ARKONA - Vozrozhdenie
I dare say that Arkona are the most exciting metal band from Russia, and I will not forget anytime soon the time in late 2014 when I saw the band fronted by the untameable Masha "Scream" Arkhipova perform live. Apart from being great on stage, Arkona also release regularly new studio albums. Between 2004 and 2014, they have released seven albums, with their debut Vozrozhdenie now being re-released, because the band wasnít so well known in their early days.
But then again, this isnít truly a re-release, but rather a re-recording of the tracks under more optimal circumstances. This gives you the impression that you are listening to a new record, especially if you are not familiar with the original version. A major difference to the source material is that a lot of keyboard parts have been replaced by traditional folk instruments like shaman percussion, recorder, harp and balalaika, among others.
It becomes clear soon enough that Arkona were also already gifted songwriters at the beginning of their career. The songs are filled with wonderfully complementing contrasts. Pace and mood changes are omnipresent, and the folk parts have a very special charm. The confrontation between harsh metal sounds with traditional melodies works perfectly, with especially the flutes standing out. Mashaís incredibly charismatic and enchanting vocals will certainly mesmerise their audience.
Even though the album is already a dozen years old, I donít hesitate to pick out stand-out tracks. Chernye Vorony shows the band from their craziest side, with the members going to their limits with the weirdest sounds. The following Rus is another highlight. This more sedate track feels like the cousin of Bathory. Pod Mechami is another weird track with spoken word dialogues that comes nearly across as a radio play. These are just three examples, but all twelve songs deserve your fullest attention.
The differences between the original version and the re-recording are quite huge, so that it was a good idea to present this album in a way it should have sounded from the start. Pagan metal fans unfamiliar with the debut album can get Vozrozhdenie without hesitation, and those others that belong to the category of first-hour fans can still sample the music on the different streaming platforms before making a decision.