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On disc: Arkona



Stenka Na Stenku (EP) - Mike Thompson - 8 stars
Slovo - Mike Thompson - 8 stars


http://arkona-russia.com







Slovo

Slovo
(Napalm Records - 2011)


With Slovo, the mighty Russian pagan metallers Arkona reach the lofty sixth album mark in a career spanning nine years. The band, led by formidable front woman Masha 'Scream' Arhipova, has gone from strength to strength in recent times with albums receiving high praise from critics and fans alike and regular spots on package tours and major festivals across Europe.

Slovo builds on what the band showed on this year's EP Stenka Na Stenku and I felt it to be a good listen all the way through, in parts really hammering home what makes Arkona such a special band. No other group I can bring to mind fuses all the elements found in an Arkona song with quite the same expertise as the Russian band. Eastern folk melodies are artfully blended with crushing black metal style riffs whilst symphonic keyboard arrangements blend beautifully with traditional instruments and all the while Masha's characteristic vocals add beauty and heaviness in equal measure wherever required. Other bands have a similar approach but none execute it quite so well as Arkona and this is left in no doubt by the time Slovo finishes.

This is yet another quality release from Arkona with the only possible complaint being that it is also a very safe Arkona album with not much change in sound or style. There are even traces of recycled passage at points but this isn't really enough to detract from the listening experience. The band has found its own particular niche and never strays far from its boundaries. On the other hand I'm very much of the opinion 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' and hell, it seems to be working so far!


8 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 

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Stenka Na Stenku (EP)

Stenka Na Stenku (EP)
(Napalm Records - 2011)


Arkona is a Russian folk metal band that has been steadily garnering more fans worldwide for years. The latest full length from the band, 2009's Goi, Rode, Goi!, shot the band to new heights and they have toured further than ever before as part if the Paganfest and Heidenfest packages. As fans anticipate the forthcoming full-length Arkona have released this EP as a stopgap.

The EP lasts about 25 minutes and contains six songs of various styles, showcasing how versatile the sound of Arkona is. The title itself means 'Wall to Wall' and as far as I'm aware this is something to do with a traditional sport, of a sort, which sees two lines of people face each other and fight. You can see more of this in the official video:





Opening with a jovial accordion melody the title track feels a little like a Korpiklaani song. Its an enjoyable, bouncy number with Masha's great clean vocals soaring over the music and a great 'lai-lai' chorus. Next up is Valenki which starts in similar fashion before taking on a rather less jovial air. This is even more heavily folk-inspired than the first song but still includes a good heavy section!

An acoustic version of Goi, Rode, Goi! follows and this is one of the highlights of the EP; A haunting track with superb atmospheric use of different vocal styles. The fourth song is Skl, a good fist-pumping folk metal song featuring Freki of German folk metal band Varg on guest vocals. His voice really compliments Masha's on this track and its definitely one of the EP's best songs.

Duren is a cover of the Svarga song. Its quite true to the original but with an obviously more metal emphasis! The final song is another cover. This time Arkona have chosen to cover Noviy Muir (aka Oa Mailbmi), a song by Shaman, a band you will know better as Korpiklaani. This is a very tranquil song in parts and majestic in others. A fitting end to the EP.

Arkona have done really well with the EP, giving the fans something to tide them over between albums whilst avoiding any probability of it being labeled a cash-in. This is a really good EP that shows the versatility of this awesome Russian band.


8 stars

Mike Thompson
 

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