Stalingrad - The Story Behind the Song
Updated: Jan 8, 2021
The Story Behind the Song
When Pestilent Age began writing music with our new addition to the band (Taylor Sharpe), we began wondering what our new songs would pertain to lyrically. The band had already spent a lot of time writing about issues we see both globally and locally in our last string of singles, and 3 of these new singles talked about either heroin, overpopulation, or about search engine algorithms channeling us into our own secluded thought bubbles. For the time being, we had felt we had exhausted these types of ideas and knew we needed a change in lyrical direction…… once again history provided us with that inspiration for creativity.
Historical events are no strange topic for Pestilent Age. Novgorod was written about the Rus’, Vikings that settled into what is now modern-day Russia and the Ukraine. Our first album Medieval Holocaust mentioned stories about the black plague and the crusades. While the medieval time period is certainly our most beloved historical era World War II has always been a fair contender, specifically Russia’s role in this global endeavor. As Americans the members of Pestilent Age have been taught that the United States went into WWII to defeat the Nazi’s after Europe had been virtually leveled, leaving no opposition to fight against their ever-imminent encroachment of Hitler’s regime into every lasting free country in Europe. Recollections to this effect have led to the U.S. negotiating its way into a global and economic superpower, however an enormous player in WWII too often forgot in the western world was Russia. Twenty-six million civilians, eleven million Russian soldiers all died from the brutality wrought by Hitler’s European power grab all while dealing three quarters of all Nazi casualties to the Germans.
Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest battles fought in WWII and once the band began talking about the second world war as a potential song topic, Stalingrad quickly rose to the top of our list. The biggest battle of the second World War Stalingrad saw over one million Russians dead, wounded, or captured and forty thousand civilians killed. Axis forces suffered staggering losses during the battle as well. Soviets recovered 250 thousand enemy corpses from the city and of the ninety-one thousand axis men captured during the battle only 5 thousand ever made it home. Every able-bodied man in Stalingrad was gathered to form militias while the women and children dug trenches to slow the Nazi assault, buying time for reinforcements to be shipped in from the east across the Volga river.
For six and a half months this onslaught endured. Nazi forces cut off trade to the city and civilians quickly began to starve. People shot themselves in the streets, deserters were shot on site, and people resorted to eating rats or cannibalism. Little more than a month into the battle shelling and bombings burned down most of the wooden structures in the city. The first few months of that campaign say that city ravaged to pieces but with the encroachment of winter came a new opportunity for the Soviets. The Germans thought the siege of Stalingrad would be over before the bitter cold of a Russian winter crept in, but when Stalin’s forces held their ground in the bitter cold, Hitler’s army, not properly clothed for the frigid Russian winter, became desperate. Cold and hungry the Nazis began to lose some ground in the city. Once the river Volga was frozen supplies flowed into the city with greater frequency giving Soviet soldiers a much-needed moral boost. Increasingly it became evident that Hitler could not win Stalingrad but frustrated, he ordered his generals to fight to the death. They however, after many more months of fighting surrendered in February of 1943.
Musically Stalingrad, much like all our music written thus far with our new singer (Taylor Sharpe) was very free form and improvised in its writing. On a regular weekday afternoon in front of the computer, Taylor and Roach began to write. Taylor plays guitar and bass, so he had a couple of ideas floating around and laid down on the opening riff, then Roach wrote a tail to it. The verse came quite naturally after that, and each riff fell seamlessly into our laps until within an hour we had a guitar track in front of us. All in all, the song is fairly simple, but it has that undeniable groove that seems to only come when we write music in a “Spur of the moment” manor.
Stalingrad was the first song that Taylor and Roach co-wrote lyrics on. The main thought behind recording our vocals together was experimenting with our voices to make them complement one another. Taylor’s voice is clear and mid-range focused so we wanted to bring that out in this track by swerving Roach’s more guttural delivery around Taylor’s track. Weaving these two sounds around each other not only opened up more artistic options but also works to add depth and texture to Pestilent Age’s music. Another tool Pestilent Age has used in past recordings was layering or doubling vocals. With Taylor we can finally achieve this live. Our layered tracks in the studio really pop out and it adds emphasis on certain phrases or makes intense moments in the song more dramatic.
The bass really emphasizes the punch in this song and right from the beginning we wanted to use it as a tool to avoid creating monotony with such a simplistically structured song. Octave chords are used on the bass to make the choruses sound “wider”. Notes go from being picked fast to being strung out, dialing the intensity of the music back before pushing it forward again. Spud’s bass playing does more than just glue Stalingrad together, it creates a sense of emotional intensity and depth it needed in order to not just make this another track.
Much like the guitar, the drums in Stalingrad are simple and groove focused. This makes Stalingrad the perfect song to open with at shows. A single kick drum makes Steve’s the spurts of double bass runs that much more exciting and when he does lay into a blast beat his blast beats pop out of your stereo that much harder.
This song was our first attempt to fit a new member into our recording process and we couldn’t be happier with the results. The two other singles we recorded with Taylor (Being Released April 2nd) will show our progress into the lower range of Death Metal vocals. Taylor also played around with his delivery style a bit more in the other two and the results will speak for themselves. Tune in and as we ready ourselves for 5 more singles we’ll be releasing soon!