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Different face of Arthur Berkut - 82%

TitaniumNK, February 16th, 2012

Arthur Berkut surely didn't waste any time after leaving Aria. He immediately started his solo work, by gathering several skilful and well-skilled musicians (Guitarist Alexey Strike, bassist Igor Moravskiy, drummer Oleg ''Cobra'' Khovrin) and only a couple of months later, his debut EP, ''Право Дано'' (''Right Given''), was released.

The best way to describe Berkut's music is hard 'n' heavy, with the accent put on ''heavy''. He certainly doesn't try to copy Aria's style, which is a very good decision, and you can clearly hear big dose of rock as well. Years spent in famous Russian art/prog rock band Autograph surely had a big impact on his musical taste. Still, despite being pretty heavy, you can also feel that these songs have fair amount of emotions in them, as opposed to his two albums with Aria, which were heavy as fuck. Two songs out of five are smooth ballads, and it's a pleasant change to hear him singing soft stuff. ''Right Given'' is a great mix of speedy monsters and calm ballads.

One thing that surprised me is the fact that Berkut wrote all the music for his solo project. Why was I surprised? You see, Berkut didn't have much of the songwriting share while he was in Aria - he wrote ''Your Day'' (''Armageddon'' album, 2006), and that's it. This is his personal project, and he wants you to know it. Worth of praise, definitely. Similar happened to Valeriy Kipelov (another ex-Aria vocalist), who also now writes all songs in his own band Kipelov. And guess what, Berkut turned out to be an excellent songwriter. Even though this EP came out earlier than anyone expected, the songs don't sound rushed and forced at all. No, instead you get the impression that he worked a lot on them, which also implies that he planned to leave Aria a long time ago. The fact that confirms my words is the interview with Aria's guitarist and founder Vladimir Holstinin, in which he stated that Berkut, I paraphrase: ''changed a lot recently and it became very hard to work with him''. In the end, I reckon that his departure was the best possible ending of this unpleasant situation for both sides. Aria resurrected themselves with ''Phoenix'', and Berkut released this great EP.

Onto the songs. All these songs are either very good or excellent, and the best are ''Without Rules'' and ''Eagle''. The former is an excellent catchy speedy tune, while the latter is a calm ballad where Berkut shows his sense for a nice ballad melody that sticks in listener's mind. ''Seven Seas'' is a great song as well, but its main riff reminds me a bit too much of Aria's majestic ballad ''Battlefield''. I guess that musical similarities are inevitable. The title track is a very good song, but it lacks something, and that ''something'' would probably be a better and more deadly riff. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that cool intro, it sounds like it came straight out from some Sergio Leone's spaghetti western. Unlike many (most of) intros, this one is actually interesting.

Ironically, the only flaw to be found on this album is the main and most responsible man, the very Arthur Berkut and his performance. In his mid and low range, he is awesome, but the high register is where the problems happen. He sounds extremely tired and annoying when he goes for high-pitched singing or screaming, almost unbearable, much like the early '90s Bruce Dickinson. The only difference is that Bruce willingly sang like that, while I'm not sure whether Arthur will ever be able to sing like he used to in Autograph (or even on ''Christening by Fire''). This remains as the big issue for the upcoming albums.

All in all, ''Right Given'' is made of great songs, and could've been even better if Berkut was in the right shape. Definitely a must-check if you are a fan of Aria. I'm looking forward to hear more news and music from Arthur Berkut and his bandmates. Recommended.