Review Summary: Not only does Russia have some of the most gorgeous women on the planet, they make some pretty good metal too.
I haven’t been to Russia (yet), but I’ve started learning the language and I plan on living there for some period of my life. This is somewhat due to my interest in their culture and history, as well as the fact that I think Russian women are so incredibly hot. Even so, I’ve found that a lot of the Russian metal scene is not very well known outside of Russia, and this is quite unfortunate. I managed to listen to a variety of Russian folk metal (which I believe there are large amounts of), and through this I heard of the band Alkonost.
Alkonost play an epic styled folk metal with a variety of techniques, and their third album The Path We’ve Never Made is a solid example of the combination of these techniques. The biggest thing about this band which really sold them to me was that all their lyrics are in Russian. For me, this gave them a sense of authenticity, and it really helped me enjoy the music more. The band’s focus is around a female singer (Alena Pelevin), who has an incredibly strong and powerful voice. She drives most of the songs, and makes for an excellent balance between her voice and the harsh vocals. The harsh vocals are sung by the bass player, Alexey Solovyov, who sounds like a slightly less insane and more audible Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates). Together, they make for an outstanding vocal team. Oh, and the chanting. There are moments on the album where the two voices combine to make a chant-like, melodic, and simply beautiful sound. You can hear this on the second track, The Indiscernible Path. Depending on the occasion, Alexey sings together with Alena in both harsh vocals and soft, which are so soft they sound as if they’re bordering on spoken word. As I’ve mentioned, all the vocals are in Russian which really is amazing. I suppose it wouldn’t be so important to someone who can speak Russian, but I have a huge love of languages, and because of that listening to this album was bliss.
The music is very melodic, and the keyboard plays a large role. The band has a permanent keyboardist, and this gives them a more smooth-edged sound, as opposed to the rawer sound that some folk bands can have. The keys do not take a leading role however; this is still reserved to the lead guitar. Mostly, there is a rhythm guitar going continuously, and then on top of that we have the exemplary vocal combination, or the lead guitar playing different melodies. Other than this, the two guitarists begin duelling, playing the same melody together, very reminiscent of Opeth’s Morningrise days. The bass and drums obviously aren’t the bands strong point, but the drums sound great and are varied enough to keep from being boring. The bass is also very audible, which goes in favour of the album. Being able to hear the bass separate to the music is one thing I love about this type of music.
Each song shows great song writing, where different sections and/or melodies just fall into the right position. You’ll have some great melodic guitar work, then there’ll be some sort of keyboard interlude, then the vocals will jump to life (for example). The band uses different symphonic elements in the music, mostly built around the keyboards. The third track The Night Before the Battle is a fine example of how well it works. The best thing about it all is that it doesn’t get boring. There are only 7 songs, but the shortest of these is 6 minutes, and the longest 9 minutes, giving almost an hour’s worth of music, and after 15+ listens I haven’t gotten bored yet.
Overall, I found this to be a great album. Musically, it is above average, but I’m sure there are other folk metal bands which might be a little better. What makes this band unique is the absolutely amazing vocals, both the clean and harsh, but more so the clean. Alena Pelevin has a beautiful voice, and she really makes this album work. The deepness in her voice puts dark undertones in the music, which I absolutely love. I’d recommend this to anybody who likes folk metal, or metal with clean female vocals.
- Amazing vocals
- Clean production
- Some great melodies
- Lyrics are completely in Russian
- The complete Russian might put off some
- It’s an acquired taste