Black Fortress of Opium

Black Fortress of Opium

 Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

My songs range from dark alternative rock to folkier pieces to a cappella/spoken word. Murder ballads, plaintive tales of love, abstraction, and the human situation, as well as the occasional cover song.


Black Fortress of Opium has been around the Boston area since 2006, making their name playing shows and festivals around the Northeast and Eastern seaboard with international touring acts like Serena Maneesh (4AD), Dame Darcy, Barbez (Tzadik), and Paul Wallfisch (Firewater/Little Annie Anxiety), as well as local favorites Shea Rose, Cooling Towers, Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys, Ghost Box Orchestra, and Garvy J. Since the release of their 2008 self-titled debut, the band has made a music video, played and recorded on mighty indie station WFMU, and recorded a Magnetic Fields cover for an independent film.

The 2008 debut was the product of a collaboration with Martin Bisi, who produced and recorded the album in his Brooklyn studio, and had previously worked with acts including Sonic Youth, Swans, and The Dresden Dolls. The album was warmly received by the press, garnering favorable reviews in the Boston Metro, All Music Guide, Terrascope, Northeast Performer and more.

The duo of Ajda the Turkish Queen and Tony Savarino has remained as the core of the band since its inception, but other lineup changes have occurred along the way. The current live lineup also includes drummer Yuri Zbitnoff. At one time, Rich Cortese (x-Zulus) played bass in the group.

The band has a new album titled "Stratospherical," released March 6th, 2012, on which Brian Viglione (The Dresden Dolls) played drums, and on which one-time bassist Dave Yanolis (ex-Nisi Period) appears. Black Fortress of Opium again heavily collaborated with fifth horseman Martin Bisi, who recorded basic tracks and mixed most cuts. Additional engineers Rafi Sofer at Q Division, former bassist Joel Simches (who also produced one and mixed two cuts), and Danny Gold, as well additional instrumentalists, contributed to the effort.

Notable elements of Black Fortress of Opium's signature sound include nuanced female vocals, both searing and subtle guitar wizardry, periodic use of the mandolin as a lead instrument, melodic Joy Division-like bass playing, and other occasional eclectic instrumentation (electric sitar, melodica), but especially featured is the alternately delicate and powerful interplay between its members. The material is quite varied, some songs being softer, more acoustic Allison Krauss/Robert Plant meets Eno-inspired numbers, ranging to heavier, low-end grooves reminiscent of PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. Hints of blues and country make appearances here and there, not surprising given the singer's Texan heritage plus the other members' love and respect for many genres. Black Fortress of Opium have at least two anthems, one being a battle cry about their namesake town in Turkey and its lore, and one about true love at the Model Cafe in Allston.

Both rootsy and ethereal (think Turkey by way of Texas) Andrew Wilson, Boston Band Crush

"An orchestral majesty that's all too seldom seen in rock music these days" - New York Music Daily

"Shocking intimacy...true magic...anthemic...spacious to the point of being luxurious put on your headphones" - C.D. Di Guardia, CD on Songs

Anthemic nature recalls Velvet Underground at its finest and adds other influences skillfully. This album has a variety of styles, and it all works together as an impressively cohesive work - Anna Maria Stjrnell, Collected Sounds

Superb. - Simon Lewis and Steve Palmer, Terrascope

A pattern of dreamy, lush soundscapes and exquisite vocals continues throughout the length of the record without ever becoming boring or predictable. If Black Fortress of Opium continues to craft music that proves interesting to listeners and leaves them wanting more, they will become one of New Englands finest. - Julia R. DeStefano, The Noise Magazine

"Eerie, gypsy-flavored and densely layered, with a delicious underlying tension. Stratospherical contains many gems" - Julie Stoller, Ryan's Smashing Life

Led Zeppelin meets Siouxsie And The Banshees. Awash in a sea of swirling guitars and enchanting harmonies - Johnny Anguish, Daykamp Music

"Black Fortress of Opium are a brawling, dark monster of a band that seems like it should be playing shows with, say, Nicki Jaine or the Dresden Dolls rather than Gogol Bordello." Ned Raggett, All Music Guide

"Like Siouxsie & the Banshees as covered by Live Skull" - Lucid Culture


"Stratospherical" 2012
full-length album of 11 original songs

"Black Fortress of Opium" 2008
self-titled debut of 10 original songs

Currently recording third album for 2014 release!

Set List

Crack and Pool
From a Woman to a Man
Dulcet TV
Model Cafe
Twelve Gross
Your Past
Black Rope Burns
House of Edward Devotion
Afyonkarahisar Battle Cry
Blood Diamond
Fata Morgana
This Dark Clovd
Southern Hymnal
Cherry Blossom
Regret & Rue
The Sealed Word
Desperate Kiss
The Facts of Love
Here Lies
Siren Calling Your Mind
What makes It Good

cover repertoire:
Heaven (Talking Heads)
Lucifer Sam (Pink Floyd)
The Mess We're In (PJ Harvey)
Sister Europe (Psychedelic Furs)
Born on a Train (Magnetic Fields)
Hallelujah (L.Cohen)
Darkening of the Light (Concrete Blonde)
Black-Hearted Love (PJ Harvey/John Parish)

Sets are typically 35-60 minutes.