Arkona (POL) - Lunaris
Debemur Morti Productions
Black Metal
6 songs (47:35)
Release year: 2016
Debemur Morti Productions
Reviewed by Goat

Not the rather awesome Russian female-fronted pagan metal band, this Arkona is instead a Polish black metal outfit that has been around since 1993, and in 2016 play an agreeably epic purist style of the genre that has clearly taken much influence from Burzum. Arkona are six albums in by now so are well-established at this style, and indeed any black metal fan will find much to appreciate here, although the band only really becomes excellent at moments, making this more of an above-average album all in all. A lot will depend on how easily impressed you are with little touches like that subtly awesome artwork, a skull merged with the surface of the moon. And there’s no denying that Arkona’s base elements, from yelled vocals to skilful instrumentation, are all on point. Where the band really comes into its own is in the songwriting, which is a mixed bag that varies between the traditional but very good, and the exceptional.

It’s never less than very good, even though the album does keep you guessing with a meandering nine-minute opener in Droga Do Ocalenia – the opening keyboard intro is terrifically atmospheric, but the actual black metal is a little dull, Drudkh-by-numbers in its drive and hints of melody but not hitting the soulful heartbeat that makes the Ukrainians so good. It does return to brilliance with a clearly electronic but still invigorating orchestral interlude late in the track however, and the following Ziemia is terrific, opening with a rhythmic but ominous drumbeat that soon turns towards a groovy black metal with a sense of rhythm and groove, a central hypnotic riff keeping the track underpinned like some lost Filosofem epic. The Burzum influence is plain from the drumbeats to the riffs, and Arkona do brilliantly with it, shaping that classic formula into something that feels very of the moment thanks to the clear production and surprising catchiness of it all. Even towards the end of the nine-minute track, the band keep the energy and atmosphere up with a slower, almost doom-paced tempo shift and some more epic keyboards. Marvellous stuff.

From then on, the album has its ups and downs. The backing keyboards and epic choirs give the otherwise ferocious ?mier? i Odrodzenie a bit of atmospheric bite, while Nie dla mnie lito?? is a little more Mayhemic at points. Otherwise the remaining tracks blend together somewhat into a morass of violent and well-played but rather forgettable black metal, and as part of an album that’s just short of 50 minutes, it does feel like a good EP stretched too far. Still, nothing here is unlistenable, and Arkona are definitely worthy of the time of black metal fans looking for familiar yet tasty fare.

Killing Songs :
Ziemia, ?mier? i Odrodzenie
Goat quoted 70 / 100
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