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Here we have the second album of a rather obscure Russian power metal band Arktida, ''Through the Centuries''. They play pretty original style of power metal, with dominating keyboards (not overwhelming), and some electronic elements occasionally. This band certainly isn't one of countless Stratovarius or Rhapsody of Fire clones that occupy European power metal scene nowadays, and this is already a good achievement and good place to start exploring Arktida's music.
Unfortunately, they also have notable issues. First of all, the number of songs. This album has 16 songs, the debut ''On the Horizon'' had 17 tracks. In my opinion, that's insane. Not only it significantly makes the album harder to access, it also immediately drags down the overall album's quality, because you can't have perfect 16 or 17 songs on one single album. Can't happen. So whoever in the band thinks it's a good idea to put so many tracks on album, should just forget it. Also, the songs aren't much diversified, Arktida sticks to their songwriting formula throughout the whole album, so there's no way you can remember all songs at once, since almost all of them sound similar. Another one flaw for metal purists will be this - Arktida's riffs are very solid and powerful, but aren't essential. Keyboards are, since the main songwriter is keyboardist Dmitriy Mashkov, and they bring the drive. Of course, this reminds a lot of Nightwish, where Tuomas Holopainen is the band leader.
Now, after this rather harsh critic, it's time to praise. In spite of its' ridiculous number of songs, ''Through the Centuries'' certainly manages to entertain the listener. There are some amazing songs, such as the opener ''Halfway to Immortality'', ''Another Land'', great ballad ''Sorrow'' or ''I'll Be Back''. All of these songs are in typical Arktida fashion, and that would be: very strong basic riffs, great symphonic (occasionally electronic) keyboards, and great vocalist - Konstantintin Savchenko. His performance is very powerful and emotional, and he is certainly great value of the band - just listen to his performance on ''Sorrow'', it's brilliant.
Arktida also did great job with covers here, they covered famous Stratovarius's song ''Eagleheart'' and Russian folk song ''Oh, Frost, Frost'', and I am highly impressed with these covers, especially with ''Oh, Frost, Frost''. They made a perfect mixture of power metal and folklore with adding a bit of their own identity into it, which bands often don't do. Fans of electronic stuff will certainly find ''Rise'', ''Active Line'' and ''You're My Joy'' to be interesting, since all of these songs have notable amount of modern elements, uncharacteristic for metal. There are quite a lot of ballads or semi-ballads, all of them being very solid: ''The Borderline of Good and Evil'', ''Where the Sky Is Higher'' and especially ''Sorrow'', which is the best song of the album.
Unfortunately, as I assumed, in sixteen songs you must have at least three or four bad. Those are ''Who Created?'', ''Active Line'', ''The Way Home'' and ''Call Me''. One word: skip. You don't have to bother listening to these bad and plodding fillers, just ignore them, you'll like this album much more.
What could've been a great 11-12 tracks album, became an average 16 tracks one, and this is just unfair, because Arktida is basically ruining themselves with this way of album concept. A bit of diversity wouldn't hurt as well. So, in the end, Arktida is a band full of potential, but they have to stop to make such wrong calls, or they won't make anything groundbreaking, and they could, as it's all there, just waiting to be awakened. When Dmitriy Mashkov realizes that quality is more important than quantity, Arktida will become great. Until then - tough luck...