Mastered By – Chris Common
Producer – 5R6
Recorded By – Alex Aizatsky
Recorded By, Mixed By – Dmytro Zinchenko
Artwork – Vadim Shchepilov
Design - Max Gavronsky
Final Master - Iaroslav "Necromanus" Procopchuk
Recorded and mixed at Studio O!, Kharkiv, between May 2014 - July 2015
5R6 would like to thank everyone at Studio O!, Igor Sidorenko, Robustcrew, Vadim Shchrpitov, Paul Farley and Aldous Huxley
It starts out unassuming enough with a quiet two-minute intro, but even the title of that track — “The Ledge” — seems to bring out ideas of jumping off into something vast. Sure enough, that’s basically how it plays out as 5R6‘s Islands gets underway with the circular progressive riffing of “Potion” The four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Igor Zubko, guitarist Kiril Brener, bassist Ievgenii Zinchenko and drummer/backing vocalist/keyboardist/noisemaker Dmytro Zinchenko (one assumes the rhythm section is related) hail from the Ukraine’s fertile heavy underground, in Kharkiv, which along with Kiev about six hours away by car has established a base of bands who cut a wide swath through various styles, creatively open but set in their purposes.
5R6‘s debut album, Islands, basks in a prog metal that owes some of its more intense moments to thrash, but is no less comfortable proffering post-grunge harmonies in “Gasping for Breath” or Nirvana-style jangle and rawness on “The City of X” than it is in the furious chugging in the second half of “Potion.” It can be a strange mix at times, but for Islands, which is released by Robust Fellow Records, that’s very clearly the intent. 5R6 careen through their seven-track/43-minute runtime and ultimately succeed in bringing these stylistic disparities to common ground, and it’s precisely because of this that their debut — recorded at Studio O! in Kharkiv over the course of 14 months by Alex Aizatsky and Dmytro Zinchenko (who also mixed) — succeeds as well as it does.
Over a bed of tense guitar notes and ambient noise, Zubko asks in the first two lines of the album, “I am standing on a ledge/Should I jump with arms oustretched?” He very clearly makes the decision to do just that as the speedier and more intense “Potion” takes hold. One of Islands‘ longer tracks at 7:27, it starts with an almost secondary intro behind “The Ledge,” but no question that the leadoff cut brings an immediate sense of atmosphere to bolster the proceedings that follow. Teeth-clenched riffing opens up a bit in the chorus before shifting into a section of Megadeth-esque speed-chugging in a preview for the apex of the song still to come. They make their way back through the verse and into an intricate bridge over tom runs and back through the chorus before reverting back to that same headbang-worthy groove, which this time carries the song out with a couple shouted final lines. “This River” is shorter and offers a less frantic vibe overall, starting off quiet and moving fluidly through introducing a kind of prog-grunge with its foundation in the creative drum work of Zinchenko.
A distinctly ’90s feel is pushed even further in the midsection of “This River,” which features one of the record’s best hooks and brings in heavier crash late before finishing melodic and leading smoothly into centerpiece “TV Snow,” the shortest (intro aside) song on Islands at 4:58 and a more straight-ahead thrust initially that breaks just before two minutes in to a stretch of minimal guitar and drums and spoken word/sampling that leads once more into a heavier surge, more bounce in the riff, but pushing toward the apex efficiently and paying off the first half of the album in the process as it makes way for the final three tracks.
That trio of cuts — “Gasping for Breath,” “The City of X” and closer “Islands” — all top seven minutes and very much have a side-B spirit to them in terms of how they expand the palette from what 5R6 are doing in the first four. Even though my copy of Islands is a CD and Robust Fellow‘s tape version seems to either move or eliminate “Gasping for Breath,” this split is evident as that song follows the pattern of opening gradually before shifting into heavier fare while also introducing more complex vocal arrangements. “TV Snow” previewed some of that, so the change isn’t out of nowhere, and it makes sense that 5R6 would work some Alice in Chains influence into their already potent brew. Perhaps most effective because of its more patient roll, “Gasping for Breath” leads to the straight-up grunge jangle and punkish forward thrust of “The City of X,” which plays a back and forth initially in quieting down to make room for the verses before resuming the rush for the chorus.
Past its halfway point, the song works through a bridge and back to the hook before an ending instrumental section takes hold at 5:26 that carries the last two minutes to their final fadeout, feeling a little tacked on, but serving atmospheric purpose all the same going into the concluding title-track. Granted, “Islands” would seem to have a difficult task in summing up the record that shares its name, but 5R6 don’t necessarily seem interested at the end in tying up loose ends that have already been tied up so much as pushing the limits further. In so doing, they wind up with a fitting summary anyhow. A single linear build plays out from the ground up and pushes through a finish that’s never out of control but still suitably vibrant, and the album ends quietly, as thoughtfully as it began.
If you were looking for a central theme to Islands, thoughtfulness would be a good start. As 5R6‘s first full-length, its cohesion and complexity would seem to signal that the band are not only willing to put clear time and effort into developing their material and level of performance, but that they have a burgeoning ability to balance aggression and fluidity in a way that makes their songwriting richer. That can only bode well going forward.
If there is one thing that you need to now about Ukrainian experimentalists 5R6 is that they know how to captivate sound and take a full control out of it. Consisting of Igor (vocals, guitars), Eugene (bass), Cyril (guitar) and Dmitry (drums), Islands is their debut full-length album released two years after their previous release—an EP titled +6.5 and Brighter. This album will give you a new appreciation for autumn and winter, as its sound like a soundtrack written specifically for these seasons.
Islands by 5R6 is the type of album that grows on you with each listen. Full of wonder and eeriness, it is quite the experience to behold and one worth taking. Turn off the lights, close your eyes, and let the music take you away to another world.