I don’t know about you but I have a friend called Lizaveta, well Elizaveta, known as Lisa for short hand. All I can and will tell you about her is that she didn’t stink, not by a long shot, although her room predominantly did. It wasn’t a horrific smell, just the constant burning of incense blending with the other smells of a dwelling containing four other mostly housebound students. There is purpose to this anecdote, as the phrase Stinking Lizaveta is actually lifted from Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov of which my friend will most likely be familiar with because she is also Russian. But not only does she share her name with a character from a Russian philosophical novel from the 1800’s, she also shares it with a highly unique instrumental hard rock trio from Philadelphia. Not only does the band have a career spanning over twenty years, but their approach to instrumentation makes their soundscapes an unmissable tour de force, blending a myriad and menagerie of genres from far and wide. In their own words, they describe their music as ‘doom jazz,’ not the first time the phrase has been coined, but the proclaimed label does have an air of truth to it. The free-forming and switching of tempos resembles that of jazz in its heyday, with the surprising size of strength behind the guitar in slower, concentrated jams certainly invoking a hazier doom spirit. But that’s where that label doesn’t begin to cover the vast spectrum of playing ability that Stinking Lizaveta are capable of morphing in their own eclectic manner. The highly cinematic Sacrifice And Bliss album from 2009, takes cues from Eastern Europe, noise rock, psychedelia, math, 70’s prog, funk, the blues and even modern metal in places, molding it all into a complex sculpture of tremendous artistic ability. Every song is its own tale with trial and tribulations. The title track for instance, shows that blues influence taking on an almost Spaghetti-Western persona, the sun rising on the backdrop of softer strums and more melodic notes, before drums work their way into the fabric, the constant crashing of cymbals giving power to an unseen protagonist, that once pace picks up, kicks into action. After a barrage of notes and drums, urgent and suggesting imminent threat, old school prog rock virtuoso soloing quickly comes into play, injecting an optimism and triumph into the proceedings as the protagonist has conquered all ahead of them. There is not really enough in just four and a half minutes to give you a full taste of how incredible these three musicians are. Steve Albini, Corrosion of Conformity and Clutch can’t be wrong to work with them. Although their name may not give much away, one thing you can be certain of is, if they had to stink, you can bet their stink would be an aroma of otherworldly proportions.
All of Stinking Lizaveta’s back catalogue can be found through most respectable music retailers, in physical or occasionally digital formats. In the meantime, if you enjoyed this title track, the entire album is available to listen to here.