TRAIN TO ELSEWHERE: DOOM FROM RUSSIA
TRAIN TO ELSEWHERE is a traditional Doom Metal project from Moscow, Russia. They rescue the old School of the 80 ‘of bands like Trouble, Candlemass or Pentagram (USA); and they take it back to their Russian roots and mix it with folk and progressive music. TRAIN TO ELSEWHERE incorporates a pagan and nihilistic view of life, with an interpretation of his own look at Doom metal. We have interviewed Maria, Anton and Olga from TRAIN TO ELSEWHERE, giving us their visions of their music, art, philosophy and life in general. TRAIN TO ELSEWHERE is a musical project that you must listen to and treasure in your lonely moments along with his new work called “Samhain”.
By Manuel Knwell
- This interview will be read by people from Latin America, Europe, etc… Can you tell us how the Train to Elsewhere musical project was born and what is its purpose?
Maria: Our band gathered about three years ago. First, we began jamming regularly with our drummer and Olga. The band got its name and goals when we began working on the conception of the first release.
Anton: The project’s main purpose is to express ourselves and our ideas in the forms we all like – in old-school doom metal.
- The last album that they have just released called “Samhain”, is a doom metal with mixes of folk and other styles, I see that they try to rescue pagan traditions in their themes, how was this album conceived and what expectations do you have regarding it? Label that released this album for you in Russia?
Anton: The album was composed in a course about a year and we tried our best to mix all the interesting types of sound in metal and beyond. We had a vision, but it was contradicted by rather limited budget, so something had to be scrapped. The expectations we had for the album is for our band to become known by lovers of such styles of music and maybe to share our experiences to the listener.
The physical is released by Russian independent metal label Dark Forest Productions (https://vk.com/club27309959). Right now, it is a CD, but in plans we have vinyl and cassettes as well.
The pagan traditions are an archetypical part (in a sense that Carl Gustav Jung would describe it) part of our collective unconsciousness, our culture. In a way they have been repressed for centuries, thus leading to trauma. Our idea is to free those archetypes.
Maria: For me the conception of this album began from composing ‘The Path’. This song describes a pagan vision that every human life takes part in the current events and also in the future, no one can pass without a trace. It’s the way to deal with basic human trauma of mortality, according to Ernst Bekker’s ‘Denial of Death’. Of course, we talk about an archetypical approach to this question.
- Why do you feel that you should compose Doom and not other styles? How do you create that link with that musical style within metal?
Maria: Not many genres have such expressive quality as doom metal, suiting for the subject matter that we talk about, so the choice was obvious.
Anton: We have a special love for doom metal. I have been listening this genre for more than a decade now. Doom metal is interesting for me on existential level. For me it is the ultimate type of artistic expression alongside with dark folk and neofolk (if we talk about modern music).
- How do you see the music scene in Russia both for metal and Underground music of other styles?
Anton: We have a flourishing and big metal scene but its mostly gothic doom, doom death, funeral doom etc. There are very few traditional doom bands in Russia but those that exist are very good (Scald, Vendel, Gorod Dit). The doom death scene in Russia is very active (for underground scene). It began in the 90-s and is still pretty fresh. Hovewer the black death and thrash metal scene have some good bands but less so than in Doom metal subgenre. The main problem of Russian metal scene is the lack of promotion and motivation to promote your content on the behalf of the band. So you can have a great band of a world-wide quality which is known to a very few people, sad but true. We also have a strong neofolk scene. Bands like Romowe Rikoito, Neutral, Moon Far Away, Blood and Sand, Majdanek Waltz are all respected members of the worldwide dark folk movement. To sum up the situation doom and dark folk are Russian strongest sounds. The industrial scene is totally underground as well as the ambient scene.
Maria: I know a lot of small local underground musical bands who perform with instrumental music as well as electronic. Usually they do not make goal in getting famous all over the world. Talented musicians simply can collab with each other and new projects appear in a big amount. But all their works can stay unknown and just disappear unless people learn to listen to each other, to be opened for new types of sound and new genres. The heavy music audience seems very conservative for me.
- There is a link between Russian and Chilean culture. What do you think is due to this?
Anton: The first and most is the history of our countries. Chile and Russia are both countries with a rich pre-christian history, which was later overlapped by Christianization. Yet there are still remains of pre-Christian culture. As I understand, some people still practice shamanism in Chile. There also are practising shamans in Russia. It’s an example of authentic tradition.
- How do you see everything that is happening with COVID19, how has your life changed in these chaotic times that we live?
Anton: COVID like any potentially life-threatening situation makes you ponder the meaning of existence. Maybe a good book to reflect on this is Albert Camu’s ‘The Plague’. People experience fear of death and become irrational, even chaotic. But like any hard times it brings out the best and the worst in human beings. As for musicians this has been a challenging time – I think those creative people who can survive the crisis will become stronger. For me it was a time of self-reflection.
Maria: We had a lockdown in spring 2020. We could not gather the whole band and so we returned to working on our industrial\neofolk\dark ambient project ‘Sigil of Time’. Looking through old material we have published two compilations and recorded and released a new album. Also, we worked on polishing and finishing ‘Samhain’ at the time.
Olga: the pandemic was unexpected for all countries. It destructed many mechanisms that were usually working and other ways had to be found. People do not like to lose their loved ones but at the same time it’s hard to live without social contacts in the modern world. In this case art is as needed as never before. I personally like that some things could change form. It is hard to imagine online movie theatres and concert shows before the quarantine being so popular. It’s sad but legitimate reason to re-evaluate some things in our society.
- Why do you think projects like Phurpa or Wardruna have had a tremendous impact on a global level, do people want to go back to their roots? What role do you play to bring that into your music, those traditions and sounds that were lost at a time?
Anton: Phurpa and Wardruna are great examples of working with archetypes. They strike a chord within the collective subconsciousness. They work with ‘repressed cultural codes’ and bring them back to life. In a way some of our lyrics are just about that. But then there are other songs which are more existential and touch on subjects of human mortality. The neofolk revival and popularity of folk horror can be easily explained by the lack of meaning in ‘the modern man’. That is why in the past I turned to authentic folk music as a listener. I want to state an important thing for me. Paganism and pre-Christian tradition are important to me on an archetypical and esthetical level. I would not call myself a pagan, but I would call myself an admirer of pagan art and culture.
Olga: It’s very dangerous to deny the experiences of past generations. The images which were conceived ages before us influenced cultural background of the country and its inhabitants, which makes consciousness of both individual and the society. I do not consider return to the roots but rather putting back the missing piece of the puzzle.
- What are your future plans with Train to Elsewhere?
Anton: We are currently working on new material. In the next album we will try to fuse elements of folk and traditional doom with some progressive elements. We will also try to work on the depth and the quality of sound. The goal is to make a shorter but a near perfect album.
Maria: We also have some material which was not included in the album because it’s more blues oriented. I expect we will release it on a EP. We want to pay respects to the old-school blues musicians.
- What sensations does playing live generate in you, have you played at festivals in Russia?
Maria: Yes, we played live at two independent festivals in Russia. One was with ArtFaina (progressive theatrical art metal) before the lockdown, and the second was a live in Novomoskovsk with the presentation of our new material. The headliner of the festival was a doom death band Wishdoomdark.
For me playing live is a moment of concentration. Trying to perform the composition before live audience is a completely different experience than working on those compositions. For me the most important is sharing my personal impression on the subject which I felt about it to the audience.
Anton: For me live is very interesting in a technical standpoint. Our band (me, Maria, Denis, M’aiq and Olga) work as a whole unit. Playing live is an experience like nothing else.
Olga: It’s unnerving experience to play live. It’s a moment shared between all who is attending the concert and creates exceptional emotions. The most unfamiliar thought was that experience will stay in the people’s minds.
- What does art mean to you?
Anton: Art is one of the few ways a person can truly overcome their mortality. Creating art is being part of the movement which began with the first Neolithic cave painting and the first music was made at this time. Art and culture is what makes us humans (in the positive sense of that term). The ability to create, to strive to perfection is an act of philosophical thought (the idea which you want to achieve) and a mystical act (creating something which was not there before) at the same time. Without culture and art humans would be left in their mortality and an empty void of meaninglessness. Thus, art brings meaning to a meaningless world.
Olga: Art is a way to transfer emotions, mental states and ideas. It’s a way to show the picture of the society, its goals, desires and world view. It’s hard to imagine adequate society without art.
Maria: I understand art as a mode of existence. Art is a quality that is inherent properly to human, an ability to do regular things consciously in a thousand of different manners, creating new meanings, new aesthetic forms and multiplying the ways of sharing the emotions.
- Can you name the top 5 books and movies that marked you in your life?
Anton: Books: Albert Camus ‘The myth of Sisyphus’, a great existentialist work which defines the means of freedom and shows the path how to find meaning;
Arthur Schopenhauer ‘The world as will and representation’, classic of philosophical pessimism;
Leonid Leonov ‘The Pyramid’ – it could be considered a ‘bad trip’ version of Bulgakov’s ‘Master and Margaret’, a book about end of humanity, gnostic concepts of god, dark science fiction, yet has an almost fairy tale quality to it;
Thomas Ligotti ‘Noctuary’– probably the best collection of existential absurdist horror in modern literature.
Leo Tolstoy ‘The death of Ivan Ilyich’ – although a short story, it’s the one of the first works of existentialism.
Movies: ‘The Wickerman’ (original, not the remake of course);
Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’;
Jean Rollin’s ‘The Iron Rose’;
Konstantin Lopushansky ‘The Ugly Swans’;
Roman Polanski’s “The Tenant’.
Maria: Books: Mircea Eliade ‘Myth, Religion and History’ in three volumes – my favourite anthropological work;
Daniil Andreyev ‘The Rose of the World’ – a great work of mystical realism, which takes you to some incredible worlds from the mind of Andreyev;
Elena A. Gurevich ‘Icelandic Sagas’ – a collection of Nordic folklore poems in the times of Christianization of the North, some poems are pre-christian;
Gershom Sholem ‘Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism’;
Mark Z. Danielewski ‘House of Leaves’ – unique post-modernist experimental existential horror novel, highly recommend it.
Movies: ‘A Visitor to a museum’ – K. Lopushansky;
‘The White Reindeer’ – 1952, Erik Blomberg, – obscure cult finnish folk horror drama;
‘Häxan’ – silent documentary about witchcraft and a landmark of cinema;
‘Dune’ by David Lynch;
‘Solaris’ by A. Tarkovsky.
- If you had to make a self-criticism of your lives, as musicians and generators of ideas, what would they be and why?
Anton: There’s always room for perfection. We would like to work on our stage act a bit more. As any band we would like to achieve a perfect live sound. And we haven’t yet, that comes with practice.
Maria: Our live performance may also depend on technical moments like musical equipment at the club where we play, sound engineers we have to work with, in other points I agree with Anton.
- Russian history is full of bloody events and revolutions, in the present has all that really served any purpose?
Anton: I personally think human history for the most part is a bloody meaningless mess, a sort of pointless non-stop working meatgrinder. This is the tragedy of mankind. Russian history is of course no exception. I like to focus on what is important – art and culture, achievements of the human spirit. Mankind will some day come to an end and in that sense nothing is important. Yet Russian history reflects our existence. We have no other history and personally I want no other history.
Maria: Russian history in its best points is the history of fragile and elusive balance between powerful forces of different types and origins. It seems consist of history of several different states, which different politics try to impose into one conception. However, in vain.
- What is the relationship you have with Orthodox Christianity and if it exists, how do you include it in your music?
Anton: I am of course not an orthodox Christian, nor a Christian for that matter. Yet a lot of Russian culture and aesthetics was constructed as a part of Christian state. Christianity has its dark and horrible sides and has its light and useful sides. It’s a complicated matter. I despise the part of the Christian teaching which gives a human being a false sense of immortality and makes him a slave through that sense. Yet I admire some of the achievements of Russian Christian art and architecture as a way to strengthen human spirit of our ancestors even if they were following an illusion.
Maria: Now I hardly can imagine using Christian themes in our music. However I can claim that we live in a post-Christian world, where a lot of things are still gathered around Christianity. Actively fighting Christianity or being anti-Christian is giving meaning to a dead religion. That is why I treat Christianity as a part of our past with some respect yet I know of its dark sides.
- In a few words, how is your philosophy of life.
Anton: our band has different views on life and philosophy. We are united by the love for music and art so I will speak only for myself. I would consider myself a philosophical pessimist. Human existence has no pre-determined meaning. All social and other values are mostly just that social constructs. Yet as Albert Camus would put it, meeting with the Absurd can give us freedom. We are no longer in debt to society or non-existent God. That is freedom. Yet freedom comes with a price – a longing for meaning. A strong person must find meaning in a meaningless world. That is the main goal of life.
Maria: I agree with Anton but I would like to add an important note. Most of the people live in some kind of illusions and the biggest part of the culture is performed by the people, who spent a whole life under that illusion. So, we have strongly sociocentric culture. When I see beautiful works of art, which are the peak of the human spirit, I still recognize them as great immortal art, although it was created under an illusion. It is the aesthetic part that is the most important. We value pagan aesthetics but we respect other forms also.
- Maria has worked in different publishing houses in Russia, do people read in Russia, and what do they read?
Maria: Mostly I worked with educational and classic literature as well as musical. I may say that Russia is no different of other world: smart people prefer smart books; stupid people read less and prefer simple literature. People still read classic literature which is a good thing.
- Russian literature has been a strong influence in Western society, they have taken phrases, ideas, etc … to make Hollywood movies, etc … They even tempted Tarkovsky to make movies in Hollywood, how do you see it, how something positive or negative, what are your impressions?
Anton: The world has become global. Cultural exchanges always present. Different cultures have different views on things. To Russian people most Hollywood takes of Russian classics feel not authentic. That doesn’t mean those are necessarily bad movies.
Maria: What about Hollywood, nowadays they even do not present European style of life, they appeal to global way of life and global meanings. So, when Russian literature touches that simplified colourful movement, it loses all the shades of meanings, all references and atmosphere. So here I agree with Anton.
Olga: If we look at world’s culture as a united organism, these adaptations served as fuel in developing and creating united world view. When images and philosophical issues are being developed, the questions which had not been asked yet. On the other hand it’s very sad when the author’s ideas are not fully understood and only some common theme is taken. Exchange of creativity is very helpful. But not knowing the history and the context of the subject is important to preserve and pass it on so the idea can be understood fully.
- Tarkovsky had a phrase ‘Young people are afraid of silence’, what did he mean by this phrase and how do they make it his own?
Anton: I think what Tarkovsky meant is that in silence we begin to reflect on ourselves and the meaning of life. That self-reflection can bring a person to some dark places. In Eastern cultures observing and reflecting are sometimes a key to spiritual tradition I think in that sense the East has understood more.
- Can you explain to me your relationship with nature and animals?
Anton: I think the world of animals and nature is in general better than the world of humans. Nature can be cruel but not in the way humans can. If anything, nature is more fair. When it comes to nature, I am a bit of a pantheist. The beauty of nature has inspired me in some dark times in my life. The main problem of humans is that in some way they became detached from nature. A lot of things that Henry David Toro wrote in ‘Walden’ are true.
Maria: Meeting with nature is that needed silence for me.
Olga: I think that humans are a part of nature. A small part. To deny our origin and construct an artificial origin for ourselves can lead to delusions. But as Maria said, delusions are one of the sources of art. In the end we can only truly perceive ourselves through the surroundings and the surroundings through ourselves. But we should never forget that we are the only species which is capable of changing the world around us so drastically.
- ‘This life without music would be a mistake’ Nietzsche, what do you think?
Anton: I agree. Nietzsche continued the tradition of Schopenhauer’s thought about music. Schopenhauer said it best: ‘Music … stands quite apart from all the [other arts]. In it we do not recognize the copy, the repetition, of any Idea of the inner nature of the world. Yet it is such a great and exceedingly fine art, its effect on man’s innermost nature is so powerful, and it is so completely and profoundly understood by him in his innermost being as an entirely universal language, whose distinctness surpasses even that of the world of perception itself, that in it we certainly have to look for more than that exercitium arithmeticae occultum nescientis se numerare animi [“an unconscious exercise in arithmetic in which the mind does not know it is counting”] which Leibniz took it to be… We must attribute to music a far more serious and profound significance that refers to the innermost being of the world and of our own self’.
Maria: Music according to some historical analysis precedes speech. It formed humans as conscious beings. Without music we simply could not be who we are.
- Anything you want to add, thank you!
Anton, Maria, Olga: We were glad to talk to you. The questions are great! To our listeners, supporters, relatives and friends a big Thank you!
Manuel Knwell, October 29, 2020.
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