In Part 1 of this post, we mentioned how transatlantic travel is unnecessary when you can simply look at a country's record covers to fully understand their culture. This may sound small-minded, but I find it to be both true and economical. I should also tell you that this applies to travel within your very own country. For example, some may say that the covers of NWA's albums were exaggerated depictions of a reality that only a few LA residents ever experienced. I would normally agree with you, but allow me to tell you a little story.
The first time I was ever in Los Angeles, I landed at LAX exhausted. I don't mean just tired, I mean exhausted the way Lars Ulrich looks in those slow-motion shots from the Wherever I May Roam video. Upon arriving to Los Angeles, I boarded the nearest Avis car rental shuttle and made my way into their makeshift office. Once there, I quickly claimed the keys to my meh-worthy mid-sized sedan...which featured both AM and FM radio. As I drove out of the parking lot, I looked around and felt happy about the fact that I was finally going to see Los Angeles. I had been to San Francisco twice before, but never southern California. For a latino such as myself, who grew up drooling over the imagery in films such as American Me and Blood In Blood Out, Los Angeles (silly as it may sound) was/is a bit of a cultural mecca. I had lived in Miami, but Los Angeles is the real deal...a center of all that is latino scum culture. As I drove, the sun was setting, and even the not-so-great area around LAX looked beautiful to my tourist eyes. The birds were chirping, and the smog was barely visible...things were good. Los Angeles, I told myself, was my kind of town. Just as I thought about this, I made a right turn and encountered what looked like a photoshoot for an NWA record cover. Two cop cars sat by an abandoned body shop, as the LAPD law officers put handcuffs on about ten latino dudes, who sat on the curb. All the guys were wearing white wife-beater shirts, cut-off khaki shorts and had their long white socks pulled up. Either these were Travis Barker's fashion advisors, or they were the real deal.
By the way, check out this picture of Travis Barker (in which he barely looks like a latino gangbanger) with The Game. Note Travis' shirt, does the logo look familiar?
As I got closer, their heavily inked bodies revealed what I thought...these were some badass dudes, not just props from a hip-hop video, or a Travis Barker GQ photoshoot. As I drove slowly, one of the young men being handcuffed turned around and said something to the cop. Without skipping a beat, the cop beat him on the side of the neck with a club. The young man collapsed on the curb, I winced...and quickly accelerated my Chevy Malibu. Leave it to me to turn away when a fellow latino is being beaten by the po-po. For all the talk about unity amongst my latino brothers that I've done during my lifetime, my foot hit that damn gas pedal faster than members from Assuck go to whores upon their arrival to Amsterdam while on tour. But what was I to do? Why were these guys being arrested? What did he say to the cop? I'd rather not get involved. As I drove away, and got on the highway (they call them "freeways" in California...see...when you travel EVERYTHING is different) I began to think about the whole ordeal I had just seen. As I drove at speeds seldom exceeding 25 mph on the freeway, I thought to myself: The NWA record covers were actually pretty accurate. They did deptict LA as it really was. I could have saved myself the trip to California, and simply looked at the covers of the records while sitting at home.
It's with that spirit in mind that we offer you the following record covers from Russian bands. Why go through the trouble of booking a flight to Moscow? No need. Metal Inquisition is taking you there free of charge. Have a safe trip.
Before the iron curtain fell, doing business with western artists like Dan Seagrave was pretty much impossible for those in the growing Russian death metal scene. Not able to reach and commission the master of depicting fictitious, lava strewn caves...these industrious Russian bands had to make do with what they had. Much like cab drivers in Cuba have retrofitted their 1952 Chevys to run on kerosene, this band simply contacted their cousin in Poland who had just finished his first semester in art school. The letter in which they told him what to paint said the following:
Cousin, please paint for us the following:
A dark scary cave in which five creatures dwell. A purple lizard woman, a purple devil with a taste for gold Rolex watches, a melty lava man, a bat, and a skull/tarantula. Although this makes little sense, please render it as we have requested. Oh yes, and somehow inside the cave a weather system has developed, and as a result there is lighting. Thank you for painting this magical cover for us. By the way cousin, how are you and the family doing? Will the 20 year wait on your Lada be over soon?
One part Suicidal Tendencies, and one part Devo, these Russian masters were the first hardcore band to proclaim their love for skateboarding, which they called "wooden roller plank". This 12" record is actually a split between the first two bands in the Moscow hardcore scene, Pulse and Stylus (or something). Although many detractors referred to these musical pioneers as "infidels" for taking up such American pursuits as "wooden roller plank", Russia's entire hardcore scene should thank these guys for forging on regardless of what their comrades had to say.
I hate to be one of those "I only like their demo" douchebags...but this is where both Pulse and Stylus began to go downhill. Due to a limited supply of skateboard wheels, band members began making their own out of sawed-down broomsticks. Soon, they grew tired of the hardship they endured and took to other sports. Not able to engage in any sports that members of bands like Suicidal Tendencies or Cryptic Slaughter may have been involved in, they turned to the only sport that was available at their local Communist Party youth hall. Sadly, that sport was racketball. In an attempt to make the sport more "extreme", both bands chose to blend aspects of brakedancing into it...the results were both amazing and tragic. Although both bands managed to get Charlie Sheen to pose for the album's cover, the scene they had created began to disintegrate...as many fans grew tired of hearing lyrics about racketball. The model that has worked so well for their obsession with skateboarding, failed terribly with other sports. Perhaps the best example of that would have to be their third and final recording, which completely revolved around jai alai, a sport they saw in an episode of Riptide.