Review: Arkona – Kob’
*Napalm Records explosion sounds, but in Russian*
9 albums in and Russia’s Arkona (Аркона) is still defining and innovating pagan and folk metal. Murky production, shades of black and progressive metal and intense visceral performances—yes, metal elitists have found what will inevitably be one of their favorite releases of 2023. Out now via Napalm Records, Kob’ is a record that you need to hear to believe. Arkona transcends languages and through long-winded, complex compositions, delivers an exceptional listening experience.
The biggest strength of the record is its atmosphere. If Guillermo del Toro were to adapt any of Grimm’s fairy tales to the big screen this record would be the soundtrack. The world of Kob’ is cold, unforgiving, and tangibly, unmistakably eerie. Vocalist Maria Arkhipova’s (aka Masha Scream) personality, presence and impressive range frames her as the guide in the listener’s journey through a Russian hell-scape, and gives off an aura comparable to that of an unknown eldritch horror beyond comprehension.
Her bandmates also accentuate and spread the tangible atmosphere through all corners of the project. The dreary and plodding guitar work by Sergi “Lazar” Atrashkevich and ethnically-rich wind instruments played by Vladimir “Volk” Reshetnikov spread a hazy veil that lays below the vocals and boils over with the highlight of the record for me personally, the bass work. Ruslan “Kniaz” Rosomaherov is a monster on bass and adds so much technical precision and character to the record. He is definitely the standout in my opinion. Session drumming from Kevin Paradis is another highlight of the album.
With many tracks running over the 6-minute mark, there is a lot of music to digest here. Some cuts do admittedly run long and feel drawn out, and there are some bits of the album that feel somewhat unnecessary. However, it can be argued the group is going for more of an atmospheric experience and those drawn out elements are needed. The moments on the record where things come together perfectly are notable on tracks “Razryvaya plot’ ot bezyskhodnostibytiya”, “ Ugasaya”, and “Na zakate bagrovogo solntsa”. The two singles are also really solid cuts. If you’re on the fence about checking out the album completely, try out “Kob'” and “Mor”.
This record is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Black metal is challenging enough for some people; add in the pagan and folk elements and stack not just the long run time of many tracks but also a language barrier and it’s going to be a bit of a tough sell to some. However, through the great performances and chilling atmosphere it’s definitely a record that should be checked out at least once. In concept, scope and execution it’s a very impressive release and deserves some eyes (and ears) on it.
Top Tracks: “Razryvaya plot’ ot bezyskhodnosti bytiya”, “ Ugasaya”, and “Na zakate bagrovogo solntsa”.
3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Kob’ is out now via Napalm Records.