Written by: EW on 10/10/2011 20:49:09

The Arkona releases have come thick and fast in recent times with this, new album "Slovo" coming just a few months after the "Stenka na Stenku" EP and marks the Russian's sixth full length since debuting in 2004. Such a flurry of releases has given me ample opportunity to assess their intrinsically folky, Eastern European flavoured stylings (search Arkona in the top right of your screen for plenty more reading) and it has bred a conclusion that this very hard-working band have been finally reaping the deserved benefits in recent times - proud positioning on Napalm Records and an ever-increasing presence in western European touring packages and festival line-ups notwithstanding.

As anyone worth their salt of course knows, all the above does not necessarily mean a decent band actually lies under the perceived success, but with their relatively untarnished sound Arkona have remained consistent to this day and in "Slovo" are releasing an album just strong as any that has come before. The basic elements remain the same - melodically-tinged black metal riffing, a heavy dosage of folk elements through wind instruments and acoustic guitar, incomprehensible (to me anyway) Russian lyrics (often choral), and of course the gruff'n'clean vocals of Masha 'Scream' - but through decent variation, energy and enthusiasm the formula works. The variation comes from the mixing of pure folky/carnival-esque songs like "Leshiy" and "Stenka na Stenku" (from the aforementioned EP), BM/folk in "Arkaim" and "Nikogda" and personal, softer affairs in "Zakliatie" and "Tam Za Tumanami" where anything from tribal drums, acoustic guitars, keyboard atmospherics or softly sung vocals are liable to take the lead at any point. Moreso, and as recognition of where much of my respect for Arkona lies is in how many of these elements are hewn into the individual tracks with skill and structure.

"Ot Serdca K Nebu" remains a personal favourite for this writer but there is no reason why "Slovo" will not claim this top spot for many others. Like Amon Amarth, Arkona have found a style that is working for them and have rigidly stuck to it - a decision that does not garner top marks in the reviewing world - but the end result seems to be doing well, so who am I who to argue with that?

Download: Arkaim, Leshiy, Nikogda
For The Fans Of: Equilibrium, Einherjer, Korpiklaani, Turisas
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 26.08.2011
Napalm Records

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