BULGARIA: B.T.R. '97 - B.T.R. (Б.Т.Р.)
Updated: Apr 10
Having warmed up for Iron Maiden in the year before the album's recording, B.T.R. go on to earn their stripes with this banging rock record
As someone who has spent much of my life avoiding ‘the dark side’ in terms of my music listening habits, I have never been able to describe myself as feeling initiated inside rock circles, or even amongst aficionados of the genre like my fellow traveller on this odyssey of musical discovery, Joel, when it comes to appreciating the more devilish corners of ‘rock avenue’. Typically when I am recommended a hard rock album, I always find myself lured in by the softer elements. Take Black Sabbath’s legendary Master of Reality album. Whilst most fans find themselves enthralled by Ozzy Osbourne’s high pitch vocals and intense slide guitar work, I instead appreciated the beautiful respite that was gifted to me in the form of Solitude. Yet, this album by Bulgarian rockers B.T.R. seems to be the exception to the rule and perhaps the beginning of a journey in which I begin to allow Satan to inevitably drug me with the potion of hard rock.
“After a heart-breaking accident that left their drummer disabled for years, this album serves as almost a homage to him and a message to their country that no matter what adversity one faces the right to rock must always live on.”
Though the group show off a wide-range of versatility on this album, I cannot help but just love the ferocious intensity of the harder tracks on the record and feel somewhat ambivalent about the rest. Rather ironically, the most popular song on the album is Elmaz I Stuklo which starts off with soft rather high-pitch vocals. Don’t get me wrong the band are perfectly melodic on this track and perhaps the lyrics, which serve as a proclamation of love, appeal to the masses in a way that a non-Bulgarian people cannot quite understand, but quite frankly this is not when the band are at their best in my eyes. Tracks like the opener Zlatnata Ribka are where the party is truly at. The song includes harmonies with what sound like children, yet throw any childlike innocence straight out of the window with its headbanging lifeforce that sits behind it. The band at times have a real Aerosmith-like quality to them and my favourite song Hvani Zhivota Si V Ruce presents itself with an obvious comparison to German hair metal-heads The Scorpions’ Rock You Like a Hurricane. The song just bloody rocks and it sounds like the middle point between being a protest song and a theme tune to a Bulgarian 90s sitcom in the vain of Malcolm In The Middle, That 70s Show or King Of The Hill; it superbly straddles the line between being intensely powerful and fun and light-hearted. What’s more, the fiery hard rock doesn’t end there though; Dvuboi features some absolutely thumping percussion whilst Posleden Zvunec is a wonderfully guitar-heavy track.
Despite my appreciation of the songs in which the band seriously let loose and rock out, as stated before the album does have many other parts where they show themselves off to be really competent musicians. Hey, Momiche for example is a charming rock ballad whilst Vurni Se kicks off with twanging of country guitar at the start before evolving into a bluesy track full of sweet harmonies. Yet, I think that my appreciation for this group’s more savage side comes from the context in which their wholly authentic sound was formed. Having come together before the fall of totalitarian communism in Bulgaria, one cannot imagine the courage it took to create a band of their nature. Moreover, it is not just the courage that impresses me, but the fact that they sound like they are singing passionately and earning the calices on their thumbs on behalf of a nation that had been repressed for so long. After a heart-breaking accident that left their drummer disabled for years, this album serves as almost a homage to him and a message to their country that no matter what adversity one faces the right to rock must always live on.