Vader is a death metal group that has been led by Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek since the beginning of its existence, and one of the most recognizable Polish bands in the world.
The Polish Slayer
Vader was founded in 1983 in Olsztyn by bassist Peter (who was born on the 22nd of October, 1965, in the same town) and guitarist Zbigniew “Vika” Wróbleski. Only a month after the band was created, Peter also became a guitarist. Until 1989, the line-up often changed, and the group toured sporadically and made very few recordings.
The most important concert of this period was the one played at the first edition of the Metalmania festival in 1986, after which Vader was hailed as “the Polish Slayer”. The only recordings made during this period were self-released by the band on a cassette titled Live In Decay, which mainly contained music from a concert played at the hall of the University of Warmia. Apart from Peter and Vika, Vader’s line-up at that time consisted of singer Robert “Czarny” Czarneta, bassist Robert “Astaroth” Struczewski and drummer Grzegorz “Belial” Jackowski.
The Best-Selling Demo in Death Metal History
A breakthrough occurred in 1989 when Vika, Czarny, Astaroth and Belial left the band. The group was joined by drummer Krzysztof “Docent” Raczkowski and Peter took up singing. They recorded the demo cassette Necrolust as a duo. All the tracks for this demo were recorded at the Studio of the Polish Radio in Olsztyn at the turn of February and March, 1989. After bassist Jacek “Jackie” Kalisz joined Vader, the band recorded another tape – Morbid Reich.
Morbid Reich was released by Carnage Records, a label run by Mariusz Kmiołek, who became the band’s manager at the time of the release of this cassette. Kmiołek played a role in Vader’s success. Morbid Reich was a breakthrough for the band, as this cassette was noticed by the world and deemed “the best-selling demo in the international history of death metal”. Because of Morbid Reich, Vader gained the interest of large labels dealing with many kinds of metal music.
The band signed with Erarche Records and this label released Vader’s debut album The Ultimate Incantation – one of the most important works in the history of Vader and Polish metal. The album sounded heavy and aggressive thanks in part to an appearance by guitarist Jarek “China” Łabieniec. The track Dark Age became the showpiece of this album. The band made a music video for this composition which was often played on MTV. It’s worth mentioning that this was the first music video by a Polish band made for this popular television station.
The lyrics which Peter’s friend, Paweł "Adrian” Wasilewski, was writing at that time tell about the supernatural world in an interesting way and refer to occult literature, chiefly the works of Alistair Crowley and John Whiteside Parsons. In the following years, lyricists for Vader came and went, among them, creator of the S’thrash’ydło festival and the founder of Pagan Records Tomasz Krajewski, Paweł Frelik (a journalist for Thrash'em All magazine), Łukasz Szumiński, Harry Maat (the creator of Vader’s website and Myspace page) and Peter himself. The tone of the lyrics, which often referred to pre-Christian faiths and tried to describe the dark nature of humankind or the contemporary world filled with religious conflicts, kept changing.
Following the release of Ultimate Incantation, Vader began to play concerts abroad. In February 1993, they toured Western Europe with the groups Bolt Thrower and Grave, and three months later the band crossed the Atlantic and ventured across North America with Deicide and Dismember. In the end of that year, Vader also toured Poland with the group Proletaryat. At the time this was a pioneering undertaking, as no death metal group had played a tour of Poland with a punk-rock band before. One of the concerts from this tour was later released as the live album Darkest Age – Live ’93.
In the beginning of 1994, Kalisz was substituted by Leszek "Shambo” Rakowski with whom Vader recorded the mini-album Sothis. The group discontinued its involvement with Earache, being dissatisfied with their collaboration with this company. Their subsequent albums were released by less renowned labels. In the following years, between albums, the group put out mini-albums that contained previously unreleased recordings and covers. Sothis appeared before De Profundis, the cover of which was designed by the world-famous American graphic artist Wes Bencoter. The latter release boosted the band’s popularity, for instance in Japan, where this record was very warmly received and reached the top of the imported heavy metal albums sales list. After De Profundis appeared, the band went on a tour of Europe.
In 1996, Vader released two albums. The first one was Reborn in Chaos, which contains archival recordings from the Necrolust and Morbid Reich cassettes. On Future Of The Past, the second record of the group that appeared in 1996, there are covers of songs by Vader’s favourite artists and bands (for instance, Black Sabbath, Celtic Frost, Kat, but also Depeche Mode). Vader went on another tour of America in February 1998, this time without Łubieniec, who was substituted by Maurycy “Mauser” Stefanowicz.
Back To The Blind
The new line-up of the band recorded Back To The Blind – one of Vader’s best albums, which superbly combines the extremeness of death metal with the power of thrash, as exemplified by the exceptional title composition, which is characterized by thrilling tempo changes. Thanks to Back To The Blind Vader became a major international death metal band. The group confirmed this status with a concert tour during which they travelled across nearly half of the world! They even reached Japan and the performance at the Quatrro club in Tokyo was released as the album Live In Japan.
The mini-album Kingdom, which appeared in 1998, complements Back To The Blind in a certain sense. Two industrial remixes from this mini-album draw attention as they aren’t typical for Vader (one of them was made by Docent).
After Kingdom was released, the band’s drummer suffered an accident and was replaced by Ząbek, a member of the band Yattering, for some concerts. Vader’s primary drummer regained his health in time to go on their next tour and record the album Litany. Following the release of this record, Vader went to the U.S. and headlined a concert tour for the first time.
Since then, the group has given about 200 concerts a year across the whole world. Vader is sometimes invited by groups that are more popular than the Polish band, but Vader is often the main star of its concert tours. The Olsztyn group confirmed its high status with the album Revelations which was recorded with Konrad “Saimon” Karhut, who substituted for Rakowski. The influential magazine Records Collector deemed Revelations one of the best albums of 2002. Saimon was a band-member for a short time – less than two years – before he was replaced by Marcin “Novy” Nowak. With Nowak, the group played its biggest Polish concert when they performed at the Przystanek Woodstock festival.
Festivals and Changes in the Band
Vader was invited to popular European festivals more and more frequently. In 2003 and afterwards, the band played at such events as Germany’s Wacken Open Air, Battle of Metal, and Queens of Metal Open Air, England’s Deathfest, Belgium’s Graspop Metal Meeting, the Czech Republic’s Brutal Assault, France’s Hellfest and Poland’s Metalmania, Hunterfest and Metal Hammer Festival.
In the beginning of 2004, Docent suffered from an arm injury during the recording of the album The Beast. He was substituted by Dariusz “Daray” Brzozowski. This time, the replacement turned out to be permanent. Even after regaining his dexterity, Docent didn’t return to the band, he died on the 20th of August 2005 (his drug addiction was an indirect cause of his death). The Beast, one of the weaker albums by the group, saw Vader turn to traditional thrash metal. In May 2005, Vader supported Metallica and Slipknot at the Silesian Stadium and also released the mini-album The Art Of War, which the group dedicated to Docent.
On 2006’s Impressions in Blood, the band returned to extreme death metal in a thrilling style. The main theme of the lyrics was the role of blood in the various aspects of human life. The controversial track Hallelyah (God Is Dead) drew much attention. Peter referred to terrorism and religious wars in the lyrics of this song. One of the concerts promoting this album was filmed and released on a DVD titled …And Blood Was Shed in Warsaw (a certain number of DVDs also included an audio CD). Impressions In Blood was promoted with concert tours, Vader travelled across half of the world once more, this time reaching as far as Australia.
Vader’s 25th Anniversary
The band’s 25th anniversary took place in 2008. For the occasion, the musicians went on a tour of Europe which was called the XXV-Anniversary Tour. This series of performances ended with a concert at the Warsaw venue Stodoła, which featured bands friendly with Vader, such as Switzerland’s Samael and Sweden’s Entombed and Marduk. The XXV album was also released for the occasion, which contains re-recorded versions of Vader’s most important compositions. The celebrations of the jubilee were, however, disrupted by serious changes in the line-up. Novy, Mauser and Daray left the band. They were replaced by bass player Tomasz “Reyash” Rejek, guitarist Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka (a member of the band Decapitated) and drummer Paweł “Paul” Jaroszewicz.
The next album – Necropolis – was however recorded only by Peter and Paul (Peter recorded all of the guitar lines for many earlier albums, but the whole band was credited on those). Necropolis has a garage feel, and the band returned to its thrash roots once again. The release of this record marked the beginning of the band’s collaboration with Nuclear Blast, a major hard and extreme rock label. In the end of 2009, Vogg was replaced by Marek “Spider” Pająk. Spider in turn had to be substituted by Marco Martell for the following year’s tour of the U.S with the band Overkill (Pająk didn’t receive an American visa in time).
First Fryderyk, First Biography
Vader spent 2011 preparing the album Welcome To The Morbid Reich. The line-up changed once again – Reyash was substituted by Tomasz “Hal” Halicki and Paul was replaced by the young English musician James Stewart. Welcome… was a big success in Poland, where this album reached No. 2 in the charts. The record also appeared in the German, Swiss, French and American charts. In 2012, Vader won their first Fryderyk award, in the category of Metal Album of the Year.
Vader’s tenth full-length album was released in 2014. The quartet was joined by two guest musicians: keyboardist Krzysztof “Siegmar” Oloś and singer Marta Gabriel. Tibi Et Igni (which means “For You and Fire”) is the band’s first album recorded with their British drummer Stewart, who toured with the group to promote Welcome To The Morbid Reich.
Also in 2014, the first biography of Vader was published. The book Vader. Total War / Vader. Wojna totalna was written by Jacek Szubrycht, a music journalist, metal fan and admirer of Vader’s music.
- Live In Dacay (MC), 1988, demo.
- Necrolust (MC), 1988 demo; first compact disc edition, 1996, Listenable Records.
- Morbid Reich (MC), 1990, Carnage Records; first compact disc edition, 1996, Listenable Records.
- The Ultimate Incantation (MC), 1992, Carnage Records 1992 and (CD and LP), 1992, Earache Records (USA and Europe).
- The Darkest Age – Live '93 (CD), 1994, Baron Records 1994; important foreign compact disc editions – 1996, Arctic Serenades (Europe); 1999, Pavement Music (USA).
- Sothis (mCD), 1994, Baron Records.
- De Profundis (CD), 1995, Croon Records; 1996, Impact Records (Europe); 1997, Conquest Music (USA); 1997, Avalon / Marquee (Japan).
- Future Of The Past (CD), 1996 Koch International; 1996 , Impact Records (Europe); 1998, Pavement Music (USA); 1997, Avalon / Marquee (Japan).
- Black To The Blind (CD), 1997, Koch International; 1997, Impact Records (Europe); 1997, Marquee / Belle Antique (Japan); 1998, Pavement Music (USA).
- Kingdom (mCD), 1998, Metal Mind Records; 1998, Pavement Music (USA).
- Vision And Voice (VHS), 1998, Metal Mind Productions; (DVD) 2002 as More Visions & Voice, Metal Mind Productions.
- Live In Japan (CD), 1998, Metal Mind Records; 1998, Impact / System Shock (Europe); 1999, Pavement Music (USA); 2000, Marquee / Avalon (Japan).
- Litany (CD), 2000, Metal Mind Records; 2000, Avalon / Marquee (Japan); (CD and LP), 2000, Metal Blade (Europe and USA).
- Reign Forever World (mCD), 2001, Metal Mind Records; 2001, Metal Blade (Europe); 2001, Avalon / Marquee (Japan).
- Armageddon – The Best Of (CD), 2002, System Shock (USA).
- Revelations (CD), 2002, Metal Mind Records; 2002, Avalon / Marquee (Japan); (LP and CD), Metal Blade (Europe and USA).
- Blood (mCD), 2003, Metal Mind Records; 2003, Metal Blade (Europe and USA).
- Beware The Beast (mCD), 2004, Empire Records.
- The Beast (CD), 2004, Metal Mind Records; 2004, Avalon / Marquee (Japan); (LP and CD), 2004, Metal Blade (Europe and USA).
- Night Of The Apocalypse (DVD), 2005, Metal Mind Productions.
- The Art Of War (mCD), 2005, Mystic Production; 2005, Candlelight Records (USA); (mLP and mCD), 2005, Regain Records (Europe).
- Impressions In Blood (CD), 2006, Mystic Production; 2006, Candlelight Records (USA); 2006; Avalon / Marquee (Japan); (LP and CD), 2006/2007, Regain Records (Europe).
- ...And Blood Was Shed in Warsaw (DVD+CD), 2007, Metal Mind Productions.
- XXV (2CD); 2008, Mystic Production; 2008, Regain Records (Europe); 2008, Candlelight Records (USA).
- Necropolis (CD and LP), 2009, Nuclear Blast.
- Welcome To The Morbid Reich (CD and LP), 2011, Nuclear Blast.
- Tibi Et Igni (CD and LP), 2014, Nuclear Blast.
Author: Leszek Gnoiński, August 2011, updated by fl in 2014.
Translated by: Marek Kępa