Max Molodtsov

Sorrowful Land

Every cross carried, every burden felt upon is a part of life that either being carried or gradually let go in time. The Ukranian artist, Max Molodtsov, back in the day, created Sorrowful Land, and made it to be its own baby that reflects that inner darkest and doomier feelings. Recently releasing "Faded Anchors of the Past", there is a lot of heavy weight to be unleashed from one's mind and shoulders. Steinmetal had a good talk about the latest happenings in the Ukraine, the new album and more…
May 12, 2023
Sorrowful Land's Max Molodtsov: "…with every broken-hearted feeling
Hello Max, it is great to have you for this talk in regards to the latest going on in your own baby, Sorrowful Land. With the knowledge of what has been out there on your side of the world, how have you been?

Hi, Lior! Thanks for having me here on Metal Temple! Well, if I use the lightest form of exact curse word it still won't describe the painful twistedness of the previous and present year. Let's try not to be 100% doomy all the time and I'd say: "Quite alright" if it has any sense now.

Talking about the happenings of late, and since you come from a city that exchanged hands in the last several months, how are you surviving this? What effect does this conflict have on you?

Yes, I'm from Kharkiv – the city that is 40 km away from terrorussian border. And the estimate time between launch of the missile from their side until it hits the civilian object in our city is 2 minutes. Even the air raid signal can't react so fast. And that's why there is a sad joke that in Kharkiv you hear the explosions first and then comes the air raid siren. And even then, do you know how Kharkiv is called now? "The Reinforced Concrete". We even have a special sleeve patches and emblems on the merch that carry this motto. And that's why Russians will fail and Ukraine will prevail. They'll never break us! They just don't understand whom they are dealing with… Their nation of the slaves shall never understand the spirit of the free people which Ukrainians have. As for the effect of this war for me and my family, I'd say – life will never be the same again. We will never be the same again. Our so-called organized and planned life (as we thought it was) was changed once and for all in 4:45 AM on 24th of February 2022 with the very first bombardment of Kharkiv. I can recall every single minute of this horrible cold morning when all hell breaks loose. It's cemented in our memories forever. It clearly showed how fragile people lives are and how fucked up our world is, full of tyrants that need to be dethroned as soon as possible.

You have been silent with new material since 2018, even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. What can you tell in relation to what took you that long to come up with new material? Were there other events that took your attention?

Yea, the previous album "I Remember" came out in 2018 and very shortly after that I had to deal with my father's passing away the same year. So I can definitely say that other events took my attention. It was a very sudden tragedy that had a huge impact on me regarding that there is a song called "A Father That I Never Had" dedicated to him on that album. I never had a chance to say proper "Goodbye" to him and we didn't speak for more than 10 years due to the different reasons that I won't talk about. Well, you can always listen to the song, it definitely can shed some light on the topic. Anyway, after that I had a thought crossed my mind that it might be a good idea to let Sorrowful Land go and concentrate on other stuff. But then I felt that all of these ideas that I had composed, all of those cool riff and melodies must see the light of day somehow. And I began to write new songs again which eventually became a core of the next album. Then 2020 came in bringing you know what, and this lockdown was so doomy and blackened that all you could do – sit at home studio and record stuff. And still of the closed borders I needed to wait for almost two years until some of the special guests will finish their vocal contributions that they started to work on before lockdown because their studios were in other cities.

Starting a new chapter in your career, and with the Swedish label, Black Lion Records, you recently unleashed your third offering, "Faded Anchors of the Past". One thing that interests me, prior for your dwelling into the record, why remain a multi-instrumentalist, other than the fact that you are the sole decision maker?

Why not, haha? Well, it could be the shortest and the lamest answer ever, but since I'm too doomy and stuff, I'll give you a long one, lol. Let's put it this way: I've been walking my musical path since 2004 when I first tried to start a band. It was kind of shitty student thing that failed much of course. And since the day 1 of this gathering I understood that I'm not a team-player at all. And I mean it. I can't stand it when bunch of people gathered in a small rehearsal room and start arguing of which riff or idea is better and should be implemented right now, it's so a waste of time. It can sound egoistic or arrogant or whatever but I don't care. And I always tried to search for people who like my songs first, without: "But here I need to insert MY solo, because I play the lead guitar" attitude. Well, the guitar solo or keyboards descending passage will appear only when it's needed, not just because you have that cool whammy-bar on your guitar or ridiculously expensive electric piano. So that's why I compose and record all of my music by myself. Well, with the last two albums as you might know I asked a bunch of my fellow vocalists to participate in recording the songs and lay down their awesome voices. I gave them a full freedom to fulfil their creativity and to bring their own hearts and souls into my music. It was kind of intriguing yet unexpected but the result is great and was worth the wait for sure.

You came up with a strong title for the album, "Faded Anchors of the Past". I can feel that this is a product of letting something go, or telling the story of letting go of something that heavy, a burden if you will. How do you perceive this given title for the album?

Yes, the title means a lot to be told about. Every one of us carries his own cross one way or another. And with every broken-hearted feeling, every death, every major failure that one can experience – our cross becomes an anchor that carries us down until we're drown in the darkened deepness.  But as they say: "Time will heal" (which is a lie, I must say). But with time our anchors that are bind to us fade and rust and maybe one day the corrosion will help you to break free from that chains and the anchor will moulder.

From what I could notice, the album asks a lot of questions, challenging ones that have the potential of occupying a person's mind to a point of near insanity. So many possibilities, many answers. How can you put order into this cognitive chaos?

You can't but you can try to live in so-called "organized chaos". For the control freak which I am it's a tough task because if something goes the different and unpleasant way – I get mad in a blink of an eye. As for the possibilities and answers – we can't jump above our heads anyway. All possibilities can crumble right there and then and all the answers can never be 100% true and all is disputable. But human race is still very primitive beings with all the probable possibilities given just to be fucked up. Evolution means nothing, history repeats itself as the Ouroboros that bites his own tail. Ok, we discovered nuclear power to "have possibilities". Ends with "Enola Gay"…

Following the questions that we talked about, where do these questions find you? What is your personal story in all of this?

They find me every time I open the news feed on my smartphone or whatever. Then songs like "As Long As We Breathe" appeared. Anyway, it was not me who came up with the lyrics anyway – it was Pierre Laube from DOOMED band. And he perfectly described the feelings of our planet Earth is she could sing. But she can and she does through all of the cataclysms. But population doesn't want to give a proper listen and understand. My stories are more personal though, I describe my own life experience and tame or release my demons through them. These stories are dedicated to specific people more or less who made me who I am now. Most of them are doomy love stories anyway. How innovative is that, huh?

With the expectation that listeners would take heed of the stories you unravel, what do you expect that the listener would take from this journey through "Faded Anchors of the Past"?

I hope that all of the songs will find their way to the listeners' hearts. There are songs for everyone, for the eco activists, for the broken-hearted, for those who depressed and for those who still has a hope and strength to see the light of a new day knowing that it won't be so cheerful as they want it to be. All I can say – listen to the music and read the lyrics and maybe it will touch your soul.

The album's artwork might be a kind of a twisted photo, yet it holds a lot in it. In particular, is the ship coming ashore or rather leaving. For some reason I believe that it is leaving since it marks the past. What is your take on that? How do you find this artwork in your view?

Hmm, I see that it stands still with the anchor deep holding it. But as the ship is kind of wrecked and old – so is the anchor, it slightly fades and corrodes with time. For me – it's a perfect cover image for the given title. Also if you wrap up the booklet – you'll see the mysterious figure standing on the shore and watching at this ship, waiting…

Drenched in the mud of the mixture of Doom and Death Metal, as low key as possible without being Drone, the atmosphere surrounding "Faded Anchors of the Past" is sustained and maintained. There are a few exit wounds within the musical pattern, and surely it holds that measure of darkened magic. In relation to the past, how do you relate to the musical effort on the record?

Somehow I wanted to compose more of a simpler but catchy songs for this album with much deeper atmosphere to them. Like in the track "The Cold Gray Fog Of Dawn" you have that creepy and haunted piano interlude which is literally has two repetitive notes in it! But it works just fine to create that effect that I was going to achieve. It gives you shivers down your spine. Sometimes two-three notes are more than enough. Unlike the previous album which is a bit of overthought music wise.

Continuing the question, which is a must to ask under the circumstances, what makes "Faded Anchors of the Past" a unique kind of record, especially since there are a variety of this cross between Doom and Death Metal out there?

I never had this idea to create something unique. I just want to write songs that I'd enjoy listening to. And that is the way for me to express my emotions through the art of music. Nothing more, nothing less. And if these songs are accepted well by the audience – well, it makes me a bit happier And if any of my songs will help someone to get through hard times – then I did something good at least for one person on this planet. I never labelled Sorrowful Land as a death-doom band. Why? Because of a lack of real fast and chuggy death-metal riffs and blast beats. For me it's more of a mix between gothic and funeral doom. Anyway, it's up to the listeners and genre nerds to create a specific label. Someone will say it's not gothic enough, someone will say that it's too fast and cheesy for funeral doom. Well, it's ok with me. It is either the songs are good or not. This is the only thing that matters.

With the music being utterly slow, and even with here and there pressing a bit on the paddle, the darkened Grey surroundings, as if a swamp of a fog, what can you tell about the finding the cohesion between the lyrics and the music?

In my case – music always comes first. I mean, I grab my guitar and if I'm in a right mood at the moment – I come up with a riff primary or the melody. And if done right and Euterpē is here – the composition is born. Then I start to play it over and over, thinking of possible vocal rhythms and lines, some words appear first or sometimes the topic of the lyrics come quickly. Sometimes I struggle to make this scenario work and then finished song just waits on the shelf for the right lyrics for years!

Coming to the nature of the songwriting, and since the songs are lengthy, what can you share about the process of writing these tunes? What were the motivators that aided you on coming up with the general ideas of how the songs should be written?

Since I'm a guitar player – it all begins with a riff or arpeggiated chord or whatever my fingers wanted to do at the given piece of time. But it's a boring common story of every guitarist. And I don't want to readers to be bored so I'll tell you a funny side of a story of how "The Cold Grey Fog Of Dawn" song was composed. If I remember correctly, it was late evening of an early 2020 winter time, I came to our small rehearsal studio where my wife gave singing lessons to her students, and while I waited until she gathered her stuff and turned off the mic etc etc, I reached to the electric piano that was still plugged in and started to play two notes jokingly just for fun, to kill those 5-10 minutes until my wife is ready to go home. And I'm in no case a hell of a keyboard player, my wife is, but not me, haha So these two notes were the only thing I could play on that frosty night. Anyway, I liked this sequence and when we came home – I wrote them down and then I build a whole song around those two notes. And for most listeners this song is a favourite one from the new album! The song that started as a jokingly mimicking real keyboard players.

"Faded Anchors of the Past" displays several joint forces with other vocalists of various bands, for melodic and growl testimonials. Since there are so many artists out there, how did you know who to pick and moreover, assigning to exact songs?

Oh, that's the interesting part! Just like with the previous album, when all of the music was recorded I created a "Wanted" guest list of vocalists whom I'd like to have on the album. I had an approximate vision of what kind of vocals I wanted to have on specific songs. Also I was keeping eyes on the bands that I like. On the vocalists specifically. So I started to reach out to them via social media and ask if they want to sing a song on the next SL album. Some never replied, some I had bad experience with before. And the rest is history. I personally am 100% satisfied with the result! All of the singers did an amazing job and I'm grateful to all of them for their contribution!

The self-titled, "Faded Anchors of the Past" portrayed itself as a mind blower, as if venturing throughout someone's memories, and painful ones as well. Musically, this is how a Doom / Death Metal song should sound, with the right atmosphere to come with it. What is
your appreciation of this song?

The lyrics is written by me and sang by Henrik Ekholm (ex-Within The Fall). It's dedicated to one specific person who made my life hell back in the days, long time ago and left some marks on my skin literally. After composing music and finishing lyrics I understood that I'm so exhausted that I need to find a right good singer to perform this song properly. And Henrik nailed it! It's not the first song dedicated to that person but the last one. I draw the line here.

"Small Lost Moments" took the efforts in further on, complemented by two great singers that took the lead roles. The song itself is beyond what is expected and carries complexities with it and changes of scenery.  What can you tell in regards to how this song was created and what is its impact on the entire record?

I'll be truly honest here: there are three singers in this world who can make my eyes wet: Roy Khan, Matt Barlow and Kaivan Saraei (from A Dream Of Poe). I don't know how he does it but some magic happens when Kaivan starts to sing. His intimidating timbre is so heartfelt that I can listen to this song for the whole day and every time it will give me Goosebumps. He is responsible for the lyrics too, it's some complex thing that he wrote that I don't even have a full idea of what stands behind the text. Not sure I want to though. Let magic be magical! His companion – Miguel Santos did some growling on the song which added even more epicenes to this tune.

Max, I wish to thank you for this conversation, I hope that things will start to look up for you and your country. Please continue to be able to create and produce. All the best

Thank you very much, Lior! It was a pleasure answering these questions! Thanks for supporting Ukraine! Stay true and doomy!

Max Molodtsov

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