Written by: EW on 24/05/2014 21:59:57

Following the dissolution of activity, or ceasing of relevance, of a number of their rivals to the title of best folk/pagan metal band, Russians Arkona have slowly but surely moved themselves into contention for that honour with a discography now seven albums strong and as consistent as any other band out there. It is no coincidence their musical quality is matched by a commitment to the cause that now stands them apart from the legion of more light-hearted ‘fun’ acts out there as the two instinctively go hand in hand, a point proven by the band’s continuing and respectable insistence on singing in Russian, much to the difficulty of reviewers like myself trying to remember track and album titles. This time “Yav” is easy enough to remember as a title and more than easy to enough to appreciate.

The depth of Arkona’s music always takes a number of listens to comprehend and I have been giving this plenty in recent weeks as new facets constantly emerge from the clear yet understated production values they reside in. That no one instrument (and there are quite the number across the nine songs) is too over-powering is a very important point when one considers how overbearing the keyboards can often be in folk metal the further the genre has moved from it’s blackened roots into more accessible territories. Masha’s vocals are fantastic as usual - from growl to cleanly sung to spoken word she possesses a true commanding aura - and they mix in splendidly with the multitude of riffs, blasting drums, keys synth and ethnic instrumentation barely without fault, a point I can hardly praise enough given the difficult textured layering at work. Take the synth late in “Gorod Snov” (I am using the translated titles provided by the label rather than the Cyrillic versions found online) for how it avoids the cheesy qualities of an act like Equilibrium or the outright comedy (and not in the good way) of bands like Alestorm to understand these honest qualities. Similarly it can be easy to forget how heavy Arkona choose to be at times, with blastbeats and savage riffing often found in the same song as elements of complete contrast (“Chado Indigo”, “Na strazhe novyh let”). This particular ingredient has always been prevalent with Arkona yet I’ve never read of anyone complaining about a lack of integration of these elements in their music.

Straight from the atmospheric scenery that “Zarozhdenie” opens with the usual bombast of Arkona is prevalent, albeit with some progressive hints seeping into their armoury, as in most ways “Yav” follows the template laid down by previous records. Without venturing too far off-piste in their tunings or song structures this style is inimitably Arkona - they simply cannot be mistaken for another act especially once Masha is singing - and now sit atop a 7-album back catalogue as good as anyone else’s in the field. Is “Yav” their strongest release to date? Maybe not but it doesn’t sit far behind “Vo Slavu Velikim!”, a classic of the genre.


Download: Na strazhe novyh let, Gorod Snov
For The Fans Of: Moonsorrow, Primordial, Finntroll, Falkenbach
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.04.2014
Napalm Records

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