Arkona (Russian: ÐÑ€ÐºÐ¾Ð½Ð°) are a Russian folk metal band that has been a real revelation in the scene, as one commenter over at the Angry Metal Guy facebook page put it. Their music deftly blends Russian folk themes with black metally influence and ends up being a bit of a Finntroll plus Russia result. As far as this Angry Metal Guy is concerned, this cannot be more welcome. So while we aren’t being graced with a follow up to 2009’s excellent Goi, Rode, Goi! you can at least get a taste of an acoustic version of it on this EP.
Clocking in at 24 and a half minutes Stenka Na Stenku consists of one brand spankin’ new song, the title track, as well as a remarkably entrancing cover of a traditional Russian folk song “Valenki.” There’s also a track called “Skal” which features a member from the band Varg and it also appears to be a new track, but I’m not sure what its origin is. Then there are two covers “Duren” and “Noviy Mir” and an acoustic rendition of “Goi, Rode, Goi!” Short and sweet (and not in the order described).
The new track, “Stenka Na Stenku” is bouncy as hell. I would say that this is the happiest and least “black” or dark metal of all the music that I’ve heard from Arknoa. While I really enjoy the track and the direction, it is possible that some of the fans are going to be disappointed with what might seem like a less serious approach to the band’s music. But given that it’s a song about fighting for fun, I’m not sure what exactly is wrong with this kind of approach. “Skal,” the other new song, is also a very, very short (“Stenka Na Stenku” clocks in at 2:36 and “Skal” at 2:35), and it’s a slower track with lyrics that will make Germans giggle (it sounds like they’re saying “ScheiÃŸe” in the chorus). But the song is still enjoyable and the chorus sounds like something you could rock out at a party to great success.
The two cover tracks are also of excellent form, in my opinion, showing off where Masha is best, in her folk harmonies and melodies. And as usual, she’s kind of a shining gem in this stuff. While the music is enjoyable, if Arkona wasn’t fronted by this engaging and enigmatic chick (and her wolf skins) I’m just not sure if the appeal would be there. But luckily for us all, it is, and while it’s hard to recommend Stenka Na Stenku to any who is not already a completionist style fan trying to fill in their Arkona collection, this is a reminder that new music is on its way and that our favorite Russian folk metal band hasn’t disappeared into the seedy underworld of vodka shots and spy plots. I can’t wait for the next album.