|Butterfly Temple was formed by Sergey 'Aven' Avanesov (keyboards), Mikhail Shmatko (rhythm guitar) and now former screamer Alexey 'Lesyar' Agafonov in Moscow, Russia back in 1995. All three were friends even since elementary school. In 1993 they formed kind of amateur band finding out if they could play something more or less harmonious together. In May of the year 1995 'of our Ford' (if Aldous Huxley's chronology can be trusted) this unbeatable triumvirate accomponied by Sergey Tambiev aka Dobriy (which is 'a goodman' in Russian and, by George, goodman he is) who played drums and Andrey Nagaytsev on the bass recorded the first 7-tracks demo entitled 'The Great Pentacle Of Solomon'. (No one knew what it meant, but the word 'pentacle' sounded mys-te-rious-ly, and indeed it was spotted by Lesyar in one of those penny dreadfuls that provide you an insight into mysterious realm of inner sanctum and astral geography for a few earthly shekels.) The recording took place at Aven's cottage house some 50kms west of Moscow and the less is spoken of the equipment used (that had survived Battle of Britain) the better. That was the 'official' beginning of Butterfly Temple.
Says Aven: 'We needed a bandname and everyone was short of ideas. I can't remember whose idea it was but we decided to call numerology for help and using its obsure methods we 'calculated' our names. We had this miserable russian-english dictionary there and opening it at a page of the number we got and then going down to the line of the same number there was a word 'temple'. But we didn't want to name a band simply 'temple'. There wasn't any romantic or obscure air to it. One of us uttered a name 'butterfly' coz it was 'easy-sounding' and although of foreign origin known to all those Russians who have IQ enough to open a bottle of vodka not from its bottom. So that was it: Butterfly Temple. The name never bore any particular meaning but sounded great and it never has proven to be an ill-choice'.
In the very beginning the band played kind of a mixture of an early 90-s doom thing, Pink Floyd and psychodelic stuff but with more rough riffing. Well, say, throw an early Anathema and what Opeth do now into a pot, take it away very (very!) raw and you'll have a clue. In short, the band was probing grounds. Then direction began to change into what is called 'pagan' metal - and due mostly not to substitution in 'musical influences' department but for 'ideological' or 'philosophical' reasons as all of the musicians revealed not an interest in (wrong word) but love to slavonic cosmogony and beliefs.
In 1996 there were first line-up changes with Valeriy Ostrikov filling into the position of lead guitar player and Dobriy leaving the band as he'd shown more interest in other activities (have I said 'excessitives?) that this life as we know it, provides rather than playing drums. He was replaced by Alexey Sporyshev. In September of the same year the band played its very first gig at 'Callipso' club in Moscow organised by organisation that became truly legendary not after its demise but ever since its conception: Moscow Rock Labaratory. Sprang out of the hole in the ground in one of Moscow side-streets (some 1km to Kremlin and Red Square, indeed!) in the height of 'perestroyka' havoc-wreacking campaign, it loaded on its back a heavy buddhist burden of enlightening soviet youths with radiant means of rock music. But of its deeds of valour and of glory elsewhere is told. Rock Labaratory ran its own bulletin (paltry one) and the next one after abovementioned show in Callipso featured a front page tip: 'Butterfly Temple: raw but fresh and cool!' Aven still keeps his scrap of yellow paper.
Back in the mid — late 90s all of BT guys were heavily influenced by the likes of Moonspell, Anathema, Paradise Lost and it resulted, of course, in music they tried to create themselves. But closer to the fall of the decade it was getting the more 'black' and 'pagan' it became. More drastical was the change in the lyrics department; it explored merely virgin grounds of pagan slavonic cosmogony, beliefs and poesy which turned to be a heavy blow to the state of mind of the Russian underground back in the day. After 2 demos in '98 ('Nahaimal' and 'Book of Veles', the latter consisted of 20 tracks, if any) the band started to work on their debut album that eventually was released in the beginning of '99.
Veles is the god of wisdom and of welfare, and is a key figure of ancient slavonic pantheon. The only deity that was conceived by Rod The AllFather and was born by 'heavenly cow' Zemun in 'physical form' and came into being the first, before all other deities who were the offsprings of Rod's thought and intent. Thus it came to pass that 'Veles' the Butterfly Temple's firstborn was destined to become the very first album of Russian pagan metal that caused indeed a whole genre to appear. 'Veles' featured ten tracks, of which one, cover verison of Moonspell's 'Alma Mater' was later omitted on Irond's re-issue due to copyright reasons in 2002 and replaced by 'Song Of War'. 'Veles' was recorded and produced by sound engineer Ian Survillo and bears all marks of die-hard underground masterpiece. It means, definitely that the quality of production was that of an Iron Age. Nevertheless, it shook Russian metal scene that in the meantime showed signs of stagnation. Album's cover featured a picture of well-known Russian artist Ivan Bilibin who specialized in painting illustrations to Russian and slavonic fairytales. On 'Veles' appeared although stated in credits as 'guest musicians' vocalists Abrey and Xenia who became in fact full-time members of the band. (Xenia was fired 5 years later and Abrey now remains one and only singer in the band.) Finally, it was the first and the last album for Andrey Nagaytsev that he recorded with the band (precisely speaking: that he ever recorded). He just couldn't fit in the band. So it was double trouble with the band that was and still remains a second family to its members.
BT spent a few months trying to enlist a new bass player. At last, right man appeared. Alexander Nikulin joined the ranks in the beginning of 2000. Alexander proved to be not only talented bass player but gifted songwriter, too. His first performance was on 'Veles' successor 'Koleso Chernoboga' ('Wheel of BlackGod') that was released in 2001. Citing Abrey for whom 'Koleso Chernoboga' is the favourite BT album, 'it was one outburst of enthusiasm in the band when we recorded it. It shows open-mindness of the band at its peak, at least, in my insider's opinion'. It was also a landmark for the band as they signed with Irond Records, first Russian indie metal label (it was one of their first releases ever); and also it helped to establish a name in band's homecountry.
BT third album, arguably their best and doubtlessly the most unique was quite surprisingly meant to be a bit diiferent thing in its authors thought. The band wanted to release a MCD but the whole format of no-long-plays was not on a menu at relatively young Russian market of licensed music products at that time, so the label bit its thumb down on the idea. The band had to trawl for ideas for an entire album. They netted an inspiration when they were with the expedition in the north of Kola Peninsula, in the north-west of Russia (a few of the photos taken there you can find in the booklet of the album). 'Dreams Of A Northern Sea' was a combustible mixture of raw, weird pagan/black metal riffs and traditional folk tunes, performed by Butterfly Temple and folk singer Ludmila — a cooperation that unfortunately wouldn't last due to Ludmila's maternity and busyness in Philarmonic Musical Society of her hometown. Of 15 tracks of that album 4 were brand new ones, one acoustic reprise of 'Wolves Of Odhinn' (the ultimate crowd pleaser off the debut album) and reworked version of 'The Last Battle Of Gods' that originally appeared on 'Book Of Veles' demo as a bonus tracks. The rest were interludes and traditional songs and themes such as 'Rusalki' or 'Kupalo And Kostroma' neatly intertwined with pagan metal tunes. The album produced a severe impact on metal scene in Russia, especially on its folk/pagan segment. Soon after release of 'Dreams Of A Northern Sea' in 2002 this niche began to blossom and dozens of new bands appeared. This album was many times immitated and never paralleled.
Its successor took quite different direction. 'On A BloodRed Path...By The Will Of Rod!' (Rod is The AllFather, The Lifegiver, a supreme deity of Russian cosmogony; there's no reference to a stick, hot rod or Mr. Rod Smallwood although he is, of course all these things in the world of heavy metal) was released in late 2003. Most heavy of all BT albums and nearly thrashy it's still regarded by many fans as band's finest moment. Lyrically it was based on small book of short poems by Lesyar (originally published as a multimedia section on first editions of 'Dreams...'). Songtitles although a little bit complex (as well as lyrics in general) showed some sort of intimacy with that old-fashioned Queer Street phenomena once known as 'poetry' that is, in fact essential if you want to yield the songs that will make it into category of 'the great' in Russia. (The only thing they are hardly translatable into English not losing neither their meaning nor poetic enchantment.) Again, the album was one step up the ladder of the recognition and astounding r'n'r fame&glory but it also proved to be the chapter closer. The band decided to call it a day with Xenia as it became unbearable to work together but it arose a great pow-wow as Lesyar took Xenia's side. (There where 'cunning lingers' lies a great source of 'artistic contradictions'.) A few months of tension followed. Lesyar played the last gig with the band at prestigious Moscow venue 'CDK MAI' (Moscow Aviation University Youth Center) on 5th of June of 2004 and by the end of the summer he was out of the band.
The work on a new album was under way when he left. It was nearly ready with most of the lyrics written but Lesyar leaving forbid to use his lyrics so the band was thrown a few levels back. Firstly, the band had to fill the position before the mikestand. For a few shows Abrey remained the only singer but very soon he gave up the idea of growling so the band began to look for a screamer. After a few fruitless months and a dozen of wanna-bes an old friend of the band, ex-member of local grindcore act Eternal Sick Alexey 'MirRon' Mironov was given a job. Another problem was lyrics as for many a year Lesyar remained the only lyricist. The band teamed up with volkhv (use a word 'Druid' for a translation and you'll get on a right track) of Moscow heathen community 'Rodolyubiye' ('Native faith') and gifted poet Veleslav. BT adopted five of his short poems; to the other Abrey and Alexey Agafonov (RIP), Lesyar's namesake and friend of Valera lended their pens. The album was (anti)christened 'The Times Of Mara' after one of Abrey's songs reflecting a state of dark age the band was passing through. Spirits were sunken and collective mood was brooding with gloom. - Mara or Morena is slavonic goddess of death and reincarnation and the epoch of Mara is an age opposite to golden one. Ye, sinful of knowledge gluttony can think of a word 'kali yuga' and that will be an exact translation.
This choice of a name such infernal had its revenge momentarily. Mostly everything went wrong with the album that was no doubt band's most mature and appeared to be its unaccessible peak. Production suffered most severely. Most of the stories better off untold, let there be just told that drum tracks that took a few months to record were erased beyond recall by sound engineer's fault and Alexey had only coupla days to re-record it with a street date set. Originally the album was mastered in one 'foreign' studio but when with great delay the results came the band was bursting with tears of humiliation, desperation and laughter all the way. It was remastered anew with what means that could be found in a few days left for it. Yet the band wanted this album out at last at any cost. And released it was on 19th of May 2005. For the first 3 weeks the sales were awesome outtoping even pop scoundrels in a few regions but then dead season of summer came and sales dropped. 'The Times Of Mara' arose great controversy among BT fans: some even jumped the ship but on the other hand there were newcomers who upraised it as a banner of the best record this world ever heard since Moses smashed commandments 11th - 15th in Mel Brook's 'History Of The World'. Among the guest musicians for this album there were magnificent Manni Schmidt of Grave Digger Schnitzel Clan, 'female voice of Russian rock' Olga Dzusova and Oleg Mishin (guitar player in Moscow power metal band Catharsis) who in fact played flute.
Mara's successor and the last BT album to date was released in the fall of 2006. (8 months before that the band parted ways with Mirron who just didn't manage to fit in musically — but still remains a bosom friend — and Abrey finally remained one and only singer now responsible for all vocal parts.) 'Following The Sun' was BT first conceptual album dedicated to Svytoslav The High Lord of Rus and the last of pagan rulers of eastern slavonic lands. The album was produced by Sergey Terentiev former guitar player of Aria, the biggest and the most successful Russian metal band ever, originators of Russian heavy metal, indeed. Guitar sound became more clean and varied ranging from Judas Priestish opening riffs of 'Vedas of Spring' to gloomy doomy harmonies of 'Dark Wells of Nav'. 'Following The Sun' was also the start of the cooperation with young viola/violin maestro Fedor Vetrov (of Moscow folksy outfit WaterWind) who nailed a few arrangements down. Bass was recorded by Nikolay Korshunov then guest musician as Alexander Nikulin was sunken into the depths of family life and nursing of his firstborn and could not afford much time to the band now. Alexander soon had to leave the band now finally with Nikolay taking his place of four, then five and now 'six-string motherfucker' (very heartfelt thanx to Taneli Jarva for enlightening us mortals with wisdom of bass playing nature).
At the meantime Butterfly Temple are ready to enter studio to record yet untitled seventh album. 10 songs are written plus there will possibly be a couple of surprising bonuses. Also a DVD is in plans with lots of material filmed on the road and at various festivals over last three years.