Victor Smolski

Picture of Victor Smolski

The Heretic

Victor Smolski - The Heretic ©2000 Drakkar Records
1. Baptism Of Fire
2. The Testimony
3. Hex Of The Six Strings
4. The Necromancer
5. Witches Hammer
6. The Inquisitor's Dream
7. The Heretic

Many of you will recognize the name Victor Smolski from his association with Mind Odyssey and lately with Rage. Interestingly, both Peavy Wagner and Mike Terrana also appear on this disc. I think fans of Lingua Mortis-era Rage are really going to like this solo outing. The Heretic is based on writings from the 1600's during which time witchcraft was a feared and hunted "religion." Witches, likely both the real and the innocent, were hunted, tortured, tired and condemned at the whim of people who were misguided at best, blatantly evil at worst. However, this review is not about the validity or lack thereof of the subject matter but rather how it is conveyed on this disc.

I think some of Victor's heritage is seen on this disc. Born in Minsk in 1969, Victor is the son of Professor Dmitry Smolski, a leading Russian composer of that time. The influence of growing up in a home that was steeped in classical music really comes out on this album. Those who have listened to Rage's Lingua Mortis CD know that the band reworked existing material with a symphonic orchestra. Their next couple CDs explored the marriage between the power of classical music and the power of heavy metal. This CD, The Heretic, takes that marriage much further. The composition is new from the ground up, written entirely by Victor Smolski. Except for the last track, all the words on the CD are taken from historic texts. They are narrated in three languages; English by Mike Terana, German by Peavy Wagner, and Russian by Victor Smolski. The final track lyrics come from Peavy and Mike.

It should be noted that this is not the first CD of this order to come along. Yngwie Malmsteen wrote his Concerto Suite For Electric Guitar And Orchestra In E Flat Minor Op.1 awhile back. Alex Masi released his In the Name of Bach and others have approached the classics with an eye to their electric guitar skills. I mention those here only to say that this album is not at all like them. This is a concept disc that is wonderfully researched and presented. The music is composed to convey the subject matter very well. It is played with an ear to the texts being narrated. At times it has a frightening urgency about it and the terror is palpable. At other times it is peaceful and tranquil. The haunting atmosphere is alive and vibrant. This is not a disc you'll want to listen to with the lights off. There are moments when the music will send chills down your spine from the tension it builds. This is a really well written composition. It does the job of getting the images across very clearly. Smolski's guitar smokes and screams when it is in the foreground. It also blends well into the background with the rest of the music during the interludes. His guitar athleticism is put to the test with this disc, and it comes off wonderfully. Despite the screaming solos, the guitar play does not get in the way of the concept of the disc. The theme of the disc is always held out for the listener to consider and contemplate.

This is a disc to play when people sneer at your "uncultured" tastes in music and for those who like classical music but think it has nothing in common with heavy metal. This is a disc to play when you're alone in the dark . . . if you dare. This is a disc you really want to locate. It is a richly satisfying experience.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 04/2001

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