A few short weeks ago Russian pagan folk metallers released their “Stenka Na Stenku” EP with the title track being a teaser for their sixth and new album “Slovo”. The track suggested at the content of the new release but the reality is it was a mere glimpsing hint and never really gave a clue as to the full and immense diversity and impressiveness of the sound and songs within “Slovo”.
One does not just listen to an Arkona album, but rather experiences it, breathe in its intense sound and world. “Slovo” is no different, though it is arguably strikingly even more creative than their usual and past strong sounds. Incorporating the most stirring of metal riffs and attack alongside their traditional and self created pagan rock sounds the band stand separate from the sometimes almost comical other pagan/folk rock bands. They are distinct, carrying an edge that is thrilling and incisive even if the majority of their worldwide listeners cannot understand the lyrical content. This is not an issue as their songs inspire image forming thoughts individual to the listener, no song passing by without creating a ‘visual’ reaction in the mind’s eye.
In announcing the release of “Slovo” at the time of their EP, Arkona claimed it would be the “most controversial” yet. Maybe the word was lost in translation or it was said in respect to their homeland music scene but there is nothing to cause controversy or outrage, and even if lyrically it is a mystery to most it is highly unlikely there is anything to cause widespread disapproval. One can only see wide spread acclaim and praise for the release, its impressive creativity and pleasing diversity. The use of a professional choir and orchestra, the fullness of sound with the inclusion of traditional instruments, and the complex multi-layered tracks musically and vocally at times surprises but always leaves one beyond satisfied and eager to go back for more.
Arkona are musical warriors lead by the stunning voice of Masha “Scream” who varies between the soaring heights of melodies and harmonies and guttural growls to induce shivers in any man or enemy. The album plays in the imagination through their sound with suggested tales of life back in time, a world that is harsh, violent, and contemptuous much like today, but also with an inner peace that has been lost in modern times. From the excited joy of ‘Leshiy’ with its town carnival festivities feeling to the blood pumping tribal energy of ‘Zakliatie’ there is a rousing insightful power to the songs.
The level across the album is of the highest standard though some tracks raise their fists higher than others. The smooth flowing graceful symphonic folk rock of ‘Arkaim’, the rhythm driving intensity of title track ‘Slovo’, and the battle ready and defiant aggression of ‘Nikogda’ all touch the heart involving more than the listeners ears. To be fair though every track has similar effect, the likes of ‘Bol’no Mne’ with its wonderful string elements, the joyful glee of ‘Tam Za Tumanami’, and the closing track ‘Zimushka’ based upon an ancient Siberian native song just as vital and satisfying.
“Slovo” released the end of August on Napalm Records, is an epic album, infused with heavy riffs, double bass attacks, engaging folk melodies, and intense passion and energy. As mentioned at the start of the review Arkona deliver experiences with their sound and it is doubtful there will be many greater experiences in music this year than within “Slovo”.