Review Summary: Leshak returns with an explosive second album
Underground Russian folk metal band Leshak has returned, independently released their new album Pustosvyat (Hollow Prayer). They have since picked up an accordionist since the release of their first album, Chertovorot, adding the bands already excellent folk sound.
While Chertovorot sounded earthy and more organic Pustosvyat takes a more civilised route. They new songs are much more melodic, while still retaining the brutal death metal elements that the band is known for. The flute and the accordion work together perfectly to create some of the most catchy melodies and choruses, backed up by the thrashing guitar line and thunderous bass. These two instruments normally take a supporting role in folk metal these days, but on this album they are as prevalent and integral to to the bands sound as the flutes.
1. The Lord's Prayer
Leshak has always delivered ominous opening tracks, and this song is no different. Church bells are heard as the album opens, accompanied by ominous chanting which eventually gives way to a mournful accordion line. An excellent opening track for the album as a whole, but not very interesting on its own.
The title track of the album explodes out of the silence left by the mournful opening track. Thrashing guitar lines are accompanied by the new accordion as a joyous flute line is thrown into the fray. The death growls mesh well with the upbeat tempo of this song making it very enjoyable to listen to. A rather odd break in the middle drags the force of this song down a little, but otherwise one of the best songs on the album.
Leshak taking a more progressive route? Doesn't sound right. Nevertheless this song is enjoyable to listen to as it is very different to any other song Leshak has done. The rhythm in the verse is very odd, and sometimes sounds like it it dragging a little. The overall tone of this song is very foreboding, and the bass takes a much more prominent part. Again, there is a rather unfitting death metal break in the middle that doesn't fit well with the rest of the song, but this time it is saved with a melodic flute part. One of the weaker songs on the album as it doesn't hold up to subsequent listening as well as the other songs.
4. Fedor and Marja
The pace is picked up again in the next song with an upbeat death metal sound accompanied predominately by the accordion. Another break in the middle of the song sounds like it may be out of place like the previous songs, but the sound of this break goes very well with the rest of the song and helps breaks up the somewhat repetitive phrasing of this track. One of the better songs of the album.
My personal favourite song from the album opens with a foreboding accordion line which eventually gives way to a slow dirge-like guitar line. This stops shortly however, leaving a lone flute mournfully sounding. After some rather unexpected clean vocals (!?) the song launches into another upbeat death metal influenced piece, but this time much more melodic thanks to the interwoven accordion and flute lines. The guitar and bass parts are not very interested, but this is offset by the excellent flute and accordion duo. One of the highlights of the album.
Leshak has always done an instrumental here and there, and this one proves to be one of their best. However, for the first time the accordion and flute are supported by a keyboard. This detracts a little from the genuine folk sound of the band, but this is soon lost when the band halts as the flute solos leading into the next section of the song. This section is one of the best moments of the album, with a lilting flute line supported by tight guitar lines. A very enjoyable song.
A slow intro eventually leads to this fast main section of the song. This section is quite complicated, due to the fast cymbal work of the drummer. The entry of the vocals sounds much more guttural and brutal than other songs on the album and accompanied by the guitar and bass, gives the song a very melodic death metal feel. A flute solo in the middle helps break up faster sections of the song so it doesn't become repetitive. Not the greatest song on the album but still entertaining as usual.
8. Devil's Horn
Another upbeat song, this track has a much more melodic guitar line and higher flute line, making the intro of the song quite intense. A sudden break heralds four lone notes on the bass, an unusual song writing decision, particularly in this song. The song powers on relentlessly however, being one of the best and unique songs of the album.
9. Apple (Russian Folk Song)
Leshak's habit of modernising old Russian folk songs hasn't changed, as is shown in this metal rendition of Little Apple. This version sounds very similar to the original song, while still including a very brutal powerful theme given by the death growls. Additional vocals are supplied by Vasily Koslov of SatanaKozel and Ilya Volfenhirt from Svarga. After almost constant key changes, the song is interrupted by silence and what appears to be a elderly Russian man cursing. After this unusual break, the song changes key yet again towards the end before finally ending on a high note. A fun and joyous song to listen to.
10. Darjane-Marjane (Traditional Karelian)
Yet another folk song that has been redone, this song is short and sweet. Very melodic and joyous sounding, this song barely goes for a minute and a half but is on of the best on the album.
11. Ace of Spades (Motorhead Cover)
This song was a bit of a let down. The extreme vocals don't really go with the hard rock feel of this song and the flutes feel kind of out of place. Already an odd choice of song to cover for a band like this, Leshak's attempt at covering this song was valiant but fell a bit flat.
- Very different sound to first album
- Holds up to subsequent listening well
- Builds upon the first album nicely
- The songs are a bit similar which may sound repetitive at times
- Some odd song writing choices make sections of the songs break up the momentum
- Barely over half an hour in length, just like their debut album
Overall, Leshak has returned with a killer second album. They definitely learnt a thing or two from their first album and have shown that they can be one of the best folk metal bands out there today.