Melnás Buras


As an added bonus after the Battle of the Bays show at Manchester’s Academy 2 venue we get to indulge in a late night stumble up to the Rebellion Bar to catch some of the bands performing at the Viking Feast. This gig has now turned into an all night affair with five bands performing between 9pm and concluding at 2:30am Saturday. I’d imagine at some point it was going to be a regular timed show, but the lure of Exodus and Obituary would have had some impact. Before the bands those who paid a fiver extra for VIP get to indulge in an all you can eat hog roast. So tempted myself. 

The headliners Skyforger are due to hit the stage at 1am. What state their audience will be in and what numbers are going to be there will be very intriguing to witness. As far as I’m aware this will be only their second appearance in this country, their first being in London back in 2008 and to my knowledge the first Latvian band I’ve encountered! 

Yet another band I don’t know anything from, so a little research reveals that they are of the folk metal persuasion. If I’d have to have guessed a genre then that would of been it. They released their sixth album last year and as all the album titles and tracks are written in Latvian I’m guessing all the vocals are in their native tongue. 

Reading a bit more about the band they appear to have been steeped in controversy over the years. Their third album Pērkonkalve (Thunderforge) apparently featured some ancient symbols, one of those being the Latvian thunder cross, or Ugunskrusts. It’s a gammadion cross,or basically what we now refer to as a swastika. Even though that symbol has been in existence for over 11,000 years in the Hindi and Buddhist faiths and found in excavations of Neolithic sites, it has been hijacked by what it represented by the Nazi party from the 1920’s onwards. 

In its time the cross has had many uses all over the world. It was an aviation good luck charm and one was painted inside the nose cone of the Spirit of St. Louis monoplane. Author Rudyard Kipling used it as an emblem on his books. Denmark’s brewing company Carlsberg had it carved into stone elephants outside of their factory until it gained notoriety. It was the name and logo of two ice hockey teams along with a community in Ontario. Even on these shores the emblem has been used in a multitude of places. It was at one point during the First World War used by our own government on the stamps used for the British National War Savings Committee, and by the Boy Scouts as a badge of merit. 

Anyway back to Skyforger. Melnás Buras (or Black Sails) is about a plague that swept from central Asia via what we now call Turkey and into the Baltic states and Poland during the Great Northern War of 1700 to 1721. This twenty one year conflict was between a coalition force lead by eventual victors Russia against the Swedish Empire. One third of the Eastern Prussian population was killed off by plague or famine and lead to the demise of the Old Prussian nation and their traditions. 

One of the many things I’ve enjoyed from my love of music is discovering some fascinating historical events that I would never have looked into. As pointed out before, Iron Maiden’s Powerslave album got me hooked on Egyptology all those years ago. 

If you can understand the Latvian dialect and you’d like to hear more about Old Prussia track down the Senprūsija album from last year. It does what it says on the tin, Senprūsija – Old Prussia.