Interview by Vard AmanNear Manaus in Brazil the dark clear Rio Negro joins the muddy Amazon and the water from two rivers flow beside one another without mixing, distinctly separate for a distance of about 6 km in the same river bed. It is known as the “Meeting of Water”, and such an unusual natural phenomenon has made it one of the main tourist attractions in Manaus. In Moscow, Russia, the beautiful melodic vocals of Slavic Folk joins the heavy, powerful guitars; pounding drums; and electronic elements of Industrial / Industrial Metal without mixing, distinctly separate from each other in the same band, and throughout an entire album and 3 track maxi-single. They are known as Risha, and such an unusual and unique blend has made them one of the hottest new prospects around. I spoke to two of those responsible: vocalist and bassist, Rishafox (also known as Risha, and sometimes, on the odd occasion, as Irina Lvova), and guitarist and programmer, Andrey Ostrav. Hi, welcome to FMW. Nice to be able to talk to you!
Risha & Ostrav: Zdravstvujte!So, how did the three of you meet and when did you decide to start Risha?
Risha: We met a long ago. I was 17 then and it was probably my first time on stage, exactly with the musicians who play in Risha now. After that we were scattered about different music projects but 2 years ago we met again. I and Ostrav have created the idea of Risha and Alex, the drummer, joined us thereafter.Tell us a little about your musical background, previous bands, and your session work.
Risha: Oh… During my not-that-long rock’n’roll life I played with about 20 bands, went on a European tour with Arkona, performed at big venues in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities, as well as in small underground clubs all over Russia. I always played in bands that differed a lot by style.
Оstrav: For about 8 years with the drummer Sasha we made part of one of the cult Russian industrial gothic bands of the 00′s – Deform. We toured over our endless country from side to side, shared stage with famous Russian and foreign bands like Korn, Papa Roach, Marilyn Manson, Eisbrecher, Deathstars, etc. This was fantastic! Continue reading »
Label : Sound Age Productions
Review by Vard Aman
Rarog (the band) formed in 2004 in Moscow (although Shmel’ had been writing material for some time already), released their debut album “Az Boga Vedayu!” in 2006 and then went a little quiet for a while, mainly due to a series of line up changes (Shmel’ also played bass for Kalevala from 2007-2011). Now they’re back with 2 albums in quick succession, “Vzoidi Solntse” in 2011 and now this one, “Syny Sokola”; and they’re doing very well for themselves. Rarog play Slavic Folk/Pagan Metal – a unique subgenre of Folk/Pagan Metal that has gradually left its native lands and is now growing ever more popular in the Metal world abroad, thanks largely to its most iconic band, Arkona. For Rarog, comparisons with Arkona are inevitable but not entirely justified; they may both share the same musical roots, but both bands have their own unique distinctive sounds. Still, fans of Arkona are likely to enjoy Rarog too, and for those who have not yet been introduced to the subgenre of Slavic Folk/Pagan Metal, Rarog are as good an introduction to it as any. Rarog are also more versatile and progressive than many of the other bands in their subgenre, and this should make them more easily accessible to fans of other subgenres. Their musical style moves with ease from the typical Slavic folk progressions to a fast Pagan/Black Metal style with furious blast beats, to a slow melodic Doom Metal style without ever losing their distinctive sound. Like most Slavic Folk/Pagan Metal, Rarog makes use of several different traditional Slavic musical instruments to compliment their sound; and in Rarog’s case, a few non-traditional ones as well, like violins and cello.
Their lyrical topics cover ancient Slavic myths and legends, the history of the Slavs and Slavic Paganism before the Christian invasion in what was then Rus. Since 2010 Rarog has been fronted by Aleksandra Sidorova (also a member of Moscow’s Silver Voice choir), and it is her voice that gives Rarog its real edge – she is the beautiful Siren-like call of the Firebird (if I may mix up legends slightly). She is capable of many different vocal styles; the two that are most prevalent on this album are her Slavic folk style and her academic/operatic style. She excels at both; but what really makes Aleksandra an exceptional singer is the uniqueness of her voice and the emotion she is capable of generating. At times, her voice takes on an almost innocent childlike quality, at other times it is more plaintive, sometimes even desperately so – she can bring her voice to just about breaking yet stops just short, without ever losing her vocal control. It is haunting indeed. Few academic/operatic singers are capable of generating such emotion… or maybe it’s just that they don’t try, maybe they are concentrating so much on vocal control and projection that they end up forfeiting the emotion and become effectively singing machines. Aleksandra proves that an academic/operatic singer can have both total control and convey powerful emotion at the same time; and it is very, very effective! While I’m at it: if you want to hear how operatic vibrato can be used in such a way that it leaves the listener with gooseflesh and a lump in the throat (as opposed to making the cat go AWOL), listen to how Aleksandra uses it at around the 1:00 mark in “Serdechnaya”. Seriously, wow!
Male vocals, both clean and growls (and battle cries), are provided by Shmel’; and he is also very good at what he does. The production is clear, similar to the previous album, but the songwriting on “Сыны Сокола” is better and it is a more mature album overall – Rarog is a band that is continuing to improve. Highlights from the album there are aplenty: “Syn Sokola”, the first track is brutal and fast, with some beautiful violin melodies; “Ognenniy Mech” is a heavy Folk Metal song; “Rogneda” has a slow tempo in which Aleksandra’s versatility and range of styles comes to the fore; “Perunova Ren” is fast and furious, good to have in the heat of battle (with a slight breather in the middle); “Veschiy Sokol” has a climatic feel to it as does the final (Rarog) track “Serdtse Voevody”, which is a slow and powerful track where Shmel’ gets to show his own versatility as well. But out of all the highlights on this album the biggest one is the third track, “Serdechnaya” – easily one of my candidates for song of the decade so far. It is a slow and powerful song with amazing melodies and harmonies, and features one of the best and most unique singers around delivering a performance of note! The album ends with “Krov Nashih Vragov”, which is a Russian cover (in Russian) of “Blood of My Enemies” by Manowar.
Rarog make the song their own while staying true to the original. Lyrically, the gist of it is the same. Norsemen (Varyags) had a large influence on Rus up to the tenth century CE prior to the Christian invasion and occupied much of the Northern Rus states, so the Norse mythology that makes up the background to the lyrics of “Blood of My Enemies” is not really that out of place. How well the Varyags and the Eastern Slavs got along at the time (people being people) I do not know, that’s a question for some genuine historians (and not a CD reviewer), but one thing that is known well enough is that what came next for both Slavic and Nordic Paganism was not exactly pleasant. But the legends and the cultural knowledge have survived and Rarog (and others) are here to tell you about them; and if you do not understand what they’re singing about, no worries, just turn up the volume and admire the awesome power of the Firebird, and melt to its hauntingly beautiful call.
Rating – 90/100
- Сын Сокола [Syn Sokola – Son of the Falcon]
- Невидаль [Nevidal – Wonder / Far Far Away]
- Сердечная [Serdechnaya – Heartfelt]
- Пятый Снег [Pyatiy Sneg – The Fifth Snow]
- Огненный Меч [Ognenniy Mech – Burning Sword / Flaming Sword]
- Рогнеда [Rogneda]
- После Победы [Posle Pobedy – After the Victory]
- Перунова Рень [Perunova Ren]
- Вещий Сокол [Veschiy Sokol – Prophetic Falcon]
- Сердце Воеводы [Serdtse Voevody – The Heart of the Governors]
- Кровь Наших Врагов (Manowar cover) [Krov Nashih Vragov – Blood of Our Enemies]
- Aleksandra “Rys’” Sidorova – Vocals – Vocals
- Pavel Kuzmin – Guitars
- Aleksandr “Shmel’” Shvilev – Bass
- Vadim Semenov – Drums
Interview by Si Smith
Label : Napalm Records
Review by Tony Cannella & Si Smith
Russian Pagan/Folk Metallers Arkona are currently prepping their next full-length album for later in the year, in the meantime they have managed to come out with the EP “Stenka Na Stenku” to appease their ever growing fan base. 6-songs and 25-minutes of power folk is what you will receive on “Stenka Na Stenku”. Included here you will find a new track that will appear on the next album, as well as five non-album tracks. The opener “Stenka Na Stenku” is a fast up-tempo opener and one that sets the pace for what is to follow. The energetic and melodic “Valenki” keeps things going full speed ahead. The bands signature Folk Metal sound remains intact, as you can tell on the acoustic “Goi, Rode, Goi!”, “Skal!” (Featuring guest vocals courtesy of Frekl from the band Varg), “Duren” and the album closer “Noviy Mir”. While this is not the full-length that their fans have been waiting for, “Stenka Na Stenku” gets the job job in building anticipation for the impending release of Arkona’s next slice of pagan, folk nirvana.
Rating – 80/100
Label : Napalm Records
Review by Erwin van Dijk
Arkona is a pagan metal band from Russia. The band is named after the temple fortress of Arkona, on the island of Rugen in Germany. This temple was a religious centre of the Slavic Rani in the early Middle Ages. Ironically the temple was destroyed by Danish invaders (Vikings turned over to Christianity of all things!) and this was the start of the forced Christianization of Eastern Europe.Back at home the band decided not to go on a long hiatus and in October 2008 started working on their 5th album “Goi, Rode, Goi”. The level maintained on the album “Ot Serdca K Nebu” was very high, but the band aimed to make a very unique album, something that had never been done before by them. In the breaks during recording the band managed to release and present the second DVD “Noch Velesova” in May 2009 at Napalm Records, and also Arkona performed at the German festival Winternoise. The work on the album was finished only in June 2009, and we can say now that it was the most laborious and time-taking recording, where more than 40 musicians participated. For the first time the band used a full-fledged chorus and a string quintet, and the special pearl of this album is the 15-minute saga “Na Moey Zemle” which is about the adventures of a Slav in European countries, with the participation of the musicians from such bands as Manegarm, Obtest, Skyforger, Menhir and Heidevolk. The parts of ethnical instruments on this album are performed partly by Vladimir Cherepovsky and partly by Vladimir “Volk”, who has become a full-blown member of Arkona recently. The album cover design was done by Kris Verwimp, known to many. He carried out enormous work drawing a series of conceptual illustrations for each song of this album.Arkona has not forgotten that folk & pagan metal is a straight descend from the black metal from the eighties (see Bathory’s Blood on Ice and Hammerheart) and Arkona still true to these roots. Like Negura Bunget Arkona is not oriented on Scandinavian or German pagan but finds inspiration from Eastern Europe were the Slavs were the last bastion of Paganism during the mediaeval ages. All the songs are in Russian. Does this matter? Not really. While English seems to be the standard language bands such as Korpiklaani have proven that there is more than the language of McDonalds and Coca Cola. Music wise there is a lot of varity between the fourteen songs on the album, ranging from Korpiklaani style party tracks to black metal influenced songs and everything in between. Each time you listen to the album you will hear something new. This is something I really like of this album. And necessary because the album goes on for almost 80 minutes, twice the length of a ‘standard’ folk metal album album.The voice over between some songs gives the album a nice Lord of the Rings feeling (or, even better, think of the movie The 13th Warrior) Speaking of voices: Masha does a very good job on this album.A song like Korochun is a real party song in Korpiklaani style. This is logic because the Korochun was a day similair to Halloween: a day when the Black God (or, in Russian Czernobog and other evil spirits are most potent. Some of the faster songs have a little Cruachan feeling and are an invitation for a moshpit.The album has a solid production but does not sound to polished like the last Leaves’ Eyes album. It has still some rough edges. Conclusion: The album might not a groundbreaking piece of art that will change the course of the pagan metal as we know it but still it is a lot of fun to listen to it. And, it makes you wonder how many more bands from Russia are waiting to be discovered.
Rating – 90/100
- Goi, Rode, Goi!
- Na Moey Zemle
- V Tsepaikh Drevney Tainy
- Tropoiu Nevenannoi
- Liki Bessmertnykh Bogov
- Kolo Navi
- Kebo Hmuroe, Tuchi Mrachniye
- Masha “Scream” Arhipova – Vocals
- Sergei “Lazar” – Guitars
- Vladimir “Volk” – Wind Ethnic Instruments (Flutes & Bagpipes)
- Ruzlan “Kniaz” – Bass
- Vlad “Artist” Sokolov – Drums & Keyboards
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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