Goi, Rode, Goi!

Written by: EW on 28/10/2009 00:07:58

Right, time to review this damn Arkona album. I've listened the entire way through around 6 or 7 times now trying to decide what I think of it, and as an album of 79 minutes I'm sure you'll understand that is quite an investment. Thanks to both timely reissuing and the generosity of the labels involved I have been graced with copies now of all 5 Arkona albums in the last year or so and have thus become rather well acquainted with their heavily Russian-influenced blend of folk and pagan metal, which if nothing else always brings an interesting and unique experience in a crowded genre.

It is largely because of their origins that Arkona stand out from the crowd. Whereas many 'pagan/folk' bands bear no resemblance to their nation's musical pasts (ahem, Alestorm, ahem), many tend to tread the same ground as leading lights Turisas and Moonsorrow in recent times, producing many good albums but less and less to excite me as time drifts ever onwards. Due to not being Scandinavian however Arkona enjoy a rather unique selling point, and you'd be damn well deaf to miss it when listening to their music. The influence of authentic Russian sounds, melodies and influences is so immense that barely a passage of music goes by that doesn't remind me of time spent listening to the excellently emotive "Echoes Of A Red Empire" compilation album, or watching the Soviet episodes of the unsurpassably brilliant World At War TV documentary series. Yes, there is something in the fervent yet sad tones of the authentic Russian sound that appeals to me greatly.

Defining the album is the 15-minute "Na Moey Zemle (In My Land)", a dramatic piece relating to the "adventures of a Slav in European countries". Combining the sounds of authentic Russian instruments and a backing vocal section comprised of members from no less than Månegarm, Skyforger, Heidevolk and Menhir it's impassioned vocals and progressive flow lead in to a conclusion hinting at the baritone gang vocals of mid-era Enslaved. Remained true to their ideals whilst also being well-played and enjoyable to listen, Arkona define the remainder of the album in this one song.

"Goi, Rode, Goi!" (why is there no translation for this title anywhere?) can be said to measure out equal doses of powerful metal in Masha's blackened vocals atop hammering kick drums, heavy, speedy riffing and Windir-esque synth ("Tropoiu Nevedannoi (On The Unknown Trail)", "Kolo Navi (Kolo Of Nav)") against organic, acoustic Russian folk ("Pritcha (The Parable)", "Yarilo") but very rarely is one song entirely dedicated to either faction, revealing the deep integration of the folk into metal at work (or should that be metal into folk?). Where Arkona could be described by and large as a 'serious' folk/pagan band, all the better for being so without doubt, the Korpiklaani/Turisas fans of this world will still also be able to get their jollies in the "loi loi loi!" moments in the likes of "Nevidal (The Wonder)", which themselves come out as out more effective and warranted thanks to the integrity evidently displayed elsewhere.

Backed up a perfect-for-the-style production that has remained steady across Arkona's albums, the proliferation of layers present a variety of instruments constantly segueing into one another and in turn providing such a dynamic listen that my 6 or 7 over recent weeks could be barely said to offer justice to the scope of "Goi, Rode, Goi!". At the risk of sounding like a cop-out, an album such as this is only best judged over many months thanks to being the diametric opposite of a 'hear it once, hear it all' album, and so my rating even now comes with a word of warning. Such is the length of the album it is always going to be difficult to get through in one sitting and could do with being trimmed by 10 minutes, but aside from such gripes Arkona have given us another reason to reckon of their position near the top of the pagan/folk metal pyramid with one of the most sincere and honest album's you'll hear in this wonderful genre.


Download: Na Moey Zemle, Kolo Navi, Kupalets, Nebo Hmurde, Tuchi Mrachniye
For The Fans Of: Turisas, Enslaved, Windir, Heidevolk
Listen: Myspace

Release date 02.11.2009
Napalm Records

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