Vera : ‘Ashes’ happens to be the fourth album of Grai, the successor of the in 2014 released ’Mlada’. This six piece folk/pagan metal band hails from the faraway Tatarstan, in the East of Russia. Their culture adds that Slavonic, Russian tinge to their folkloristic flavoured metal. Then we spontaneously think of bands such as Arkona, Alkonost, Skyforger and Metsatoll. And indeed, Grai can be considered as a blend of all these bands. We use the English titles, although everything is sung in Russian.
‘Haze’ can be seen as an atmospheric intro with soaring synthesizers, beautiful guitar leads and Slavonic female vocals. Guitar and flute sound melancholic in ‘Song Of Dead’, but soon they cut loose with fervent black metal parts and raucous male grunts. At the beginning of ‘A Water Well’ we hear mouth harp, but soon chunky riffs with folk instruments join in to have that rock vibe. The band uses bag-pipes, flutes, acoustic guitar, Jewish harp and kaljuka to achieve an authentic sound. After the slow and melancholic ‘’Darkness With Me’ follows the single ‘Donya’ which is smooth rocking Kazak-like music with powerful guitars, but there is also a calmer intermezzo. Female vocals and male grunts are intermittent in the very tight played ‘Tread Of Winter’ and the following ‘Shade’. The last three songs are rather calm and gloomy and as bonus we have a fine version of Rotting Christ’s ‘Pir Threontai’ with inventive percussion and swinging bagpipes in the vein of In Extremo. This is a very meritorious folk metal album!