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Tovarish: If The War Comes Tomorrow

“Tovarish” was commonly used as a greeting between comrades in the old Soviet Union. I first encountered the term in the 1980s from reading X-Men comics. Piotr Rasputin, otherwise known as the mutant Colossus, called his friends Tovarish. Even though this Tovarish has little to do with superhero comics, it’s safe to say that the band wants to recognize potential comrades before overwhelming them with dense, and sometimes overwhelming, meditations on our time.

If you know Tovarish, you’ll already understand that they are an explicitly political band. What you may not know is that the band deliberately put aside familiar metal tropes in favor of addressing the specific social and cultural problems related to late capitalism. If that sounds ambitious, consider that the band also sees themselves partly in terms of bearing witness to a world on the brink of collapse. Borrowing from essayist Walter Benjamin, the band sees themselves as part of an urgent need “to understand a humanity that proves itself by destruction.” That is a fascinating concept and is certainly one that will prove more interesting as the world grows more restless and more chaotic. When the band decided to shift away from familiar metal tropes to address the problems of late capitalism, it probably felt like a luxury; today, however, it probably feels more like a necessity.

Given that I am a relative newcomer to Tovarish, I was fascinated by successfully the band was able to convey their ambitions on this album. The band is not afraid to take risks and they have continued to shift in new directions with each project. On this album, the band hits home with a series of tracks that blend ambient noise with instruments, sound clips, and vocal performance. To enhance the effect, the band draws on techniques used in film and television production to invite the listener to listen carefully. From beginning to end, the album carries the listener through a range of soundscapes that, together, give the impression that nothing is safe. At times, the music sounds like the musical equivalent of a treatise against modern corruption. If you look at the song titles, you’ll start to get the idea. And if you listen, you’ll catch on even faster. I realize that dark ambient noise like this may have limited appeal. I only like about half of the things I hear in this vein. However, Tovarish does a good job balancing the politics with what I’ll call sheer musical fascination. Whether you like this album or not, you will certainly catch on the band’s larger ambitions. Tovarish is rarely subtle, but they get the point across memorably and effectively.

If you’re curious about Tovarish, I suggest listening to “In the Language of Firepower.” A haunting track, it certainly captures the destructive power of military force while also weaving in the lamenting voices of those left behind. You might even recognize Jamie Myers (Sabbath Assembly) offering guest vocals. I’d also suggest “They Know,” probably because it opens the album with a warning to “disperse” or get arrested. I thought it was cool to kick things off by telling the audience that protests are not always welcome. If those tracks appeal to you, shift over to the closing title track. It’s not an easy song to hear, but it definitely captures the despair at the heart of this project. For better or worse, it also sticks with you long after it ends. You’ve probably never heard anything quite like Tovarish, but you have to love a band that bucks convention, takes risks, and does it all so well.

Track Listing:
1. They Know
2. Capitalism in Decay
3. We Slept
4. Silver and Lead
5. In the Language of Firepower
6. To Hide is to Survive
7. From Trench to Triumph
8. The Year Without Summer
9. If the War Comes Tomorrow

Added: September 25th 2019
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Score:
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 303
Language: english

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