Review by Vard Aman
I have written before about the potential benefits of searching harder and farther through Femme Metal’s vast underground; there are some real gems out there. And then sharing those gems with others… I run a group on Facebook for Russian and CIS female-fronted metal bands, and one day a user posted a link to a band they had discovered on the group’s wall; a band that I had at the time not even heard of before, but a band that has since then become one of my favorites. That link was to a band called Maleficium Arungquilta.
Maleficium Arungquilta are from Izhevsk in Russia. They formed in 2009 and their name roughly translates to a dark spirit or supernatural force that performs evil sorcery (or evil deeds, if you translate “maleficium” directly). Musically, they live up to their name; lyrically, they are more diverse than that, although it does play a part. The strength of this arungquilta’s musical maleficium centers mainly around two great assets: 1) their ability to create haunting, and very powerful and beautiful melancholic melodies and 2) the quality and ability of the band’s vocalists, particularly the lead vocalist, Lisa Karkina (Lisa Shadrina now… sorry guys). Lisa’s voice must surely be one of the most beautiful female voices around. Her timbre and control are superb, as is the clarity of her voice – you won’t need lyric sheets to follow her (if you understand Russian that is). She also sings with an emotion that lies beneath her exquisite vocal control but is still very much there – a calm outer surface that still gives away just enough to reveal, or allows one to sense the turmoil underneath. It is very effective, especially when the vocal melodies she delivers are such as they are. To add to her normal voice, she also possesses a powerful operatic voice that would put most operatic singers in metal to shame, and thanks to the band’s exceptional songwriting skills, they are used wisely. Lisa is backed up occasionally by the smooth and sonorous clean vocals of Maxim Gankov, and by the blackened shrieks and wailing laments of Alexey Kirsanov (I hope I have them the right way around). Alexey is a potent Black Metal vocalist. Then there is the backing female vocalist, Yana Lindarskaya, who is a similar vocalist to Lisa and whose operatic vocals, when she uses them, are just as powerful. On the song “Чернобог” off “Касание Сквозь Стекло”, where Yana sings the intro, she brings an added folk element to her vocals.
Their sound is a difficult one to categorize as it is a sound that is very diverse. It is a mixture of Gothic, Doom, Black and Symphonic Metal (Gothic, Doom and Black Metal together is a combination that is sometimes referred to as “Dark Metal”), with elements of Folk and Darkwave thrown in here and there. It’s a combination that comes together and is preformed by the band in a way that is uniquely Maleficium Arungquilta. There is also something almost relaxing and peaceful about the melancholic atmospheres their music creates, both through the sound and through the powerful melodies. It is something you’ll need to hear, it’s not something that can easily be described. But there is one thing that I can say for certain, and that is that if music’s darker and more melancholic side appeals to you, this band is a MUST!
Maleficium Arungquilta released their epic debut album, “Искусство Драм” (“The Art of Dramas”) in 2010 featuring some powerful and moody masterpieces such as “Ангелы в Слезах” (“Angels in Tears”), “Пропасть” (“Abyss”) and “Искусство Драм”. “Касание Сквозь Стекло” is their second album and it basically carries on from where “Искусство Драм” left off, although it is slightly more up-tempo in general, shorter, and more varied as the band begin to experiment more with new styles and sounds.
The male vocals on “Мразь” and “Оставьте мне Крылья” are a little bit annoying and that can be put down to experiments that the vocalist tried but didn’t pull off, and that perhaps were not needed in the first place considering that the stock vocal talent this band offers is considerably above the general standard and that the package the band offers is already a unique one. That is really the one and only major flaw on this album. Perhaps the production could have been a bit better instrument wise, but that would be nit-picking.
The album is packed with so many great songs that it’s really hard to pick favorites (with the possible exception of “Я Пустота” which is an all-round standout track); and considering the more diverse nature of this album, favorites at any particular time are more likely to depend on one’s mood rather than on the individual songs themselves. If you’re in the mood for something more melancholy, I’d recommend “Я Пустота” and “Касание Сквозь Стекло”; if you’re in the mood for something faster, more Black Metal orientated, I’d recommend “Чернобог” and “Лилит”; and if you’re in the mood for a good mix of a bit of everything, there’s “Ангелы не Дышат” and “Я Стала Морем”. That said, while the album is perhaps a slightly more complete overall package than its predecessor, and with the possible exception of “Я Пустота”, there is nothing on it that quite matches the breathtaking epic melancholic and melodic beauty of “Пропасть” and “Искусство Драм”, but then I haven’t heard much that can.
Getting hold of either or both of these albums could be a bit of a challenge, but no worries, both are available for listening on Maleficium Arungquilta’s official website, their MySpace, and on their VK site (if you have a VK account).
Rating – 92/100
- Ангелы не Дышат [Angeli ne Diyshat – Angels don’t Breathe]
- Мразь [Mraz’ – Scum (or Filth)]
- Я Стала Морем [Ya Stala Moryem – I Became the Sea)
- Шелковый Рассвет [Shelkoviy Rassvet – Silken Dawn]
- Оставьте мне Крылья [Ostav’te mne Kriylya – Leave My Wings]
- Я Пустота [Ya Pustota – I am Emptiness]
- Касание Сквозь Стекло [Kasaniye Skvoz’ Steklo – Touch Through the Glass]
- Чернобог [Chernobog – Black God]
- Сквозь Пустоту [Skvoz’ Pustotu – Through the Emptiness]
- Мой Демон [Moy Demon – My Demon]
- Лилит [Lilith]
- Lisa Karkina – Vocals
- Yana Lindarskaya – Vocals
- Aleksey Kirsanov – Guitar, Vocals & Programming
- Maxim Gankov – Guitar, Vocals & Programming
- Roman Romanov – Bass
- Maxim Yacushev – Drums