I can say that this might well be the best folk-metal album I have ever heard; and I am not inexperienced with the genre.
Pounding drumbeats and rhythmic guitars mix with Misha and co's haunting slavic melodies to produce an awe-inspiring ode to Mother Russia. I must say that Ot Serdca K Nebu was the first of Arkona's albums that I bought, and I thought it to be insurpassable - Vo Slavu Velikim is easily its equal. It's enough to make one's heart ache for the protective bosom of the Goddess.
I find Arkona to be more authentic than some bands (*cough* Turisas *cough*) in the way they convey their emotions regarding their homeland and refuse to translate their work into English lest the fire be lost.
Ignore the album cover; don't let the fact that it looks like a piss poor mescaline trip put you off buying this tasty chunk of slavic authenticity.
Russian folk metal with female lead vocals and an army of authentic folk musicians? i think i'll have me some of that.
Vo Slavu Velikim is one of those albums thats so damn near perfect it's bloody hard to review. The band take a familiar formula of folk metal with plenty of authentic instruments and feed it through the Arkona machine and colour it with wonderful Russian melodies, faultless song writing and easily one of the most gifted vocal talents the genre has ever seen. The first thing that really strikes you about the album is that Arkona have crafted a distinct sound for themselves which is heavily steeped in tradional Russian melodies and is quite different from their Scandinavian peers. Second, the band have this wonderful contrast between simplicity and complexity in terms of song writing that strikes a great balance throughout; the riffs themselves are not too complicated and rather simple at times, but the song structures are rather complex with each track featuring many twists and turns all the way through. This lets Arkona write songs that are interesting and complex yet memorable at the same time. The third shining brilliance is the use of trad intruments - again balance seems to be the name of the game as there are a uge variety of folky leads from flutes and whistles to violins and bagpipes and accordions, but each is used with a certain manner of moderation that prevents the mix getting too crowded and makes sure you never get sick of one instrument. And those Russian melodies are just bloody fantastic. Finally, frontwoman Masha 'Scream's vocals are the shiznit. Although she seems to be known for her screams and growls, i found that it was her utterly spellbinding clean vocals that sinched the deal for me. Good God can this woman sing a good melody. Especially in the sections with harmonies and choral touches, her voice carries me away to that special place all good albums do... and dammit i never want to come back
All in all, Arkona have so many things going on with Vo Slavu Velikim, but tempered with a wonderful sence of moderation and balance that gives way to a rich musical tapestry both enchanting and exilirating. this is up there with the best folk metal and viking metal albums I've ever heard, and Arkona should be considered on the same level as Ensiferum, Managarm, Fintroll and the like. Given the original sounding Russian melodies, the wonderful acoustic folk instruments and Masha's heavenly voice it's pretty hard not to give this 5 stars. it might take a while to grow on you, but once you've gone Arkona there's no going back
Get it and love it.
By the way, if you love Arkona as much as me then you might want to check out Dalriada (some of their earlier stuff is under Echos of Dalriada). Their sound is quite similar to Arkona, athough they have their own thing going on. Szelek and Jegbonto are probably my favourites of theirs.