The debut album, Find the Others, from Ukrainians Shiva the Destructor, is an absolute delight of sludgy psychedelia. Caught somewhere between mind expanding and mind blowing, the album feels like it occupies the liminal space between Pink Floyd and Sleep. And with Sleep in mind, let’s add to that equation some My Sleeping Karma. The album grabs attention immediately, thanks to the interesting tuning of the guitars (as per their Bandcamp page, one detuned, and one uptuned). I have to admit, though, that my attention was actually already grabbed before I listened to a note. That cover art is gorgeous! What also grabbed my interest before listening was the apparent disconnect between the name of the band and the name of the longest track of the album, Ishtar – coming from completely different religions and cultures. But once I started listening, and delved into the concept, it all became much clearer – though I must note now, that a lot of what follows are my inferences, and not necessarily what the band intended.
We start our travels in Benares, a city on the Ganges which is a major hub in India for multiple religions. At once, the disconnect disappears. Shiva the Destructor are about to take us on a journey of discovery where everything gets mixed, mingled and intertwined, until we reach out own enlightenment – whatever and wherever and however that might be. It’s perhaps a bold step to begin the album with such a lengthy instrumental piece, but my goodness it works. This is an album about gods and goddesses, but it’s not in a religious sense. It seems to me the use of gods and goddesses is more analogical than anything else. What I found interesting is that before I looked up Benares, I already felt like there was a flowing, watery feel to the music. To find that Benares is on the Ganges makes me feel this must have been deliberate, and it really works well. Just to add to that, the drums when they kick in, remind me of The Tea Party’s The River. It’s not the last time I’m reminded of The Tea Party on this album, either.
The title of the first song, Hydronaut, implies that we might be diving deeper into the Ganges, or whatever watery realm you choose, I guess, since it’s a metaphor. “We’ll be drifting in the currents of the ocean of our thoughts. High and soft, the waves will bring us to the knowledge of outer worlds”. The tracks begins with a sound immediately lighter than Benares. It definitely invites the feeling of being carried and taken where the river or waves take you. Or, perhaps more morbidly, the idea that drowning is peaceful toward the end, once you stop struggling. I love the drifting and melancholic sound of this song, and the way the vocals seem almost to float on top of the music only enhances this.
Time for a trip back in time, as with a title of Summer of Love and lyrics about flowers in hair, this must surely be in reference to the summer of 1967, and all its psychedelic bliss. And it’s a neat way of comparing how people converge in a place that has shared meaning. For many people, San Francisco in that Summer of Love served the same purpose as Benares does every year for those who make pilgrimages there. This is a very laid-back song, with some glorious organ. It’s easily my favourite of track from the album so far, but then… we have the album’s masterpiece – Ishtar. It begins with a magnificent mantra where the bass emulates a sitar, and the vocals are incredible when they come in – more resonant and emotive than any so far.
The lyrics finally reveal the fusion of religions as a metaphor, and whether it is deliberate or not (and I feel it has to be), the choice of Shiva and Ishtar is incredibly apt. Both Shiva and Ishtar appropriated and incorporated gods and goddesses of other religions, and both served as inspiration for classical gods. In Ancient Greece, Ishtar almost certainly was the antecedent of Aphrodite and Shiva of Dionysus. They are also the god and goddess one might reasonably most associate with the Summer of Love. All in all, Ishtar isn’t only one of the most impressive tracks on this album, it is the one which joins and holds it all together. It might seem surprising that it is not the closing track, but there’s no way the band could have left us hanging there.
Nirvana Beach is a beautiful come down, and then pick me up. It starts delicately, before rocking out with the freedom of thought that there is no need to “care anymore about time and space. It surely is the highest point one can reach, I’ll be surfing here on Nirvana beach.” The protagonist of the album, no longer torn between Shiva or Ishtar or any such identity that ultimately matters, has abandoned Samsara – the eternal wandering of the homeless soul. This new found purpose – the Finding of the Other(s) – is echoed in the song, which is the most forceful and purposeful of any on the album. The band is no longer drifting aimlessly, where the river and waves take them, but making their own path – carving their own waves, surfing Nirvana Beach. It’s a particularly potent closing number, and almost shocking the way it simply stops. I’m left wanting more, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m not ready to abandon Samsara just yet. One more wander through the eternal circle of death and rebirth for me, thank you!
01. Benares (9:09)
02. Hydronaut (9:17)
03. Summer Of Love (7:39)
04. Ishtar (11:11)
05. Nirvana Beach (7:17)
Total Time – 44:13
Andrii Pryimak – Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
Rodion Tsikra – Guitar, Vocals
Andrew Sernyak – Bass, Backing Vocals
Kostiantyn Kalachikov – Drums
Record Label: Robust Fellow
Country of Origin: Ukraine
Date of Release: 26th March 2021