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Arkona - "Slovo" (CD)

Arkona - "Slovo" CD cover image

"Slovo" track listing:

1. Az' (2:11)
2. Arkaim (5:53)
3. Bol'no Mne (5:40)
4. Leshiy (4:25)
5. Zakliatie (5:14)
6. Predok (2:13)
7. Nikogda (4:45)
8. Tam Za Tumanami (3:52)
9. Potomok (0:54)
10. Slovo (5:28)
11. Odna (5:51)
12. Vo Moiom Sadochke... (2:34)
13. Stenka Na Stenku (2:35)
14. Zimushka (5:49)

Reviewed by on August 22, 2011

"The actual music is good, but the band's lack of a sense of scope has both shortened the length of too many tracks and forced the band to work with too many ideas for enough tracks to stand out."

I first became an Arkona fan four years ago when the band released “Ot Serdtsa K Nebu.” I was instantly blown away by the way that the band mixed progressive arrangements, death metal and traditional Russian music. I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, as the band was able to have their music featured on the American version of "The Office," despite not having any North American tour presence.

Not being Russian myself, I have no idea what lead vocalist Masha Scream is saying, but it allegedly has to do with Russian history and folklore. Of course, I have no personal connection to it, since I've lived in the United States for my entire life. The fact that Arkona's music has still been able to move me despite not knowing Russian or the culture of the Russian people speaks volumes about the quality of this band.

While I find most folk metal to be too soft for my tastes, Arkona manage to be a band that's more folk than metal, but I still respect. The band actually manages to mix in just the right amount of both folk and metal into their music to make fans of both genres pleased, while also writing songs that put a modern twist on traditional Russian music. While some tracks - particularly “Leshiy” - may be too edgy for many fans of neo-folk, Arkona still has enough softer tracks on “Slovo” to keep fans who aren’t into harsh vocals listening.

That said, fans of progressive metal will probably be let down. The band still uses non-traditional song structures, but the songs are often much shorter and alternate between folkier tracks and harder metal songs, while still managing to let both styles be present. Even though “Slovo” is an hour-long record, it feels bloated and exhausting by having fourteen different songs on it. Arkona are not only alienating much of their fanbase, but they also made an album that's both too long and unfocused. The actual music is good, but the band's lack of a sense of scope has both shortened the length of too many tracks and forced the band to work with too many ideas for enough tracks to stand out.

So while “Slovo” is still a good album and a good introduction to the band, it's bound to let down long-time fans, both due to a disjointed track order and the lack of any long epic tracks. While it isn’t an album of the year contender, fans of folk metal should still dig it.

Highs: Seamlessly blends folk music with metal, manages to have a few songs that should appeal to fans of neo-folk who dislike extreme metal and vice versa

Lows: Shortened songs, too many songs, loss of prog feeling

Bottom line: Not as good as previous albums, but okay for newcomers to the band

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)