Back in February, our J. Andrew Zalucky introduced you, the Decibel website faithful, to Russia’s Cist via a track premiere from their then-new release, The Frozen Casket. The quartet from Smolensk in the western part of the country near the border of Belarus are still pimping that same release this many months later and why not? It’s old-school death metal par excellence that sounds like the ghost of Chuck Schuldiner emerging from a creaky tomb with an HM-2 pedal in one hand and Matt Harvey’s record collection in the other.
The Frozen Casket continues to cause a stir in subterranean death metal circles with the latest win being the band’s label, Redefining Darkness Records teaming up with Reaper Metal Productions to issue a vinyl release of the EP. Seeing as the various parties involved are still working out the planning kinks, Reaper Metal Productions will be offering The Frozen Casket at a ‘name your own price’ price for the digital download from the time this interview runs (like, now) through to the end of the weekend (August 6th). In the meantime, we decided to get in touch with guitarist Nikolai Komshukov to discuss a bit of their history and what else the band has been up to.
Can you give a brief history of the band?
Nikolai Komshukov: As your readers may know, before Cist there was another band I was playing in called Hell’s Thrash Horsemen from 2007 to 2014. We released one EP …Till Violence, one LP Going Sane, a split with Rattle from Brazil and a demo that should have been a passage to the second LP, but by that time we faced big problems with the line-up and the attitudes of the band members. As a result, we stopped playing shows and eventually split up. During the stagnation period, I thought about building up another band. By the time of HTH’s decline, myself and Mick Shapovalov (drums, ex-HTH) had a few rehearsals together. Later Stas Salnikov (bass, ex-HTH) and Vitaly Lushchenkov (vocals/metal strings) joined the band.
When putting Cist together, did you have a particular direction in mind? Were you looking to deliberately do something that was so old-school sounding?
The direction was to play classic death/thrash metal of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s at its best. Of course we try to reconstruct the old-school sound and that helps to create a certain atmosphere and feel the compositions better.
What do you feel you have to offer that separates you from other bands that very obviously take influence and inspiration from the past?
I can’t say for sure. I’m not able to estimate my music objectively. Maybe something makes us stand out in front of the others, but that’s up to the listeners to say. We don’t intend to be a particularly unique band; we just play what we like.
What can you tell us about your home city? Is there much of a supportive metal scene there or do you find yourselves looking to other cities/countries?
Smolensk is a very old city. It’s 1155 years old from its first mention in the records and this number is considered the official age of Smolensk. But in fact it is even older and has an enormously rich history. The Smolensk’s scene is quite diverse. You’ll find punk and pop rock bands, rockabilly, hardcore, SKA, jazz and blues bands, various cover bands. Though there are very few metal bands in Smolensk, we’re the only ones here to represent classic death metal. Mostly we try to perform in other cities, like St. Petersburg; the support there is always awesome. If you take a look at the Russian scene in general, there are lots of good bands playing death/brutal death metal and grindcore. By the way, the most eminent representatives of old-school death metal from Russia were introduced on the Faces of Death compilation which includes tracks by 16 bands (including Cist).
What can you tell us about the writing and recording of The Frozen Casket?
Damn, it was hard. We planned to collect money to record on a professional studio, but the sum we collected wasn’t enough to record. It was decided we’d purchase semi-professional equipment for recording. The process took place on our basement where we rehearsed. We bought a set of microphones (some of them we rented) and an old portable studio Yamaha AW16G, connected it to PC sound card to get two additional micro inputs, synchronized them and started the recording. We had to re-record all the tracks to CD to transfer them to PC for the following mixing. This was the autumn-winter period and there was no heat in the room and sometimes we had to work with our jackets on as the room got as cold as a real “frozen casket”! After all that horror we had a finalized material that needed mixing and mastering. We tried to find someone who could deal with it and a number of people tried, but we weren’t satisfied with the results. Thus, I decided to do it myself. Due to the lack of experience it cost me a lot of time. So, it’s up to you to judge what came out of it.
Wasn’t The Frozen Casket released by a different label before Redefining Darkness? How did you come to the attention of Redefining Darkness?
Yes, initially the EP was released by my label HTH Productions in collaboration with Russia’s Metal Race Records in the format of jewel-case CD. A month later it was re-released on cassette by Britain’s Camo Pants Records. I should say they did a great job for the release promotion and thus we received an offer from Redefining Darkness Records. In their turn RDR made an awesome digi-pak with bonus tracks and did some great promotion as well. Many thanks to them!
How have you found the “public” reactions to be since The Frozen Casket was released?
We got a lot of positive reviews including yours and we’re happy about it as it took so much time and efforts since we started. When I first got the CD I examined it and found it well done with a feeling of relief and completeness. Positive recollections encourage me to work on a new material.
How much live work/touring have you done? Is there a tour circuit in Russia that can potentially take you to the eastern part of the country?
We had a Russian tour in 2015 together with a speed/thrash metal band Entrace. It wasn’t big – just five cities, but that was awesome. Unfortunately, we don’t perform very often due to the problems with the line-up. We don’t have a full-time bassist and ‘rent’ our friends from the other bands. I haven’t heard of any fixed tour circuit in Russia. Organizing a tour to the eastern part is possible ,but it will take a lot of time. By the way, we will play at Nukstock Open Air in Germany on 24th of August and I’d like to invite all the rock fans to this festival to have a jolly time at the end of summer.
Tell us about how you got involved in Grotesque Sounds Records’ Sabbat tribute album.
We got into a chat in vk.com (Russian social network) where we conversed with the other representatives of Russian death metal scene and that’s where we got an offer to participate in a tribute. As we respect Sabbat, we accepted the offer without hesitation. We chose “Sacrifice of Angel” for a cover version, rehearsed and recorded it. And then it became an opening track for the tribute. That was pleasing. We did the recording ourselves, the same way as The Frozen Casket. I hope we made it well enough. Again, it’s up to you to judge.
What are the goals and aspirations you have for Cist going forward?
The main goal is to play the classic aggressive music that will make metal fans rejoice. Along with it, to have a rich and good discography and to play on big shows and tours.
Check out Reaper Metal Productions Bandcamp page for ‘name your price’ access to The Frozen Casket.