Eventual readers might remember a certain triple album-review from December, wherein Arkona received some seriously good grades (“Vozhrozhdenie”75, “Lepta” 80 and “Vo Slavu Velikim!” 95). All three of them where re-released, for the western market, as Arkona had already taken the East by storm. Now we get to hear what they sound like live, as they have re-released their 2006 album “Jizn’ vo Slavu” (“Live… For the Glory”), as the main treat in a package of gourmet pagan metal.
“Jizn’ vo Slavu” was recorded in 2005, live at Club Relax in Moscow and contains music from all the above-mentioned albums, and the 2002 demo “Rus”.
I wonder if Arkona is capable of doing anything wrong… Normally I think live-albums is a waste of time (with a few exclusions like Maiden’s “Live after Death” and Mayhems “Live in Leipzig). I find them annoying, because basically the fans doesn’t get anything new. We get some well-known songs, badly recorded and disturbed by audience noise. For some reason I’ve always seen live-albums as a way for the labels to make more money, and little else. Arkona, of course, changes that view a bit, as they create a brand new atmosphere out of songs I’ve come to love from their studio-albums. The set-list is nothing short of brilliant. All the hits are there, in a new order, perfectly attuned to each other. The sound is superior to any live-recording I’ve ever heard, the audience noise at a minimum. As a special additional benefit this concert does NOT include a 15 minute speech about how wonderful everything is, and how much boy-bands suck (quoth Bruce Dickinson), in the start of every song. This is a no-bullshit approach that I like.
Still, I’m not completely convinced. I’m not going to buy a live-album just because the sound is good. I still doesn’t get anything new. Or what?
Arkona is in a charitable mood, I guess. They actually added the entire three tracks of their “Rus” demo – a record that is nigh impossible to get your greedy hands on in any (legal) way. It’s the original recordings from 2002, so the sound work is rather coarse, but isn’t that what demos are supposed to be? I’ve heard far worse, for sure. Since the beginning Arkona has had lead singer Masha “Scream” as the focal point. She hasn’t changed much, but it is about time I correct myself: In my December review I wrote that Scream was backed up by a male growler. That has never been the case. In fact Scream does every bit of vocal herself, which is quite impressive. As a female growler she’s at least in the league of Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy, if not better!
The “Rus” demo is an appropriate prologue to the “Vozhrozhdenie” album, as it is even more serene and melancholy. The keyboards could need a rerecording, as they are the only thing that sounds cheap. It’s a very touching trinity of songs, though, perfect for a night spend watching the dusk turn to darkness.
As if a concert and a free demo wasn’t enough, Arkona has added another FULL album to the package! Scream is a very busy lady, fronting or participating in Svarga, Ancestral Volkhves, Slavery and Nargathrond. The latter of these started out in 2000 and involves several other members of Arkona as well. It started as a black metal project, and is currently inactive. I don’t know why Arkona chose to add Nargathronds “Inevitability” album to “Jizn’ vo Slavu”, but I’m very glad the did!
“Inevitability” is – so far – the last album of “Screams” side-project, released in 2004, and the initial black metal style has been slowed down. The album shows good examples of electro-backed goth-rock (obvious in “Sily Vetra” and “Kak byt’ mne zdes’?”) and the Russian version of genuine rock, naturally dominated by Screams vocals, which is best described with the psychiatric term “passive-aggressive”. The music flows, unhindered by voluptuous solo-wanking. Like with Arkona, audio-unity and massive collective efforts are the way of Nargathrond. The mood is gloomy but full of might.
“Inevitability” is a great way to learn other aspects of the Arkona-crew, and a great album for relaxation and reading. It doesn’t have the party-quality of the mother-band, but it’s certainly worth your time. As a fumbling student in the field of post-Soviet Eastern rock, I passionately recommend this album!
I have four ratings for this thoroughly accomplished package:
Arkona: Pagan/Folk Metal
Nargathrond: Goth-rock / Rock
Jizn’ vo Slavu: 60/100
Entire package: 70/100
Artwork (Entire package): 80/100