One of my favorite bands at the moment is Viza! A group started by front man Knoup back in 2001 when they realized the first EP. In theory at the time it was just a project and not a group at all, but in 2005 a band had been put together and touring was commenced. An eclectic mix of harmonic and Middle Eastern scales and instruments with modern rock entwined. Their latest release will be released later in 2011 called ‘Carnivalia’ which instantly strikes up ideas of a very large circus in which the band will set their next album. Their last release ‘Made in Chernobyl’ displayed a slight change in style, a little more rock heavy than the previous outings.
Trans Siberian Standoff
Starting with what I can only deem a subliminal message masked by delay you get the start of what can be described as a whimsical guitar and
Synth violin piece. Accented by the drums we kick into the verse, which conjures pictures of a horse and rider in toe chasing a train pelting down the track. Transported to February 1917 in Russia during the chorus with a heavy guitar lick. Trussed into the middle of a revolution and war. The 2nd verse features an accented Zurna melody. Towards the end Orbel demonstrates his immense talent in what I consider one of the freshest sounding guitar solos for a decade! Watch out for that cesura at the end of the verse, perfectly coordinated.
My Mona Lisa
I see this as a fun little lyrical commentary full of tongue in cheek content about finding ‘Mona Lisa’ and taking her away, ridiculing her slightly manly appearance. 1:46 of pure fun.
Featuring Serj Tankian on guest vocals, this song is an absolute triumph. ‘Viktor’ demonstrates the blend between Middle Eastern rhythms and the structures of modern rock music. This song is definitely one of the best songs on the album. Starting with a trucking riff, we are driven to the madness and conflicting yet comforting verse and chorus sections. A reverse ‘Pixies’ rule; heavy verse, soft chorus, heavy verse.
It’s All Wrong
I can say this with heart, nothing on this album or song is ‘wrong’. The drums on this are so much fun, with all sorts of percussion leering over the song, making it easily quite enjoyable. “Suddenly there is light that hides your face erase it”, something in that phrase is slightly irritatingly haunting. I’m not sure why I love it so much but I do! Chris Daniel and Hiram Rosario team up perfectly for the rhythm section.
Not one of the songs I first took pleasure in. The lyrical content seems to refer a lot to Russia oddly enough, a reoccurring lexis within the album. In specific I believe the one just before WW2. The speech at the end by Knoup is hilariously reminiscent of the tone of Stalin. The music as well towards the end is beautiful composited together. You do get the feeling of “dynamite” though. For me it is still one of the weaker songs on the album.
Starting with a gritty gramophone version of the song’s chorus and then kicking in with the lead guitar line and smooth attacking synths, Napoleon Complex kicks the basket of audio precursors while remaining fairly proverbial. A comparatively mellow tempo song, it manages to slot itself perfectly into the album.
Imagine being tanked up in the middle of Soviet Russia and looking for a hooker. You have the music, the lyrics, the concept and the humor in ‘The Uzbek Brothel’. The oud and guitar harmony is so challenging and unique. A horny harmony of hell! The Umpa Pa Polka bass and 1 beat chug riff chords throughout. A little organ towards the end of the song is very suggestive of The Doors work.
Fork in the Road
I actually have a bone to pick with Viza on this one. I love this song, in fact not only do I love it, it has made me late to Sixth Form and made me miss going out in the snow a few months back. Do you think I’m kidding? I assure you this – I am not! Now surely that is evidence enough that this song is undeniably unbelievable! Try and deny it, go on. Through the whimsical lala’s and Scooby Doo noise, the piano stabs, arpeggio guitars, delay. The layers are incredible and are so hard to describe. So I’ll leave this one here.
This song to me is more of a song that didn’t fit on the previous albums, but it definitely feels like it was made around that time more so that the ‘Made in Chernobyl’ sessions. I enjoy the sort of enveloping filter and higher harmonies in the verse a lot. The Duduk is also quite apparent on this song.
This is the part of the narrative where you are losing your world and surroundings. You are taken out of your comfort zone and placed in a rusty cart wheeling you to your death. You know you are running out of options.
I find it the most easily ‘skippable’ song on the album; not saying it is bad, it just doesn’t go as deep musically as the other songs.
Made in Chernobyl
A definite closer! The final part of the tale for me of the Soviet life. You are in love, you ran away and have been captured. You are now on your way to die, whether it is in a war or a concentration camp. 6/4 rhythm. A hauntingly beautiful closing number with a little organ section that I feel akin to the organ on “I want you (She’s so heavy)” by the Beatles. The most progressive rock song on the album, but it works so elegantly at bringing you to the end of the journey.
Like the previous Viza albums, there are some hugely evident themes throughout and song structural pairings. The first 4 are one side, 5 – 8 are another and then 9-11 is the final side. It is a very complex and challenging album and, for me, a genre defying experience. Viza truly are a band you have to listen to carefully to fully understand or appreciate the ideas presented. Full of humor and wonderful melodies. The closest mainstream band I can compare their sound with would be to imagine System of a Down (so cliché to suggest this comparison) with 5 more members with more instruments on hand and a variety of themes. This is their best work to date, and I can only hope ‘Carnivalia’ will be even better.
- Trans Siberian Standoff
- My Mona Lisa
- It’s All Wrong
- Napoleon Complex
- The Uzbek Brothel
- Fork in the Road
- Sans Red
- What if?
- Made in Chernobyl
- K’noup – Vocals, 12 string guitar
- Jivan Gasparyan Jr. – Duduk, Zurna
- Orbel Babayan – Electric Guitar, Tar, Saz, Vox
- Shant Bismejian – Electric Guitar
- Andrew Kzirian – Oud
- Alex Khatcherian – Bass
- Suguru Onaka – Keyboards, Accordion
- Chris Daniel – Percussion
- Hiram Rosario – Drums
Check out www.experienceviza.com to listen to some of the songs and find out more about Viza.