Review Summary: Arkona's biggest sounding and longest album to date may exhaust you on first listen, but only by taking in every aspect of the music will the listener gain a truly rewarding musical experience.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Ever since the release of debút album 'Vozrozhdeniye', Arkona have been steadily but surely attempting to create bigger and better sound, albeit one that still remains fully influenced by Russian folklore and history. With 'Ot Serdtsa K Nebu' (translated into English as 'From the Heart to the Skies'), the production sounded much more grandiose and fully overblown than on its predecessor, 'Vo Slavu Velikim', in which the band's apparent preference to use every possible folk instrument was displayed almost instantly. With 'Goi, Rode, Goi!' (meaning 'Hail, Rod, Hail!'), the band's longest album to date (running just thirty seconds under eighty minutes in total!), this vastly grandiose production is continued in such a way that it was perhaps the first album to finally set Arkona's sails for international popularity. This isn't to say the band didn't wander into unknown territory and lose all focus on the one aspect that makes them stand out from the crowd (being their excessive research into Russian folklore and history, as explained before), just that the band this time round wouldn't have minded to be invited into a more mainstream world.
Certainly the band have reached even higher heights with the recruitment of musicians from other similar Folk metal groups, namely Skyharbor of Latvia and Menhir of Germany. What's even more interesting is the fact that each musician from their own respective band actually sings, narrates or hurls in their own language, not merely Russian. It seems this time Arkona took a gigantic step forward, and brought everyone under one roof (or in the case that this is a music review, under one genre boundary). As with the band's previous albums however, the particular focal points of Russian folklore and history hasn't changed all that much. The songs still cover the same old 'Hail this God' or 'Celebrate that Nordic holiday' theme, but this time Masha seems to invite even more of her narrative technique into her ranged vocal delivery.
The first thing you will notice (if you've even listened to the other Arkona albums) is that the music instantly sounds much more furious and aggressive, thus making it more of a Black Metal influenced album than merely one of Folk Metal. Of course, the folk instruments are what makes this album truly stand out, but here the guitar work is used to full effect, and never really lets up on the power it creates. Opener and title track 'Goi, Rode, Goi!' sets the standard for what is to become an extremely grandiose album, and displays more musical talent in its very own six minutes than most Folk Metal bands nowadays generate in a career. It may seem like an exaggeration to say so, but Arkona have sometimes faltered in making good first impressions.
As for the band's usual outstandingly unique talents, namely the vocals and use of atmospherics, nothing much has changed at all. They, like everything else on the album, seem to have become bigger sounding than ever before. Masha's vocals once again are perfectly introduced and interwoven into each song, showcasing not only her talents but the perfect timing too, so that they never really sound out of synchronization with the guitars, violins, or any other instrument for that matter. Like the band's last few albums, there is also a fairly excessive use of choir work, in which all but three songs utilize the choirs to grandiose effect.
Yes, this album is very grandiose indeed. However, this is also a possibly irritating problem for some. There is the saying 'Too____for it's own good', and in this case, the listener would most likely put either 'long' or 'epic' in that blank space. Firstly, while it is a good idea to make everything sound so big that even Metallica could sit up and take notice, there is a flaw in the process: using everything unnecessarily excessively. Take 'Na Moey Zemle' for example, the album's and band's longest ever song. Yes, it is unique to invite musicians from other Folk metal bands to say/sing their piece, but at fifteen minutes and nine seconds, I wouldn't be surprised if anyone else listening to this had to pause and take a breather. It just feels excessively overblown and too damn long. Whereas the album itself could well be much better had it been twenty minutes shorter, the album instead almost reaches the maximum running time for one singular disc.
If you're reading this and are getting slightly put off listening to the album however, try not to be-because for every flaw that can be found in this album, there is also a positive aspect of the music. The use of the violins and flute in particular contribute to the power and (admittedly excessive) atmospherics, as on 'Tropoiu Nevedannoi' (meaning 'On the unknown Trail') and 'Nevidal' (meaning 'Wonder'. The band even try their hand at an anthemic song, using their own name 'Arkona', which helpfully serves as one of the true highlights of the album itself. Even the drums and bass can be heard this time round with audible capability, which never overstep or fall short of the mark, and surprisingly come across as instruments used by a purely Black Metal band.
Sure, some may get tired of the 'filler' material in 'Pritcha' (meaning 'The Parable') and 'Yarilo' (a homage to yet another Slavic god), the latter of which actually having been made into a music video, but if you can overlook these few minor flaws, the reward is a truly exhilarating experience of grandiose proportions (Yes, I keep using 'Grandiose' because that is the word that fits this album best). All in all, 'Goi, Rode, Goi!' is one album which won't disappoint, but may tire the listener with its lengthy sections and sometimes repetitive passages, but this album is a damn good example of how far the band take their sounds.