From Naught to Now: the Lamb Story
Formed in 1991 by borthers Aigars and Ēriks Červinskis as a thrash metal band, to date Holy Lamb is one of the very few Latvian progressive rock groups. During its career, the band has gone through multiple personnel changes that were often preceded by, at times unexpected, shifts in musical direction.
Holy Lamb in their early days @ 1992. Front L to R: lead guitarist Ēriks Jugāns, drummer Ēriks Červinskis, bassist Uģis Zemītis; background: guitarist/vocalist Aigars Červinskis.
The band recorded their first album, ‘Bite in the Dust’, in 1994 (released by the band in 1996). It fused a lot of influences ranging from metal to more melodic or progressive territories of rock music as the band then consisted of a varying number of members with very different musical backgrounds. However, the creative core was the Červinskis brothers, bassist Uģis Zemītis and guitarist Uldis Ēlerts, half of which have survived to this day.
With the looks of a big band Holy Lamb performed at the festival Liepājas Dzintars in 1993. L to R: Antra Purviņa (cello, vocals), Eva Bindere (violin), Orests Silabriedis (piano, vocals, arrangements), Aigars Červinskis (lead vocals, guitar), Ēriks Červinskis (drums), Uldis Ēlerts (guitar), Uģis Zemītis (bass), Ieva Blūma (flute). Not pictured: Igors Noskovs (keyboards).
The short-lived version of Holy Lamb in the summer of 1996. Bottom row L to R: Jānis Valters (keyboards), Uldis Ēlerts (guitar), Ēriks Červinskis (drums); middle row L to R: Andris Granovskis (soundman), Uģis Zemītis (bass), Aigars Červinskis (vocals, guitar, propellerhead); background: Deniss Paškevičs (flute, saxophone).
The most substantial line-up change occurred when the band finally found what it needed most of all – an excellent full-time keyboard player, Juris Rāts, who has since been responsible for a great deal of the band’s creative output composition and arrangement-wise. Then came the band’s second album, ‘Salt of the Earth’, a mixed bag of classic and neo-prog flavours. That album was released by Italy’s Mellow Records in 1999 which made Holy Lamb one of the very first Latvian artists with an international CD release. The album brought Holy Lamb to larger-scale local festivals which meant reaching new, often astonished, audiences. Unfortunately, 1999 brought about another change as Ēriks Červinskis, one of the founding members, decided to leave the band (and his homeland too). After a brief moment of doubt whether or not he could fill Ēriks’ shoes, a 19-year old drumming wonder Mikus Rullis accepted the offer and soon the rest of the band found him seated behind the drum kit to help Holy Lamb compose the follow-up to ‘Salt of the Earth’ and focus on more gigging in the Baltic states and Finland.
Holy Lamb in August 1999: (L to R) Aigars Červinskis - guitars, vocals; Juris Rāts - keyboards; Uģis Zemītis - bass; Uldis Ēlerts - guitars; Mikus Rullis - drums.
‘Beneath the Skin’ would become the band’s next big thing. Or maybe first. The concept album telling a seemingly silly story about musical entertainment as a form of business was released in 2002 by the Hungarian label Periferic Records. Given the highly (and mostly) positive reviews, the band would soon find itself playing or even headlining festivals in Latvia and Estonia. As a four-piece, though: guitarist Uldis Ēlerts decided to leave the band as soon as the recording sessions of the new album were over. The main reason was exhaustion and loss of interest in the more experimental, mathematic musical direction that the rest of the band were eager to pursue and felt comfortable playing.
Not much happened in the coming few years while Aigars was facing a ton of personal problems, although the band did write some new material and even played the occasional gig. Then, in September 2004, a trip to Prague, where the famous Canadian band Rush had stopped for a show on their 30th anniversary tour, brought together Aigars and a long-time fan of Holy Lamb’s, Aleksandrs Volperts. Being a highly skilled guitarist, also playing for his own prog-metal band Distant Light, Aleksandrs turned up for audition and was easily accepted, thus making Holy Lamb a five-piece band again. Not for long, though: as drummer Mikus was becoming increasingly involved with numerous other projects, the band wished him good luck and parted company to face a new era, where drummers would come and go. At the beginning, things were looking quite promising when the band’s co-founder Ēriks Červinskis returned with a brand new drum kit, a set of cymbals, a pair of drumsticks, and an attitude, of course. Perhaps, it was because of the latter that the band would soon start gigging locally and abroad (including its first appearance at the Baltijos Garsas festival in Kernave in 2006), although it did not take long for some band members to realise enough was enough. That attitude was probably just a bit too much to take, and Ēriks was asked to pack his things and go (hey, thanks for the drum kit you left behind, mate!). Next came veteran metaller Tarass Kuzmenko, now cooled down a bit. The audience at the first Baltic Prog Fest in 2007 saw Holy Lamb with Tarass delivering a solid, energetic yet proggy live set which included a surprise cover of ‘Firth of Fifth’ by Genesis. In September of the same year, the band parted ways with Tarass (blaaah, musical differences) and performed a one-off gig in Vilnius with Mikus again. There was no intent of asking him to rejoin, and Holy Lamb spent several months drummerless, which certainly meant no gigging at all.
Veteran drummer Tarass Kuzmenko performing with Holy Lamb at the Baltic Prog Fest 2009.
In May 2008 the band commenced rehearsals with Edvards Percevs, a young drummer with two local goth/black metal bands, but to no avail. A few months later, an accidental meeting with Jānis Burmeisters, a 23-year old drummer of almost incredible ability with the excellent Latvian post-rock band Tesa, finally concluded the lengthy search for the perfect percussionist. More unexpected news was yet to come: that change brought its long-time guitarist Uldis Ēlerts back to the band! With the new line-up, in December 2008 the band recorded a single with Tālis Timrots who had co-produced ‘Beneath the Skin’ and Holy Lamb’s debut. In January 2009, Holy Lamb opened for the US guitarist/singer Richie Kotzen in Riga, and played a few more local and international gigs in the following months, including the third Baltic Prog Fest in Lithuania (with Tarass again!). The end of 2009, however, saw yet another personnel change: bassist Qba realised he'd finally had enough, so his duties in the band were transferred to Aigars. There's a whole lot of truth in 'less is more'...