Release Date: 19/01/2018
Record Label: Napalm Records
Russian pagan metal band Arkona released their eighth studio album Khram earlier this year. I must admit I haven’t given Arkona much time apart from the odd song, but since I’ve been listening to a lot of new bands I normally wouldn’t have even thought of listening to, so I thought I’d give Arkona another shot.
The introductory track, Mantra (Intro), begins with some kind of ambient noise, and some low drums. Demonic whispering begins, echoing. Tribal drums and chants over the whispering end the introduction. It sets up a mysterious, sinister and spiritual atmosphere.
Shtorm immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album. There are heavy black metal influences with harsh vocals, it is very melodic. There are flutes which come through and some other non-traditional folk instruments. About halfway through the song there is a more celtic feel with the pipes and clean vocals towards the end of the track.
Tseluya zhizn’ is a near 18 minute epic, with a progressive black metal feel. It has a darker feeling than the previous track. Again there are predominately harsh vocals, but there are some more clean vocals. There are several sections which seem to repeat throughout the song. There are sections filled predominantly with pipes, tribal drums with a child speaking. There is a small respite from the tension at around 12 minutes, but this does not last long. The track ends with the child whispering again, but at the very end, the voice is taken over by an adult. The adult is heard a little in the penultimate child whispering section, but in the end, the adult takes over.
Rebionok bez imeni begins with guitars only, fading in. A distorted guitar joins in, before the drums come in about a minute and a half into the track. There are pipes and flutes in the background, and a piano makes an appearance as well. Again there is a mix of clean and harsh vocals. We get two tracks in one here, the first half stopped abruptly and we then get an almost 80’s style of guitar rhythms, and there are more clean vocals in the mix. The track fades out and goes back to the more melodic black metal we are used to hearing.
The title track, Khram, has a lot of distorted guitar and whispering. There is still a black metal feel, and there are blast beats for the first time. There are predominantly harsh vocals again, but there are some clean vocals in the second half of the song, alternating with the harsh vocals.
The initial melody of V pogonie za belog teriyu reminds me a little of Old Corpse Road, there is the familiar black metal and mix of harsh and clean vocals. There is a breakdown which has an ambient electronic feeling to it, before the track goes back to black metal and clean vocals right at the end.
V ladonyah bogov begins with a piano intro, followed by distorted guitar and blast beats. Again there is some melodic black metal, with a piano interlude, and the track ends with guitar fading out.
The penultimate track, Volchitsa, is a lot more spiritual. There is more flute and pipe melodies, and more tribal drums. This track also ends with a guitar fading out. We end with Mantra again, with more ambient noise, demonic echoes and chanting.
This album keeps you on edge, you don’t know what to expect, but it all fits together. There is a lot of black metal styling in this album, and a little less folk than I would like. There are none of the more jaunty, folky songs from Arkona’s repertoire such as Yarilo, which is my preferred type of folk/pagan metal. However, if you are a fan of the more black metal style folk, this is definitely an album you will enjoy.