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Aria kicking ass III: Blood for Blood - 92%

TitaniumNK, January 25th, 2012

The year is 1991, there are a lot of things going on in Eastern Europe; the communism is falling down, the countries are splitting up peacefully (USSR, Czechoslovakia), uniting (West and East Germany) or bursting down with war (Yugoslavia). As you see, those were very shaky and uncertain times. In that atmosphere of impending collapse and social bunt, it is time for Aria to release their fifth studio album, ''Blood for Blood'' or ''Кровь за кровь'' in Russian. Luckily, the surrounding didn't affect one bit on Aria, as this is a great follow-up to their 1989's masterpiece ''Play with Fire''.

This is one typical heavy metal album with standard song concept: you have several speedy numbers, epic masterpieces and an obligatory ballad. Nothing innovative or new, but it works, and I think that's the only thing that matters in the end. I'd rather have one stereotypical but awesome album, rather than ''ruthlessly progressive'' piece of shit. Most of true metalheads would probably agree with me.

So Aria compensated lack of uniqueness with pure quality. I must admit, I still think that ''Play with Fire'' is slightly better than ''Blood for Blood'', but Aria have improved in many things that would probably make a lot of listeners satisfied. First of all, the production. Although this isn't by any means the best production you could get in 1991 (miles away from The Black Album level), it is way better than any previous Aria's album. Since they recorded all of their albums in their own studio, you have to give them credits for keeping up with the technology's progress. Then there's the band's performance. All of them, except for the drummer Manyakin, are playing some of the best performances in their career. Just listen to powerful and versatile vocals, courtesy of Valeriy Kipelov and intriguing and intelligent bass playing of Vitaliy Dubinin. Amazing. Guitar duo Holstinin/Mavrin is in top shape as well, with some godly solos (the incredible title track). Too bad that this is Mavrin last album with Aria, he later started his solo career and got replaced in Aria with very good Sergey Terentyev. The last, but probably the most important, the originality. Even though ''Play with Fire'' was a mind-blowing album, there was present very obvious influence of Maiden in riffs and Priest in solos. I would be a liar if I told you that this is 100% Maiden-free album, but Aria is beginning to develop their own style, and this album solidified their status as Russian metal legends.

After this not so short introduction, it's time to deal with the actual music. The songs are excellent, diversified and the enjoyment is guaranteed. The best song in here is the mighty title track, which is an instant masterpiece. Unusual, well-thought, epic, you name a commendation. The lyrics tell a story about Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator who condemned Jesus Christ to death, and they are really pro-Christian. Other than lyrics, the music is amazing as well, my favourite part being the mesmerizing, spine-chilling acoustic solo, it is beyond brilliant. This song is a must-hear. Other highlights are eerie ''Antichrist'' (which is lyrically the exact opposite of ''Blood for Blood'', almost satanic), excellent speedy closer ''Follow Me!'', great ballad ''All That Was'' and the crushing opener ''Farewell, Norfolk!''. I must say that I wasn't into ''Farewell, Norfolk!'' at all until I read the lyrics, after that everything just clicked. I thought that the song went nowhere with the second part of chorus, but the lyrics proved me wrong, and now it's one of my favourite songs on this album. The only weaker songs are ''Zombie'' and ''Demons''. They aren't dreadful fillers, just not on par with the rest.

Crytical and crucial task for Aria was to release an excellent album in the early '90s. Their whole career depended on that, because if ''Blood for Blood'' was bad and unsuccesful, Aria would probably become one of the countless bands who occupied the scene in the '80s, but died out when the musical winds changed. Not only that Aria persisted all the troubles and obstacles, nowadays they are one of the best and most respected bands in Eastern Europe and have the status of legends. This album was one of the most important factors in creating that status, so if you're discovering metal from Eastern Europe, you mustn't skip ''Blood for Blood''. Highly recommended.

Sometimes dynamical as a zombie, sometimes vivid - 77%

kluseba, March 9th, 2011

"Blood for blood" is by many considered as the last album of the classic era of the band and for many the last of a series of amazing albums. I can't really agree on that as there have been many strong records after this album and also some weak record before. Concerning this particular album, I would classify it somewhere in the middle of the band's career.

Sometimes the album is dynamical as a zombie and worships once again traditional heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest or hard rock legends such as Scorpions. As on the previous "Play with fire", many songs kick off well and offer a few interesting ideas just to turn into rather ordinary western heavy metal tracks. "Goodbye, Norfolk!" could have been a fast killer track but after a promising beginning the song simply goes nowhere and isn't memorable at all. "Zombie" opens with addicting dark and vibrating bass lines but the band once again fails to develop upon the song. "Antichrist" has a dark and haunting introduction and some majestic choirs in the ending passage but the entire middle part sounds once again too ordinary to really stand out and convince. "Follow after me!" follows the same boredom.

What really saves this album is the stronger second part of the record and Valery Kipelov's amazing vocal performance. He sings the fast takers with power and conviction, in the epic tracks he sings like a story teller and adds a lot to the atmosphere of the music and he performs the ballads with a high amount of emotions. I must also underline the great bass guitar play by Vitaly Dubinin, an underrated master of its instrument.

The first entirely strong track on this album is "Don't want - Don't believe me" which reminds of Iron Maiden's "The clairvoyant" and won't win any price for its uniqueness or originality. But the song convinces and kicks off with great bass lines and guitar melodies before a great vocal performance gets in. The song varies from epic to really fast passages and keeps on surprising.
"Blood for Blood" is not only another epic track and the title song of this mixed album but another strong overlong song by Aria in the tradition of "Ballad about ancient Russian warrior" and "Play with fire". This track completes the trio of innovation and brilliance and convinces with a soft and calm beginning and ending and many changes in style in eight minutes of great music. The chorus is once again bombastic and catchy, a thing that the shorter tracks on the record weren't able to equalize as they mostly just rush by and sound rather ordinary. This title track proves us why Aria has such a great status and they have always been able to write or play excellent songs at any time of their career. "Devils" is a rather short and bass orientated track after the brilliant epic and has once again a very good vocal performance that saves this track from the ordinary average. Even the usual Scorpions orientated ballad "All that has been" that Aria put in similar forms on most of their albums is saved by Kipelov's great performance.

In the end, the title track, the brilliant bass play and the amazing vocal performance, maybe Kipelov's best one with Aria, save this album that has some rather ordinary average metal or rock tracks on it. But as the music and the vocals have improved, I would class this record above the previous "Play with fire" and the weak "Whom are you with" so that this record gets the third rank concerning the early band era in the times of the last days of the Soviet empire from met. It's a good heavy metal record that is worth to be purchased by the fans, the collectors and the metal maniacs that are always looking for something exotic or rare for their collection. Anybody else should try this album out a little bit later and rather purchase "Hero of asphalt" or "Megalomania".

Russia's answer to Iron Maiden - 90%

NightOfTheRealm, June 7th, 2004

Don’t let them fool you, kiddies. The Commies are still alive and well in the Kremlin, for why else would Russia’s Aria be kept from the rest of the world for so long? Hahaha…

Though I had know of Aria for several years, thanks to a small buzz along the underground of the internet, I had never had the opportunity to score one of their albums. After the band called it quits earlier this year following a career spanning nearly 20 years, Aria’s catalog is now known and available to me, either through fortune or a stroke of irony.

Krow Za Krow is Aria’s fifth album, and the best of their consistent quality studio works. Contained within the album’s 40-minute span is certainly the finest metal ever to come from Russia, a diverse collection of 8 songs of classic, true heavy metal in the vein of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.

“Proschay, Norfolk!” (Farewell, Norfolk) breaks the album wide open its fast pace and a chorus that will stick in your head for weeks, despite Aria’s lyrics being entirely in Russian. Vladimir Holstinin and Sergey Mavrin trade guitar licks with enough leads to make any fan of Maiden or Priest happy. I’m hooked before the song is halfway over, and I am compelled to sing along, though I do not understand Russian. “Zombi” is up next, slowing down to a mid-paced classic metal track. Vitaly Dubinin’s work on the bass is prominent and catchy, just as it should be in any worthy metal band. “Antikhrist,” as one might suspect, is a dark song, starting out slow and ominous before breaking into a nice bass/riff combination, after which follows about a half a dozen solos. By this track, Valery Kipelov has demonstrated the full range and power of his vocal delivery. Valery’s voice reminds me somewhat of Hansi Kursch, especially when he screams; though Valery’s delivery is smoother and more melodic.

Halfway through the CD are my two favourite tracks from this album of standout tunes. “Ne Khochesh, Ne Very Mne” is an ultra-fast track, reminiscent of something off Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son. Holstinin and Mavrin are easily the equal of other legendary guitar duos like Murray/Smith and Tipton/Downing. Alex Manyakin pounds the skins with intensity as this track gallops along. The title track, clocking in at nearly 8 minutes. Again, I find myself trying to sing along with the chorus. “Krow Za Krow” is somewhat of an epic track, broken down into a mid-paced opening, a slow ballad/acoustic interlude, and a closing segment that is guaranteed to flatten the listener with its intensity.

“Vesy” (Demons) has some great melodic hooks, but at just over three minutes in length, it is over before it really gets started. The one ballad on the disc, “Vse, Chto Bilo” (All That Have Been) is a prime example of writing ballads that do not suck. Closing out the disc is “Sleduy Za Mnoi!” (Follow Me), a hard-hitting track closing the album on a powerful note.

My only complaints about the albums are matters of personal taste. The mix of the album is very good, neither too raw nor over-polished, but in some places, it sounds a bit “loose” and uneven. In addition, the liner notes are virtually non-existent. I wish the lyrics (even in Russian) were included. Musically, I can find no other fault with the album.

KROW ZA KROW is an excellent piece of melodic classic metal. I urge every metalhead reading this review to look into the amazing band that is Aria. The musicianship is excellent, and the songs are catchy and well written. Do not hesitate to pick this album up.

(originally written by me for www.metal-rules.com, December, 2002)