Review Summary: 'Lepta', being released perhaps a little too soon, will not change your perception of the band. If you liked 'Vozrozhdeniye', you will like this album in the same way.
Arkona must be one hell of a hard-working band, since second album 'Lepta' was released just over half a year after the band's debut 'Vozrozhdeniye', and does not let up on their brand of epic Folk and Pagan Metal. Nonetheless, the minor flaws that some listeners may have found in 'Vozrozhdeniye' will undoubtedly come up again. This isn't to say that Arkona hadn't improved on their musical formula, just that they adapted to what they thought would work, and applied it to a more melodic albeit much shorter album in 'Lepta'.
The same themes and ideas found within the band's début are in fact generated here. Masha once again uses her cultural and historical knowledge of Russia to produce some extremely interesting content. It's just a shame that the music doesn't quite match the quality and insight of the lyrical content itself. Some titles do falter, as on the unexplained and strangely placed 'Epilog', which should really have been the outro for 'Lepta'. It's a nice, atmospheric song, as all Arkona instrumentals are, just not in its right place as far as 'Lepta' is concerned. The band even go as far as to discover the more musical side of historic Russia, in which they take on the traditional Russian Folk song 'Oj, To No Vecher...', the lyrics naturally being sung in the same way.
One thing that is unfortunately noticeable is the fact that Masha's harsher vocals just don't fit well with the surrounding music at all. On opening song 'Sotkany Veka' (meaning 'Woven Ages', something that obviously refers to the history, alike their debut) the song almost seems to be rushed right away with Masha's harsh vocals, so you wouldn't exactly get a good first impression of the band had this album been your first. This isn't helped when the whole song itself proves to be an ultimately boring one. The chorus is too melodic for its own good (though some may prefer Masha's clean vocals all the time), and the guitars, in the same way, are delivered in such a half-hearted way that you may as well be listening to soft Folk Rock.
That said, there are instances where the vocals and instruments do help to bring the song together. Masha's powerfully harsh vocals on the equal as powerfully epic song 'Zarnicy Nashej Svobody' prove to be something quite unique, as the flow from between each of the instruments and Masha's vocals makes the song itself an instant highlight. Unfortunately this isn't continued throughout the album as on 'Vozrozhdeniye', but it shows that Arkona certainly hadn't given up yet.
Another outstanding yet predictable aspect of the music is yet again the use of atmospherics an keyboards. If you know of Arkona at all, you will surely know that the band have a tendency to splatter every possible song and instrument used with a background of lush symphonic materials, making the whole thing sound beautiful and epic. It may put the more extreme listeners off, but 'Lepta' sees the band taking more advantage of the guitars, bass and drums, whilst also incorporating these lush atmospherics and tinkling keyboards in a right but not at all excessive way.
Although 'Lepta' isn't altogether that different to the band's début album, 'Vozrozhdeniye', there are subtle differences here and there. 'Voin Pravdy' (meaning 'Warrior of Truth') for example, is almost a happy, fun and punk-influenced song in the way that it seeks to reflect on victorious voyages and triumphs throughout Russian history. It sounds like it shouldn't have made it to the album, but alike 'Vozrozhdeniye's closing track, it is a nice break from all the intensity of the rest of the album itself. What is also additional and not necessarily different is the use of the flute by Masha. This isn't one of those instruments where it only favours one song out of ten, but in fact is used quite excessively on every single song of 'Lepta'. There are even guitar solos that accompany the flute, the flute itself almost acting as a substitute for an additional guitar.
So is Arkona's second album really that different then" Certainly the band could have rectified the minor flaws in 'Lepta's sound and produced three more exciting, unpredictable songs to replace the opening three that makes the listener yawn with weariness and boredom, but 'Lepta' serves as a nice transition into more melodic and bigger territory, even if the band really only want to stay put in their native Russia. Chances are, whether you like Arkona or not, 'Lepta' will definitely not change your mind. It may make you love or dislike them even more, but what is clear here is that Arkona still serve as an interesting band in a genre of predictability and (currently) generic boredom.