When I was still discovering the musical spaces of the internet back in the early 2000s, MP3 sites were my best friend. I discovered bands that I had never heard of before and experienced a whole new genre: Pagan Black Metal/Pagan Folk and holy shit my brain exploded. It wasn’t long before I was butchering the Slavic language trying to sing along with Arkona, Nokturnal Mortum, and Graveland. However, it was Arkona that initially blew me away. I started with Возрождение and just kept going back for more, of course, Masha’s vocals were a big part of the attraction, because goddamn she can fucking carry a tune!

With each release they have surpassed themselves, evoking images of their gorgeous homeland through the music. Albums such as 2009’s Goi, Rode, Goi! With the infectiously heavy, yet fun as fuck “Yarilo”, 2014’s Yav and 2018’s Khram have seen the band grow like a mighty oak. Somber passages lead to blasting upheaves on their recent magnum opus Kob’ (‘Sorcery’), an eight-track Pagan Black Metal beast with a flaming heart.

From spiritual opener “Izrechenie. Nachalo” (‘The Speech. The Beginning’), flows into the title track with the force of raging rapids. If it seems like I’m on an arboreal trip here it’s because Kob’ makes me feel like I’m walking in some Kincade painting of a mystical European forest, I’m talking fairies and shit, like if Princess Mononoke was set in Russia. So, continuing in that train of thought (and since I’m a creative writer at heart), there’s the epic core of the album in “Ydi” an 11.48-minute assault that shifts tempos so many times it’s like an attack from a fucking bear.

“Ugasaya” (‘Fadin’ Away’), begins with ominous spoken word and an atmosphere thick with menace before this sick as a dying sonofabitch passage with just the bass and the drums doing this hypnotic beat and when this song soars it fucking goes high as an eagle, in true Arkona fashion once the blast from Alexander Smirnov comes in and Masha switches from Black Metal to soaring vocals before the end.

“Na Zakate Bagrovogo Solntsa”, “Razryvaya plot’ ot bezyskhodnosti bytiya” (‘Tearing the flesh owing to the despair of being’) and the soothing “Izrechenie. Iskhod” (Eng. The Speech. The Conclusion) closes out the album in grand fashion; the former two are Black Metal creatures pulsing with the blackest blood, while the latter is like a soothing pond.

I did multiple listens to this album, and each time I heard a different thing; sometimes subtle as a time change or a riff that I hadn’t picked up on previously and that’s what makes Arkona genre leaders at what they do. They’re consistently good and keep the listener captivated. I could complain about this being a streaming-only promo which made it a tad bit hard to navigate back to the album if I had closed windows or something like that (look at that, I did complain), this in no way reflects on the band or their music…

Anyway, enough of that whining. Ultimately, I have nothing negative to say about Kob’ so that’s the moral of this story. A ‘For fans of’, section might seem pointless, because seriously if you like Arkona you’re probably already a fan of Eluviete, Varmia, and Bathory’s Nordland saga in terms of the music painting a picture as each song progresses and adds color to the work. Clocking in at just a couple seconds over an hour Kob’ is long, but not dauntingly so and it’s an album that could be put on repeat to let the beauty wash over your eardrums. So, get it when it comes out, I hear Napalm Records is doing a wood collectors box that would look good on any bookshelf. Just saying.


[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jeremy Beck
June 19th, 2023


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