Today Ukraine boasts several extreme Christian metal bands, and most of their musicians have either been influenced by or played in Holy Blood at some point. Holy Blood has become an icon in its own right. Playing hardcore, and even death grind, until honing their signature sound that combines folk metal with bits of death and black metal. Their newly released album Voice of Blood is the band’s sixth full length release, their last Glory to the Heroes being an EP. Main man Fedor Buzilevich has survived it all, for two decades Holy Blood has remained a rock solid metal voice, even when each album had its own sound, and its own lineup (to some extent.) We’ll check in behind the battlelines with Fedor, a man whose country is under siege, but knows where his help comes from.
Chris Gatto: The cover of the new album Voice of Blood is a battleground and many of the songs have to do with battle. Is this a concept album? Is there one main theme running through the album?
Fedor Buzilevich:Yes, this album is directly related to what is happening in Ukraine right now. We are defending our country against invaders, which we recently considered our own blood brothers. Therefore, the album begins with Genesis 4:10. The most important thing that prevents the invaders from swallowing our country is our national identity.
This album is very much about your own country’s history, as well, with songs like “Ukraine”, “Beginning of the Revival of the Kievan Rus”, and “The Smile of the Cossack.” Do you have in mind a spiritual revival for Ukraine?
There is a phrase: there are no atheists in the trenches. Ukraine is now experiencing a spiritual rebirth, as well as a national, cultural rebirth. All this, thanks to the war. Kievan Rus adopted Christianity over a thousand years ago, and now Ukrainians have begun to appreciate the fact that they are the heirs of culture and spirituality, taking its roots in the history of Kievan Rus.
Voice of Blood is your first album to be released on vinyl. Congratulations! Vinyl is a growing medium in the US. Does vinyl sell well in Europe as well? How do you like the different colored variations for each record?
Oh, thanks for the congratulations! To be honest, I do not know how this album is selling in Europe. I do not read sales reports. But I am really very glad that this album was released on vinyl. This draws attention to this album.
You’ve had many lineup changes over the years. I notice even with this album that you perform most of the instruments yourself, with a few guest appearances, including Slava Malinin, Mr. Angel7 himself. Will Holy Blood be a full band ever again, or do you only need band members to do live shows?
The fact is that almost all the material that was published under the name Holy Blood, I composed myself. Both music and lyrics. This is not a dictatorship in the group. But rather my personal interest in recording another album. We started working with Slava Malinin from the first album. From the very beginning he helped me in arranging and selecting the correct drum samples.
Does Holy Blood do many concerts? Where have been some memorable shows?
We recently changed the bass player. The group was joined by Andrei Yakovenko, who previously played in the Oskord group. For this reason, we have not played on stage for about half a year. But now we are constantly invited to play at concerts. With Andrei, we have not performed at big festivals yet, therefore it’s hard for me to say about some memorable shows. In general, Holy Blood has a long list of performances at festivals, both Christian and ordinary.
Holy Blood’s musical style changes with every album. The only constant seems to be the folk metal motif. However, on the album Day of Vengeance, you dropped that and did a more straightforward death metal album, and then returned to the folk metal on Glory to the Heroes and Voice of Blood. Why that change just for Day of Vengeance?
In the album Day of Vengeance there are elements of Folk Metal. We play some songs from this album at concerts and use the flute in these songs. We may write some songs from this album with a flute. But at the time of recording the album itself, I wanted to make it as heavy as possible, within our style.
When you started with your first album The Wanderer, was using native instruments like the flute your own idea, or were other bands doing that as well? Seems like a bunch of bands do folk metal now. What if you used other native instruments, like the balalaika in your music? What do you think of the Ukrainian band Montanka that’s become popular doing folk metal?
The flute is perfect for our music. Therefore, this tool is a permanent attribute of our group. If there are songs in which other instruments can be used, then maybe we will try to record them. Regarding the Motanka group, I am always pleased when Ukrainian groups become known far beyond the borders of Ukraine.
I’ve studied a lot of languages as part of missions work, and I find that Russian is a wonderful language for singing heavy metal. German is as well, because of being a more gutteral language. Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a preference to singing in English or Russian?
Much depends on the style of the group. Folk Metal implies in its style the transfer of the cultural heritage of its people. Therefore, Holy Blood will never sing in English. It will be either Russian or Ukrainian.
This summer I am coming to Ukraine for my first time on a missions trip to the orphanages in Dnipro, so I am curious. What is Ukraine like? Are people open to the gospel of Jesus or closed? I know they are a handful of Christian metal bands in Ukraine. Do other metal bands accept you or reject you because of your Christian message?
Ukraine has always been different from many European countries with a heightened interest in Christianity. There is also a biased attitude towards Christianity, it is connected with some scandalous stories about shepherds and priests who used their position for fraud. Because of these stories, many have become disillusioned with the church, but at the same time are open to faith in God.
Towards our group for quite a long time there was a negative attitude. Most of the listeners in the style of Folk Metal, Folk Black Metal at the beginning of the new millennium were aggressive teenagers who have a negative attitude towards Christianity. But now these guys are over thirty years old. During this time, many have changed their outlook and learned to respect a different opinion.
What is next for Holy Blood? This is the band’s 20th anniversary this year, right? I know you have a record contract with Voice of God Records in Michigan, USA. Do you plan on coming to the US for any shows? More studio albums?
Yes it is. In September 2019 the group will be exactly twenty years old. We are also full of energy, and we want to record new albums. If we have the opportunity to come to America with performances, we will certainly do it!
Congratulations on the great new album. It looks and sounds great! Best of luck and God’s blessings to you.
Thank you very much, Chris! I read the magazine Heaven’s Metal back in the nineties. Your magazine inspired me to create a Christian group. For this, I really appreciate the congratulations from you!