Reviewed: December 2019
Released 2019 Debemur Morti Productions
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Long-standing Polish black metallers Arkona – not to be confused with the long-standing, and much better known, Russian folk-metallers of the same name (or Арконa in their native tongue) – return with their seventh full-length, and third in the last five years. So they would seem to be making up for lost time with this recent burst of productivity, which followed an 11-year stretch between albums four and five.
Regardless, it’s given Arkona a boot in the ass that is certainly reflected in Age Of Capricorn, a sprawling, yet ferocious outing that matches primal black metal fury with grandiosity and purpose. And I don’t mean grandiosity in the symphonic sense, although there is some orchestration and Dimmu Borgir-like keyboard splashes here and there, but more in the epic quality of the compositions – which average about eight minutes each – and the methodical, but forceful nature of their presentation.
The band’s carefully sculpted intensity is not so much built around dramatic twists and turns as it is easing off the gas at strategic points and then pushing the pedal back to the metal. Thus, Age Of Capricorn is an album that surges over you, yet eases around the curves instead of flinging you around. And in that way, it echoes the likes of Dark Funeral, but with the depth and scale of fellow countrymen Furia or recent Metal Blade signees Blaze Of Perdition.
Each of Capricorn’s six tracks is a genuine ripper that belies its relative length. There are few meandering passages here – ironically enough, the most pronounced being on the “shortest” song, the still seven-minute long “Deathskull Mystherium” – as the band keeps things moving ever forward on a steady barrage of sawing riffs and trems and frontman Khorzon’s flame-throwing rasp. Instead, it’s a “Stellar Inferno” much of the way, to borrow from the title of the album’s fearsome opener.
The clear, resounding production here delivers some noticeably added punch in contrast to the band’s rawer previous releases, even its immediate predecessor Lunaris from 2016, taking Arkona’s sound to a whole other level. And for a band of their veteran status, and position as one of Poland’s pioneering black metal acts, that’s really saying something. Indeed, they only seem to be growing more formidable with age.