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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!