Vo Slavu Velikim! (Reissue)

Written by: EW on 26/12/2008 22:51:02

It is with third album "Vo Slavu Velikim!", originally released in 2005 (just 19 months after their debut) that Arkona start to resemble a band that really know who they are and what their existence in the folk/pagan world is just meant to be. In the case of the transition from "Lepta" to this one there is a big, if not giant, leap in the songwriting skills, the ambience and the local feeling in the folk element of the mix which here relishes in it's greatest emphasis of any of the three albums thus far. First song proper "Skvoz' Tuman Vekov" features largely the same components of what have been discussed on "Vozrozhdenie" and "Lepta" but with a more suitable production to bring out the folk-soaked nuances of the keyboards, pipes and accordion, and by damn some of the catchiest vocal choruses I have ever heard sung in the Motherland's tongue! Albums one and two weren't without these aspects but here it works - the guitars, though still negated to a supporting role for the 'folk instruments', sound more purposeful and the BM aspect to the riffs have come full circle to suggest a band utilising their musical ancestry for their own needs rather than in acts of pure plagiarism.

When it is time for the traditional folk instruments to have a break the synth breaks free for it's own aim of soundscape creation, bringing as it does elements of the pomposity of Dimmu Borgir's more recent output in the first half of the title-track, a track in which Masha's screams could be interpreted for the first time as those of a man's. My opinion would be of a strongest resemblance to Jens Ryden (ex-Naglfar, Thyrfing) but if you disagree, suggestions on a postcard please. Not content with a splash of pure folk here and a dribble of synthetic ambience there, Arkona aim for the heart by incorporating periods of "Loi loi loi's" in "Po Syroi Zemle", "Vedy Proshlogo" and the superb "Zov Bitvy" as perfected by the not-once-mentioned Turisas. Clearly realising the benefit of these simple three-letter words in a live, drunken setting, I need not add that it works fantastically.

As alluded to amidst the "Lepta" review, song structures in Arkona's work (and for the sake of debate virtually all of folk and extreme metal) are not simple, with countless separate passages in each song requiring a good number of listens to really grasp the full-scale of "Vo Slavu Velikim!”. Unlike "Lepta" though the dexterity of the band's musical progressiion is not for the lesser here as sections blend together like the colours of a pagan rainbow, interspersed with ambience and reflection ("Tuman Yarom" and "Velikden'") that are the sign of an album's album rather than a collection of songs lumped under one banner.

As a conclusion to the three album review, in the space of a few months from being blessed with "Ot Serdtsa K Nebu" and now the re-release of Arkona's first three albums, these Russian pagans have earnt a place in my annals of great folk/pagan metal bands through a consistent refinement of their sound to a point where it has taken aspects of many other great bands and moulded them into their own needs with the result being two excellent albums in "Vo Slavu Velikim!" and "Ot...". These works come highly recommended to the expert and the intrigued in this growing corner of the metal universe - a perfect marriage of local folk tendencies and black metal. Whoever would've thought the two could be so compatible...


Download: Zov Bitvy, Skvoz' Tuman Vekov, Tuman Yarom
For The Fans Of: Turisas, Forefather, Korpiklaani
Listen: Myspace
Buy: iTunes

Original release date 01.09.2005
Sound Age Productions (original release)
Vic Records (re-issue)

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