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Alkonost is a pagan / folk metal band from Russia and this is their 8th studio CD. Although there have been some stylistic changes over the course of their discography, their songs tend to be mid-paced doomy power metal overlaid with huge, epic, folksy keyboard melodies. The focus on ‘Tales of Wandering’ is catchiness and festivity. Except for the first song, which is an extended atmospheric instrumental, each song is fairly compact and to-the-point. Most of them feature an interplay between lightly complex acoustic guitar and heavy, crunchy rhythm guitar, along with fast, bouncy, rocking drum and bass lines and very catchy choruses. As is the case for much pagan metal, the songs convey a majestic sense of triumph and conquest, with the folksy melodies firing the imagination of what pagan life, with its endless struggles, battles and victory celebrations, must have been like.
‘Tales of Wandering’ features a new female vocalist, Ksenia Pobuzhanskaya. One of the most distinctive aspects of Alkonost since their 2nd CD was their former vocalist, Alena Pelevina, who had an exquisitely beautiful soprano operatic style that absolutely soared above the arrangements. How does Ksenia compare? She has a very similar style and delivery and it is quite beautiful in its own right, but she does not quite have the power, range and controlled delivery that Alena did; perhaps this is the reason the songs tend to be less ambitious and dramatic than many of them on their previous CDs, as Ksenia’s vocals seem better suited for straightforward, structured arrangements. Most of the songs also include mild, almost spoken blackened death vocals that contrast nicely with the soprano vocals.
Alkonost were at their prime in the mid-2000s with ‘The Path We've Never Made’ and ‘Stone Heart Blood’; the songs were long and diverse, often with extended majestic folksy instrumentals and exceedingly beautiful and engaging vocal melodies. Along with Arkona and Butterfly Temple, they represented the pinnacle of creative, elaborate and engrossing Russian-language symphonic pagan metal. And like these bands, Alkonost have chosen to simplify their approach and focus on high-quality accessibility, so they are now more comparable to Kalevala, though with a different vocal style. I can’t deny I miss the earlier days but Alkonost are strong enough song-writers to make this transition quite successfully, and Ksenia has a perfect voice for it.
Originally reviewed at http://www.metalcdratings.com/