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Arkona - Yav

Arkona - CD Review

Arkona - Yav 




 CD Info
Napalm Records
 Russian, Ukrainian & Swedish Lyrics
2014 Release
9 Tracks


Words cannot express my love for Arkona, one of the few truly earnest folk metal bands in the scene today. Every album of theirs thus far has transported me back to ancient Slavonic steppes and woodlands teeming with archaic gods and fabled creatures, connecting me back to my Russian roots through myth and lore. I’ve celebrated the ancient festivals, I’ve mourned lost sons, and I’ve travelled far and wide through the music and lyrics of Arkona. Frankly, however, it’s all of that makes listening to the band’s seventh full-length, Yav, an extreme disappointment, but before you die-hard folk metal enthusiasts decide to find me and decapitate me, let me at least explain:

If you’ve read my past reviews of Arkona’s albums, you’ll know that it was really their perfect synthesis of folk and metal that really captivated me. I wasn’t just enthralled by their use of traditional instruments, but also the way they achieved a perfect balance between the folk and metal elements, almost metal folk as opposed to folk metal, which really set them apart from the rest of the genre. On Yav, a lot of those folk elements are gone in favor of a more sinister, black-metal oriented sound with a progressive edge to it. Sure, the pagan themes are still there, more than ever I’d argue, but Yav is the album where Arkona seem to have transitioned from pagan folk metal to simply pagan metal with a few folksy passages thrown in here and there. I am by no means saying the songs are bad. I’m simply saying that I’m disappointed because the part of Arkona’s music that I truly loved seems to have gone by the wayside.

Now that that’s off my chest, I can extol the virtues of this album, of which there are more than a few. In fact, there are some really interesting things going on here, not the least of which is a very admirable performance by Masha from start to finish as well as an overall maturity in the band’s songwriting. With an average length of about 7 minutes per track (the title track itself is over 13 minutes long), the songs have grown in scope and scale, showcasing this new progressive touch as well as the greater emphasis on the black metal facet of Arkona’s music while still retaining an almost cinematic quality to them. The atmosphere is darker and more ominous, as are the lyrical themes of creation and death, freedom and possession. There’s more than enough here, lyrically, to please any fan of Slavic mythology.

All in all, whether you like this album or not really depends on what it is you liked about Arkona in the first place. This is certainly still very much an Arkona album. They’ve kept their general style intact here, but seem to have chosen to evolve their sound in a certain direction that I, personally, no longer find is much to my liking. They’ve left behind what I found most appealing about their music in the first place, and the whole thing is a bit too proggy for my taste. But if that’s your shtick, then perhaps you’ll love this album even more than their previous work. It’s definitely a taste thing.

8 / 10