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Holy Overstuffed Albums, Batman! - 67%

severzhavnost, November 27th, 2013

Apparently there can be too much of a good thing, and this here's Exhibit A. "На Горизонте" features many ideas that push the great Catharsis for leadership of Russia's keyboard-laced power metal scene. Then those best qualities are rehashed over and over; until you finally notice that Арктида have played you a handful of highlights amid nearly half an hour of filler.

Since power metal is a happy genre, let's start with what you can like about this album. Konsantin Savchenko has a voice perfectly suited to the genre. It's clear, powerful and expressive, much like Oleg Zhilyakov of Catharsis. Maybe lacking the near-operatic range of Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin, but still far beyond an average effort. His more, let's say "normal" selection of notes keeps him from distracting the listener from the instruments, while staying tied to some very catchy vocal melodies. Check out the title song and "Войны великой Руси" for those you'd most like to sing along with. Savchenko at his best brings that hopeful, valorous sound that's uplifting but never sickly sweet.

Dmitriy Mashkov on the keys is the other consistent success of Арктида's debut full-length. He adds a layer of ornateness, rather than swamping the music in insipid happiness as sometimes threatens to happen in the genre. Songs 6-8 have the best, most dramatic keyboard melodies. Actually, the best of everything is mostly confined to this midpoint area of the album. It's not that Mashkov is elsewhere unable to give space to Burlakov's guitar, it's that too often the latter doesn't step up enough despite certainly having the room he needs.

And there's the weakness of "На Горизонте". Mashkov offers quite an array of choices in the keyboard mood department. There are rousing anthemic passages bordering on neo-classical composition ("На Горизонте", "большая вода", and even the otherwise tepid "Новый день"). There are down-tempo introspective bits on slower ballady songs ("Осень", "Отпускаю"). But too often Burlakov doesn't pick up the slack and fill in the guitar parts with anything remotely matching the suggested individual tone of the song! Songs 6-8 have a near monopoly on proper heavy guitar tone, both in melody and solos. Most other songs, if they have a solo at all, it's processed-to-piss Dragonforcey doodling up and down the scales. 

Outside the brief midway high points, the verse and chorus riffs are plagued by the same weakness, resulting in an undeserved sense that the keys dominate too much. He usually just generically speeds along, taking his cue from the capable yet unspectacular drummer Alex Ovchinnikov. You can excuse some constancy in power metal drumming, because it is designed to hold up speed as its most important function. However, where you're happy with Ovchinnikov ably filling expectations, you'd want more from a lead instrument like Burlakov's guitar.

Yes there is definitely too much sameness going on here. Songs 3-5, then 9,10,12 and 14 are nearly indistinguishable from each other. Арктида, here's some advice: combine those two groupings of samey songs into two extended 11 or 12 minuters. There are many less seasoned power metal fans who would've bought that mere length masquerading as epic quality. As it is, you have 7 songs on this album that just breeze by with no staying power, other than a nagging deja vu. 

One final pleasant surprise is that the two extras on this overlong album are actually worth keeping. "Избранные" is a Dream Evil cover - albeit translated to Russian. The Swedes' more guitar heavy sound is a welcome breakup to "На Горизонте"'s mood, which by this point is softening into the ballad territory. There's also a sympho version of Арктида's already-rehashed demo song "Нечего терять". The samples are a nice touch and well integrated into the song. 

Another reviewer said of Арктида's next album "Сквозь столетия" that it would have been a great 10-track album. I quite agree with regards to this album as well. Trim the fat, and what's left is a very nice cut of meaty power metal.

[Edited for once naming the guitarist as the keyboard player.]