MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Top40 Charts/ ANJ Official Website) - They're dark and intense. Frontman is covered with tattoos. They play blistering heavy metal laced with throat-scalding vocals and string-shedding guitar. And they sing songs about : Gorbachev?
America has never seen a rock band quite like ANJ, which will be hitting U.S. shores imminently for a summer tour. Fronted by captivating frontman and mastermind Anatoly Zhuravlev (AKA ANJ), the band describes itself as "Megadeth after five bottles of Russian vodka" - and indeed, the group's sonic attack stands up to the most celebrated American metal.
But ANJ lacks the gloomy self-seriousness that characterizes much of the genre, citing "Slavic folklore" as an influence alongside Metallica; listeners accustomed to the cold-fish attitudes of mainstream metal-mongers will find ANJ a delicious blast of Russian caviar. Indeed, they're closer in spirit to the satirical animated band Dethklok from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim series Metalocalypse. This is largely due to Anatoly's Eastern charm, self-aware humor and flair for storytelling, which make ANJ's songs about as animated as live action can be. The indefatigable performer is also a filmmaker, and is currently preparing an action-suspense flick.
The band recently traveled to Los Angeles to record their song "Gorbachev" in English, assisted by producer John Travis (Kid Rock, Buckcherry), guitarist Levon Sultanian and drummer Roy Mayorga. The video was directed by comedy ace Tom Stern, known for his work on such series as Crank Yankers, The Man Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live and That's My Bush.
In addition to its lead singer's cocky, compelling theatricality, ANJ features the frenetic fretwork of prodigy guitarist Oleg Izotov. The Moscow-born axeman began playing at 13; by 16 he was a busy session musician. He later took first prize at the all-Russian "Mnogolikaya Gitara" ("Multifaced Guitar") contest, as well as the "School of Rock" showdown organized by Russian MTV and the East-West company. In 2005, Oleg became Russia's first and only endorser of Schecter guitars.
Formed in 2003, ANJ gave its first performance at a local MTV studio - and though the network's producers expected pop-rock, the band quickly unleashed its amp-melting barrage. They soon gathered a rabid local following, fueled by the hit ballad "The First Night." Their debut disc, Under an Intent Target, followed in short order. In 2005 they mounted their first international tour, beginning at the MetalMania fest in Katowice, Poland, and concluding (after an eight-month, scorched-earth campaign) at Moscow's Luzhinski Arena. Eastern Europe quickly fell before their onslaught, and they've subsequently been welcomed as such metal and biker gatherings as Krasnogorsk Open Air, Friday 13th fest, Hail To Russia fest and Victory Fest.
ANJ represented Russia at 2006's Finnish Metal Expo in Helsinki and at 2007 Download in the UK.