Vera : The tendency to write more and more long, complex songs – with the previous album ‘Yav’ (2014) as highlight for the time being – steadily continues on the eighth studio album of the Russian pagan metal band Arkona. Let’s put it straight: these are not sing along tunes, but rather extensive epics with feeling for experiment and adventure.
‘Khram’ means ‘the temple’ and during the intro we are right away immersed in ethnic chants with mysterious throat singing of guest vocalist Nordman from Nytt Land. It gets more familiar and recognizable in the powerful metal track ‘Shtorm’ in which front woman Masha shifts from grunts to clean vocals and back. It is a plus that they are using real authentic folk instruments instead of the artificial sounding samples of the beginning. Next they already come up with the longest track from the album (seventeen minutes long). This mid-paced ‘Tseluya Zhizn’ has a dark centerpiece with children’s voices, percussion graced by a beautiful folk melody, a climax with momentum and growls and a captivating addition on cello by A. Kozlovsky who once contributed to ‘Goi Rode Goi’. In the – once again very long – ‘Rebionok Bez Imeni’ the music even reminds me a bit of Primordial and Moonsorrow and that’s surely no punishment. The title track includes a lot of spoken and proclaiming parts, while guest pianist Robert Engstrand (ex-Turisas) regales the raucous, thunderous ‘V Pogonie’ with classical refinement. This is surely the heaviest track, although the next songs also have a fine balance between softer and heavy. Those who will take the time to dig deeper into this record, will learn that bands grow towards maturity. Some do that quick, for others it takes a while, but this is once again a step in the right direction. ‘Khram’ happens to be a voluptuous piece of work with a length of five quarters of an hour, but it takes you on a trip with versatile adventures.