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It's been quite a while since I've written reviews for Aria's albums. The main reason is this album - there are just so many things to be said and mentioned, that it scared me. Will I be able to say everything I know and feel about this album in just one review, no matter how big it will be? I'll try my best, that's for sure...
The album I'm about to review is seventh full-length album by Russian heavy metal heroes Aria, entitled ''Генератор зла'' (''Generator of Evil''), released in 1998. Let's recap the events before this album was released, so you could understand it better - after very successful ''Blood for Blood'' (1991.) album, some very dramatic things happened to Aria. Due to serious crisis in post-communistic Russia, the band almost split up. After many twists and turns, they finally released ''Night Is Shorter Than Day'' in 1995, which was solid, but showed some lack of focus and mediocrity. Nevertheless, it was successful enough to launch Aria's career into heights once again, so Aria could devote themselves to writing new stuff in peace.
Exactly this lack of pressure and letting the songs to flow smoothly, without forcing and seeking for instant hits made this album so damn good. Everything sounds incredibly coherent and well-thought and all that's left for you is just sit back, relax and enjoy the music. That's one aspect, here's another one - Aria never before sounded so mature as they did on ''Generator of Evil'', and it perfectly makes sense. Here's why - the '80s are gone, so is trademark Maiden-influenced heavy metal that Aria used to play. New times inexorably ask for adapting, or Aria would most certainly become part of the past. Thus Aria adapted, and their change was much better than the ones of their heroes, Maiden and Priest (The same year when this album saw the light of the day, Maiden released ''Virtual XI'', the year before Priest ''graced'' us with ''Jugulator''. Enough said.). And third, the crucial reason - Aria became original. True, Maiden melodies and harmonies are present here and there, but 95% of this album is pure Aria, no doubt about it. This change of sound is my next topic to discuss.
So what is the essence of Aria that was shown in here? In a nutshell, it's a mix of progressive and heavy metal. You might think ''Hey, that's exactly what Maiden did on ''The X Factor'' album!'', but it isn't. While Maiden focused on writing long, technically demanding songs, Aria incorporated progressive elements into standard heavy metal tunes. This bold move turned out to be the best thing that they could possibly do, since they managed to hit two birds with one stone - their interpretation of progressive music doesn't bore your ass like many prog artists do, and they irreversibly left Maiden style for good. I would even go as far and claim that, along with their debut ''Megalomania'', this is the most unique album Aria ever made.
In every single song you can find some elements that prove my point, whether it's intro, main riff, chorus, solo, whatever - there's always some nifty, classy touch of Dubinin/Holstinin songwriting genius put to leave stunning feeling on a listener. These touches often aren't easy to be found, but if you listen to this album enough times and keep attention, you'll notice it. There you have another virtue that every heavy metal classic must have - it isn't disposable, and it has something seducing that makes you get back to it over and over again. I don't know about you, but I call it art.
Okay, let's cut the bullshit talk and finally say something about the songs. The previous reviewer kluseba made an thorough track-by-track review, with more than enough informations about each song, and with special turn on these nifty bits I talked about. So there's no need to bore you with another review in that vein, read the previous one, it's excellent. I'd just like to talk about three songs that aren't necessarily the best, but they left the biggest impression on me.
The first one is ''Грязь'' (''Dirt''), written by vocalist Valeriy Kipelov and guitarist Sergey Terentiev. Big hit in Russia, and you can totally see why - it's very catchy and very powerful. Still, there's nothing to be complained on ''metalness'' department, as you can do with most of heavy metal commercial breakthroughs (''Living After Midnight'', anyone?). The combination of bass in verses and heavy guitars in chorus, even though heard thousands of times before, works just perfect, and combined with very intelligent lyrics (about greed and lack of any morals of politicians) this song was destined to succeed. Probably the best song that Kipelov's ever written.
The second one is ''Пытка тишиной'' (''Torture by Silence''), which is by far the most experimentating song in Aria's history. It sounds lazy, easy-going, like jazz jam, and for the first time we get the opportunity to hear Vitaliy Dubinin on lead vocals. That's right, he is behind the mic, singing the verses, and he's actually very good, very competent. Then in chorus Kipelov kicks in, and it's a definite sign that this song is just brilliant. Kids, take notes, this is how you experimentate with your sound without losing your identity. Well, if anyone by now needed proof that Aria is far more than ''Russian Iron Maiden'', enter ''Пытка тишиной''. Just don't forget to breathe after the song is finished.
And finally, the closer ''Замкнутый круг'' (''Closed Circle''). Soft, beautiful melodies on acoustic guitars invite you on this one epic hell of an song. Kipelov's intro vocal lines might very much be the best emotional and sentimental performance of his career, it's just overwhelming. Did I ever mention that he is one of the best vocalists in heavy metal? The rest of the song isn't a slouch either, with monstrously epic (though a bit repetitive) chorus, splendid solo and soothing ending. Still, you can't fully appreciate the song if you don't understand the lyrics, they are amazing and deal with meaning and point of life. Here's one verse just to show you what I mean:
''It's too sad to be immortal,
the same faces day after day,
the same stupid answers
on question: "Why do we live?"
Not all wolf cubs would become wolves,
not every stroke becomes a strike.
There is a strange skill to fly to flames
to stay there forever.''
I rest my case.
Even with some slightly weaker spots, such as ''Run for the Sun'' and a couple of moments in several other songs, I think that this is by far the most underrated Aria's album. Period. I urge everyone who's reading this - if you haven't, please do yourself a favour and listen to this incredible album and this incredible band! Aria is definitely one of my biggest discoveries in heavy metal, and I'm glad I found this treasure. My highest recommendations.