Arkona - Vo Slavu Velikim! (Re-Release) - (9.5/10)
Published on March 26, 2009
And the third strike of Moscow’s Arkona in terms of re-releases via Vic Records. Originally released only a year after the debut, the Russians already had kind of established themselves (if you discount the fact that next nobody outside of Russia had heard of them one way or the other) and took one big step forward with this release, because for the first time it featured real folk instruments, lending the compositions even more authenticity, we get bagpipes, flutes, accordion, mouth harp and others.
If you are not familiar with Arkona yet, try to read my reviews of Vorozhdenie and Lepta first, as you will get the chronological sequence then, Pagan/Folk Metal at its finest is what Vo Slavu Velikim! is offering us, once more led by the songwriting and vocal talents of Masha “Scream” Arkhipova and without a doubt this was the pinnacle of her creation to that moment. The introduction of real instruments for the folk parts gives the band way more flexibility and depth, the (real) bagpipes alone add so much to a song such as “Skvoz Tuman Vekov”, and it also becomes clear that this infusion also seems to have rekindled the addictive and gripping spark of the debut, after “Lepta” having been a little slide back in the evolution, because even at first listen the songs connect and get you moving one way or the other.
Masha’s voice still is amazing, giving us the pure folk treatment one second and then stripping the bark off the trees the next, all working with the mood of the song, and this time around there is one killer after the other like the title track “Vo Slavo Velikim!” or the absolutely amazing “Po Syroi Zemle”, where the gruff vocals together with the increased heaviness form a great counterpoint to the strong Folk Metal with its bagpipes and flutes, while “Zov Bitvy” speeds things up considerably, definitely putting the metal into the folk Metal, so you can see, this is anything but one-dimensional. I also love “Gnev Vremen”, which is kind of a mix between the two and has these majestic atmosphere that just grabs me and won’t let go. And they end things with a bang with the pure folk metal of “Sila Slavnyh”, if this one does not get you moving, you’re dead, it’s that simple.
The production is clear and crisp, letting all the individual instruments shine and add to the mix, which in combination with the stellar songwriting and great execution makes Vo Slavu Velikim! a milestone in the pagan/folk metal genre and marks a big step into stardom for this quartet, because Arkona also have originality and character as leaders and not followers. If you like this style, this album is an absolute must, no way around it!