Released: 2009, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Stu Occupier
Formed in 2002 by members of local pagan community "Vyatichi" with the intention of creating music that reflected their individual philosophy and musical taste, Arkone emerged from the Russian underground as they made their high profile debut at the Yazycheskaya Rus festival. By the summer of 2003, Arkona was ready to record their debut, but disinterest in the band by some of its members saw the band disappear from the scene as quickly as it had arrived. Eventually they recorded their debut album VOZROZHDENIE in March 2004. The album’s release brought Arkona as a contending force back on the scene and with a new line up returned to the live scene in 2005.
The next album VO SLAVU VELIKIM saw a change in musical direction dropping the use of synthesized sounds, replacing them with authentic folk instruments. As such, the list of guest musicians grew considerably including the renowned folk musician Vladimir Cherepovskiy as well as members of Svarga and Alkonost. More albums followed as did European tours and a major festival appearance at the 2008 Ragnarok Festival.
Back at home, Arkona decided not to take a break but to immediately begin working on their 5th album. In order to top their previous effort, the band aimed to create a very unique album, eventually using over 40 musicians and a full-fledged chorus and a string quintet for the first time in their career.
The centrepiece to this album is the 15-minute saga 'Na Moey Zemle' which relates the adventures of a Slav in European countries. This epic features the voices of members of Manegarm, Menhir, and Heidevolk. Starting with some fantastic harmonised vocals and with strings, pipes and chorus it moves into this wonderful drum driven symphonic piece like Turisas jamming with Tristania, Rammstein and Dimmu Borgir, it is awesome!
The next stand out song is 'Tropoiu Nevedannoi', mixing as it does medieval instruments, melody and full on black metal assault, the superb vocal delivery is only marred (as throughout the whole album) by the fact that it is sung in Russian, but then again I sing along to Rammstein so you and I will get used to it.
'Korochun' is a great traditional instrumental, and could be from the soundtrack of Lord Of The Rings which then leads into this really upbeat sing-a-long called 'Pamiat'. The final song is a big 10 minute ballad, again it is the traditional instrumentation that lifts this way above the average, and in the middle of the song it switches to an ambient soundtrack of birdsong and a flowing river. It's weird because it is strangely relaxing and I found myself being drawn in, because I sort of jumped when this flute came playfully through the speakers and it plays out to the end.
This is a stunning album, superb production and the quality of musicianship is unquestionable, it's one of those albums where word like "epic" just ain't enough!