AK-11 is, in fact, a one man project formed by the enigmatic Valak F. In Valak’s own words, the project is “inspired by Russian & European brutal war history, Siberia’s bleak & endless frozen wastelands, ancient Slavic heathens, Tundra wolves & vodka” tying it into traditional black metal themes but also providing plenty of room for Valak to introduce his own unique spin – something which he does time and time again on the monstrously brilliant ‘Legendary, demonic and invincible’ which is available for free via Valak’s web page (click here).
Combining a frosty, swirling guitar sound with gutteral vocals per se is nothing new, but where AK-11 excels is the myriad little touches – the introduction of traditional Russian music here, a dark flourish there – it keeps the music interesting and it is quite remarkable that the act hasn’t been picked up by a label yet. We are very proud to introduce this interview with Valak, the mastermind behind AK-11 and very much hope that it will lead you to explore the quite remarkable music he has produced under that name.
When did you first become interested in making music and what instrument did you start with?
I began torturing the guitar at 16 & haven’t stopped since.
What bands did you first become interested in and what led you to black metal?
It all began with the ‘Smoke on the Water’ riff, which got me into: Black Sabbath, Iron maiden, Motorhead etc. Then I found my need for speed in Thrash/First wave of Black metal: Venom, Celtic Frost, Sodom etc. Then-you guessed it, came Death Metal: Carcass, Deicide, and Morbid Angel etc. Then one day I heard Dark Throne’s ‘A Blaze in the Northern Sky’ & was instantly impressed. Discovering more of their albums & following up with Burzum, Mayhem & Emperor is what won me over. This was music to get possessed to; as it was the most evil & dark sounding metal I have ever heard. It was like listening to Wagner on crystal meth.
What was it about the philosophy and aesthetic of black metal that appealed to you?
It was not just about loud guitars & friendly moshpits anymore. This was true demonic art with a message like no other. I felt a bond with those morbid, inspiring & ‘wicked’ existentialist ideals. Metal for me was always about connecting with the dark side of life & Black Metal was the ultimate gateway.
Where does the name and concept for AK-11 come from?
I wanted to have a project named after a weapon, so I thought of the world famous Russian AK-47 assault rifle. Since I formed this project in 2011, AK-11 seemed appropriate.
Your demo takes its inspiration from the battles of Eastern Europe and Russia– what is it particularly about that region of the world that called to you and inspired you to write about it?
Well I have Russian roots. It’s a vast, somewhat harsh, bleak & grim country with a long & bloody history. I’m exploring man’s natural desire to conquer & his unquenchable bloodlust to wage war, so Russia & the battles of Europe are a great source of inspiration. However, my music is not only about those specific conflicts as such. AK-11 songs are also about hunting down ‘slaves of organized religions’. Like the crusades, it’s the pagan warriors who are now eradicating the alien dogma from their homelands. For example in the last track- ‘Shest shest shest I Katyusha’, I take the idea of a Russian folk song & put my own spin on it. Here, the heathen soldiers are in battle against the ‘holy ones’ & they hear Katyusha singing to them as they burn down the heavens.
Are you particularly interested in history and if so are there any books or writers who particularly inspired you?
Yes, very interested. I’m into books especially on existentialist philosophy of the mid to late 1800’s, such as ‘The Antichrist’ by Friedrich Nietzsche & ‘Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
You sing in both English and Russian – that must be a difficult juxtaposition to pull off?
Writing the lyrics in Russian (using English phonetic spelling) was a bit of a challenge, as I only know how to speak this Slavic language. But once the song was penned down & I had a couple of practise sessions, it was not that hard to pull off. I might carry on with this idea for some future songs. I am also planning to compose a track in German.
How long did it take to record the EP and did you ever feel you would have benefitted from having other musicians to work with?
I began writing & recording material in April 2011 & by mid November, there were enough tracks to choose from to compile my first release. I don’t know how much more I would have benefited from working with others, as I am quite happy with the final outcome of ‘Legendary, Demonic & Invincible’.
Obviously at the moment AK-11 is just you, but do you have plans or a desire to expand the band to perform live?
You’re giving the demo away for free, why, in your opinion, should people check out ‘Legendary, demonic & invincible’?
Those who like their metal fast & black & are looking for something more than just bad production, suicidal elves & grim shadows won’t be disappointed. AK-11 is all about dark, intense yet uplifting, triumphant music. Sung in English & Russian, the listener is taken on a violent & diabolical journey of war & where the enemies of the ‘Left Hand Path’ are hunted down & obliterated. So anyone into Black/Death/Thrash/War metal will find ‘Legendary, Demonic & Invincible’ interesting.
Is there a chance that this release will be made available in a physical form? A vinyl version would be awesome!
Yes, perhaps sometime in the future, as the vinyl version sounds very tempting.
What is your ambition for AK-11 ?
The goal is to release another demo/EP & then eventually a full-length album. I will always aim to make AK-11 unique & different, as there are still quite a lot of bands with repeated themes & imagery. However the roots & ideals will remain the same & this will always be ‘music for the Infernal’.
Any final words for our readers?
If you want to hear Black Metal inspired by carnage, Siberia’s frozen wastelands, Tundra wolves & Vodka then AK-11 is for you.
AK-11’s first recording is out now and believe us when we say it’s brilliant!