Throughout US history we as Americans have consistently shown a callous disregard for the beauty that is to be found within other cultures and languages. Many people are raised to hate what they fear and to fear what they don’t understand. I am glad to say that I was never one such person. Unlike many of my fellow Americans, I hold within my heart a deep admiration of the rich histories of foreign countries such as Germany, Japan, and Russia.
This brings me now to a disturbing trend which I have lately observed in the realm of modern music. Many foreign acts have a tendency to deny their own cultures and histories in order to appeal to a broader audience. Their reasons may vary, but the result is almost always the same in the end; a loss of integrity. Please don’t construe this as me saying that all musicians must necessarily incorporate elements from their culture. I just think it’s sad that many bands think that they can’t make money unless their music follows American and European trends.
WelicoRuss is one band that does not compromise. Their music is sung entirely in Russian and their compositions make fantastic use of pagan elements, showing pride for their Russian culture. Their lyrical themes heavily recall East Slavic mythologies based in a reverence for nature and in the noble warrior’s spirit. Listening to their music is like being taken back to an ancient time in which the rivers were pure, the air was clean, and the forests still held many mysteries.
WelicoRuss’ newest single, entitled “Карна,” takes all these elements even further with a more organic approach to the material and marks the first time that their music was composed collectively by all of the band members. The three main songs (not including the intro and the Orchestral arrangement of the title track) exist as a love-letter to the interconnectedness that exists between nature and humankind.
The cool spring air kissed my skin as my comrades and I journeyed across the familiar terrain of Mount Narodnaya. The trilling of birds filled the air as the leaves and blossoms once more returned to the land. We walked in peace for several days with laughter in our throats before deciding to make our return to the mountain’s base. Descending steadily downward, we noticed a partially obscured entrance to a cave and decided we wanted some adventure. And that’s exactly what we got.
It wasn’t until the last man had entered that the narrow entrance collapsed. All that was left for us now was to find a way out. The cave was oddly warm and dry considering it’s location, but it was of course Boris struck a match and ignited our lantern. The flame’s light bounced merrily off the cave walls, guiding us as we followed the cave to a large underground cavern.
A rickety old bridge stretched across a gloomy chasm that threatened to swallow us alive as we carefully crossed the bridge one by one. When we got to the other side we were greeted with a gruesome sight. Streaks of blood trailed down the paths of the cave, leading to a tiny makeshift village within. It was clear that the people who had lived here had savagely attacked each other.
A large pond sat in the center of the village I could make out the ancient, twisted roots of a nearby larch tree as they dipped their thirsty tendrils into the foul-smelling water. At the water’s edge a goat lay decomposing after having apparently gnawed it’s own belly open. It was then that a ghastly shriek pierced me from the middle distance.
Unable to locate the origin of this most haunting sound, we simply ran as far and as fast as we could. At one point while we were still in full sprint Alexey had shouted that there was a fissure up ahead from which light was emanating. I and the others worked hastily and were able to break to break through the wall in no time.
Once on the other side we were awestruck by the beauty which contrasted against the nightmares which we had only moments ago witnessed. The wall had opened into a wide expanse in which the stone skies harbored many secrets and the voice of the nearby woods called to us. After walking for some time amidst the muted colors of the woods, we were able to make out several wicked figures up ahead.
They stood around a mighty larch tree, having opened up a large wound on the branch nearest to the trunk. The tree’s branches groaned painfully overhead as they extracted bloody sap from deep beneath the tree’s wooden skin. I stepped out to confront them but I was struck with an arrow before a single word could drip off my tongue.
The arrow burned my insides as I clutched my gut in agony. The quiet, distorted sounds of my comrades fighting nearby filled my ears as I struggled to stay awake. In mere moments however, my consciousness had drifted into limbo and I distinctly felt as if I was being embraced by the purest of energies. Something called to me once more, not in words but in images projected onto the back of my mind. I knew that I had to pay heed.
I opened my eyes and dared to glance down at my wound. I was amazed to see the arrow lying beside me, almost as if my body had ejected it like it were some pesky splinter. The wound was still there, but the bleeding had been stopped and the pain was minimal now. I stood up and rushed to the aid of my comrades. It must have been just minutes ago that I was wounded, because they had just finished fighting off the last of the remaining men.
Ilia, Max, and the other Alex all turned and stared at me in complete surprise and asked me what had happened to me. They listened with rapt attention as I explained to them what I had experienced. As I spoke I wrapped my shirt around the tree’s wounded branch in order to keep any more sap from leaking out. As I gently caressed the wood, the hairs on my neck stood up and I was filled with understanding.
I rushed back into the cave we had fled from earlier, ignoring the calls of my comrades trailing behind me. My feet carried me like the wind all the way back down to the decimated village which surrounded the underground pond. Out of the corner of my eye, a thick root seemed to shudder and relax as I was compelled to drink of the water, which now smelled clean and pure.
Refreshed unlike ever before, I motioned to my comrades who looked warily at me from a few feet away. I assured them that it was alright, and they too sipped from the pond. Shortly following this, we heard a gentle voice from behind us that was both kind and pure. The voice belonged to a dark-haired woman garbed in a flowing white dress. She introduced herself as Anastasia and then invited us into a nearby dwelling which was carved into the cave’s stone.
Illuminated by the flames of many candles she explained to us in her lilting voice that the vines dipping into the pond belong to that of the mighty larch tree from above. She told us that those men had angered the Tree Goddess Cuvto-ava by selfishly extracting the sacred sap from the larch tree without asking her for forgiveness. “When Cuvto-ava is unhappy,” she told us, “the Goddess of Fresh Water, As-ava, becomes angered as well and poisons the water so that all who drink of it are driven mad.”
It was only by chance that we had happened upon this tree and set things right again. By protecting the mighty larch tree, we had unwittingly saved the lives of those who remained in this nearby underground cavern. Unfortunately however, many lives were forever lost. The solemn figure of an enshrouded child lay just out of view as if to remind us that the spirit of the Earth gives us life, and when the Earth suffers we suffer also.
The next morning after having eaten and slept, the others and I bid farewell to Anastasia and thanked her for her hospitality. We wasted no time in returning to the bottom of the mountain this time, our wish for adventure having been once more fulfilled. We all agreed that it would be the last time that we’d scale Mount Narodnaya together.
There is a whole wide world out there, and with the pulse of the Earth throbbing in my chest I have promised my comrades that next time we would discover new places both bold and rare. I can only hope that with the page as my courier, my memoirs will reach you. Take heed and remember me; for I am yourself, dear reader.