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Dating back to 1992, Belarusian Pagan/Folk/Doom outfit disbanded for most of the '00s. Comrade Aleks talks to co-founder, vocalist Lesley Knife, about the band's history and future.

Interview with Gods Tower.
"Four guys from Homiel, Belarus, started to play Death/Thrash Metal as Chemical Warfare, in 1989. That band was renamed as Gods Tower in 1992, as they changed their direction to Doom. There were enough bands who playing Death/Doom influenced by those three bands from the UK back then, but Gods Tower worked out their own sound: talented guitarist Alexander Urakoff mixing folk elements with a down-tuned doom vibe. Alongside the unusual guitar, a solid rhythm section and the crude, "barbarian"-style singing of vocalist Lesley Knife helped the band gain a deserved respect.

2001 saw Gods Tower being disbanded, and Alexander Urakoff died in 2003. Somehow, though, events brought the remaining members back together in 2010. They recorded a new album, 'Steel Says Last', and they're still here now. Here's Lesley to tell you Gods Tower's story of heaviness, of Doom and of pagan glory!"

Talking to Comrade Aleks today: Gods Tower vocalist Lesley Knife.

Lesley, thanks for your time – much appreciated! I'd like to start from the very beginning, if you don't mind. Pre-Gods Tower band Chemical Warfare was founded in 1989: what are your memories of this period of the band's life? How was it to play metal in the USSR in its final years?

It was hard to play metal in the USSR always. Especially if you were playing in the underground. There was no place in the soviet system for such music, it was suitable only if it was a parody, like Aria (of course, this is a good parody). To tell the truth, I am very glad that the USSR is over, I don't like to remember those times. By the way, I often say that I would never write some book about Gods Tower – and one of the causes is that the soviet and next period of the band's history would look politically odious. I don't want to dig in this crap. So, I answer – it was hard and dangerous art, but it was interesting… It was like being at war.

How did it happen that you switched from the thrashy death metal you played in the first years to doom metal with that original pagan vibe? What motivated you to the lower sound?

Oh, you know it was just common sense. There were too many similar bands, we just wanted to differ a lot. We took a folk foundation, but we changed the approach to the business of it all. We didn't become a second Skyclad, for example, though, we could have. We decided to create everything from a clean sheet. We experienced a lot, and we found our ways after we started hanging out with Belarusian nationalists, who literally opened our eyes to Belarusian music traditions. It seemed much more interesting than simple playing of metal cliché.

The classic 1990s line-up: back - Yuri Sivtzov (Bass), Lesley Knife (Vocals), Alexander Urakoff (Guitars), Wladislaw Ovchinnikov (Keyboards), front - Wladislaw Saltsevich (Drums).

Gods Tower always had its own original style, but doom metal was laid in its foundation - what were your main influences back then, music-wise?

Favorite bands then were Bathory, Candlemas, Ozzy Osbourne, always Black Sabbath. Doom metal was laid deep in us from beginning, because this is real epic music.

As I said at first – our interest to folk music, influence of Bathory and Manowar, and I always read a lot of books about it all… And I loved Conan the Barbarian… Later I got Lord of the Rings… I had no choice. This is a bright world, not grey shades of Christianity.

And how did you turn to the pagan creed? How serious were you about pagan traditions? What was your personal turning point?

You must know that we never looked at it as a religion, it was always for us a kind of world outlook. We are different people in one band, we all have our own musical tastes and own ideas about the Universe. For us pagandom is not a frozen rulebook, step left, step right, leads to execution, this is the world itself in the whole of its brightness. We often called our style Solar metal, because we are not some darkness adherents. We are for freedom, for movement ahead. We create our own world, where pagandom is not eternal middle-age, but like in Japan, just a national religion from the beginning. There was no Christianity, Paganism was, it is and it will be the norm of life. Just imagine – if you live in such a society, will you be a religious fanatic? No, because this is not necessary. There is no need to prove what you preach. We are as serious paganists as we could be.

I don't remember what was a turning point. I came to this in evolution.

Gods Tower - 'An Eye For An Eye' (Official, 1997):

You recorded three demos during the first years as Gods Tower: how actively did you play live back then? Did you feel Gods Tower was a demanding, actual band?

Of course, we were actual and demanding. But we could not find a way to monetize what we do. That's why our activity went into decline.

Debut album 'The Eerie' was recorded at Aria Records Studio in 1997, how did you spend this recording session? Was it relaxed or stressful?

Stressful. Very stressful. With no comments.

Gods Tower played live a lot in the '90s: how were these gigs organized? How far did you get from Belarus?

Furthest we went was into Germany in the west and Rostov in the east. Those gigs were not organized well, except the western ones, but it was always compensated with friendly attitude, and merry spending of time, a kind of rock-tourism. This experience will never repeat, anyway. That era has gone.

How did you survive these tours? How many extreme situations did you live through? You know some of your songs are pretty wild, and it seems logical this wild vibe isn't only on the stage.

We were stronger and younger. As we all were! There were a lot of extreme situations, once we stayed in the middle of the road in winter (there was cruel frost) with a broken engine. We stayed the whole night and a half day before one car took on a trailer to take us home. We almost froze, and we hallucinated from frost. Not comfortable situation, you see. So, you want to ride – prepare for everything, or sit at home. There are no coffee and cookies in the real world.

Next album 'The Turns' was recorded at the same studio in Moscow, and it was released on Metal Agen. How did you work with Agen Price? Did he help the band with promotion? Did you have any royalties from selling?

I don't know what to say… There was promotion, even there were some little royalties, but it was so insufficient that it did not give significant results.

The band split up in 2001, and Alexander Urakoff passed in 2003. Was there a point when you understood that it was impossible to return as Gods Tower?

It immediately became clear that this was a completed stage. Then no one thought about reunion. After a couple of years, such heresy began to slip into conversations, but no one took it seriously. We thought there is no Gods Tower without Alexander Urakoff.

There's a tribute album dedicated to Gods Tower - what were your first impressions when you heard it?

I do not know how important this event is. Personally, I discovered a lot of interesting musicians, but the world didn't get any better.

Current line-up: Lesley Knife (Vocals), Vitaly Abramovich (Guitars), Wladislaw Saltsevich (Drums), Yuri Sivtzov (Bass), Wladislaw Ovchinnikov (Keyboards).

Lesley, you and three original members Yuri Sivtsoff (bass), Wladislaw Saltsevich (drums) and Dmitry Ovchinnikoff (keyboards) resurrected Gods Tower in 2010. Was it difficult to start everything anew? Did you feel that it was a risky thing to re-launch the band without Alexander?

We didn't plan to reunite. We were reunited by external efforts. It took time to understand what we needed in the first place. The first year it was at the level of a temporary project. When it became clear that we would not just give a couple of concerts and run away, but also we would do something in the studio... This understanding did not come immediately. And then there was no point in turning back of this colossus. Now we just exist again.

'Steel Says Last' was released in 2011, and it contains both old songs which weren't included on the full-length albums (but which could be found on some of Gods Tower's compilations) and new tracks recorded during that period. The new songs differ from older material, why didn't you try to fit them into the same concept?

Every new album of ours is a new concept. We never even start to talk about the creation of new stuff, before it is clear – what it's all about. It may last for a long time, but if we have nothing new to say, we prefer to sing old songs. At least, people always like to listen to this. The same concept does not exist, it is always a fresh one. I can tell you – now we are making new songs (to our regret we can't do it fast enough because of everyone's family problems), and now they have a new idea, we were not singing about it either in "The Eerie", nor in "Steel says last". We do not like to repeat ourselves.

Gods Tower - 'Liar' (Official, 2016):

How did the release of the album change the situation around the band? What were people's first reactions?

For me it all stayed the same. We just proceed to create.

Pagan bands often prefer to use lyrics written in their mother tongue, and you have only one song written in Belarusian – 'People in The Swamp'. Didn't you think to switch totally to Belarusian lyrics?

No. we are English-singing metal band. We are going to use English language as the main language for songs, but probably we will make a couple of Belarusian songs, why not. The important detail is that "People in The Swamp"'s translation and adaptation was not made by us, this is the work of Hanna Krofta, our supporter (? I don't know it's suitable to use "fan" status). We saw this verse and found it so cool, so we decided to thank her this way – by making a Belarusian language version of this song. Our only native Belarusian song is "Praise of Sun" from "The Canticles".

By the way, what's your attitude towards paganism nowadays? Are you still into this culture?

We are paganism ourselves, what we do is paganism. We are not in this culture. We are the culture. Paganism is not a religious fanatic, he is a citizen.

Is there any chance that Gods Tower will bring a new album in the near future?

Yes, we are working. We do it slowly, but inevitably!

Gods Tower - 'Evil' (Live):

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Visit the Gods Tower bandpage.

Interviewed on 2019-01-28 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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