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Moscow-based band Train To Elsewhere follow more of a Trad/Folk path than many Russian Doom bands, citing a wide variety of influences. Comrade Aleks chats with guitarist Maria K. about all of these, and their recently-released album 'Samhain'.

Interview with Train To Elsewhere.
"The Moscow underground scene is full of Doom bands. Doom/Death, Doom/Stoner, Doom/Sludge and very, very few exceptions. It's hard to identify the direction Train to Elsewhere follows. Metal Archives hint at something like "Folk Doom" and probably a better comparison is Völur, though, as Maria Kashkina (guitars) says, the band's influences stretch far further, from Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus to Jack Frost and Icelandic Folk. You would be really focused to track these resemblances down in Train to Elsewhere's album 'Samhain', but it's our duty to find the truth in the Doom underground corridors - we'll try to find it out from Maria."

Current line-up: Anton Bryukov (Bass), Maria K. "Gerard" (Lead Guitars), M'aiq the Liar (Drums), Anna Utopian (Vocals, Keyboards), Olga (Rhythm Guitars).

Hi Maria! How are you? What's the news in your camp?

We currently had a line-up change, our vocalist Denis has left the band and Anna Utopian joined us on vocals and keyboards. So our next album which we are working on right now will feature some atmospheric and psychedelic influences. Also we're preparing some live gigs for this summer and fall.

I suppose the fact you have a new lady on vocals should affect your future material, but what about the current songs you have? Will you re-arrange them for Anna?

We have already rearranged the songs and played a gig live in the new lineup. It was the Doom Birthday 4 festival and we where glad to share the stage with Halter, Inner Missing and Autumn Woods. Each next gig we play we try to improve and experiment with the sound, we saw positive feedback from the audience so that is a good sign. The «Samhain» album was first played live in Novomoskovsk in the old lineup.

It's said the band was formed in 2017. What made you gather under this banner?

First we jammed together for a couple of years - there were four of us first - and then all this slowly evolved into making a demo recording, then playing live and finally recording an album. Sometimes it seems like we have been always playing together. And in reality we did jam and collaborate on various projects from time to time.

Train To Elsewhere - 'Doom Birthday IV' (Live, 2021):

What kind of music did you aim to perform from the start? And why did you choose such a name for the band?

We started playing a mix of post-punk and psychedelic rock, but then we began adding more and more doom metal into our music. Also our songs include a lot of folk influences in melodies and lyrics. But it's not typical "folk-metal", but rather Finno-Ugric authentic folk melodies, intertwined with dark folk elements and Eastern European folk references.

About the band's name we wanted something original that would describe us, our sound and message - this name represents a long journey of a human being through his lifetime which will lead through the chain of changes to the final destination in the end. On this level the name is a metaphor of human existence and mortality, kind of existentialism. Also we hoped to pay respects to the great bands that influenced us: Black Sabbath had a song Saint Vitus' Dance, which gave the name to the band Saint Vitus, who had a song Jack Frost, which influenced the Austrian gothic doom band's name. Jack Frost had an album titled "Elsewhere", and the name Train to Elsewhere is in some way a reference to that album.

Nice concept, though I wouldn't take Jack Frost's 'Elsewhere', they have stronger albums. However what did draw you towards Finno-Ugric folk music? I could understand that if you lived in Saint Petersburg, but Moscow is far from this…

We like the all Jack Frost albums up to and including Gloom Rock Asylum. Finno-Ugric folk is just an acquired taste for us. We feel a connection to that type of music. We love the melodies and some of the folk songs influence the riffing on the Samhain album of course it is not the key element but it is there.

With original vocalist Denis Generalov.

I didn't find any information as to whether some of you played in any other band before Train to Elsewhere? What's your musical background?

Our lead guitarist Maria and bassist Anton also create music in a studio project Sigil of Time, which presents an experimental mix of neofolk, guitar ambient, electronic and some other genres. From time to time our bandmates take part in different local projects and jams. Anna Utopian - our vocalist - had a Russian/Mexican darkwave project Innocent Dreamedy, that recorded an album. Also she lived in Mexico and took part in local dark wave/minimal wave projects.

Some of Train to Elsewhere's songs first were recorded as Sigil of Time demos, but never published - and then reworked into doom metal form.

Your debut album released in October 2020 is entitled 'Samhain', that promises some pagan topics behind your lyrics. But how do you actually see the concept behind this album?

We are not part of the pagan metal movement. However, our lyrics feature pagan imagery and symbolism in a way we try to incorporate pagan myth in our lyrics for dramatic effect just like it's used in some Russian poetry of the late XIXth century. The main themes of the lyrics are the recognition of one's mortality and different aspects of death - on "The Path", mystical dark field of pre-christian pagan tradition in "Samhain" and "Mothir", Gnosticism in "Ashes", omens and symbolism in "Silent Guard", romanticism in "Where you live", and pagan beauty of nature in "Northern Summer". The title track "Samhain" was inspired by a cult folk horror film "The Wicker Man" (1973) while also referencing the original pagan roots of Halloween - Samhain.

Well, Russian poetry seems to be a more original influence than The Wicker Man, and it isn't something obvious one can find in your songs. Please tell more about this "poetic" element.

Some of the songs on the albums like «The Path» «Ashes» «Where Do you live» were first poems written by Maria and only then became songs. We think The Path is an example of good meaningful lyrics that tell a symbolic story of a soul's journey after death. We think our attempt to make an album with a non-generic lyrical content was more or less successful which was an important goal. By the way our first vocalist Dmitry Kolotievskiy who sang before Denis is mostly known as a poet in the Moscow's poetic underground circles. The title track «Samhain» was written by Anton under the influence of some British/Irish poetry especially the works of W. B. Yeats the poet was known for his ties to the folklore of his land. Of course the format of the song dictated to shorten the initial text a bit. Returning to the Russian poets we would name Boris Ryzhy, Nikolay Gumilyov as the ones who inspired us to attempt a more poetic approach to writing lyrics, rather than attaching something to an already written song as a lot of bands do.

Train To Elsewhere - 'Doom Birthday IV' (Live, 2021):

'Samhain' sounds bleak, cold and quite dreary. Which factors, which bands formed it?

The bleak atmosphere of the album and lyrics is dictated by our world view, the existential understanding of human condition and also yearning for something clear, more ancient and 'real' which opposes the mainstream culture of the current times. That's why we tried to touch upon the themes and subjects we frequently think about. To talk about the bands which influenced us, we can name a few: from the doom metal genre it's mostly the classics like Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Reverend Bizarre, Trouble (the first two albums), Saint Vitus, Jack Frost, Type O Negative, also a very important is the heavy metal riffing of Manilla Road and from the Russian scene we would mention Autumn, Люди Осени and Город Дит. On the other hand we really like neo-folk ad dark folk bands like Tenhi, Sangre de Muerdago and some British classical dark folk. Members of our band listen to many types of music, ranging from thrash and classical heavy metal to authentic folk, experimental and classical music, post-punk, electronic jazz and blues… All of these to some degree influence our sound. When we worked on mixing Samhain, we wanted a raw sound, something between the first Autumn album and the first two Pentagram albums, but just a little bit more modern. So we were actually quite happy in the way the production of the album came out. We don't like trigger drums and we surely don't like modern sounding metal production, so we would agree with Fenriz of Darkthrone on how an album should sound.

Such influences sound quite authentic, and I'm surprised you've mentioned so few names from the Russian scene. Why do you think the Russian doom scene (with a few exceptions) is so lifeless? After all there are very, very few traditional doom bands here, most of them are really young.

We think Russia has a somewhat strong doom-death/gothic doom scene and an interesting funeral-doom scene. But we agree that we almost don't have a traditional and epic doom scene but the exceptions are all good bands (Scald, Gorod Dit, Новый Завет, Vendel are outstanding each in their way). The lack of traditional doom and epic doom is due to historical development of the Russian Heavy Scene. First of all we had the «iron curtain» and thus Russia was cut from the world culturally when traditional doom and epic doom were on the rise in the '80s it was hard to hear the bands in the USSR. Yet some few bands were still influenced by this sound. After the collapse of the USSR, the Russian heavy scene first began to take part at what was current for the '90s and in terms of doom it was doom-death and gothic doom. Secondly Russia has a part of European culture, so it is natural that the Peaceville sounding bands became the staple of Russian doom for many years. The blues rooted traditional doom from the USA is not too popular in Russia, it is just not the trend. So most of the new Sabbath-sounding bands emerging now play the sludge and stoner, that part of the scene is active as the doom-death. What turned us to traditional doom riffing is the sheer medieval and occult horror atmosphere which you don't get anywhere else. We are fans of traditional and epic doom due to its unique raw and honest atmosphere. Yet we respect the Russian doom scene and really like the bands like Halter, Mare Infinitum as well as some other bands. We wouldn't call our doom scene lifeless, far from it, good records are released, gigs are played, yet we really really need more epic and traditional doom metal!

There's the Icelandic folk song 'Mothir' amongst your own material. How did you pick up this track for 'Samhain'?

The legend behind this folk song instantly seemed like a great tragic and beautiful piece of art to turn into a song.

It's important, that like any story in a folk legend the narrative is told somewhere in the realm of spiritual beliefs of the past, in between light and dark, in a world full of unknown and unfriendly archetypes. This is what the world looked like to people of those times, we wanted to capture that sense, those voices from the past - as best as we could.

How do you see Train to Elsewhere's features and strong sides? What would you like to achieve with the next recording?

We think the band's strongest side is making music for ourselves. We are really grateful to all those who support us, but for us our artistic vision and its integrity is a key to making good music which we and hopefully the listeners can appreciate. We try not to ain for the common path and really don't care for the current trends on music. We hope this kind of free approach will help us to create something unique. On the next album we have three major goals: first to stay true to our chosen sound yet expanded and make it different from the first album, we will try to achieve this by focusing a bit more on sound design and mixing and of course adding the keyboards. Also on this album we will try to experiment a bit with some psychedelic rock elements. And last we want to make a more professional sounding record just not in the way the music industry views professionalism today. It's important that all the elements of the puzzle fit perfectly.

Train To Elsewhere - 'Samhain' (Album, 2020):

Will you search for a label next time? How are you distributing 'Samhain'?

We had some experiences with a few labels yet we released Samhain independently primarily as a digital album. We didn't get the print of the album yet. So it is on Bandcamp, youtube and streaming platforms. We didn't have a goal to sell our album and make money rather we wanted for people to hear our music. So we are happy for the support we got from Bandcamp and the positive feedback our album got on some YouTube channels it was uploaded to. Actually the debut album will be released digitally on Kryrart Records (where our demo has been released) this summer with slightly new cover art and bonus tracks from lives and demos. Later we are thinking about a proper release on tape and cd in limited numbers. And we will see what happens with that and decide what to do with our second album

What are your plans for next album?

We are currently working on the songs for the album, but we wouldn't announce any deadlines. It will surely be shorter but more worked on album and we won't hit the studio until it's 100% ready. We might work on a few covers and we're planning to take part in a few gigs with the new material when it's ready.

Thanks for the interview! I hope we'll have a reason for another one sooner or later. Have we missed anything important? Oh, I've forgotten to say - the artwork for 'Samhain' is awesome!

Thank you for the interesting questions! The artwork was done by our rhythm guitarist Olga, we really like the results too!

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Visit the Train To Elsewhere bandpage.

Interviewed on 2021-04-25 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Aesthetic Death
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