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I highly doubt I’d one day manage to find an original copy of this debut album from the Russian folk/pagan metal band Svarga, and it’s a pity. As it is one of these bands which, while not being revolutionary, definitely have this little bit of talent that distinguish them from the bunch of their counterparts. Yes, this is undoubtedly a promising album, if you ask me.
Despite the use of harsh vocals, which constitutes more than half of the singing here, this act still belongs to “soft” pagan metal bands. One may be in pain finding, for instance, any black metal element here, as it’s often the case in the Viking/pagan subgenre. The main inspiration of these guys is rather traditional metal bands, with especially bass parts and guitar solos reminiscent of Iron Maiden and their followers, without forgetting small riffing parts more in the thrash/speed metal vein. Some tracks may also remind more of pagan power metal style a la Ensiferum. In accordance to all this the overall pace of the album is lively without being utterly fast, and the production crystal clear.
Songs never fall into monotony or easiness. Only the second (the intro doesn’t count) and longest track, Vojna, may become a bit repetitive, for the rest the band manages to keep the balance right between melodic, folkish acoustic parts, and straightforward aforementioned metal parts. Despite the short length of the songs, the longest one clocking at six minutes, those often exhibit complex structures, tempo shifts or mood changes, most of time beginning in gentle fashion before the genuine metal kicks in. Occasional female vocals, amusing sound samples (a cuckoo, for instance) or fortunately punctual electronics complete the scene – and, of course, there is the accordion.
Because accordions are not limited to drunken humppa metal a la Finntroll, and those who always thought in that way may change their minds with this album. This instrument isn’t relegated in the background here, but plays a part similar to the one of the guitars, either playing the rhythmic line or soloing, being universally present but in the speed metal parts - where, let’s admit it, it would have sounded a tad displaced! And its wailing sound was exactly what the band needed to add a slight touch of melancholy to its music. Definitely a great inspiration.
Eventually there is no real weak moment on this album. Inspired songwriting, decent musicians, an undoubtedly metal feeling – not the kind of folk metal band where “folk” comes before “metal” –, liveliness, and, yes, a genuine beauty. Just forget the keyboard intro and outro you’ve already heard a billion times before, the rest is really worth a listen, or even your money. The only little flaw one may find is the impression some songs give of not going anywhere, but it’s not so frequent. If I had to pick up my favourite tracks it would be the opening song, Szech’, which sets up the mood for the whole album, or the closing one, Cherez Myortvuyu Reku, a sad tune, a bit slower and far more keyboard-driven than any other one, where the singer may display his best clean vocals performance – very low, deep and impressive. A pity that I’ve no clue of what he’s talking about, it just doesn’t sound very funny...
And now, I’m gonna campaign for buying every metal band an accordion.
Highlights: Szech’, Cherez Myortvuyu Reku