aesthetically, these subcultures are—to the Western eye—a peculiar collision of hardcore, metal, and oi! traditions. For Kamaedzitca, this resulted in a dramatic change in image, and comparing their promo shots from both eras can easily fool newcomers to the band into thinking there are, in fact, two artists operating under this moniker.
While the change in physical presentation is baffling in and of itself, the evolution of Kamaedzitca’s music is even more remarkable. Vernasts (Loyalty) marked their first departure from the standard folk metal format, incorporating a composition style that was much closer to hardcore with the lyrical content being correspondingly explicit in terms of the band’s politics. Its electronic influences achieved further dominance on the subsequent EP, Chalavek planety (Man of the Planet), by which time multi-instrumentalist Artsem had joined the band and assumed his role as its main composer. His skills as a musician and songwriter would serve as the basis of their 2012 magnum opus, Bezmolvnie slova tvoy (Voiceless Are Your Words)—a multi-stylistic effort that saw the band plough through heavy metal, black metal, oi, ambient, and space rock across its fully justified seventy-five-minute runtime.
Kamaedzitca live up to their reputed versatility by heading into a different direction yet again with their most recent full-length, cryptically titled xQzTN 3087. Over the course of thirteen tracks that amount to an hour of music, this highly experimental record indulges us in such varying styles as electronic music and traditional Belarusian folk music, interspersed with cinematic samples, field recordings, and other sound effects. The result is a colourful tapestry that surprises and confuses, but ultimately also immerses its audience.
xQzTN 3087 starts with a number of songs by Artsem and G.S., the latter of whom is an anonymous session member who also provided several compositions for Bezmolvnie slova tvoy. The opening track, ‘Vosen’ (‘Autumn’), is a piano composition by Artsem which appropriately sets the mood that permeates the entire album: solemn, somewhat sombre, but with faint sparks of hope occasionally shimmering in the backdrop. The resultant atmosphere corresponds to this work’s overarching theme: the constant and inevitable proximity of death. After ‘Vosen’, this motif is further expanded by two electronic-oriented instrumentals, respectively titled ‘f.o.l.k.ELECTRo’ and ‘Lights’. The former is also the only track to feature a guitar, which demonstrates how great a departure this album is from all of the band’s previous work.
After the first three tracks complete the record’s inaugural phase, it becomes clear the experiment has only just begun. The lion’s share of the following tracks consist of folk songs, field recordings, movie samples, and a variety of atmospheric effects that range from background whispering to the sounds of a Geiger counter to indistinguishable urban noise. Kamaedzitca’s frontman and only remaining original member, Aleg, is credited with compiling and arranging most of these tracks, allowing him to leave his mark on the creative process although his influence here is smaller compared to the group’s previous work, to which he contributed vocals and lyrics. His unusual role only confirms the artistic adaptability that has not only made this particular project possible, but kept the band creatively relevant over the years.
Even though the folk-oriented tracks differ a great deal from the original compositions by Artsem and G.S. extrinsically, they nevertheless succeed in maintaining the same melancholic disposition; they extend, albeit in a very different manner, the memento mori theme that creeps through the album. In order for it to work as the complete experience it is intended to be, xQzTN 3087 requires absolute concentration and commitment from the listener. In return, the record—in all its strangeness—captivates and overwhelms him. By the time that happens, the few remaining electronic tracks (‘Individuality’ and ‘74-412’) will no longer seem out-of-place; rather, they are recognised as integral parts of the album’s overall story arch.
It is the unexpected coherence of xQzTN 3087‘s narrative which proves that Kamaedzitca’s experimentation is not self-referential. Their radical style-switching between and even within albums is not gratuitous, but a reflection of the different layers of the band’s thematic scope. The success of Kamaedzitca’s recent releases is based on their ability to play to the strength of each musical style they invoke. For instance, their contribution to the three-way split album Triedinstvo includes a rap/hardcore song whose lyrics encapsulate the mundane bluntness of said genres. On this track, vocalist Aleg unambiguously slams many concrete manifestations of mass culture, ranging from McDonald’s to emasculation and addiction. By contrast, the largely instrumental and folk-oriented xQzTN 3087 is far removed from such direct political statements, instead displaying contemplative detachment from this world; rather than engaging the excesses of liberalism heads-on, the artist stands on a cliff and gazes into the abyss of urbanity, like a contemporary rendition of Caspar David Friedrich‘s iconic painting Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. From this perspective, the blend of electronic music, folk, and cinematic samples on xQzTN 3087 is less bizarre than it would initially seem. This is the perfect soundtrack to Kamaedzitca’s distorted shamanism—a musical statement of their unyielding dedication to pagan ideals in a secular, mechanised world.
xQzTN 3087 is without a doubt Kamaedzitca’s least accessible album. Not only because it stylistically represents this already unconventional collective at its most extreme, but also due to the severely limited nature of the release. With only thirty wooden boxsets issued, it is virtually impossible to obtain physically. (Don’t worry, we have a download link below.) Cruel though it may be for collectors, this obscurity does speak to the album’s esoteric nature. On paper, its mélange of house music and Belarusian folk songs seems so otherworldly that it is difficult to imagine how it might work, but it does. After all, when you consider that this document reaches us from a scene where National-Socialism and Straight-Edge go hand-in-hand, nothing should be ruled out. Even if it is Kamaedzitca’s oddest project yet, xQzTN 3087 ultimately triumphs, and we can only wonder about what extraordinary creative adventures still lie ahead of them.
04) Шуміць-гудзе дуброванька
05) Захавалiся нашыя ценi
06) Бесконечная душа
08) А й у полі ветры веюць-павіваюць
12) Ой, арол, ты, арол, ты лятаеш высако