Children of war: the story of the teenage rock band "Metamorphosis" from Avdiivka

Kateryna Voitovych
Children of war: the story of the teenage rock band "Metamorphosis" from Avdiivka

Avdiivka is an industrial town 13 km from Donetsk, where hostilities have been going on since 2014. The city is known from the reports of the General Staff, as well as due to its proximity to the Donetsk airport. However, music also developed in Avdiivka — there was a rock school in the city where children from neighboring towns and villages gathered to study.

Despite the Russian-Ukrainian war and the close location to the front and mined fields, the city's youth continued to create and develop the city until Russia unleashed a full-scale war.

"Svidomi" talked to the teenagers of the rock band "Metamorphosis" about how their lives changed after the full-scale offensive and about the role of music and further development.

How did the band "Metamorphosis" start?

"It all started with me and my desire to write music," says Vadym, the 15-year-old lead singer of the band. The guy had no musical instruments, so he only wrote lyrics. Later, his friend Maksym was gifted a guitar, so the guys got together and wrote the first song: "Dream." That’s how they decided to create a band. "When you try to do something, the first attempt is always mediocre," Vadym laughs, talking about the first song.

At that time, Vadym and Maksym were in the band, as well as all their friends who knew how to play the guitar. Due to this, the members constantly changed, until "Metamorphosis" formed the current composition: 15-year-old lead singer and guitarist Vadym, 16-year-old bassist Valeriia, 14-year-old drummer Maksym, and 19-year-old guitarist Illia.

How do teenagers write music and lyrics?

The music is written by Illia. The guy plays in two bands at the same time: "Metamorphosis" and "BFUTH."

"I really liked metal music, System Of A Down, and when I heard Nirvana, something clicked in my head, and I started learning to play the guitar. I tried to write music as similar as possible to a mix of light and emotional grunge with the same dynamics and energy as in metal," says Illia. Later, the musician got to a rehearsal for "Metamorphosis": he began to advise on how to connect guitars and add effects — that's how he joined them.

"Writing lyrics for songs is not easy," says Vadym. "It takes a long time, at least a day, to work everything out." Vadym can wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a new song and sit down to write. Previously, "Metamorphosis" sang in Russian. After the start of the full-scale invasion, they completely switched to Ukrainian.

"I didn't stick to a certain side or point of view because I thought it was too early to think about it," says Maksym, who was 12 when the band formed.

"Metamorphosis" activity before a full-scale invasion

The group "Metamorphosis" performed at festivals and in the Donetsk region.

"Avdiivka is a small but creative city. Festivals and events were held every year," says bassist Valeriia.

Last summer, "Metamorphosis" went on a tour of the cities of the region. Maksym says this was a new stage. Then all the local bands — 7 bands — got together and went on tour. Maksym played in six of them. "There's a shortage of drummers, so to speak," the guy says jokingly. 

The war until February 24: shelling of the city and life under occupation

From 2014 to the start of the full-scale invasion, the most memorable for the band members was February of 2017. At that time, hostilities intensified around Avdiivka, as a result of which there was no electricity, water, or gas. The whole town gathered at the stadium, and volunteers prepared food for the locals so they could survive.

"I remember it was very cold then, even in the apartment, there was frost. We were just surviving then. I was lucky that my dad was able to take me to Dnipro, and we waited for it all to settle there," says Vadym.

Valeriia then lived in the territory of the temporarily occupied Donetsk region. "Life in this 'banana republic' is worse than in Africa," she says. When the girl was in elementary school, Russia came to her native Donetsk.

Valeriia has not studied the Ukrainian language since her second year of elementary school. 

"I didn't hear it at all," says the girl. “When I transferred to the Ukrainian school in Avdiivka, I did not even know Shevchenko's "A cherry orchard by the house." I knew Pushkin, I knew Turgenev — that's all I knew."

In geography lessons, students were not even shown a map of Ukraine.

"We studied the history of Russia, there was no Ukraine, and it was not mentioned," the girl continues. “In middle school, the discipline "Lessons of Citizenship and Spirituality of Donbas" was introduced, and on September 1, we were forced to sing the anthem of the pseudo-republic. If the children did not sing, they were threatened to be expelled from school.”

Valeriia did not notice the propaganda that was spread about the events of 2014 until she moved to Avdiivka. She was 13. Her family left due to a lack of jobs: until 2014, dad was a miner, but with the occupation, the mines were closed. In 2019, the girl's father found a job in Avdiivka, so he went there to work. Later, the whole family moved to the territory controlled by Ukraine.

Now all the girl's relatives are in Donetsk. "My godfather calls us khokhols... “Khokhols must be shot” — that's what he says," says Valeriia.

February 24 and evacuation

On the night of February 23 to 24, Maksym spent the night at his grandmother's, and in the morning he woke up to the sound of a powerful explosion. Without reading the news, the boy went to school. On the way to school, there was another massive explosion, so Maksym went home.

Valeriia also woke up from the explosion, but this was nothing unusual for Avdiivka, so she continued to sleep.

On March 14, Maksym and his family left the city for neighboring Ocheretyno. "There were no thoughts. You were thinking about just surviving," the guy says. 

Valeria left on March 15 after the missile hit her apartment building. Vadym evacuated on March 13. The next day, all the windows in his house were broken, so it is impossible to live there now.

"Many people believed that the war would be like in 2014 when everything was bad, but you could stay home," Valeriia says. However, on March 14, residents of Avdiivka realized that was not the case. That day the Russians bombarded the city with multiple rocket launchers, Tochka-U, and fired at the by-product coke plant with "Grad."

Illia and his family decided to stay. The guy lived near Avdiivka, in Novohrodivka, and thought that his city was not a key target for the Russians. Later, there was a shortage of products, and prices started rising. At the end of March, at night, the boy woke up to loud explosions: it turned out that a missile had been shot down. There were no direct hits to the city, but Ilia's family left to stay with relatives in the Kirovohrad region.

"There are still many people who are waiting for the "Russian world" and shouting "DPR! DPR!" adds Vadym. Maksym summarizes: either elderly people stay in the city, those who have nowhere to leave, or people with a pro-Russian position.

Now Vadym, Maksym, and Valeriia live in Dnipro, and Illia lives in a village in the Kirovohrad region. Teenagers say life is calmer in an evacuation, but there is a feeling that there is no home anymore.  

Life after the full-scale invasion

Before the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the band did not try to convey something to the listeners: they played what they liked. After February 24, almost everything changed: from the language to the meaning of the songs.

"How can you speak the language of the country that launched armed aggression against our country? This country is now destroying the city where I was born and grew up," says Vadym and adds that writing songs in Russian has become unacceptable for him.

The music helped when the band played together. Then it all came together in one flow, says Illia. However, after having to leave the city, it became more difficult to play.

"It's hard to remember Avdiivka, all the warm memories, and understand that we probably won't return there," says the lead singer.

The band members try to follow the events in the city, but this is not always possible.

"We set up a stage for the group "Zhadan i Sobaky" in front of a school. One day, I look through Instagram stories and see that this school is burning," says Illia. That was the school where Valeriia and Vadym studied.

Goals and plans for the future

Illia finished his first year of the Donetsk National Technical University, majoring in Computer Science. He was fond of programming and music, however, he decided that he could make music on his own.

Maksym is entering the ninth grade. Previously, he planned to enter a university in Kharkiv after the ninth grade with Valeriia and Vadym, who would have finished the 11th grade at that time. However, after the start of a full-scale invasion, he decided to study until the 11th grade and gain skills in the musical field. Vadym and Valeriia will continue to study remotely at their Avdiivka school.

In addition to their dreams of making it to Atlas Weekend, Metamorphosis wants to play their own concert and record an album. They had such plans for this spring, but Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine ruined them. Now the band is writing new songs — seven of them are almost ready.

"If we had recorded an album, we would present new material," says Maksym. "And we would go on tour," adds Vadym.

There are almost no recorded songs from "Metamorphoses" — they could be heard live at the Avdiivka festivals.