Kipelov - Live against 4/5

Reviewed: 3-1-13


1. Intro
2. Live Against
3. The power of fire
4. Glamorous bird
5. On the edge
6. Insanity
7. Black star
8. We will fight again
9. The breath of last love
10. On a sharp shore

The name Valeriy Kipelov should be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in Russian heavy metal. Best known as the voice of Aria (aka “The Russian Iron Maiden”), the golden-throated Kipelov fronted that legendary band from 1985 through 2002, before internal strife fractured Aria in twain. Comrade Kipelov took a couple of other Aria members with him and formed a new band bearing his own surname, carrying on with the traditional Aria sound, albeit with a few progressive and experimental impulses cropping up from time to time. Somewhat disappointingly, Kipelov (the band) has released a scant 2 studio CDs (as well as a fistful of DVDs, live CDs, and so on) during the first decade of its existence. The highly regarded ‘Rivers of time’ debut came out in 2005, and a half-dozen years later, Kipelov struck back with ‘Live against’.

‘Live against’ is an excellent slab of traditional Russian heavy metal that shows Kipelov keeping pace with (and in some ways even surpassing) their more celebrated comrades from Aria. Beginning with the vocals, to my ears Valeriy Kipelov has always been the gold standard for Russian singers, and ranks among the finest heavy metal singers in the world. Sounding like a slightly grittier Klaus Meine, Kipelov’s voice drips heartfelt emotion. Because (as always) the lyrics are in Russian (the song titles are translated), I don’t comprehend a word he’s singing, but I don’t care. The feeling is there, and it transcends linguistic boundaries. Maybe he’s lost a fraction of his range due to the ravages of time and touring, but Valeriy still sounds fantastic.

In terms of songwriting, ‘Live against’ strikes a nicely diversified, dynamic balance within the old-school metal spectrum. Right out of the chute, the title track impresses, with its catchy melodies, epic feel, familiar gallop, and swirling keyboards. Track 3, “The power of fire”, is a guitar-fueled, chugging, uptempo rocker that is an obvious highlight as it recalls and recaptures past glories. Track 4, “Glamorous bird” (surely that title must lose something in translation, right?), sounds like it could be a hit single on Russian melodic metal radio, with its slower pace, easy chorus, and ear-worm tendencies. And so it goes for the duration of the CD. A catchy Dio-ish anthem here, a slightly progressive meandering tune there, and even a pair of shimmering, beautiful ballads fill out the 10-track running order. Everything is well written and well executed, as one would expect from a band stocked with seasoned, battle-scarred veterans. I might have preferred a bit more material like “The power of fire” and the blistering “We will fight again”, but that’s a minor quibble.

Look, I know the language barrier is tough. But if you’re at all curious about Russian heavy metal, ‘Live against’ would be a terrific gateway CD as it showcases the hallmarks of the style, at a very high level of professionalism and skill. If you’re already a fan of Aria and their legions of imitators in the Russian metal scene, then ‘Live against’ is a mandatory purchase. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 6 years for Kipelov to come up with a follow-up.




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