Arkona - Khram album review

Russian progressive pagans set folk metal ablaze

Cover art for Arkona - Khram album

They have always had much more in common with Eluveitie than Korpiklaani, but that infernal ‘folk metal’ tag continues to distract people from just what a phenomenal band Arkona have become over the last 15 years. Whether due to their undeniably unique perspective as Russians or to the robustly expressed sincerity of their pagan ideals – vocalist Masha has apparently written out this album’s lyrics in her own blood – Khram is fascinating, challenging and exciting from eerie start to devastated finish. The expected wistful folk melodies played on traditional instruments are here, of course, but the album’s atmospheric core grows from a blend of guitarist Lazar’s weird, windswept riffs and Masha’s haunting and haunted entreaties. Best exemplified by 12-minute centrepiece Rebenok Bez Imeni, a sustained rush of furious melancholy with dynamics to burn, Khram is a wildly adventurous personal best for all concerned.