Review Summary: 'Slovo' will definitely satisfy fans of the band, but will do absolutely nothing for those who have tired of Arkona's brand of extreme Folk/Pagan Metal.
You may or may not have tired from the majority of Arkona's discography, partly due to the band's repetitive formula of ('Insert relevant folk Instrument here')+Scything Black Metal guitars+blast beats+clean vocals/choir work, and perhaps also to their unbelievably long album works of late (Read my review of 'Goi, Rode, Goi!' for more analysis of lengthy albums). But what has kept the band from straying too far from their ambitiously scoped career path is their unique ability to make something truly stand out, obviously helped a great deal by the powerful range of Masha's vocals and the originality of using folk instruments. Thankfully however, they never seem to exploit these talents too much.
'Slovo' sees the band taking a few different routes to the aforementioned musical formula. Automatically from the get-go of 'Az'' (meaning simply 'I') the music itself seems to be much more coherent than on past efforts ('Lepta' in particular). Not only that, but via the excessive use of violins and harmonics, a classical influence seems to have taken place in the song-writing process, not to mention the choirs this time round having their own significance rather than merely synchronizing themselves with whichever vocal range Masha is taking.
Of course, what hasn't changed at all is the themes and ideas recurring throughout Arkona's career, in which the significance of geographical locations ('Arkaim'), mythological characters ('Leshiy') and even references to the band's own national weather ('Zimushka'). I'm not at all forgetting the awkwardly titled 'Bol'no Mne' (meaning ironically 'I'm in Pain'-a reference to the Obituary track of the same name, perhaps"), which, for a Folk Metal band, seems strange. Nevertheless, the band do still have their 'happy' moments, albeit only with one song on the whole of the album. 'Leshiy', perhaps a bit too happy for it's own good, is introduced via accordion, and basically relies on the same recurring note throughout, with heavy bouncing guitars looming in the background. It sounds like an admirable type of Folk Metal anthem, but when Masha tries to make her vocals flow with the accordion, it just doesn't sound quite right at all. In fact, it sounds as if she's trying too hard to 'go with the flow', as it were.
What also hasn't changed is the use of basic instruments such as the scything guitars, which play a very significant part of the album, as well as the thundering drums, which serve as an apt sidekick in contributing to the overall Black Metal influence of the music in general. The bass, as on other albums, can be heard vaguely if you have a very clean ear, but most of the focus here is very much on the guitars and drums. Masha's vocals act in the same way, but prove to be much more than just a product of the band's range of Folk Metal. She also, as usual, uses her narrative work to try and make the whole album itself a story of some kind, but this only falters when some of the songs are partly ruined by it, namely 'Predok', which, in its unnecessary existence, merely consists of Masha talking for two minutes. Admittedly, listening to the album as a whole, it sounds very fitting for the concept, but would perhaps be boring for someone who likes the band more extreme side.
The band do take breaks on 'Slovo', as on other albums. Fully acoustic number 'Tam za Tumanami' (meaning 'There, beyond the Trees') develops a very melodic yet still generally folky atmosphere, in which Masha almost sings her way through, as Madonna had done in the 80's on her ballad-like songs. This is repeated in the fifty-three second 'Potomok' (meaning 'Descendant'), admittedly very uninteresting, yet focusses on a child speaking with Masha almost crooning on a higher note than usual in the background. These could be minor flaws to some, and instant positives for others.
It really depends on what your take of the genre is. If you prefer the extremities of Folk metal bands such as Finntroll and Eluveitie, than 'Slovo' may not interest you one bit. However, if you can stand a bit of melody here and there to neutralise the intensity of these extreme metal influences, 'Slovo' should be sitting on your shelf, ready to be played again and again. Where the band goes from here it is unknown, but they will probably satisfy their fans with even more accessible choir work and atmospherics, but one thing is certain: 'Slovo', being shorter than its predecessor, is yet another example of Arkona's willingness to stand out from the crowd.
Album Rating: 3.5
My first set of reviews on one particular band. I plan to do the same with a few other bands in the future...
Digging: Cult Leader - A Patient Man
Good job on completing the discography, especially since it's on a lesser known band. I've only done so once myself and well, that band had a 4-album discog lol. And though this band doesn't have a massive discography either, I know that it's rather hard to write about one specific band who play only one specific style, even if your knowledge about them is great.
Long story short, props for doing this.
Never heard anything by this band, will definitely check them out.
They're nice but more of a live band imo, saw them in 2008. Was surprised by Masha's screams.
"especially since it's on a lesser known band."
They're actually quite popular in the Viking/Folk/Pagan-Scene around here. (unless you were talking about this site)
Saw them at the beginning of April and they were fantastic live. I've only heard Goi, Rode, Goi but it's a solid album
They are still touring? 'Cause I remember something about Masha having a kid or sth. like that.
They just did Paganfest America along with Huntress (meh), Ex deo (only at the show I was at apparently), Alestorm and Turisas
Heh, didn't know. But they generally have a pretty good live reputation. Turisas also had a pretty good live show back then, but I don't really like what they've put out since then.
Not a huge fan of them but they held their own well enough live. Had a good time watching them but I wasn't particularly disappointed in having to miss half their set to go catch the last bus.
Arkona were a highligh and so were Alestorm since they've always been a huge guilty pleasure for me and I had a ton of fun during their set. Ex Deo was solid but not as engaging as I expected (I think I actually prefer them in studio to live). And I had never heard huntress before and don't plan on ever doing so again. They're pretty standards sounding stuff and the lead singer had no presence. Her enormous breasts were the most fascinating part of their show
Idk, there are some bands I would actually mainly see live. Arkona I listen to occasionally but I'd see them live and as I said Turisas was nice back then but I don't think I'd watch them now. I could imagine Alestorm having a nice live show despite the fact that I'd probably not listen to any studio stuff.
Album Rating: 3.5
Well each Arkona album on Sputnikmusic only has around ten ratings at the most, so I thought i might just make them slightly more popular on here, if that was possible. I have never seen the band live, but would love to, they just seem so atmospheric and powerful with their sound I'm assuming they work well live. I have heard Huntress' debut album, 'Spell eater' (which i might do a review on in the near future), but it's not anything special musically. Conceptually, it seems interesting to me.
As already mentioned they are indeed pretty good live, Masha's screams were as I said - surprisingly powerful and they were apparently one of the few bands on the Ragnarök 2008 that didn't have a complete douchebag as sound technician (or did it themselves, I don't remember).
Album Rating: 3.5
Yeah. You've probably read this in the Arkona reviews, but I'd like to think Masha's vocal talent is one highlight of the band's overall career. I let my mother listen to their music just not and she instantly loved the vocals, not to mention the rest of the music itself;)
Well, her vocals or her doing vocals was always on of the main things for Arkona "fans". Basically the main attraction, so to speak. I actually didn't know them until I saw them live, pal dragged me there and first I was like "the dude singing sounds good" (I couldn't really see a lot) and he was like "well yeah it's a chick".
Album Rating: 3.5
Haha, 'that awkward moment' when the guy singing really well is actually a chick. I've made that mistake numerous times with bands...
They're actually quite popular in the Viking/Folk/Pagan-Scene around here. (unless you were talking about this site)I was talking about the site indeed. I have, of course, heard of them, but never have I checked out any of their material nor gone to their live shows, even though they've been to where I live quite a few times. Your comments about them being great live are encouraging though, I just might purchase the ticket the next time they come around.
"I let my mother listen to their music just not and she instantly loved the vocals, not to mention the rest of the music itself;)"
I could see this happening with my mom too if Masha didn't scream so much. Pretty sure that would ruin it for her
New Arkona track. Posting here cause this was the latest album with a review:
Digging: Vouna - Vouna