All your blood flows out of my heart.
We sail under a white flag!
The Balkan heartlands have yielded a bountiful creative harvest for Voyvoda, as well as cultivating a reputation for cultural rebellion through their post-punk melodies. In a globe swamped by gloom, and with Bulgaria grappling with its storms, Voyvoda’s tunes hit a poignant note. The Sofia band’s unique blend of eerie ambiance, lively punk flair, and an avant-garde twist defies musical norms, drawing varied listeners into a collective embrace. Now, Voyvoda has announced the release of their new album, Autochthonous. This collection finds the Bulgarian band going back to their antiwar post-punk roots, hiding behind a Balkan barbed wire fence and spitting hate against crooked orthodox chieftains.
Their distinct blend marries Balkan and Orthodox melodies with a spectrum of post-punk, darkwave, and indie echoes. Their overall sound is reminiscent of Fugazi, The Stranglers, and The Damned as they dive deeply into the chaotic history of their native land.
Opening strong with Siromahomil, we hear the tale of a youth advised by their grandfather to learn from the Book of Daniel, emphasizing the importance of walking freely in the dark to find the light. The lyrics assertively reject external impositions on their history and nation, demanding oppressors retreat. There’s a strong sentiment against compromise and a quote disregarding a flag’s importance over freedom from oppressors. Next Voyvoda channels The Stranglers’ classic No More Heroes with the ominous No Spirit. The lyrics evoke nostalgia for past traditions and practices like Sirni Pokladi, burning witches, and jumping fires. It questions the disappearance or dilution of these traditions, suggesting they were disrupted by external forces or political influences. The repeated lines “No Future, No Zagovezni, No Zadushnitsa” emphasize a sense of loss and the absence of spirit, hinting at cultural erosion and spiritual void.
The video, directed by Klara Stoyanova and Kalina Filkova, depicts frolickers morosely dancing in an 80s club.
In the midst of dire scenarios—execution, bombings, and potential death—the lyrics of the heartbreaking Military Town #2 emphasize unwavering love and the memory of cherished times. Despite the bleakness, there’s a recurring reminder of affection for a significant other, described as a beacon of beauty in a grim setting. The ending quote emphasizes a hopeful outlook on global freedom and honors fighters for justice, suggesting the eventual triumph of the oppressed. The overarching message is about enduring love and hope, even in the face of oppression and adversity. Next, Excommunication juxtaposes violent acts with repeated disavowals of believing in violence, presenting a profound irony. The band touches on hypocrisy, with religious figures blessing instruments of brutality while appearing indifferent. The overarching theme underscores the dissonance between espoused values and actual behaviours.
The lyrics to Captain Hook convey a strong message of cultural protectionism and identity. Through evocative imagery, they highlight the significance of heritage, boundaries, and the consequences of cultural appropriation. There’s a palpable tension between honoring traditions and the perceived threat of external influences, notably symbolized by the repeated reference to “veto” and the curiously specific shoutout to New Order’s Peter Hook, suggesting a clash between indigenous and foreign elements in music and history.
The title song explores introspection, acceptance, and change, leading to a surrender to fate. The shift from “a slav” to “autochthonous” marks a change in identity towards native roots, while the repeated mention of “Death here is autochthonous” underscores inescapable truths. The Damned-esque Andronicus, sung in their native tongue, evokes a deep connection to ancestry and the transience of life. They express a yearning to connect with past generations and the landscapes they inhabited. The call to “turn off the lights” suggests a desire to embrace the intangible, while dancing on Šar Mountain symbolizes a union with ancestral spirits and nature. Finally, the folk-tinged dirge Mrs Misheva, sung in Bulgarian, depicts Mrs. Misheva’s individualistic defiance and detachment from societal expectations. Her repeated dancing in the store can symbolize non-conformity or protest in everyday spaces. Her disinterest in labels and skepticism towards the state may reflect broader Bulgarian sentiments of disillusionment with governance, reminiscent of the country’s protest culture against perceived political injustices.
Order the album here
Starting in Gainesville, Florida, VOYVODA now calls Sofia, Bulgaria, its home. With three albums and five EPs under their belt, they’ve toured much of Europe, rubbing shoulders with renowned underground dark and punk bands. Over time, Voyvoda has carved out a unique sound, blending Balkan and Orthodox influences with classic post-punk and darkwave vibes. Their talents also extend to creating music for films and documentaries.
Autochthonous was recorded in the Church of Noise studio and Krvavi Potok in Sofia and mixed in North Attic Studios. Limited to 110 copies, Autochthonous is now available for pre-order on vinyl from Ugly And Proud Records & Balkan Sprachbund.
Voyvoda has revisited history before in their fourth album, 2020’s Confessions of a Macedonian Bandit, which took a more experimental Balkan approach, based on the dark, spiritual and tumultuous history of the region of Macedonia. That collection summoned the spirit of American journalist/adventurer Albert Sonnichsen, who ended up in Macedonia at the beginning of the 20th century, seen through the words of the godfather of Balkan anarchism – Spiro Gulabchev.
Voyvoda is currently preparing to go on tour in Poland and Hungary. The band will officially present the album live for the first time in Warsaw on the 9th of November and in Krakow on the 11th of November and will tour the rest of Europe in the spring of 2024.
– November 9th: Chmury in Warsaw, Poland with Eat My Teeth and Snakeatsnake.
– November 11th: Stakkato in Krakow, Poland with KSY and Snakeatsnake.
– November 12th: Aurora Modularis in Budapest, Hungary with Snakeatsnake.
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