Alkonost – “Сказки Странствий” [“Skazki Stranstviy” -“Tales of Wanderings”] (2013)

Label: Sound Age Productions

Review by Vard Aman

Alkonost is back! Since 1996, they have deservedly grown into one of Russia’s best known and most accomplished Epic Pagan/Folk Metal bands (mixing bits of Doom and Black Metal into their sound). One of their greatest assets was the beautifully smooth operatic vocals of Alyona Pelevina – easily one of the best operatic vocalists the Metal world has produced in my opinion (and in the opinions of many others, no doubt). Incidentally, the Alkonost in Slavic mythology is a goddess of the underworld with the body of a bird and the head of a beautiful woman, and the sound it makes is so beautiful that anyone who hears it will forget everything they know, and will never want anything else again – making Alkonost a rather aptly named band. Now, where was I? Oh, yes…. It therefore came as a bit of an end-of-an-era style shock when Alyona left the band in 2011 (as did their drummer and keyboardist). How does one replace a vocalist like Alyona? (Answer: With Ksenia Pobuzhanskaya, that’s how! More on that later). The pinnacle of Alkonost‘s career in the previous decade for me was “Путь Непройденный” (“The Path We Never Made”), with anthems such as “Ночь Перед Битвой” (“The Night Before the Battle”), “Море-Сон” (“The Dream Sea”) and “Нивушка-Нива”, and everything else Alkonost has released since then has lived in the shadow of the sheer epicness of that album; even though they have also been excellent albums themselves and also featured some outstanding anthems, such as “Время Ярости” (“Time of Fury”) from “Kаменного Сердца Кровь” (“Stone Heart Blood”) and “Чудосветная Быль” (“Wonderland True Story”) from “На Крыльях Зова” (“On the Wings of the Call”). Perhaps it would be more fair to say that “Путь Непройденный” was the trendsetter. Alkonost have their signature sound and they seldom stray far from it, so you know what you can expect when Alkonost release a new album (great if you love their sound, a bit predictable if you are indifferent about it). So what can you expect from their new album, “Сказки Странствий”, now that they have a new vocalist? The short and simple answer is: you can expect Alkonost, and this is for three reasons:

1 – The material for “Сказки Странствий” was written in 2010 when Alyona was still in the band; 2 – Alyona‘s vocals still feature on all but three of the songs; and 3 – with Ksenia, Alkonost have replaced like with like, and – I’m going to stick my neck out here – brilliant with even better. Ksenia‘s vocals feature on three of the songs, namely “Туманы Холодных Снов”; “Сказки Странствий” and “Подруга Ночь”, those being the three most prominent live songs from the album. Ksenia‘s vocals are very similar to Alyona‘s but Ksenia tends to have more feeling and “oomph” to her vocals, as well as being more versatile. Live, Ksenia is much a more active and flamboyant front-woman than Alyona was, by a long way – if you’ve seen Alkonost live (or video footage of them live, or even photos) you’ll have noticed that Ksenia fits right in with a band that must surely be the undisputed windmill headbanging champions of Russia. It should not come as a surprise then that my favourite songs on the album are the three that feature Ksenia, because they are, in my opinion, the best songs on the album, and because they present to the world the new voice (and the new head) of (the) Alkonost. That’s what we have all been waiting for ever since Ksenia‘s joining the band was announced. The rest of the songs are true Alkonost, and are a fitting farewell to the vocal excellence that paved the way for Alkonost, and left her mark as one of the best operatic vocalists in Metal. And that makes “Сказки Странствий” a landmark album on path that Alkonost has made.

By the way, it is rumoured that an English version of “Сказки Странствий” is planned; and on the English version all the vocals will be preformed by Ksenia and Maxim Shtanke. Put that one on your list too!

Rating – 90/100

 

Tracklist

  1. Intro
  2. Два Меча [Dva Mecha – Two Swords]
  3. Туманы Холодных Снов [Tumaniy Holodniykh Snov – The Mists of Cold Dreams]
  4. Сказки Странствий [Skazki Stranstviy – Tales of Wanderings / Tales of Travels]
  5. Подруга Ночь [Podruga Noch’ – My Friend the Night]
  6. Земля Грёз [Zemlya Gryoz – Land of Dreams]
  7. Ветры-Бури [Vetriy-Buri – Storm Winds]
  8. Одиночество Моё [Odinochestvo Moyo – My Loneliness]
  9. The Eerie (Gods Tower cover)

 

Line Up

  • Ksenia Pobuzhanskaya – Vocals
  • Alyona Pelevina – Vocals
  • Andrey Losev – Guitars
  • Dmitriy Sokolov – Guitars
  • Almira Fatkhullina – Keyboards
  • Vladimir Pavlik – Bass & Vocals
  • Anton Chepigin – Drums

 

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