DIY Punk in Eastern Europe: Belarus Scene Report 2014
An insight into the DIY hardcore punk scene of Belarus
Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. It’s mostly known for its agricultural vehicles and athletes. Belarus was a part of the Soviet Union and gained independence in 1991. Nevertheless Russian influence is still strong here. Alexander Lukashenko has been the president since the very first election in 1994. Lukashenko is often referred to as the “last European dictator” by western politicians and media. His rule led Belarus to an economical, political, and social stagnation. The fact that the country has one of the largest per capita numbers of police in the world along with frequent cases of police brutality make it a police state.
Belarus is neither part of the European Union nor the Schengen Area, which means Belarusian citizens have to get visas to travel to most European countries (and sadly most other countries in the world as well). Along with low salaries, it’s one of the main reasons local bands mostly tour Russia and Ukraine and most of the foreign bands that play here are from the countries mentioned above.
The majority of Belarusian hardcore and punk bands are from two cities, Minsk, the capital of Belarus, and a city located 20 kilometers from the borders of Lithuania and Poland called Grodno (Hrodna).
The whole hardcore and punk scene in Minsk was pioneered by the band Hate To State (also known as H82ST8). They played shows since around 1997 and put out a first demo in 1998. Their short songs could be described as very simple and full of anger and hatred. Some of the titles are “Ненависть” (“Hatred”), “Убей Меня” (“Kill Me”), and “Всё, Что Я Вижу, Я Ненавижу” (“I Hate Everything I See”). In the beginning of 2014, they played a show to celebrate the guitarist’s 50th birthday, but it doesn’t seem like they’re gonna be active anymore.
As far as I know the first punk band from Grodno was Deviation. They formed in 1993. They played anarcho-punk with lyrics in Belarusian and released 4 records, “Lukashenko Über Alles”, “Хуй Вам, Або Таталітарызм Ня Пройдзе” (“Fuck you, Totalitarianism Won’t Pass”), “Guerrilla Urbana”, and “Чарговы Дзень Пад Акупацыяй” (“Another Day Of Occupation”) .
Another prominent band from Grodno was the legendary Contra La Contra. Their songs had a strong political and social message. Some of their lyrics quickly became political slogans and still could be heard during anarchist or antifascist demonstrations in Russian-speaking countries. Contra La Contra released a demo in 2001 and a CD (that was later released on vinyl in Germany) entitled “Ни Слова О Политике” (“Nothing About Politics”) in 2002. Some of their most popular songs are “Из Черной Резины Сделана Власть” (“The Authority Is Made Of Black Rubber”), “Плохие Девочки Выбирают Свободу” (“Bad Girls Choose Freedom”), “Путин – убийца” (“Putin is a murderer”), “Лука заебал” (“Fuck You, Luka[shenko]”). The band toured Western Europe in 2002 and became hella popular in the Russian punk scene even though they didn’t play a single show there. It’s believed that none of their shows here ended as planned because all of them were shut down by police.
The Belorussian Hardcore Punk Scene Now
After the band broke up, two members of Contra La Contra formed a new band called Bagna. They play straight-out anarcho-punk/crust with lyrics in Russian and Belarusian. So far Bagna have released 3 split records, one with I Know from Minsk in 2006, one with Skarpretter from Copenhagen entitled “We Don’t Want Your Fuckin’ Borders” in 2008 and one with the Polish band Life Scars in 2012. They’re going to release a s/t 7″ very soon, some tracks of which are available on their Bandcamp page.
Some members of Bagna/Contra La Contra and other bands from Grodno are also in the band called Monday Suicide. They play sick raw and angry “in your face” sort of punk rock. Monday Suicide have released a 5-song demo in 2010. A split with Landverraad from Netherlands is going to be released very soon.
There’s also the band I Hope You Die from Grodno that consists of some dudes from the bands mentioned above. They play fast melodic hardcore.
Speaking of Minsk my favorite band from here is Appleshout, they aren’t currently active though. They played fast hardcore/thrashcore and sang about politics, animal right, neo-nazism, punk scene and other stuff. Appleshout disbanded in 2010 and all the members later formed/joined other influential bands such as My Dog’s a Cat, Pull Out An Eye, Face Forward, Unsilent, and Deadfall.
Face Forward released their first demo in 2009 that was followed with the release of “To This City” EP (2010) which sounded similar to Champion. According to the band members their influences also were Count Me Out, Ruiner, Wait In Vain, Ritual, Strife, Sinking Ships, and Verse. Back in the day, they played almost every local show and were hella popular. Face Forward toured Russia twice (one of those tours was with Lasting Traces from Germany) and played a few festivals there. In 2011, they recorded a bunch of new songs that were supposed to be released on a split record with Flawless Victory from Moscow but that didn’t happen and the band put them on their second EP called “World of Lines” which strayed from their Champion-esque sound. After some lineup changes, they split up in the fall of 2012. Face Forward announced a reunion in 2014 with the original lineup and have already played a few shows.
Unsilent is a band featuring some of the dudes from Appleshout. They changed their lineup and sound a few times. They have 2 records, a self titled full length (2010) and “Born Under A Bad Sign” (2012).
Another descendent of Appleshout is My Dog’s a Cat, a hardcore punk band in vein of Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Adolescents, Minor Threat and so on. They recorded their 3-song demo in February of 2009 with Victor Chkhikvadze from Moscow, Russia (Rearranged, Dehumanization, Mind Trap) on vocals. In July of 2010, they put out a full length album called “Hope and Despair” with another vocalist from Russia who left the band in mid 2012. Currently the band consists of 3 dudes.
Pull Out An Eye play fast, straight-out thrashcore with simple yet clever and powerful lyrics targeting homophobia, politics, racism and other things. Their current lineup is the same as MDAC but with a different singer. Back in the day, they toured in Poland with Vitamin X. POAE played a 10 year anniversary show in February after a 3 year hiatus and hopefully they will play more often now.
The guitarist of Face Forward, who was also the singer of Appleshout, started a band called Deadfall which is obviously inspired by such acts as Terror, Hatebreed, Lionheart, and Trapped Under Ice. They have only one record, an EP entitled “Ходим По Краю” (“Walking On The Edge”)
There is also a band called Come To Get Her that played their last shows and changed their lineup a few times but it seems like they are practicing again. Their sound could be described as “Fat-Wreck-ready mall punk” (actually it was described like that by Maximum Rocknroll).
All Day Night is a dark-hardcore band from Minsk with well-written lyrics who have released 2 records, “Dream Catcher” in 2010 and a one-track album entitled “Сотни Причин” (“Hundreds of Reasons”) in 2012.
The only active straight edge band around is Check Your Chest. They play metal-influenced hardcore with growling vocals and heavy riffs. I’m not really into their sound or bands that influenced them so I’m not gonna say much.
In the end of 2010, four dudes with shared interests (fixed gear bikes, football, tattoos, Food Not Bombs) started the band Marathon. They play emo/indie/punk that kinda reminds me of the Danish band Lack. They released a demo and a 6-track album entitled “Eight Hours” (2011). Marathon has been on hiatus for a while but hopefully they’ll put out some new stuff and start playing shows again in the future.
Some members of Marathon also play in a sludge/stoner band called Coat. They released a live demo in 2011 featuring a cover of “The Day of the Lords” by Joy Division and a LP called “Swamp” in 2013.
CBiHCiTY (the name consists of the Belarusian word “свiн” (“a swine”) and the English word city) is a pretty underrated hardcore punk band from Minsk that has put out a bunch of sick stuff including 3 full-length albums (“Garage Days” in 2008, “Skacore Killers” in 2010, “Death And Progress” in 2013), 2 EP’s (“Your Anger Is A Gift EP” in 2009, “6+3 Ep” in 2011) and a cover-album entitled “The Less It Sounds Like A Song The More We Like It” in 2012 which includes covers of Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Adolescents, OFF!, Fucked Up, 7 seconds etc.
Parom is a post-hardcore band from Minsk influenced by bands like Boris, Black Sabbath, Kyuss etc. They play hella cool music with sick guitar-riffs and short lyrics.
Sen Deni is a pretty popular screamo band from Minsk. They are the first and so far the only band from Belarus that’ve played Fluff Fest in Czech Republic.
I Know is an anarcho-punk collective formed in 2005 who have released a bunch of records, some of which are on vinyl. They toured Russia, Ukraine, Poland and other European countries.
There are also a bunch of young bands that haven’t played a lot of shows or put out a lot of records including emo bands Full Lungs and Ксилема (“Xylem”), a screamo band called Scenario, anarcho-punk bands Civil Bastards and Рвань (“Dud”), and a grind/crust/whatever band called Huščar (“Thicket”).
A local hardcore label called Tailback Records made a documentary on the Belarusian hardcore and punk scene entitled “Делай Шум!” (“Make A Noise”), named after the song by Appleshout. The documentary is in Russian and unfortunately there aren’t English subtitles for it.
Although Minsk is pretty big city with the population of 2 million people, there aren’t many vegan/vegetarian-friendly places. I mean you can order a salad or fries at most places, but that’s all. That started to change when the bar Хулиган (“Hooligan”) was opened last fall. The bar is situated in a nice old industrial quarter not that far from the city center. All the food and snacks are vegetarian or vegan. They were going to open a café on the second floor, but it didn’t happen, and I don’t know if it will. They hold parties on Fridays and weekends. There is also a kicker table there which definitely makes this bar worthwhile. Other options include asian-food take-out, shawarma places that make falafel, veggie-burgers sold at a few non-vegetarian places, some faux-Mexican food and so on.
There are 3 active Food Not Bombs groups in Minsk. Two of them serve food on Saturday in different places and one serves food on Sunday. FNB activists constantly face police repressions. There was a FNB-benefit show on March 25, 2012 where one of the most serious acts of police brutality towards FNB activists and punk kids occurred. The show had just started when police special forces rushed into the building and detained everyone (about a hundred kids in total). The police held people in a cold shed within the police department. They also violated laws concerning the treatment of detainees. Most of the kids were released by midnight but 14 kids were put in jail to wait for their trial and later were fined or sentenced for 2 days. Police detain kids and band members from time to time but it mostly happens at small shows in small towns.
Written in May, 2014 by Valodzia X. Contact the author at [email protected]