This CD was released by Metalism Records and Stormspell Records back in 2008, and it is the first official release of the ‘Своими руками’/’With Your Own Hands’ album. Although it was recorded back in 1989, initially in the Soviet Union and then in Russia it was distributed on reel-to-reel and cassette tapes only, so this record had to wait almost 20 years to be embodied in flesh.
Well, in the Soviet times and for a time after the USSR’s collapse (i. e. after 1991), Скорая помощь (Skoraya Pomoshch’, i. e. First Aid/Ambulance) was called none other than the ‘domestic King Diamond’ or ‘Soviet/Russian King Diamond’ or even ‘our response to King Diamond’ or something like that. Well, Alexey Polyakov’s voice is really more high-pitched in tone than common Heavy Metal vocals, and it really reminds Kim Petersen’s singing sometimes. For example, in a very dramatic piece ‘Шаг на эшафот’/’A Step to the Scaffold’ on this album, Polyakov does some first-rate work, no doubt, he sings very touchingly and piercingly. In some places really in the vein of King Diamond: yeah, his ‘uuuh’ on a fade-out is practically copied from Petersen. However, you can’t help it, it’s better not to compare Skoraya pomoshch’ with Mercyful Fate/King Diamond in terms of music.
If only ‘Падший ангел’/’Fallen Angel’, a kind of attempt to create a Speed Metal piece, can qualify for such a comparison in some way, but it is more an exception on the album than a rule. If we continue to compare, then Polyakov with his singing surpassed Udo Dirkschneider, but he could not completely get rid of his influence. However, he quite confidently settled at the height of Rob Halford. Something like that.
Despite the 9 years of history already behind them (Skoraya Pomoshch’ was formed back in 1980), it seems that by the time the ‘With Your Own Hands’ album was recorded, the band had not yet fully formed their ‘general line’. Perhaps this will happen on the next album ‘Hellraiser’ (1991), which is seen as the more mature. As for ‘With Your Own Hands’, it is what it is.
Nevertheless, it is clear already here that the band’s main reference point was Accept with their catchy and groovy Heavy Metal riffs, rather tough in addition. The slow and tragic ‘Последний шанс’/’The Last Chance’ is the best example in this sense. There are solos on ‘With Your Own Hands’, of course, how can it be without them, but these are rather common Heavy Metal passages without any display of sophisticated imagination. A solo on the slow and rather lyrical Accept-esque song ‘Моя душа (Последний визит)’/’My Soul (The Final Visit)’ can serve as a colorful example. The modesty of the solo parts is partly compensated by the beautiful bridges and licks that often appear on the album. As well as by the bass inserts: ‘Время прозреть’/’It’s Time to Begin to See Clearly’, ‘Fallen Angel’, ‘Извержение’/’Eruption’.
On the whole, ‘With Your Own Hands’ contains very interesting music which is perfectly consistent with the piercing vocals. Actually it was Polyakov who made Skoraya Pomoshch’ what it was. When Valery Andreev replaced him on the third album ‘Reanimator’ (1992), the band lost a lot of its original and unique flavour. Yes, it became even more Accept-esque because the new vocalist sounded more like Udo Dirkschneider, but there was no ‘zest’ in the band anymore.
Apart from everything else, the incompletely formed ‘general line’ manifests itself on ‘With Your Own Hands’ by periodic deviations in different directions – you can catch the influence of some other band instead of Accept. For example, a short near-final acceleration on ‘A Step to the Scaffold’ is quite in the spirit of Judas Priest. In its turn ‘Пламя гнева’/’Flame of Wrath’ is totally out of line: an unusually vivacious track for this album, at the same time monotonous, without interesting inserts – the preference as a guiding star here is clearly given to Iron Maiden. Especially the bridge after the chorus is in the spirit of Iron Maiden/Aria – yes, except for the lead part, the song is very ‘Arian’.
Maybe it’s time to notice that it’s hard to disagree with another popular opinion concerning Skoraya Pomoshch’: it was a very underrated band. While Aria became mega popular in Russia and quite famous in the rest of the world, only connoisseurs know about Skoraya Pomoshch’ now. You can, of course, blame everything on the ‘Leningrad syndrome’, as long as Skoraya Pomoshch’ hometown was Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was called in Soviet times) while Aria were/are a Moscow band – well, there was a belief in the Soviet Union that any cultural (and not only cultural) phenomenon or event from Leningrad was suppressed by a coincident phenomenon or event from Moscow. But maybe the musicians themselves were to blame for this: Aria already had albums like ‘Мания величия’/’Megalomania’, ‘С кем ты?’/’With Whom Are You?’, ‘Герой асфальта’/’A Hero of Highway’ and ‘Игра с огнём’/’Playing with Fire’ in 1989, they set a really high bar in the Soviet Metal scene, so you had to really try to become noticeable against their background.
However, we have to state the fact that Skoraya Pomoshch’ fell short compared to Aria’s level. Besides the fact that they were far from forming their own style, it can be seen that some songs on ‘With Your Own Hands’ are almost unfinished: ‘My Soul’ suddenly fades out, although it feels like it should develop further; and the very interesting instrumental ‘Eruption’, diluted with Thrash Metal riffs in the spirit of Metallica, is thrown halfway, although it would also continue to unwind. The album is uneven, but it’s not diverse at all, that’s the point.
As a result, we have that despite the significant potential of the band and Polyakov’ unique voice, the most famous song on the album as well as, by the way, in Skoraya Pomoshch’ career, is the unpretentious but annoyingly catching ‘Сосед’/’The Neighbour’. This song is actually an old one, it was on the band’s demo from 1985 when Skoraya Pomoshch’ was playing Hard Rock. Indeed, some customary hard’n’heavy riffs are used here, they would suit both Deep Purple or Accept (while the beginning of the song was more promising, something in the spirit of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden). Well, you can’t really judge by ‘The Neighbour’ what Skoraya Pomoshch’ really was, and even more so what it could be.
However, a certain originality of the naive lyrics of ‘The Neighbour’ should not go unnoticed, to understand it, it is enough to know the chorus: ‘My middle-aged neighbor loves Motörhead very much! My pensive neighbor respects Motörhead!’ Well, today there are more than enough such ‘neighbors’, while at the time of writing this song (i. e. somewhere in the early to mid 80s) ‘middle-aged neighbor’ (i. e. about 45-65 years old) who ‘respects Motörhead’ seemed to be a frankly mythical character who does not exist in real life, and if he did, it was worthy of entering into the Red Book.
Basically, the album presents typical perestroika-minded lyrics about freedom, seasoned with rebelliousness of varying degrees: ‘It’s Time to Begin to See Clearly’, ‘The Last Chance’ (with the exception of stupid but still very touching paraphrase from the play ‘Laughter and Tears’ by Sergei Mikhalkov, a Soviet author of children’s books and satirical fables), and ‘A Step to the Scaffold’. Perhaps the Aria-esque ‘Flame of Wrath’ can also be included in this category, although its ‘true Metal-ish’ lyrics (about the rage in the eyes: ‘There is the devil’s light in the eyes of people’) is rather abstract. The lyrics for ‘Fallen Angel’, apparently, is really about Lucifer, but it is more objurgatory than sympathetic: ‘Don’t you feel sorry for those who followed you?’ And the lyrics of ‘My Soul’ are also somewhat abstract – its message is clearly not religious, at best it is a revelation from a mystical poet. Nevertheless, against the background of such almost intellectual songs, ‘The Neighbour’ text seems even dumber than it actually is!
Album bonuses, as is usually the case with re-releases of Soviet Metal classics, spoil the impression of the band even more. Although ‘Жив или нет (Сосед-2)’/’Are You Alive or Not? (The Neighbour-2)’ and ‘Изгоните беса’/’Exorcise the Devil’ were recorded back in 1996 after ‘With Your Own Hands’, both songs are marked by a slide back into Hard Rock: the first track is some kind of Hard Rock-ish Iron Maiden (if only the rhythm guitar during the solo part is very unusual), while the second one is bluesy Hard Rock, probably in the spirit of Deep Purple. The same with ‘Рок-н-ролл стайер’/’Rock and Roll Stayer’ и ‘Взять живым’/’Capture Alive’ which were recorded even before ‘With Your Own Hands’, in 1988: some kind of semi-poppy Hard Rock-ish Август (i. e. Soviet hard’n’heavy band August) and Hard Rock-ish Accept, respectively.
Summary. It is unlikely that you will discover something new on ‘With Your Own Hands’, nevertheless, this is quite interesting material. If you want to enjoy true Heavy Metal from Skoraya Pomoshch’, then you should stop listening to this CD just before ‘The Neighbour’. The re-release design is not to be criticized, it’s moderately ‘retro’, with a lot of old photos. Even a reel-to-reel tape on the CD does not irritate.