If there is one thing that I love about Russian Metal, then it is its bands’ uncanny talent for unique and gripping melodies, which often are inspired by the vast Folk music repertoire this equally vast country has to offer. And one band that masterfully knows how to utilize them for the best effect are ALKONOST from the independent republic of Tatarstan (Naberezhnye Chelny to be precise)), who album after album manage to amaze me with great, atmospheric compositions that continuously weave in and out of Gothic and Pagan Metal, but meshing them together in a unique and spellbinding way.
“Pesni Vechnogo Dreva” is not a new album, but features partially re-recorded Russian versions of “Songs Of The Eternal Oak” and “Spirit Tending To Revolt”, so basically from the years 2000 and 2001, but anybody thinking that the songs contained here would sound dated and less refined than what we’ve come to know from ALKONOST, think again, because these songs almost sound as great as their new material. Now I obviously do not know, if they also re-arranged things a little or not, as I do not know the originals, but even at this early stage in their career the sextet had its own sound by combining Folk, Pagan and Doom Metal with female vocals and these irresistible melodies that only Russian bands seem to be able to come up with.
The opening riff/melody of “Gody Predskazaniy” is enough to drive this point home with frightening ease, because it is just mesmerizing. The biggest difference to the new material probably is that things seem a little more earthy and also that the growls are predominant with the female vocals only coming in as accents here and there, but GOD, these lead guitars are incredible, “Solntse Nashei Zemli” has this really simple, but all the more effective melody that will drive you berserk, with the added light choir in the chorus, embedded into this sluggish, almost Doomy song, which is one thing that threads through most of this album: with the exception of closing “Den Posledniy Moi” things are mostly slow-paced, but it never gets boring, but puts you into this kind of solemn mood, even though some people might get a little bored by the relative uniformity in speed.
“K Podsumoy Smorone“ for the first time also introduces clear male vocals (with a Folky chant added), which adds another dimension to the ALKONOST sound and is a welcome extra element to enrich their music, but overall one of the best ways to describe the Russians’ music is: beautiful. Not many bands manage to combine these styles in such great way, adding little details that spice things up and give them their very own touch. For everybody, who would like to discover the beginnings of this great band, this is your chance!
(Online November 26, 2008)