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Aria - Phoenix

by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 23 January 2012, 11:06 PM

Though I have noticed that since the fall of the Iron Curtain in Russia, like any of the other Soviet countries, their music have been attempting to spread worldwide while even writing and performing it in the universal language of English. However, even after the vast exposure, there were bands, both Metal and others, that more or less kept to themselves, or at least remained loyal to their own local scene and fans.

ARIA is a Metal band bearing quite strong reputation in the Russian Federation while not letting go of the Russian language out of their material. Since the mid 80s, this band has been providing their proud nation a high quality of traditional Metal based on the British NWOBHM movement and IRON MAIDEN’s musical intelligence. Actually, their strong similarities to IRON MAIDEN, either in sound or musical indication, made the Russian version of MAIDEN almost an equal counterpart to the might of the British giants.

Along with lineup changes that are pretty regular for a band, following the same situation of IRON MAIDEN’s Dickinson, ARIA had a long time dominant lead vocalist, under the name of Valery Kipelov. With Kipelov ARIA produced some of their major hits in their career. However, in 2002 Kipelov left the band due to personal reasons. However, in comparison to Dickinson that found his way back to MAIDEN, Kipelov never did but who really know if that will happen or not?

Following Kipelov’s departure, Arthur Berkut came as a replacement and for almost nine years maintained a stature on the vocal section. The following era was rather good for ARIA but hasn’t reached the same magnitude as before even with the skilled form of its members. 2011 ended another chapter in ARIA’s history with Berkut’s leaving. I accredit the recruitment of the new young vocalist that is a fusion between Kipelov and Berkut, Mikhail Zhitnyakov, along with the singles and the new album, “Phoenix”, as the means that will eventually elevate ARIA back to the fame of their 80s period.

Let’s just say that I didn’t need to know Russian to enjoy the pleasures that this band has to offer. Even with the tight correspondence to IRON MAIDEN, it is hard not to be excited from this band’s music. If one thinks that these guys have been imitators for nearly thirty years, he or she is dead wrong. ARIA are skilled musicians, and have been proving that from their debut release. “Phoenix” conjures under its wings all the principles of NWOBHM variety that have never lost their prosperous qualities. What I mostly liked about this album, and throughout almost every album in ARIA’s vast career, is their strong sense towards twin guitar harmonies and melodies in general, incredible overriding bass work, vintage but energetic oriented beats and highly artistic vocals that sometimes are merely melodic storytelling and preaching. Nearly the entire sum of ten tracks of “Phoenix” froze me in my seat with their glorious features, yet I would like to focus on four tracks that were the source of my admiration.

“Fights Without Rules” is the band’s return to their past accomplishments. Though the MAIDEN direction is strongly evident, especially in the main rhythms and keyboards’ performance, an electrical charge went through me as if I was listening to such music for the first time. The chorus, along with the pumping rhythm section, is so mighty and robust, that it was hard letting go of its hold. “The Story OF A Murderer” is an example of ARIA’s ability on creating epic and fiction improvisational tunes along with a dreamy type of atmosphere. This song sent in and out of different sensations of drama as the music told the tale with elegance. As for the music, I think that enough was said, it is brilliant, intelligent but still accessible and fluent. “Distant Light” is closer to be a reminiscent of ACCEPT than of IRON MAIDEN yet I think that ARIA created their own aura to this song in order to serve it as more genuine. The end result was a Heavy Metal mid tempo attack with a simple but enjoyable chorus. “Requiem”, the closing ballad of the album, is by far one of the most emotionally powerful creations in Metal music. It takes a talented band, and especially a gifted lead vocalist to deliver that enormous spike into a listener’s soul and mind. With this song, though I thought the same earlier on, I will say it again, ARIA can do everything in traditional Metal. I think that if I would have known Russian, tears would have probably fallen down.

I consider “Phoenix” as a comeback to the roots, back to the past glories of ARIA. Without letting their mind gaze into the ongoing modern orientation of Metal music that has been infesting the world, ARIA remained steadfast to the crown of the true nature of the genre while spilling their heart with every composed chord. 

4 Star Rating

1. Black Square
2. The Balance Of Powers
3. The Story Of aMurderer
4. Black Legend
5. Fights Without Rules
6. Phoenix
7. Symphony of Fire
8. Attila
9. Distant Light
10. Requiem 
Mikhail Zhitnyakov – Lead Vocals
Vladimir Holstinin - Guitars
Sergey Popov– Guitars
Vitaly Dubinin – Bass
Maxim Udalov- Drums
Record Label: Coio 3


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Edited 28 May 2023

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