“The crisis of Western art is a reaction to the crisis in the Western genius. It is one of the forms in which it manifests itself.”
- Ernesto Giménez Caballero, Arte y Estado, 1935
Artist: Dub Buk
Release: Русь понад усе! (Rus ponad use!) (full-length album)
Record company: Eastside
Genre: Of studded track pants and steel-capped sandals
Original Dutch text and English translation by Degtyarov
(Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie)
“Unidad del destino en lo nacional”
El genio nacional – primera parte
A couple of years ago, I studied extensively the works of Ernesto Giménez Caballero, particularly his manifesto Arte y Estado (‘Art and State’). The document dates back to 1935 and is a fairly blatant attempt to unite the concepts of avant-garde and fascism: art and politics as extensions of the same world view. Even though the majority of the arguments put forward in this work is dated, and one cannot help but occasionally notice the delusional mind of its author , an attentive reader can still, even in l’an de disgrâce 2013, discover a plethora of refreshing perspectives in the work of Giménez Caballero. He asserts, for instance, that it is the duty of each nation to work towards reaching its ‘genius’. With this, he indicates an equilibrium in the self-awareness of a people, meaning that its political order, social composition and artistic production are perfectly synthesised within the context of the Volksgeist.
In this modern, globalised world, the purpose of such a balance might just be clearer than ever. Most of Europe lives under the yoke of a one-size-fits-all culture; the hunt for the American Dream; a culture that is oriented on Zeigeist rather than Volksgeist. Self-reflection, personal development and ideals are exchanged for entertainment, superficiality and hedonism. As a result, a cult of incompetence has a firm choke-hold on the continent. This does not mean necessarily that the average human being is less intelligent or capable now than he was before, but rather that stupidity and inability are being worshipped as if they were virtues. Are you not able to cook or drive a car? Are you
a mongoloid special? Here is the stage, there is the audience. Dance, monkey, dance.
“The aesthetics of the ‘Free West’ are being dictated by individuals whose taste is reversely proportional to their amount of money.”
In a way, the celebration of the abnormal is not terribly different from the unfeigned Calvinist self-hatred that many a Dutchman grew up with, but an additional disadvantage that the castrated nations have to cope with is that their art production is characterised more and more by a universal lack of direction that one could easily label as nihilistic. Nihilistic in the sense that said art occupies itself with problems that are not actually problems, or because alleged ‘injustice’ is combatted exclusively by means of blind, dim-witted rage . The nihilism also manifests itself in the sheer lack of original ideas: pop music, for instance, does not offer any cultural handles that would allow us to establish a more profound emotional connection with it. It is instead driven by the facelessness and transitoriness of fashion. And once the fashionable aspect fades, what remains is an oblivious void; a void that symbolises the sad reality that the aesthetics of the ‘Free West’ are being dictated by marketing boys in chinos, pseudo-controversial fashion queers, and individuals whose taste is reversely proportional to their amount of money.
If we want to avoid living until the end of days in a world filled with ‘practical’ haircuts and clothes ‘for him and her’, the reimplementation of aesthetics in national soil suddenly becomes a viable option. Present-day scholars would rather not stick their politically correct willies in the hornets’ nest that is the nationalisation of art, but if a poem or composition can be the extension of one’s soul, it can also be the extension of one’s national heritage. Whether or not there are foreign influences at play is irrelevant: a ‘genius’ (according to the definition as given in the introduction) work of art could not have been conceived in the same way in another part of the world.
In music, a return to the national essence of art can be established comparatively easily. Compared to, for example, cinema or theatre, creating/releasing music in the modern era is a relatively simple proces in which the artist – assuming that he has the wit – can avoid having marketing or production interests from thirds hindering his work. But how would this transformation work on a practical level? Musical genres are transnational by their very definition, and the same can be said of the audience of just about any band that is not condemned to the realm of total obscurity. However, these factors need not hinder the transformation to the national: a piece of music can correspond to the characteristics of a certain genre, but still distinguish itself through themes, structures and other peculiarities that would allow it to harmonise with the spirit of the soil it emerged from.
The ultimate evidence for the presence of locality in (modern) music is provided by black metal. When it started out, this subcurrent of metal had alcoholic bum connotations reminiscent of those found in punk music, but gradually, small selections of bands have started cultivating this style over the years. This is enabled by the inherent individualism of black metal: establishing your own style instead of sailing the currents of the mainstream is encouraged. For this reason, the inclusion of local cultural aspects in black metal is far more likely than it is in the ultra-conventional, Anglo-Saxon-dominated abomination we know as pop music.
One of the most convincing examples of the cultural peculiarity of black metal is the discography of Dub Buk, in particular its album Rus ponad use. This Ukrainian collective succeeds in leaving her national-cultural mark to a point where it is omnipresent, but never sounds forced. In doing this, Dub Buk contrasts the majority of the so-called folk metal projects, in the sense that it need not resort to throwing haphazard folk tunes into the mix, played on traditional instruments, all the while sidetracking the base music that leads an existence completely detached from this quasi ‘folkish’ aspect. Dub Buk digs deeper: everywhere on the album, we discover themes, song structures and aesthetics that connect the music firmly to the earth in which it is rooted. With the result being an album that does not feel gimmicky or otherwise ‘out there’ in the least, it becomes clear that we are dealing not with novices, but with masters.
“The music may best be compared to clandestine vodka: cheap, quite disgusting, but deadly effective.“
As the music commences, those who listen without prior knowledge will not be able to suspect what an unusual aural journey they are about to embark on. Even still, the intro already hints at what is to come, if only by telling us that this is not your regular metal album we are dealing with. Thrash riffs intermingle with techno elements, while professionally played drum and string sections betray that Dub Buk, despite the presence of a rather sleazy Casio keyboard, is not the umpteenth subpar Graveland clone. Regardless of whether a song fits the thrash or the black metal mold better, each composition flows seamlessly into the next.
The past has taught us that such a wide array of influences and styles may lead to individually good songs, but the listening experience as a whole may not necessarily benefit in terms of digestibility.  Dub Buk, however, succeeds in grabbing the listener’s attention for the full 40 minutes that their third opus lasts. Because, while the band thrashes from one style into another, the atmosphere remains surprisingly consistent: the approach of the band is clearly characterised by aggression, something that is emitted by the fastness of the music, as well as virulent nationalist lyrics and vocals that notably dominate the music most of the time. Add a few somewhat dated keyboard melodies to this brew of destruction, as well as similarly questionable techno beats, and this generates music that may best be compared to – forgive the stereotype – clandestine vodka: cheap, quite disgusting, but deadly effective.
Rus ponad use is an album of many contradictions. Not only because such a large number of different styles is at play on this relatively short release, but particularly because the obvious talent of the participating musicians is surrounded by an air of naivety: the guitars are being played with both precision and creativity, the compositions are structured such that they captivate the listener from start to finish, and the vocals are rough as fuck… But still, one tends to get the impression at times that this is the work of a couple of guys who did not really know what they were doing, which accidentally resulted in a magnificent album somehow. The unlikelihood of this scenario is confirmed by the fact that, before making Rus ponad use, Dub Buk had already recorded two magnificent albums (Misjac pomsty and Idi na wy!). But in a way, the suspicion of amateurism actually augments the experience, seeing as it renders the entire ordeal just so delightfully unpretentious.
The initial idea (read: misconception) that this album might be a one-hit wonder corresponds with so many other expressions of Slavic culture that, because we do not fully understand them and/or because they were made with lesser resources, can come across as rather surreal. For instance, the near impenetrable nature of classic Russian films makes it difficult for us Westerners to recognise their brilliance immediately: the deviation from the all too familiar Hollywood formula will initially trick us into interpreting the resulting sense of alienation as a sign of incompetence on the director’s behalf, while in reality we are really not used to thinking about films anymore (even the bloody Matrix made our heads spin, after all…), as we subconsciously perceive everything in the light of a twodimensional conception of realism, which is obligatory in our secular societies. It is not until we transgress that inner bound of absolute materialism that we leave our trusted thought patterns behind, and enable ourselves to apply the criteria required to properly judge the value of Russian cinema. Even in more mundane forms of entertainment, a similar effect can be observed. In video games such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Cryostasis (both created in Ukraine) the quirkiness will at first catch us off-guard and make us think the developers must not have been very good at their jobs. Only later, this turns out to be first and foremost the result of them having had far fewer resources at their disposal than their Western counterparts, after which we can go on to discover and admire the remarkably unconventional approach that these Eastern-European productions took.
“Rus above all? Quite.“
In the end, it is the contrast between naivety and brilliance – the use of lesser resources to create something with more quality – that characterises Slavic metal in general, but Dub Buk in particular. The constant switching between styles – black, thrash, folk and techno – can cause the album to leave an impression of being rather fragmented, at first. However, the more you listen to this CD, the more you realise that it can scarcely be considered a coincidence that everything is in the right place; that every change in pace comes at exactly the right moment; that the techno elements consistently succeed in giving the music that extra bit of robustness; that the use of the vocals is timed perfectly every single time. Still, only when the listener frees himself from the prudence of contemporary Western music conventions (that even prevail in the work of many a black metal band from said region), the true excellence of Rus ponad use can be observed.
The music of Dub Buk reaches deep into Slavonic soil. It symbolises the present state of the Evening Land’s Eastern frontier, being economically poorer than the West (for the time being…), yet much richer in a cultural and spiritual sense. Similarly, it is difficult to define the Eastern-European metal scene from a singular perspective due to its many inconsistencies and contradictions, whether they are generated by archaic instrumentation, radical lyrics or norm-defying aesthetics. Eastern-European bands are less aware of ‘trends’ than their Western brethren, which makes them less appealing in a world that is currently dominated by that same West. But those who manage to see the bigger picture will discover a treasure of creativity and talent that is equalled in no other place in the world. Lesser means, higher quality. Rus above all? Quite.
When one observes how Dub Buk manages to produce such a mighty piece of music by expressing the spirit of their Ukrainian motherland, it increases the merit of the idea that art should be directed inwards once more; that it should redefine itself in the face of the genius of the national. Only then can larger audiences stop judging music based on nonsensical criteria such as production value, commercial success and, *cringe*, marketability; only then can the artist smash the superficiality that postmodernism and its bastard son – mass culture – have bestowed upon these already spoiled lands. Art should once again rely on its intrinsic values, instead of occupying itself with irrelevant topics and conforming itself to the contra-aesthetics of the marketing mafia. Here’s to the soullessness of the globalising anti-art being disposed like a soggy tissue, in favour of an art that is reassessed according to the standards of the national!
On a sidenote, this piece, too, is a manifestation of such a process of redefinition, seeing as it distances itself as much as possible from the review as a product description for indecisive consumers. The fact that you are still reading this is a testament of your positive disposition towards this idea. For which I thank you.
I.Z.V.E.R.G. – vocals, bass
Istukan – guitar
Vsesvit – drums
Kvita Knyazhe – keyboard
Sataroth – singing on “Tilkiy nash rid”
1. Мертвовод (3:15)
2. Сва-батальйон (4:46)
3. Дубе, скажи мені (5:48)
4. Марш сокир слов’янських (5:27)
5. Русь найвище над усе! (6:52)
6. Слов’янський штурм – Перун Златорун (6:35)
7. Тільки наш рід! (3:31)
8. У 1791 році (3:05)
Total running time: 39:22
 There is a rumour that Giménez Caballero attempted to marry Pilar Primo de Rivera, sister of Falange leader José Antonio, to Adolf Hitler, in an attempt to tame Adi’s boiling protestant blood with some red hot Catholic love.
 Let us observe this Ukrainian fishwife. A cocktail of bare knockers, a chainsaw, a big cross and a considerable portion of braincells eaten away by a vile crack habit, proves an excellent recipe for retardation.
 Examples of such albums are Der freiwillige Bettler by Urfaust and Peste Noire‘s self-titled.