VITJA’s fortunate 2013 inception can be traced to four different bands. But it’s not the past that’s exciting about the Germans. It’s the present and what VITJA will bring in the future. Based in Cologne, the quartet, whose name is Russian shortform for ‘Viktor’, which translates to ‘Victor’ or ‘Winner’ in English, hit the ground running by inking a deal with German indie Redfield Records. The same year they signed on the dotted line, VITJA released their debut album, “Echoes”. Described by the press as “awe-inspiring”, “progressive”, and “techy”, “Echoes” quickly catapulted the Germans to the very top of the Djent movement. The group’s follow-up EP, “Your Kingdom”, was equally heralded by critics and fans as “memorable” and “energetic” in 2015. The successes of “Echoes” and “Your Kingdom” landed VITJA high-profile shows and tours with Callejon, Bring Me The Horizon, Bury Tomorrow, Caliban, Iwrestledabearonce and Nasty.
But hold on a minute. Ask VITJA frontman David Beule if the group find their solace in Djent’s slow-motion staccato arms, and he’s likely to laugh heartily. He calls VITJA’s music “metal-rock”. No more descriptors or sub-categories given or asked. To wit, since forming three scant years ago, the songwriters in VITJA are inspired not by a single movement or band or instrument choice—guitarist Vladimir Dontschenko plays an 8-string guitar and bassist Mario Metzler a 6-string bass—but by everything they enjoy. Music, art, film, etc. “We’re getting our Influences from everywhere,” asserts Dontschenko. “There are so many good bands and loads of great genres. It would be dumb to pick just one or two of them and forget about the rest. Music has no limits and we will include everything that inspires us and conveys any kind of emotion.”
Which brings us to VITJA’s new album—their first since signing to Century Media Records/People Like You Records—“Digital Love”. More than a year separates “Your Kingdom” from “Digital Love”. During that time, the Germans focused heavily on refining their craft, experimenting with new ideas, and writing an album that is indicative of VITJA’s upward and onward musical trajectory. Eleven songs. All of them, from the white-hot rage of opener “SCUM” to the rhythmic insanity of closer “The Flood”, are tried and true VITJA, with the exception that they’re coming into their own as songwriters. And lyric writers, too. “Every song on the record has a different topic,” Beule reveals. “Just see through the metaphors. But, in the end, they’re all leading to the same point or ending. The search for a good feeling or ending, for happiness, and simply the best that everyone deserves. No matter what the situation. For the search of love. Today, pretty much all we are is digital, the most important things to us are mostly digital and about love. That’s what it is. “Digital Love”.”
Certainly, “Digital Love” sounds utopian on the surface, but scratch it and Beule exposes its dark side. The vocalist and lyricist pulls no punches in his assessment of what we’ve become, how we’ve become, and why we’ve become merely desperate and isolated parts of our respective sum. We’ve detached from humanity. Yet, now more than ever, we’re longing for connectivity, to feel and be human again. “In our generation, pretty much everything and everyone is f**ked,” Beule declares. “F**ked in the head and f**ked in the heart. We see and know too much. We are overwhelmed by the thoughts of what could be, of what we could be, and that you always could have something else or better. If you think you deserved something better you can get it and leave the old stuff behind. We are desperately desperate. This is what so many lives are about. These facts combined with all the apps, possibilities and information you got today and what social media makes out of it and means to us, leads us into a new kind of way of living. A new kind of world with new values and a completely different meaning. Worth of confidence, trust, and love.”
Recorded over the course of a year at Sureshot Studios by Daniel Keller and Andreas Vieten and mixed/mastered by Aljoscha Sieg at Pitchback Studios, “Digital Love” sounds epically massive. Dontschenko’s riffs are colossal, dissonant, yet instantly memorable. Tracks like “Roses”, “Six Six Sick” (feat. Matthias Tarnath from Nasty on guest vocals), “Find What You Love And Kill It”, and the title track showcase his unique fretboard trickery and riff mastery. His rhythm partner, Metzler also shines against Daniel Pampuch’s pounding drums and percussion sleights of hand, which is especially evident on the incredible “No One As Master No One As Slave”, the thumping “The Golden Shot”, and the revelatory “SCUM,” which features Sushi and Kevin from Eskimo Callboy as guest vocalists. And Beule has outdone himself on “Digital Love”. From raving as a lunatic to death metal-like growls to singing his (non) digital heart out, VITJA’s frontman is a veritable dynamo. And all this is with electronic music expertly soldered into VITJA’s flesh, as if to embolden the installation of the digital into VITJA’s soon-dead analog.
“We wrote the songs differently from the past,” Pampuch offers. “Musically and emotionally, we focused on different things than we used to focus on during a writing process. We don’t say that the songs are better, but they definitely sound mature. This time we wrote more song-oriented. The whole album is easier to listen to compared to older VITJA albums. So, the listener can pull out more for themselves. The idea was that each song stands on its own, but at the same time we wanted to design an album that works as a unity. For example, with “SCUM” we tried to grab metal by the balls. We wanted to create a hard song with a traditional but fresh and groovy attitude. Playing it feels like being the cheeky little guy who slashes car tires; on “No One As Master No One As Slave”, we wanted to create something big. Something special. A song that is worth being played in a stadium. A song people talk about; and with “Heavy Rain”, it’s our atypical song. It was a lot of fun juggling the non-typical riffs and trying to create something that VITJA has never done before. I totally love this song.”
As if the music wasn’t heavy and adventurous enough, the cover (realized by Beule himself), an inverted heart in line art form set against binary code (1s and 0s), has intense meaning behind it. “It’s just artwork that transports our message,” says Beule. “The inverted heart stands for the individual interpretation what this digital world means to me, and that most of it broke my heart. It made me insecure. It destroyed my feelings and vision on things and my senses. It destroyed my point of view of what is real, right or wrong. People meet that were not supposed to meet in this life and this led my heart into denial. Not only mine. It destroys whole generations. We can’t focus anymore. But we will forever be addicted to it. Maybe it’s all we have to live for. And everybody knows the binary code is the essence of it all. The essence of the digital world of this other life we and, especially, our generation and the ones to come. It is now our love letters, our confessions, our money, our existence, our dreams. Nearly everything is digital, so created by the binary code. And from now on we can’t stop it. It will always and forever be like this.”
The good thing is Beule and VITJA have an outlet for their loss, their visions of a world technologically undone, their views that humanity is in the throes of losing itself to hyper-connectivity. “Digital Love” and the stages the Germans share before and after its release are catharsis. A release from what’s labeled cool from an array of next-gen apps brainlessly lifecycled out at fervid paces for our always-connected world. Really, they’ve worked hard to vent, to tell it like it is, to feel again. Not just by signing to Century Media Records/People Like You Records—a process Pampuch calls “the next big thing for us”—but to use its framework and devices to show the world VITJA’s ready to hold out its hands. “First, we’re four music-loving guys with a clear and united vision. Of course, we’ve become close friends quickly. VITJA works off-stage and on-stage. Disagreements do exist, but that should not be a problem in a relationship like this. To put it simply, it’s normal life.”
By Chris Dick