posted on 8/2011 By:
Arkona is one of those bands that, as a folk-metal enthusiast, I feel obligated to enjoy. A love for the genre combined with my Russian roots made me a textbook fan, so as the glowing reviews started trickling in for Slovo, I expected that my own would soon join the ranks of published praise. After all, the beginning of their song “Yalino” was featured on an episode of The Office, branding them ‘cool’ in my book ever since. While I found 2009’s Goi, Rode, Goi! too drawn out and ungrounded for my taste, I still thoroughly enjoyed the compositions and the band’s ability to keep their sound more metal than folk. While a very good record that surpasses the vast majority of their previous material, Slovo is still a disappointment in my eyes due to its disjointed nature and inconsistent delivery. Nevertheless, the band should be commended for their attention to detail and diversified writing. The album is richly layered with orchestral instrumentation, clean and harsh vocals, and a more developed take on Arkona’s trademark heaviness.
There was nothing particularly aurally offensive during the album’s tenure, but I found my concentration slipping as I tried to connect with the music. Losing focus seems to be a problem with Arkona, as well. The tunes range from the fantastically arranged and well-balanced title track to the lackluster and generically folky “Tam Za Tumanami”. Masha Scream’s signature stamp of vocal brutality adds heft to many a song, but can’t save the thrashy and monotonous mess that is “Leshiy”. However, the preceding tune, “Bol’no Mne” fuses black metal intensity with lovely orchestral elements. The piece also serves as a platform for Scream’s most visceral performance on the album.
While I’d call some of their previous work “catchy”, most of the content on Slovo decidedly does not fit this description. Under a minute long, “Potomok” is a bizarre (and somewhat unnecessary) track centered around strange vocal performances and little else. The production is better than ever, but there is a frenetic energy to the music that made me feel ill at ease. Slovo gets off to a weak start, and if I’d been a casual listener giving the band a chance for the first time, I doubt I would have finished a full listening opportunity. That being said, I’m grateful for my personal and professional investment in the album, because it improved dramatically during the journey through fourteen tracks.
Many reviews have called this one of the albums of the year. For me, it marks a solid step in the right direction for the band, but I’m holding out for better. Arkona needs to harness their potential and unify their influences in order to guarantee excellence on a future record. These Russians have a great deal of appeal and ability, and I believe that it’s simply a matter of time before they perfect their art.
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