Arkona Ot Serdca K Nebu

It’s fairly easy to appropriate folk instrumentation, ethnic melodies and aged mythology, toss them in with some growls and distorted guitars, then play it all at high speed and label it "folk” or "pagan” metal. Not so easy is escaping the pit of gimmicks and kitsch to integrate the heavy and traditional into a convincing, coherent whole. Russia’s Arkona have nearly achieved the harder task. It can’t hurt that vocalist Maria "Scream” Arhipova was already part of a local pagan community before founding the band several albums ago. Guest performances by traditional folk instrumentalists also boost Ot Serdca K Nebu’s authenticity. Avoiding the two dimensional folk/metal trap, Arkona’s songs vary in tone and structure. Death metal, chants and balladry intermingle — sometimes with grace, often with aggression — and the end result is not a clashing of eras and sounds but something that ignores the passage of time, or slips freely in between it. (Napalm)