The Sad Sordid Saga of Semargl
An in-depth look at what goes wrong (everything) when black metal goes clubbing.
In 2010, I thought I’d struck internet gold when randomly clicking around on YouTube rewarded me with a track from Ukraine’s Semargl. Here was a band I’d never heard of with a great sound, several albums to explore and my pathetic hope that, if they found success, I could follow their career and perhaps gain more enjoyment out of their future endeavors as they grew and matured as a band. I was wrong.
According to Wikipedia, Semargl is:
a deity or mythical creature in East Slavic mythology, depicted as a winged lion or dog. The Zoryas, solar goddesses who are servants or daughters of the deity Dazhbog, keep Simargl chained to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Major, to prevent him from breaking free and destroying the constellation, and causing the world to end.
Oh shit that RULES. Said winged lion-dog would most certainly disapprove of some Ukrainian dudes adopting its name in order to make decent black metal, then grungier black metal, then different stuff, then… well I’m getting ahead of myself, but the point is not to taunt the ancient winged lion-dog gods, dude. They have their ways of getting revenge. Humiliating, humiliating revenge.
“Rawr buddy” – Semargl
On that note, let’s go ahead and take a look at the strange, uncomfortably erotic musical journey of where this band started and where they ended up.
Attack on God (2005)
Following the standard black metal tradition of releasing a couple demos no one can find anymore, Semargl’s first full-length is an extremely not bad entry, taking bits of inspiration from early Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Diabolical Masquerade and similar others who were fond of keyboards (as was the style at the time). Decent production, solid riffs, appropriately blasphemous artwork, occasional incorporation of some OSDM sounds and the balls to let the bassist slap the strings around instead of over-fuzzing or outright burying him completely. This could easily have been a transition album from Behemoth before they wandered out of the proverbial black metal forest and into the swampy marsh of blackened-barber-shop-ownership. Overall, good album.
Clues this black metal band will one day use eye searing green screen effects angrily rejected by Mariah Carey: none yet.
Vid above starts at 0:29. With a noticeably slower start, murkier guitar tone and less keyboard than Attack on God, the band seems intent on immediately making their musical expansion known in their second release. With plenty of icy black metal influence still present, mid-paced Morbid Angel-esque death metal influences begin to share equal billing with tremolo-laden blasting. As with the preceding album, the band here is a riff generator operating at maximum capacity, constantly hitting the listener with something new and repeating sections only when needed. There are also three effect-heavy instrumental tracks here to serve as pallet cleansers between songs – nothing out of the ordinary for a band like this, and hey I love that kinda thing.
Clues this blackened metal band soon will irrevocably sow the blinking seed of an epileptic neon horrorfruit yet to bloom: the final track indicates at least one band member has a distinct interest in beat-making. Uh oh…
Vid above starts at 0:48. This is the riff that was my very first introduction to the band, and what a riff. It has everything I ever want in music: minor key nastiness, machine gun drumming and full-on “let’s fucking windmill” swagger. This is a confident statement by a band that knows where it’s going and knows how to get there by unleashing the sound it’s been cultivating over the last two albums. The remaining 65 minutes of the album teeter back and forth between tremolos & blasting, groove & dissonance and carefully placed noise intermissions to create a statement on themes of war and collapse.
Clues this groove-heavy extreme band will eventually pump out overpriced martini anthems for dudes who shave their forearms: none! They mercifully seem to have altered course. Let’s hope it stays that way (it won’t).
Ordo Bellictum Satanas (2010)
You know what? I’m on board with this. Yeah there’s a heavy dose of black & roll era Satyricon in this sound, but they pull it off well. Unfortunately, the album also contains this song, which is very bad and not good, and an obvious plea on at least one band member’s part to be taken seriously by the dance club venues or something. I can hear the phone call to a close friend now. “I just don’t know один, my band’s image lies with Satan, by my heart longs for the neon tinged, vomit-covered floors of the club scene. We have a new album in the works and I’ve got all these unused techno demos just collecting dust. If only I could combine the two into something gross and unsatisfying for everyone… hey, еврика!”
Clues this band expanding its musical horizons would rather be scoring the soundtrack to someone’s worst bachelor party ever where half the guys can’t get in because of their dingy tracksuits and the other half are already drunk because they started drinking Horilka at 8AM: their next album cover is this.
Satanic Pop Metal (2012)
Following the example set by “Credo Revolution” from the previous album, the band has decided to make music for that particular breed of metal fan who wants to A) rock the fuck out with their metal heroes, B) jerk off. Possibly at the same time, I can’t and won’t confirm. Enter two hot, hot lesbian nuns hotly making out all hot & shit brah. Dude, get this: one of them is dressed in white, see? She’s the “pure” one. But the other one is dressed in black, she’s the “temptress.” Get it?! Ohhhh man I wonder what hot lesbiany trouble they’re going to get intOH MY GOD MOM YOU NEED TO KNOCK BEFORE YOU COME IN HERE I’M NOT DOING ANYTHING I SWEAR IT’S A METAL VIDEO GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT.
And then from the same album, we suddenly have a personnel and costume change, and this epileptic monstrosity finds its way online:
Not even bothering to hide it now. Just let it all out, Semargl.
Is that evil mime lost?
Oh wait it’s just Galder’s stunt double in a Hello Kitty commercial.
Everyone looks like they’re genuinely having fun. The previous sentence is a lie.
The rare Bahamut Eurotrash summoning from Final Fantasy 8.
Oh no, we’re not done yet. Just in case the “repressed nun porn” and “luxury iPhone case” aesthetics of the previous videos haven’t fully sold you yet on what Semargl has to offer, their next album seems to have done away with the band entirely and is little more than a woman singing over stock audio for a shampoo commercial, complete with stock video for… also a shampoo commercial. And more porn.
“Ukrainian winters can be murder on your hair.”
“Restore moisture and confidence with our new Organic Kale Acai Strawberry Cinnamon Sugar Cake Follicular Exfoliating Restorative Conditioner.”
“L’Oréal. Because you’re worth it.” MOM AAAHHHH HOLY SHIT YOU DID IT AGAIN YOU HAVE TO KNOCK DAMMIT IT’S JUST ANOTHER METAL VIDEO I SWEAR TO GOD GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT
Killer Dance (2014)
Two albums in one year. Clearly this is high-quality stuff they’re making. Just look at this screenshot and take a random guess how it sounds, I’m not even gonna bother posting it.
Also, note to self: check out video about Captain Kirk meeting Ashley Judd; likely contains 0% Semargl.
Ugh. Uuuuuuggghhh. There you have it. From Attack On God to Killer Dance in only 9 years. Don’t do ecstasy, kids.
So where are they now?
Who the fuck cares? One of the guys went on to form melodic death metal act Dimicandum. Singer Rutarp is doing his own Rutarp thang. The singer with the mile-long red wig is in a symphonic metal band called Mysterya. Models and/or dancers appearing in their terrible videos were likely not paid very well for their day’s work and had a good laugh at the completed product; mentions of Semargl were omitted from their resumes. The female drummer quit and is now married to an entertainment lawyer in Sherman Oaks, CA. All green screen effects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.