Ot Serdca K Nebu
posted on 7/2008 By:
Moscow's Arkona are named after the last pagan Slavic city-castle, an ancient religious center on the island of Rügen dedicated to the god Swietowit (according to part of my extensive research on last.fm). As you might have guessed from their name, Arkona play pagan/folk metal employing traditional instruments, paeans to nature, and of course sword-weilding photo opts, all of it glorifying their pagan roots. Ot Serdca K Nebu (From heart to the sky) is their fourth full-length in the three years since their demo.
Their biggest selling point is their lead singer/songwriter/screamer Masha Arhipova. She's got some powerfully beautiful clean pipes and some really effective (if a little monotonous and slightly barking) growls that never once screamed girl to me on my first few spins. Compositionally she's done a fine job keeping the album well-paced and the songs engaging - for the most part. An hour is far too long for what's on tap however - the usual forty or so minutes would have been plenty to say what's said here. Still, the more straightforward pagan metal parts usually mesh well with the more folk parts and moments of battle manage to coexist with moments of celebration with neither losing their oomph.
So it's well-done folk metal. But that's as much praise as I can give. I can't go further and call it moving, captivating, epic, or beautiful. It's got moments warranting such high praise, but the problem is that those moments are distant mountaintops surrounded by long valleys of dull riffs and passages that often lose their force to meandering repetition. The opening track would be a throwaway were it not for the clean-sung traditional-sounding melodies that surface late into the 7:34 affair. Or, alternatively, as on the title track, high points aren't tied together cohesively, as if Masha has constructed a mash-up of good ideas without fleshing any of them out to their full potential. The worst moments share both weaknesses, "Nad Propast'yu Let", for example, is both uneven and uninteresting. There are some strong songs here - "Kupala i Kostrama" and "Slav'sya Rus" spring to mind - but they don't even attempt anything complex, sticking with simple folk arrangements and clearly putting the folk before the metal. I'm pretty sure "Kupala..." is a traditional Russian song, too...
I imagine that fans of Slavonic folk and pagan metal bands should find Ot Serdca K Nebu a rewarding enough listen, if forgettable. But it should be clear by now that this doesn't come close to reaching the heights of acts like Temnozor or Kroda. I give it 4 out of 6 possible shots of vodka. Or approximately 3 horns of mead.
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