Arkona – Ot Serdca K Nebu

arkonaPagan metal… I have always appreciated the combination of traditional acoustic instruments and metal, but there is no denying, or sometimes even overlooking the fruity nature of largely in-key and happy sounding metal music with equally lighthearted medieval scales. Again… the pagan folk and metal realms seem to accommodate each other well, but happy sounding music often rubs me the wrong way. I want this style of music depressive, ugly, and other worldly; NOT an elven jig out in the forest where ladies braid their hair and tend to the babies and making bread while the men compare the length of each others recently smithed swords. Russia’s Arkona certainly have their fair share of traditional instruments and punchy, sometimes overly happy musical passages, but “Ot Serdca K Nebu” has been quite a pleasant surprise. First off, the songwriting is very spacious and skillfully composed to the point where the folk instruments work incredibly well in with the metal segments and vise versa. This music is downright complicated and highly advanced. The pure metal segments of this album sound very fresh and not like anyone else off the top of my head. Part of this is attributed to Masha’s highly developed and diverse vocals. Her pitch singing thankfully isn’t feeble or pretty in the gothic style, rather there is an undeniable old world quality to her crooning. She makes the folk elements on this album sound even more authentic with her robust style and layered choral background vocals ala Quorthon. When she dives into the black metal influenced body of this material, the niceties peel away and her pipes contort into a brutal attack of guttural lows and an equally searing midrange rasps. This side of Arkona’s music, again, feels really original. Black in overall color stylistically, there is a definite deathly bottom end to the sound and riffs themselves to give their songs that hard to pigeonhole aura. I really like their attention to detail and songwriting style. I’m frequently surprised at the direction of any given song on this album. Getting back to the folk spirit of “Ot Serdca K Nebu”, Arkona strike me as fearless creatively, never balking at including pan flutes and other like minded winded instruments, what sounds like bag pipes, an accordion? Hell I don’t even know what instruments are existing on this, but its seamless how everything works and blends together. Atmospheric and energetic, “Ot Serdca K Nebu” has really shown me a more advanced side to the often hokey pagan metal revival and even though some out there have called this band a corporation united supergroup featuring once Russian “pop” musicians, Arkona have impressed me with their zest for ancient times. –Marty

NAPALM RECORDS

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~ by martyworm on January 25, 2009.

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