Review: Arkona – Khram 9

  • Arkona
  • Khram
  • Folk Black Metal
  • Russia
  • 2018
  • 9/10

Bandcamp

This album really is a treat, I wasn’t aware of Arkona previously but they are certainly on my radar now as I go back through their discography. Живой храм is clearly a masterpiece of black metal and will surely be one of the most well received releases of 2018. You’re probably reading this because of this album having a near-perfect rating on The Metal Archives with multiple reviews.

The licks come in with unpredictability – you’re expecting a hard-hitting riff but instead it goes more progressive and melodic. This is the introduction to this year’s major folk black metal release. Labelled as “pagan metal” this recording comes with a lot of traditional folk lore inspired sounds of the regions surrounding Russia. So, it’s not so much of a straight black metal hell raiser as it is more of a thoughtful approach to paganism and melancholy. the setting of Russia also separates it from the black metal folklore based in Scandinavia.

Khram does have moments where the emphasis is on screaming and thrashing, even when it is to a more somber and doomier background. It also allows time for the composition of the music to progress accompanied by cleaner female voice for extended periods of time. It makes you appreciate the heaviest moments of each song as it takes you through a narrative experience. The feminine vocals aren’t always angelic either, she will often inject of a bit of a rough guttural sound into her high notes. Overall, I’d say it’s a healthy balance between hard and soft, it’s very much chew-able.

 

As is commonplace with more pagan inspired metal, the song length is huge – at some points even daring you to go on a 17 minute journey! It’s well worth it though, the longer compositions are by no means boring. The rest of the album doesn’t lull behind either with the shortest song from this point on being 8 minutes. At total it’s 74 minutes of fantasy inspired black metal.

I love the guitar tones used, it’s an old timey sounding gain that takes my mind back to demo recordings of black metal bands. It doesn’t stagnate though, they really know how to make an old tone sing and dance around. At times I’m reminded of many of Opeth’s long winded solos and penetrative melodies. The female vocals go along with the guitars well, neither seem to be after the spotlight and as a result shine together in the mix.

Another thing I like about this album that a lot of similar albums get wrong – the way the folky instruments and sounds work on this album are not annoying or tiring. They mesh with the music perfectly and when they are given their own moment it’s to great effect.

As a whole the album feels authentic and passionate. I can follow every part of this album, I’m enjoying the whole sound and theme. It’s the most interesting release out of a genre I often consider my least favorite. Everything hits the right spot on Khram.

 

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