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To the sky! - 92%

andreipianoman, February 8th, 2018

Arkona is my latest obsession. Ever since I found this band I've had a hard time giving attention to anything else. From all the folk metal bands I know, they are easily the best. Going through their discography, I've notices that they don't seem to have ever made two albums alike. Of course there are many similarities between their releases and they have created a specific style but each album has its own personality. Ot Serdtsa k Nebu is one of the most folk oriented albums in their history and doesn't leave room for any other genres to make their way in.

For this one it seems they have chosen a more melodic and musical approach, leaving a lot of the harshness behind. It has its portion of heavy and fast paced bits of metal but not as much as other albums. Instead, the "folk" part of the music stands out a lot. Instrumental skill mixed with interesting songwriting and a very well executed display of emotion are what makes this piece of music a joy to listen to. Ancient Slavonic beliefs, traditions and rituals are revived in an hour of glorious musical aptitudes. In terms of instrumentals, it's not their most impressive work. It doesn't have the "wow" factor that others do but that's far from the point with this album. Guitars, drums and bass have the simple mission of executing their riffs and beats that make this metal and powerful. They don't stand out often although there are the occasional balst beat that i really dig!. What is allowed to expand here is the Slavonic pagan glory of the bagpipes, tambourine, komuz, hurdy gurdy, whistles and many others. The acoustic elements vary all along and never cease to indulge your ears into the past that you never saw. With songs like "Kupala i Kostroma", "Strela" or "Goi Kupala", the habits of this long lost culture are revealed in great elegance.

While all that is good, by far the strongest trait of this release is the vocal part, especially the clean singing. Growls are always a great way to spread energy and Masha is really explosive and unleashed in that direction but her clean voice is the one that touches your soul. In verses like the ones in "Ot Serdtsa k Nebu" and "Slavsia Rus" there's just something so relaxing and stress relieving about the way she makes those vocal chords vibrate. She calms you down and lets you enjoy it all even more. It's the kind of thing that silences your mind from thinking about this and that and just lets you live in the present moment and absorb all the beauty. I also love the choirs and layers that make a sometimes quite uplifting ambience.

But while all they've done here is really good, I'm afraid they've kinda stretched it too far in length not in the sense that the album is too long but rather that it sometimes feels like they're stalling. Songs like "Oj Pechal Toska" or "Strela" are quite repetitive and there are those background noises going at the end of some songs like wolves' howls or fire sounds and some other things that don't make much sense that seem overused. The outro of Katitsya Kolo also seems to be dragging quite some time. Still this isn't all bad. The intro of the album that comes with around three minutes of atmospheric low vibrations and deep pounding percussion makes a very good opener especially after it slowly fades out, leaving a few seconds of silence... and then SLAM straight into the heaviest and most energetic song of the entire album.

After listening to this, you are bound to get in a good mood. It's sometimes energetic and refreshing but also relaxed and easy-going. As far as folk metal goes it's mission accomplished and then some. And it's also very catchy which makes it a good choice to get familiar with the band if you haven't listened to them before. Feel free to give it a spin!

Arkona - Ot Serdtsa K Nebu - 70%

ThrashManiacAYD, August 27th, 2009

As scenes come and go, some of those involved will be winners and some will naturally be losers, however the attention directed upon such a scene from the successes of particular bands will always fuel the fire further, and in the case of Arkona could provide their opportunity to make it big with the release of fourth album "Ot Serdca K Nebu". Arkona play a brand of 'Slavic Pagan Metal' - think the rousing euphoria of Turisas copulating with the merry jig of Korpiklaani whilst drenched in Slavic melodies and themes not unlike Drudkh at times - that should appeal perfectly to those caught up in the successes of the two Finnish Folk-influenced bands mentioned.

Like Korpiklaani, I haven't a ruddy clue what the lyrics tell being sung entirely in, presumably, Russian, Arkona's country of origin, but the music is on the whole a more sombre and battle-weary affair than those forest-dwellers, best displayed during the slow and contrite "Oh, Pechal’-Toska" and "Strela". The heavy use of traditional folk instruments gives off a strong air of authenticity, allowing me the listener to drift off during the likes of "Gutsulka" and imagine oneself in a setting somewhat similar to that depicted in Braveheart, such is the feel of an epic movie soundtrack on "Ot Serdca K Nebu". Not that the usage of bagpipes of course doesn't help in this comparison, an instrument I infact have a particular fondness for thanks to the rich and droning sound they create. Feelings of Thyrfing and Windir are apparent throughout, predominantly thanks to the Black Metal feel retained by a lot of folk-influenced bands when the shackles are dropped and the speed picks up ("Nad Propastiu Let"). Moreso than other worthy exponents of this style of Metal mentioned above, Arkona place as much, if not more, emphasis on delivering what could be viewed as an introduction to Slavic-based music rather than an offering of Metal and folk combined. "Slavsia, Rus'!" among others, despite maintaining a Metal rhythm section, is led by Slavic melodies and traditional instruments of the region, suggesting "Ot Serdca K Nebu" could be an used an introduction to anyone interested in Folk Metal or music of an Eastern European origin.

Special mention should also be extended to vocalist Masha 'Scream'. Such is her excellent handling of the choral and notably screamed vocals, I did not realise I was listening to a woman until I read their bio sheet during my 2nd or 3rd listen! The vocals melodies of "Kupala I Kostroma", so heavy that they are in an Eastern European feel a deaf man could recognise from where they originate, provide the catchiest moments that no doubt will work a treat live. Instrumental sections are frequent and a distinct Moonsorrow influence in "Sva" ensures that Arkona should tickle the fancy of fans of pretty much any bands I have mentioned. Such is the epic feel of songs like "Sva" and the weakness I have for epic music (another weakness of mine, check out the recent Primordial review for evidence!) that during these moments I feel compelled to offer "Ot Serdca K Nebu" a brilliant mark, that perhaps isn't quite justified for the album as a whole. However, this is another very good album of 2008 that I have had the pleasure of hearing and with some heavy touring should push Arkona up the increasingly-crowded ladder of Folk Metal.

Originally written for Rockfreaks.net

The Quiet Hour (Pagan Schizophrenia) - 78%

Sean16, August 2nd, 2009

After the chaos of successive battles against the circumambient mediocrity it’s now time for the celebration of Nature’s peace. Ot Serdtsa K Nebu, Russian Arkona’s fourth full-length, is a kind of schizophrenic record. On one hand it features with the opening track Pokrovy Nebsnogo Startsa or Nad Propastju Let some of the most aggressive songs Arkona ever wrote, with strong black metal influences, on the other hand it’s filled with gentle predominantly acoustic folk ballads which are even more atypical of the band than the former. Indeed one might get the unpleasant feel Arkona partially shot itself in the foot with this new direction it seems to have taken – time shall tell. There’s no harm in changing your style per se, it’s an option often preferable over releasing the same identical, tired songs year after year, but switching from a genre you’re almost the best at to another where you’ll be only an ordinary actor amongst many others is always a pity. What did make Arkona unique? the epic vibe, the insanity, and Masha’s voice. Abandoning some of those elements looks like a slippery slope.

Of course it’s still epic... kind of. The overblown, over-the-top grandeur characterizing every Arkona release since the debut is still occasionally present but scattered, shattered, disseminated throughout the tracks. In this respect putting three slow, quiet songs in a row – the ballad Oj Pechal-Toska, the flute/bagpipes instrumental Gutsulka and the languish Strela, undoubtedly the weakest track overall – has proven an incommensurable mistake. It nearly kills any power, any vivacity, any LIFE. And if the work seems to eventually kick back with Nad Propastju Let it’s just before another slow song, Slavsja Rus’, though I’ll admit this one boasts the usual majesty one has the right to require from Arkona. Probably the best of the “soft” tracks. Also, try to avoid any version featuring the bonus track Kupala I Kostroma: it’s a completely vapid, deliquescent instrumental which wouldn’t be of any harm if put at the end of the record, however the guys had the good idea to throw it right between the ninth and tenth track, where it once again destroys any remnants of harmony or power.

Let’s really, really hope that with the introduction of more and more traditional instruments Arkona won’t turn into another Mago de Oz, ending up exclusively recording long, tedious, boring pseudofolk pieces almost devoid of any metal element. Because our Pagans have become wise, that’s a fact. The songs are still complex, actually this album is probably the most complex the band ever wrote with all its stylistic shifts and unmatched research of genuine folk melodies, harmonies and instruments. However this sensation of being assaulted from every side without being able to defend oneself is mostly gone. The songs have gained in structure what they’ve lost in what I called insanity, genuine feeling, primal authenticity. Even the most hateful moments, with Masha growling like never before and blastbeats all the way still sound completely under control. The attack here remains fully frontal, and it’s usually far easier to get rid of a single powerful adversary than of a horde of maybe weaker, but more numerous foes.

Listen to for instance Rus' Iznachalnaya on the previous album then compare it to, let’s say the opening track and you’ll see what I mean. No part of Rus' Iznachalnaya may sound as aggressive as the raging beginning of Pokrovy Nebsnogo Startsa (I’m considering, naturally, the three first minutes as the general album intro and NOT a part of this song), still the most chaotic song is the former, not the latter. The respective qualities of those two songs I consider as characteristic will be let to each listener’s appreciation, but I can’t prevent myself from thinking Pokrovy Nebsnogo Startsa is a far less personal, original song than its predecessor.

Don’t get me wrong, Ot Serdtsa K Nebu is a majestic work still overshadowing eighty percent of the folk metal around there. The above is merely the empty rant from someone who discovered this great band with Vo Slavu Velikim, and it’s always very hard to begin with an absolute masterpiece as everything else will then sound tedious in comparison. The questionable slow songs orgy here doesn’t prevent frontwoman Masha “Scream” Arhipova from shining, and as long as she stands at the wheel Arkona can’t go totally wrong. Her vocal range seems to have expended even further, as her harsh voice never had sounded so both raucous, spiteful and powerful – but still with the distinctive feel it’s a woman singing – and though her clear voice doesn’t get higher than on the previous opus it seems overall better (perhaps too much?) controlled. The different sorts of male vocals are also used in a more and more clever fashion, the crowning achievement being probably the duet on Slavsja Rus’. The production is perfect: very clear and tidy but not overcharged, the keyboards have been made more discrete as years go by and everything sounds fully natural. The occasional samples – birds singing and the likes – as well as the fact the general intro and conclusion have been included in the first and last tracks respectively may appear slightly annoying but again, it goes along with the band’s new spirit. Oh, and the title track is golden, by the way.

All in all Ot Serdtsa K Nebu may be easier to get into than Arkona’s previous outputs so it may constitute a good way to discover a band somehow out of the ordinary run, but long-time familiars might be slightly disappointed. Perhaps Masha & co. were simply looking for a bit of tranquillity, after all. Glory to our ancestors, honour the Gods and relax. Some tenderness in this cruel world.

Highlights: Ot Serdtsa K Nebu, Nad Propastju Let, Slavsja Rus’

Good folk metal - 82%

Hawks10Pec, March 11th, 2009

If you're thinking of the genre of folk metal, what are some of the bands that come to your mind? For me its bands like Borknagar, Primordial, and Equilibrium. To tell you the truth this band, Arkona, would probably be at the very bottom of that list. They are a very obscure band from Russia that a lot of people, including myself a while ago, have never heard of. Their most recent album Ot Serdtsa K Nebu proves that this band deserves at least a couple of listens from all fans of the folk metal genre. The band mixes folk metal and black metal and the end result is one hell of an album. To be honest, the genre has other albums that are much better and more interesting, but Ot Serdtsa K Nebu still holds its ground.

The first track is simply called Prologue. Its almost three minutes long and to tell you the truth thats about two minutes too long. Its just three minutes of chanting basically nothing. Just a little bit of the vocalist, Scream, who is a female by the way, talking. After you get past that you actually get into the real album. Instrumentally this album follows the same forumla the whole time. Simple riffs, blast beats, and folk intstruments. The main focus is of course on the folk intstruments. The folk instrument that plays the biggest role throughout the album is definitely the flute. You hear a flute playing in every single song on the album except for a few of the instrumentals. As for the guitars, they aren't the main focus as they are in most other metal albums. They are pretty much pushed to the side on this album. Basically they just play simplistic riffs the whole time. No solos or anything mindblowing to be found here. The bass is inaudible as usual on metal albums. As for the drumming, its pretty good. Nothing technical, but the drummer, Vlad or Artist, plays with pretty good speed whether it be blast beats or just fast, regular beats. Other than the folk instruments, the drums are definitely a highlight instrumental wise.

Vocals on this album are handled by Masha also known by her stage name Scream. This woman is truly one of the top female vocalists in the metal genre today. Its very sad that this band is pretty unknown. She pretty much does it all. She has death growls, black metal screams, and amazing clean singing. Amazing is actually an understatement when describing her clean vocals. Her growls are reminiscent of Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy fame, which isn't a bad thing. The black metal screams that she does sound pretty much like the typical black metal style of vocals. Her best vocal performance is probably on the title track, which is also by far the best song on this album. I would mention her lyrics, but unfortunately I don't speak Russian. I'm sure they're great though. Folk metal lyrics are great for the most part.

Overall this album is worth a listen if you're a folk metal or black metal fan. Masha's vocals are reason enough to want to hear the album. There are a few down sides to this album though. First of all its a little too long. If there was about 15 to 20 minutes taken off of this album to make it around 40 or 45 minutes, it would be even better. Another down side is that the album gets repetitive. Its pretty much the same thing for the entire duration of the album, except the epic title track. Those are the only things that keep this album from getting a 4. If I was just judging by the vocals though this would be a 4.5 easily. So like I said earlier, worth a few or more than a few listens, but nothing groundbreaking.

Arkona (Rus) - Ot Serdtsa K Nebu - 78%

Lustmord56, September 23rd, 2008

Review originally published at http://www.teethofthedivine.com by Erik Thomas


Here’s a fine folk metal album from Russia’s Arkona that continues Napalm’s recent run of solid folk metal albums (Svartsot, Heidevolk, Alestorm and to some extent Hollenthon) and should please fans of typically Russian/Eastern European bands like Butterfly Temple, Obtest, Skyforger Pagan Reign as well as the usual folk overload fare like Finntroll and Asmegin.

Undoubtedly, Arkona will have the largest appeal to those that enjoyed Eluveitie’s recent album due to the heavy presence of a synth generated Hurdy Gurdy, flute, tin whistle and other folky instruments. However, the main draw of Arkona is female singer Masha who provides the ample screams, growls and plenty of ethnic clean and traditional vocals (”Sva” being particularly impressive and varied) throughout the albums 12 tracks, all in her native tongue.

Translated as “From Heart to Sky’, Ot Serdtsa K Nebu is a rangy album with lots of the expected folk metal fall backs and structures; bouncy, happy camp fire songs (”Goj, Kupala!!!”), more somber numbers (”Ot Serdtsa K Nebu”, “Oy, Pechal-Toska”) all with the usual more black/death metal based riffage (”Pokrovy Nebesnogo Startsa”, “Sva”), all littered with ethnic and folk instrumentation and Masha’s vocal schizophrenia It’s all very solidly done, especially when the band ramps up the Russian influence (”Slavsya Rus”", “Katitsja Kolo”) and even delivers a couple of enjoyable, traditional Russian songs (”Gutsulka”, “Cigular” and personal favorite “Kupala I Kostroma”).

That all being said, a lot of the songs are a bit drawn out (namely the 6-7 minute tracks and the Epilogue/Prologue) and other than “Sva”, the songs or entire album don’t absolutely grab me like say the recent Equilibrium release. That being said, Masha is a stunning talent, and I’d like to hear her in a more pure traditional/folk acoustic release.

Slavic Pride - 90%

Razakel, September 13th, 2008

If you are unfamiliar with Russia’s Arkona, their sound could be described as epic pagan folk metal with black metal overtones. Sounds complicated doesn’t it? That’s because it’s difficult to place Arkona into a genre for the reason that they play their own music, and they do so with pride.

The bands fourth album, Ot Serdtsa K Nebu displays Arkona’s trademark sound with a few new additions and surprises. Like earlier releases, the album opens with a gloomy introduction and spoken words, leading into the blistering opener, Pokrovy Nebesnogo Startsa. This is definitely one of the bands most aggressive songs to date. Masha’s vocals are really what give this song the extra kick. In fact her performance on this album is probably her most uncompromising as she performs everything from death growls to harmonic choir-like singing to black metal shrieks. The next few songs are a bit more folk influenced including my personal favourite, Ot Serdca K Nebu. It perfectly displays the great diversity which is what makes this album so enjoyable to listen to. Kicking off with a nice flute intro, it will remind listeners of a highlight from Vo Slavo Veliim! As always, we are treated to some beautiful instrumental tracks, (Gutsulka, Tsygular). Ot Serdtsa K Nebu stays interesting with epic, lengthy songs (Nad Propastiu Let, Sva) and increasingly diverse music.

Instrumentally, this album doesn’t differ too much from Vo Slavo Velikim! Although it does have a more progressive approach, all the trademark elements are still there. Masha’s performance is nothing short of astounding. Her range is uncontested not only in pagan metal, but metal alone and her aggressive side makes Angela Gossow look like Ashley Simpson.

I would put Ot Serdtsa K Nebu second to Vo Slavo Velikim! When it comes to picking a favourite Arkona album. Then again, I would not call it a step down in any way. Both albums just have a different approach to the same brilliant pagan music. If you are a fan of this genre, I recommend adding this one to your collection immediately.

Slava! ... and then something different - 88%

BloodIronBeer, November 15th, 2007

Arkona are a truly remarkable band with character and insight. I'd been eagerly awaiting the chance to hear this album, and I was somewhat taken aback when I finally got my hands on it.

It seems Arkona have taken a new abstract approach to their sound, and hence my shock. There are subtle hints of progressive, which blend their folk, layered, distinctly Pagan sound with something a bit further left of center, so to speak.

The second track, for example opens with a demented folk acoustic passage, and is then joined by bagpipes with a somewhat black metal riff. It's something like Enslaved while still being recognizable as Arkona.

The album features riffs that range from Russian folk ensemble, to death metal and black metal. Instruments that range from mouth harp to wind instruments. Vocals that range from choir to black metal hisses. Drum beats that range from polka beats to blasts. All of which are exchange parts seamlessly yet always make sense.

The dreary mood of the album seldom wanes. This album finds Akrona in a darker realm, which in previous albums they've only but stepped into. In places they seemed to have borrowed ideas from doom metal, while keeping the Pagan overtones set.

The vocalist, Masha, is simply stellar. She would be unmistakable among ten thousand voices. She sings beautifully, vividly, and with unfaltering passion. She can sing soothing passages in Russian, which are just gorgeous. But she can also be ravenous with her harsh vocals where she can barely be recognized as the same person, or as being a woman. She is one of my favorite vocalists under the black metal bracket.

This album was difficult to digest at first, for all it eccentricities. But after you break it in, it's a great journey into dark Pagan realms. Another high quality album from Arkona.



{Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com}