Black Russians - Death By Communism (Cover Artwork)

Black Russians

Death By Communism (2019)

Outloud Records

You good with Lillingtons and their Russian-spy-centric tales? Want to hear some leads over some super catchy Ramones-aping while some vocals that sound a bit like Lemmy get choked and coughed out over top? If you’re good with that, read on.

Throughout Death By Communism, Black Russians pull through with an energetic take on a pretty traditional punk blueprint. Song after song harkens back to an era of incessant Cold War posturing and paranoia, an era where governments desperately tried to define good and evil. In this Cold War-era, accusations ran rampant, blacklisting scared dissidents into silence and obedience, and patriotism sometimes veered towards nationalism. Reagan tried to marginalize the “Evil Empire” and had the mainstream believing in a new “Morning in America”. And as Americans tried to process all of this doom-and-gloom, we also found chances to both get away from and give voice to our fears through films like “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, “Johnny Guitar”, and “Red Dawn”. It is in this paranoid and campy realm that Death By Communism exists. Standout songs like “Red Dawn” explicitly tie back to the film of the same name, seemingly singing about the plot from a Soviet angle. “Rostov Ripper”, falls into a fantastic Lillingtons-esque romp while telling the tale of the detestable Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo. Moreover, it comes complete with a simple, repeated, and repeatable chorus. “Leningrad Beach” feels like the Sloppy Seconds “The Horror of Party Beach” if they had developed some seeming love of skateboarding in the city rather than a campy surfer beach party fascination. My favorite song on the record, “Mommy Is A Commie”, is maybe the most direct play off of the Ramones sound. This song destroys, with a great 3-chord hook, some good backing vocals, and an addicting chorus. One of my favorites from anyone for the year so far. On Death By Communism, these highlights are closer to the rule than the exception.

Still, there are a couple songs that don’t really pull me in. “UVB76” has a singable chorus, but it drops the pace a bit and they shoot the song with some 80’s-style guitar solos, leading to a bit of a Motorhead feel that shows up frequently throughout the record. This just happens to be one of the only moments where I struggle to get behind it. The last song, “Satan U.S.S.R”, has this quasi-NWOBHM-dueling-guitars-thing going that is sort of interesting and different from the rest of the record, and also a bit out of place. It seems like the only real thread connecting “Satan U.S.S.R” to the rest of the record might be the rattling and threatening bass and the Stalin love.

Black Russians take on this Russia/Cold War theme and never let up, and it got me wondering if I can dig up a school desk to crawl under if the Russians get antsy again. A couple of the more metal moments might make some run to the hills. Nevertheless, Black Russians will get you singing some absurd words and humming many of the melodies. If you’re wanting to find some new singalong punk to check out, this’ll do the trick. Good stuff.