History is written by the victors. We are the voice of the dead.
At first, I was sceptic: A band called The Committee presents a debut album entitled Power Through Unity with a cover like a propaganda poster? At once my brain produced pictures from the movie V for Vendetta, and as a trained sceptic towards any form of text I wasn’t that much impressed by the band’s statement that they had no political intentions whatsoever, but wanted to pay a tribute to all the name- and faceless dead who have been forgotten by history. Well, as good as this intention may be – what about the music?
The Committee produces, generally speaking, atmospheric Black Metal that convinced me with dull and depressed guitars and the fact that especially the bass is more in the front than usually in this genre. The production is dull as well, creating a gloomy spirit well suited to this attempt to show the dark sides of European history.
“Not Our Revolution” begins with chants and applause of a huge crowd before the guitars kick in, producing a sound that reminds me a bit of their german colleagues Hallig but quickly becoming something of its own. The dull sound described above immediately gets to you, a stylistic device well used here. The first song is about the Russian revolution against the Tsar and about those who stood not with the Bolshevik but against them, their resistance and losses being hushed up by the comrades afterwards to eliminate them from history.
“The Man Of Steel” continues the story – it has nothing to do with Superman, but is about Josef Stalin: “Bow to the Man of Steel!” screams singer, guitarist and founder of The Committee, Igor Mortis, at us. It is not about confirming the picture the western world has of Stalin but to undertake a musical analysis of Stalin as a self-invented figure. Critical thoughts on that subject are not given, but in my opinion a critical examination of this matter is not necessary, for this is art, not a history lesson (though maybe The Committee mean their work to be both – I don’t think this works out properly).
“By My Bare Hands” evokes perfectly the terror and abhorrence of the Russian GULags in Siberia and demands “freedom” and “justice” within the first lines. The song is not only about the victims of Stalinist terror, rather the long tradition of sending people to forced labour camps in Russia that still continues today is brought into focus. Compared to “The Man Of Steel”, the rhythm is slower, monotonous, and the harsh growls are as cold as a sunless morning in Kolyma. Now and then, the tempo rises for a moment just to fall back into mindless stupor and monotony again, and as a reader of Solzhenitsyn’s works really atrocious pictures come to my mind, the dark atmosphere gets to me immediately – “By My Bare Hands” is great in its pure mindless darkness.
Find the soldier in the distant trenches, bring him from Katyusha greetings fond
Endless trains through bleak, devastated landscapes – “The Last Goodbye” takes us to the front and summons the fears and terrors every soldier had to feel during the Second World War. Here, too, the rather doomy elements are in the foreground and show you’re in a zone where only death reigns, just like in “By My Bare Hands”. The speed alternates between alarming calm and brutal barrage. We stay on this scene with “Katherine’s Chant”, a song about the Katyusha, the Red Army’s rocket battery, christened by the scared German soldiers “Stalinorgel”, Stalin’s organ. I wish for a bit more speed and blastbeat in this song that starts as sagging and slow as the last one but gains tempo after a while. A reminder of the Russian folk song with the same name are the last minutes, a pure Black Metal cover of “Katyusha”, lead by the bass that picks up the melody and as macabre as the fact that a rocket battery is called after the diminutive form of “Katherina”.
The title song “Power Through Unity” finally takes the subject to the propaganda campaigns and the manipulation of the Germans and Russians during the war – and sends a musically interesting signal, because the national anthems of both countries are mixed up in the guitar riffs. Russia and Germany are both countries that can never be free of their history, but The Committee has a clear message here: Propaganda, hammered into skulls over decades, today still restrains us, still manipulates us, still makes us see the worst in each other. And behind this campaign are sinister forces that profit from fear and hatred, from war and destruction and pain. This interpretation of history is surely one to debate about, but The Committee express hope and a good deal of positive energy, clearly heard in the end – and even I, historian that I am, am satisfied with that.
The focus on Russian history is a bit astonishing because The Committee is an international project: Singer and guitarist Igor Mortis is, as said above, Russian, drummer William Auruman is from Hungary, second guitarist Aristo Crassade is French and bassist Marc Arbre Dutch. Well, Igor Mortis is responsible for the lyrics and maybe Russian history is just dark enough for a Black Metal project? The Committee didn’t reinvent the wheel here but deliver a really impressive debut that won’t leave my player soon. The basic approach to focus on the losers of history is in my opinion successful and I am looking forward to their next albums!
1. Not Our Revolution
2. The Man of Steel
3. By My Bare Hands
4. The Last Goodbye
5. Katherine’s Chant
6. Power Through Unity
Total runnig time: 49:15