|"This riff could be slower and guitars should have been tuned much lower as well!" - were Sonm's thoughts while listening to Metallica's "…And justice for all". That's when the first basic idea of Forest Stream was given the opportunity to be developed further. Since that day Sonm started to think about his own band. But to start with we'll tell a bit about some details behind the whole story. Sonm has finished a local musical school being 14 years old and sworn not to deal with music any more. Playing a flute, a trumpet and finally a sax almost finished him. "Is it really necessary to play THIS?" - moaned Sonm looking through another jazz piece. "Yes it is!" - his teacher was a real dragon. So far 5 years appeared to be a total waste of time - Sonm managed to become the worst pupil for the whole time of the school history!! He got 3 out of 5, which was just unprecedented as his own mother was the head teacher of that school. But during his last year he met a guy who in some sense nucleated the conditions under which Sonm started to change his mind about the music in general. As it was mentioned above, the soil was fertilized by Metallica. First "…And Justice for All…" and then "Ride the Lightning" together with "Kill 'em All" was the best thing to find a consolation in. Aggressive and evil (comparing to jazz) they seemed to be the pure reflection of what Sonm was feeling that time. The name of the Nucleator was Ungel.
Living among the ruins of the Soviet Union ordinary people didn't really care about music. The most popular stuff at that time was "Modern Talking" and local clone-bands. The culture of West penetrated into the post Evil Empire with its worst parts. Many people have hardly heard about Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Even records of Beatles were something special to find but meanwhile Ungel and Sonm made their second discovery - Sepultura. After that they decided to start a band… the only problem was that they had neither instruments nor place to rehears, moreover Sonm got stuck with idea of playing drums and that was heeeell much too ambitious, coz an average drum set typically would have cost about 300 bucks. Well, the total income of Sonm's family was about 200 bucks a month, enough said.
The most probable solution of the problem was… a new garage that Sonm's father was thinking of. The underground floor was somewhat suitable for rehearsals. On the other hand, it was far from any house, so potentially, no neighbours would be annoyed by guitar and drum sounds. The idea was good, but still guys had no instruments. There was another possible member of the future band - Zol, who even gave an idea how one could earn some money. At that time, people were just starting to build their own houses and young guys worked there as common labourers. Three or four month was enough to be able to buy a second hand Korean guitar, not to insult the word "guitar" by saying this. So, Sonm started this toil. Soon Zol surrendered in a way and started to complain about his health simply to justify his quit. Sonm needed a partner to continue with. And then a very odd meeting happened. Once on his way home he spotted a pack of young idlers right in front of his multiple dwelling. One of them was playing "Nothing Else Matters" on an ugly half of something initially meant to be an acoustic guitar. After a couple of minutes Sonm simply offered him: " Would ya like to work with me? Not well paid but still…" and that player just gave a nod to Sonm. The player's name was Omin.
So it started. Just by some unbelievable coincidence Omin happened to have similar music tastes to Sonm's. They became real friends and Omin joined the future band, still nameless at that time. Now there were three of them… Sonm, Ungel, and Omin - drums, and two guitars. Music that they were getting into had developed further as well… and step by step, they approached Katatonia, My Dying Bride, and Emperor… It was nearly 1996.
The story how that fucking garage was finished can take the whole book so we aren't going to continue that way. Instead, we better concentrate on the band itself. Guys' brains were boiling over to find a good name. My goodness, whattaheluva crap they've been through! Apostate, Grace, Paramount, Astana, Outcast, Devolution, Owl… but something was wrong with all these names. Music they started to write was strange and sad. But as they thought the name had to reflect the gist of the band's core. Ungel offered "Dream Forest", but that was too romantic or something. And finally, once they were walking along the bank of their local "stink-river". It was and still is a good-looking stream (despite that at that time it flew right through the local farm, so its name was given fairly - for its very essence!) and guys spent a lot of time near it… ("Yeah it smells like shit undoubtedly because of its shitty substance! But do we care much 'bout that? Cow-dung is a natural thing, so this river is an ecologically pure shit-river so to say; and forcing my mind to think of it over and over again, I conclude that comparing this dungy-creek to a real shit we all live in, I hell prefer more to walk and even live near this goddamn muckyflow than my own foully porch. And don't tell me I am a misanthrope…" Used to say Sonm. "Naah… what kind of a misanthrope are you? You're just a dung-seeker, fellow!" grin Omin and they laughed their asses off.) Yeah… it may seem weird that once they just came to the name of the band they use now… Forest Stream… but it was the best reflection of their thoughts and intrinsic tunes.
The Stream of Sorrow, the Stream of Doom
Glides through the Forest filled with Gloom
The verge between two sides of me
The gates I pass as a pallid loom…
From the very beginning the band was meant to become the implementation of a spiritual anguishing, the one which would nearly break your mind and tear your chest apart; dry mourning on the slope of Shadow Mountains in front of the Dust River. One would ask a fair question - why? What was so wrong with the guys? Why not to play merry and joyful music? I asked myself this question many times. And every time I had no answer except for - that's the way we are. Apparently, the state of our souls is similar to the color of our eyes or hair: once it is given it stays forever. Maybe it also comes from the fact that we did and do think about what we were and what we are and what for we were and we are. But not in this annoying way - what is the essence of life. It's a different philosophy, hopefully to be discussed later.
So the band was finally given the name - FOREST STREAM and thus it shall forever be. Meanwhile Sonm and Omin were working as hell to earn some money. In total, it took three summers to build the place to rehearse as well as to become able to buy a guitar and drums. Holy crap, if only you could see those instruments! Russian guitar Russtone, Amati - drum set, and Double Beat- double drum bass pedal, plus some primitive equipment they've already bought before: Tesla guitar amplifier and one Electronica-80 speaker from soviet 80s. The next challenge was buying a suitable distortion in order the sound to be more brutal. You know, most of the Russians aren't very "heavy" people and their interests don't go beyond power-metal heaviness, so to speak. Hence, buying a good "distortion" is kind of a trick typically involving ordering that kind of stuff from abroad. But we managed to "build" more or less appropriate sound if one could call it sound at all.
Then a funny thing happened. We started to rehearse songs we didn't want to play. That was death metal and even a bit of grind-core. I have no clue why! Maybe we just needed that kind of stuff just to start with. Anyway, we started to think about the live performance although there were only three of us: Me on the drums, Ungel and Omin on the guitars. Then skipping a lot of different crap, I'm willing to add that I asked one of my friends to help us with the keys (actually, he also made the first official web page of the band!) and Omin found a vocalist among his fellows. Their names were Anton and … Anth.
Together with hated punks, friendly power metal bands, and other formations (honestly, all of them were stinking helluvaphonies!) we were scheduled to perform in our local gay bar… sorry, it was and is still called A Centrum of Culture and Leisure "Gamma" but anyway it is a real gay bar, and only losers like we were could play in there. LOL, actually we played there twice. But then we have sworn never to do that again, no matter the fee. These ass-holes always promised to pay musicians but after the gig they used to say - "Hay, some morons broke a couple of chairs, and that's because of your music, so you guys are responsible for that and we're gonna spend your money on fixing those chair. You say it's less than 5% of what we owe you? Well, then I guess some other morons broke two tables and stole two mirrors." We always knew who those morons were, but what could we do? Just leave…
The funny thing was though that a local newspaper made a report about that gig. Here I quote it. It's in Russian but I will translate for those who are not very good at it:
"Older, in a sense of creative age, band Forest Stream demonstrated the affection towards a thoughtful musical performance and made slam disappear as well as silenced the audience making it think."
That was our first live review.
We also played one gig in Moscow on a student fest. Surprisingly enough, people liked us a lot despite that the song list was rather peculiar:
4. The Storm (death/doom/power/thrash metal)
5. Dark Delight (death metal)
6. Without God (Katatonia's cover)
That was a weird mixture of styles among other prog-new-metal bands, which is quite normal in Russia. If any black or doom metal fest is announced then one should expect bands from soft rock to dark ambient. Anyway that was a good sign, although, we took nearly the last place on that fest, because the jury, I suppose, hardly heard any black or death metal at all. The main message from that fest was - we could do things and could do them not too bad, at least comparing to other Russian underground bands. The next step for us was quite clear: a good or at least average quality promo had to be recorded as a fact of concert ability of the band. Here I'd like to mention some things.
While rehearsing one serious problem remained for us namely we still didn't have a good place to do it, our guitars were crappy and we didn't own any drum set except for the one we started with, it is actually still rotting in the garage, and till recently our main pain in the ass was our own line-up. The story about all band's members, I hope to tell you a bit later. And now I just want to summarize this idea I started a sentence ago: traped in our mortal coils we are still given the freedom in a sense of spiritual development. Every moment, every goddamn second all of us are 'compiling' the problem - what are we? And what is this road we are following? And where are we going? And why do we do so…
- There are trees in the forest. They are green and yellow. I see many birds on their branches. These birds are singing. Is that you want me to describe?
- No. I meant I wanted you to tell me what was it you'd seen there… Could you try again?
- But I have told you about everything I'd seen!
- No, my child. You haven't said a word about what there was. Now go and live among them: feed with them, survive with them, because of being one of them.
…No language is able to guide you through the wanders of surrounding world, except for the one - the language of music. The most complicated, the most uncertain, the most strange. We are learning to hear when listening, yet we even haven't started to learn to speak it. That was our common feeling… And the more we thought about it, the more we realized our difference from those, who we knew before. Our friends' and our paths and interests' bases cracked, split, and appeared to be as similar as the sky and the ground. Finally, we passed for some kind of arrogant bastards nobody wanted to deal with, namely to get drunk and to fuck local mongrels, literally speaking.
God Almighty what we've been through then. I still don't believe we aren't in one of the Russian mental houses. Maybe this story will open the curtains hiding the answer for the question: "Why are there just a few successful Russian metal bands, known abroad, touring and playing abroad?" I am not entirely sure the question isn't rhetorical though… Most of the time we were facing morons and ass holes, which never cared who we were and what we wanted. They were just indifferent to any music except for one, which provides them with some cash. For instance, many times we tried to participate in some local fests and every time after listening to our demo organizers (made faces) were telling us - "You play what nobody is interested in, so fuck off." Sometimes no doom or generally metal bands were present at all on those fests! Then we got the point that for 30$-50$ all of a sudden everyone becomes very interested in what we play…
"You know…" - Omin once said to me, - "I don't see faces anymore where they are supposed to be." "What do you see then?" - I asked him and he answered - "It more looks like butts, I am kind of tired and wondering whether there is any hope…"
Once we, being helluvadamn annoyed by all this happening over and over again made a joke to remove the last doubts of the local underground…
We made a new promo, consisting of… Dimmu Borgir's and our tracks! Then we submitted that demo for another fest and got a damn great answer from the organizers:
"Sorry guys, but you failed. Your music sounds like most of the bands' from the town the fest takes place in." No comments. Apparently any Russian village has tens of its own 'Dimmu Borgirs' so nobody is interested in even the original one, a fortiori in us.
So it went.
In some sense that attitude toward us might have had a good side as well. Being bounced back from those goddamn fests we concentrated on making our first demo tape called "Snowfall". We decided to use my father's PC - Pentium 166 equipped with my own treasure - a brand new PCI slot Turtle Beach Tropes Plus Sound Card, which in my opinion still sounds better than many new crappy ones. I still remember the whole list of equipment we used for that demo!
4. Guitar - Russtone (Russian brand second hand guitar we bought in one of Moscow's musical shops "Ìèñòåðèÿ".)
5. A weird looking distortion called "Mustang".
6. A karaoke microphone for vocals.
And that's fucking it!
One month (mostly because of Windows 95 hang-ups) we suffered while recording this tape: a pretty usual stuff for many underground bands, though. The main difference was that we were willing to send "Snowfall" to various labels and web-zines, just to get some fun. We believed that our demo would not even be reviewed because of its horrifying quality.
7. Autumn Elegy (Intro)
8. Mere Mortal
9. A Dying Frost
12. DN (Burning) (Outro)
And here I have to change the topic as exactly at that time we began to experience serious problems with Ungel. He was fading away as a creative person. Believe me, guys, no situation can be worse. He was still participating in rehearsals and discussions but the fire in his eyes was already extinguished… His parents I believe and his girl friend killed it in particular. He missed rehearsals more and more, spent time mostly with his girl friend instead of his guitar and soon we realized that any attempt to hold him further would be doomed to fail. I guess I will never forget our conversations, our mutual walks and hopes, our enthusiasm towards what he never became part of. I simply cannot imagine anybody, who would suit the band better than him. But he chose another path and became a usual person, swallowed and milled by the grey society, what his own so-called friends forced him to become. It was a pure tragedy of a damn gifted guy, who actually made our logotype. And now he is a nobody.
Right after we gave him a boot we got a couple of surprisingly nice reviews from some Brazilian web-zines. And then we nearly got insane as old Emi (greetings to him) from Italian Code666 said that he would be interested in heaving a deal with us in case we would re-record our "Snowfall" with a better quality. Can you imagine that? Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we had finished our new demo called "Last Season Purity" and that's exactly what we sent to him as well as to different web-zines too.
The track list of LSP as we call it was as follows:
5. The Steps of Mankind
6. Mel Kor
7. Last Season Purity
8. Black Swans
But Emi for some reason got really disappointed! So we had no chance to be signed by the label.
I skipped a huge piece of our history. Just let me briefly guide you through it. Two years before LSP was recorded Omin and me got into Emperor. I mean we really did. We knew this band before but only in 1998 we were really blown away. As a logical sequence we wanted to mix our doom base with some black metal branches. You can clearly hear that in 'Mel Kor', which was actually a kind of the first experiment after the theory we have built about the possible output of this mixture. And it simply rocked! Coz you know we were and still are the hugest fans of Forest Stream, hehe, and since the very beginning we played our songs mostly because we lacked music.
So far so good, having our second demo we still didn't think about the possibility to be signed, which is an undeniably necessary step for any band in its evolution. So, we concentrated on our live performance, but among various problems we had to solve on our way to concerts, we faced one, which was kind of ridiculous and weird, but gave us a lot of undesirable fun we will never forget. We were not able to find musicians. I mean normal ones! Overall, more than 20 people passed in front of our eyes without any chance of understanding what our music was, without trying to make their best with goddamn instruments. Can you imagine a pseudo-guitarist? Never heard of it? I'll tell! Make your mind think of a longhaired guy, who's dying to play doom/black metal with us, at least, that's what he's saying. Then we wait for almost half a year as he promised to buy a brand new guitar (cool shaped of course! Not just a trivial "Strat"). He swears about learning our songs at home and then when we are about to explode because of our doubts, he buys his idiotic guitar and comes to show what he have learned so far. And then imagine a person who takes guitar for his first time. But that's not a very big deal! The true "business" is that that person is fucking shocked himself! He looks at his shaking hands and mumbles: How the fuck is it possible? How come I cannot play if I was thinking about that for five years? How can it be if I lived with metal every day! If I wanted to play like a crazy! If I was listening to your songs for thousand times! How come I can't play?!!
Sounds ridiculous, but we've been through this goddamn story for several times. One pseudo-bassbutt came with his bass (the fucking best one, ever!) and started to play jazz bass line in Mel Kor (I skipped the fact it was completely out of rhythm and just had nothing to do with our song, which he said he had learned!) Could you imagine a black metal song with those slapy syncopes? Another one came with his brand new Randy Roads Jackson, but then we discovered that he even didn't know what a distortion was… At that time, I often was contemplating Omin, nearly as red as beet, talking to them in a very polite way!
- What the fuck do you fucking think you dick-head moron fucking play in here? Have you fucking ever heard of a goddamn fucking triplets?! If not then fucking reveal me for fuck's sake what the fuck are you fucking doing fucking here, right in fucking front of my fucking eyes?!
But apart from jokes it was rather sad. Before we recorded "Last Season Purity" the line-up was changing every month without any sign of improvement. Moreover, even sadder things started to happen. I was offered to work in the Netherlands. That was a time filled with grief and despair. We didn't know what to do. It looked like there was nothing wrong with spending a couple of months abroad in order to make some money to buy good or at least more or less descent equipment to record the above-mentioned demo. On the other hand, we hoped a lot would change during the coming summer. Apart from our physical life, we were getting deeper and deeper into doom and black metal but not in a way, which is known to most of the people.
We were hated by nearly everybody, because we had a tendency to live in our own world of shadows. Shadows for others, beautiful worlds for us. I guess that the right way to express it is to say that we were thinking and feeling music… Oh, how I adored all those silent and majestic snowfalls where we were walking to let my soul enjoy its delightful and graceful dance. How many thoughts were given their birth during those winter nights and that's why everyone else was thinking we were some kind of Satanists or addicted to drugs. All parties had no attraction for us, and personally, I was literally looking through people, as they were nothing for me. I must admin we didn't change much since that time and sometimes it looks like this misanthropy is getting worse. Maybe all of us are too old fashioned to live among everyday rot and decay. Thus this feeling of readiness to mourn and to fly at the same time became the stronger. Some unknown freedom was calling us to leave the Great Swamps and I decided to go to the Netherlands.
It is nothing special to talk about. Three months of an ultimate boredom were finally concluded with a cool BOSS-GT3 guitar processor and great keys Roland XP-30. With that "Last Season…" was complete, uploaded to mp3.com as well as sent away to reap the opinions.
That was a time of a great hope. These days we were just waiting… The amount of downloads on mp3.com was exponentially growing and soon reached one thousand. Soon after that we got an e-mail which changed our lives.
It was from Lee Barrett. I swear we didn't believe a single word from that message. Lee was saying that he just started his own label as a sub-division of Earache (me, who was a huge fan of Carcass, was aware of this Name!), and he wanted to sign us. He also said that he discovered Emperor, Opeth, Enslaved etc…
Okay, now let us summarize: England, a huge label, Earache, Lee Barrett, Emperor, Opeth… It was a fucking dream or Lee was a damn phoney! We just considered it as a stupid joke but decided to answer… It wasn't a joke.
Fucking God's grace… That happened exactly the same day, when I signed my contract to do my Ph.D. in the Netherlands. Holy shit, I was not even expecting to get a message like that. Now you see how desperate that situation was! While sitting on our asses in Chernogolovka, without a tiny hope to deliver our songs elsewhere except for our own friend we got not a single fucking response to our bloody demo. The same day I decided to leave this nice "here-we-gooooooooo" has happened.
After two weeks of hard conversations with Omin we got to a following point. I leave to do my Ph.D. and next summer we record our album.
That was a pure nightmare. E-mails, ICQs… Omin was recording alone, I was writing lyrics and midi drums. He was responsible for guitars, I was - for drums and lyrics. Keys, bass and vocals we planed to record together within 3.5 weeks of my summer vacation.
I forgot to tell you that we were making notes and technical details of our recording of "Last Season…" in a special dairy, a kind of ship journal. Now that is a priceless relic! Apart from different shit like time of every goddamn piece of all instruments in Cakewalk (that's what we used as a multi-track recorder) it contains pictures, short poems, manifests, prayers and etc. So it was continued during "Tears of Mortal Solitude" recording session, if I am allowed to call it like that.
The problem is that we didn't have a studio. We didn't even have a mixer! This doleful list of our so-called equipment I enclose here below.
Guitar - Vintage (Sub-Ibaneze), Bass - Flight (5 strings), keys - Roland XP30, one microphone (Shenheiser.. don't remember the model, but quite cheap), PC - Pentium 400, 24bit - soundcard TASCAM and two combos, the first one for guitars, and the second one for bass. Everything was placed in Omin's apartment, which is just two rooms and a kitchen. Now tell me how much can you do with that? Right… hardly anything reasonable. But we had no choice. That summer was some kind of a living hell. About 40 degrees centigrade, no rains, and burning peatbogs around our tiny city. I have to add that Omin wasn't starting alone. Almost the same day a huge black top spreader and a brigade of builder began to repair pavement right in front of Omin's windows.
When I got back to Russia, Omin was looking half-crazy. So I took his duties and we continued. I'll never forget how we suffered with vocals. Omin, Anth, and me were recording them in what we used to call "the pigsty". It was a construction made of blankets and pillows, a room meter by meter and two meters high. Why did we build it? Because of having no time we worked 24 hours a day. All vocals were recorded mostly at night, when all neighbors slept tight. Try to sing in smoke and in a couple of minutes you have no voice. Holy crap, it was a pure infernal business. I sang holding a cup with mixture of milk, honey, and beer to comfort my burning throat, and when I was nearly dead Omin and Anth recorded back vocals. So we recorded all songs… and I left to the Netherlands. But then Omin got stuck with mixing everything down and I flew to Russia again… We finished the album and could breathe freely! It was such a great feeling one experiences every time, when a serious and challenging work is done. Unfortunately, being damn excited and happy we have committed another mistake, trying to share our delight with others… The result of this blunder turned into a song. We stumbled over our own benefactor. What we bumped into were emotionless, pale, scared, misunderstanding, hating, despising and strange faces… That day we simply cried, because of this estrangement. … It was called "The Winter Solstice". In Slavic mythology that would be the day when the sun dies to be reborn again. And we died to be reborn too, but in other shape. Different story though, which is still to be told.
Since that we have met a lot of great people to work with, we got a lot of experience, and got much stronger to become a solid team.
The album was released on 27 of January and soon after that we have found our second guitarists Berserk, as well as our keyboard player - Elhella. Soon, after them a drummer joined us, he name was Kir. We also met a good artist, who made the cover art for the CD as well as our official web page, I am writing this bio for.
I guess I skipped a lot in this strange story, may the heaven forgive me this sin as I say
"… to be continued…"
Sonm the Darkest
Source: Forest Stream Official Website [http://www.foreststream.net]