Ariya - Legends of Russian Rock
Moroz Records
Heavy Metal
13 songs (74'03")
Release year: 1997
Reviewed by Alex
Archive review

I have been planning to write this review for a while. To be exact, ever since the explosions shook the rock festival “Wings” in Moscow, Russia, a few weeks ago. The bands that played at “Wings” aren’t exactly my thing, but as a student in Moscow 17 years ago I lived very closely to Tushino airfield. I have gone there to see Metallica and AC/DC. Some of my friends who still live in Moscow were into the “Wings” bands. Who knows maybe they have gone to the now infamous show? I would like to dedicate this review to the memory of those whose life ended on that fateful day.

Since I am not much of a “rock” person it was hard for me to pick a Russian rock band to review. So, I figured I’d tell you about the forefathers of Russian metal, the band called Ariya.

To paint a vivid picture I have to take you on a quick time travel trip. The year is 1987, and I am a freshman in college. It is also three years that I am into heavy metal. Worn out tapes by Judas Priest Defenders of the Faith, Iron Maiden Number of the Beast, Accept Breaker and Helloween Keeper I make regular rotation in my primitive tape player. On a tip from a popular Moscow youth newspaper we, a group of college students which included my girlfriend who went on to be my wife, decide to go to a metal show by this unknown band, Ariya. This is going to be my first heavy metal concert.

If I ever had any doubts about what my musical passion in life is going to be before that show, the deal was cemented on that night. “I was blown away” is a cliché that described my feelings after that concert. The power, the intensity, the emotions, the melodies – it simply couldn’t be topped. It was not easy to follow your favorite “foreign” metal bands in the Soviet Union circa early and mid 80s. The country was just awakening from its Steel Curtain slumber, but Ariya showed me that the efforts of digging up (and paying a lot sometimes) for metal would be something I will never regret.

From the day it begun, in1985, Ariya played uncompromising classic heavy metal. Soaring and powerful vocals, addictive and memorable riffs, twin guitar leads, not overly complicated but steady rhythm section. Yes, they were undoubtedly influenced by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, but they didn’t try to rip off. The year after all was 1985 when they started, and such music took courage to play. Lack of public metal knowledge may have led to the lack of popularity. Furthermore, they were doing it when Perestroika (read, open-mindedness) in the former Soviet Union just began. The band ALWAYS sang in Russian. I truly believe that Ariya could have been huge internationally should they switched to English. Yet, they never sold out, as they wanted to appeal to the millions of Soviet youth. Starting with their third album, Asphalt Hero, they have begun collaborating with Margarita Pushkina, Soviet poet extraordinaire, who came up with brilliant, meaningful, easy to memorize lyrics. People sometimes say that lyrics don’t matter. Not so for Ariya, as these Russian rockers traditionally were the society’s voice of rebellion. As of today the band has 9 full-length albums, 2 singles, 2 live albums, 3 compilations, participated in a tribute and has a tribute devoted to them. Later on in their career the band experimented with symphonics, played with the orchestra, recorded a duet with Udo Dirkschneider (no introduction necessary), but the strength of their catalog is undeniably the first six albums: Megalomania, Who Are You With?, Asphalt Hero, Playing with Fire, Blood for Blood and Night Shorter Than Day.

This 1997 collection of 13 songs on Moroz Records is an excellent retrospect of these six albums. Interestingly enough the songs come in chronological order. I am not sure why that is, but it is obviously by design. As such, the compilation starts with Volunteer, a decent, but not great song. The next five cuts are what made Ariya great. Fiery live recording of Torero, headbanging Will and Mind, and an excellent Give Me Your Hand which got “lost” during the recording of Who Are You With?. The dual guitar harmonic intro lead in this song is something that can’t be forgotten. Asphalt Hero is a good Maidenish track while Street of Roses swings from choppy verse to almost semi-balladic chorus. The band recorded a few epic tracks in its days, and Playing with Fire is one of them. This song features some of my favorite lyrics revealing the hypocritical nature of the society. I have taken a liberty to translate the ballad Take My Heart and hang it on my office wall. “Take my heart, take my soul I am so lonely at this hour I want to die I got nowhere to go having destroyed my world And the only thing that cries for me is a candle on a cold dawn”.

Ariya has gone through quite a few lineup changes, but three people were mainstays. Vocalist Valery Kipelov has a combination of Dickinson’s air raid siren range, Halford’s power in the upper register and Dio’s melodicism. He is truly the best vocalist in Russian metal. The original bandmember, composer and mastermind Vladimir Holstinin deserves a place in Russian Metal Hall of Fame for his vision and guitar playing. His trusted friend and partner Vitaly Dubinin handled bass through thick and thin. The second guitar spot was occupied by such prominent Soviet metal musicians as Alik Granovski, Sergei Mavrin (Black Coffee, Master) and Sergei Terent’ev. Maxim Udalov and Alexander Maniakin were two of the most famous Ariya drummers.

I know it is not easy to track those early Ariya albums down, but if you like from-the-heart classic heavy metal I strongly urge you to do so. You will undoubtedly appreciate the quality of the music. However, if you know just a bit of history, you will marvel under what circumstances these gems were created.

P.S. As all album and song titles are originally in Russian I have decided to translate them for the purposes of this review. Two versions of the band’s English spelling exist, Ariya, the way I like it, and Aria. More info can be found on

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