Live at The Regent Theatre
Downtown Los Angeles, CA
November 18th, 2018
Review and photos by Travis Baumann
Arkona have been cited as one of the best Pagan Metal acts in the world. Exemplifying the mixture of folk instruments with the trappings of the heavy metal world and infusing it with the mythos of ancient folk lore and a shamanistic approach to verse and vocalization, Arkona have become an international phenomena.
At the heart of the band is the mastermind Maria "Masha Scream" Arkhipova, vocalist and chief songwriter. Her signature voice moving from melodic and soothing to the searing screams of battle and back again is one of the primary draws to the band.
Backing her up is a score of musicians including Sergei "Lazar" Atrashkevich on guitar, Ruslan "Kniaz" Rosomaherov on bass guitar, Vladimir "Volk" Reshetnikov handling all of the wind instruments such as lutes and bagpipes, and Andrey Ishchenko on drums.
Their combined instrumentation ranges from raging metal head-bangers, to plucky polka-infused jigs, to intense melodic folk ballads that are heart-felt and uplifting.
The band formed in Moscow, Russia back in 2002 and have a sizable catalog of albums to draw from. Their latest release, "Khram" came out earlier this year and this tour was the first opportunity to see this material live.
They started off the set with a presentation from "Khram" that followed the album order and allowed them to tell the story as it was conceived. It began with the "Mantra" intro and then moved through "Shtorm" (Storm), "Tseluya zhizn" (Kissing Life), the album title track "Khram" (Temple), "V pogonye za beloy tenyu" (In Pursuit of a White Shadow), and concluded with a reprise of "Mantra" as an outro.
It was really great to see the new material in this manner, and lent a sense of a complete story before moving into their older fan-favorites.
From here they really got the mosh pit moving with "Goi, Rode, Goi!" which translates to "Hail, Rod, Hail!", Rod being the supreme god of the universe in the native Slavic faith.
They hit upon my personal favorite song, "Zakliatie" from the "Slovo" album which means "Incantation". Masha made gestures with her hands in the air as she chanted, weaving a shaman's spell on stage.
They played two more off of the "Goi, Rode, Goi!" album with "Kupalets", referring to the gods of Slavic folklore, and the band's namesake, "Arkona".
The majority of the set not taken from "Khram" came from this album with two tracks from "Slovo" and only one older song. The oldest piece that they played for us on this evening came from the album "Vo Slavu Velikim!" and was "Skvoz Tuman Vekov (Through the Mist of Ages)".
Masha does not speak that much between songs other than to offer thanks for the warm response of the audience. She said they had two more this evening and motioned with her hand for the circle pit to go for it on this next one.
"Stenka na stenku" means "Wall to Wall" and features a rowdy accordian/polka tempo which brought out a jovial yet violent response from those in the mosh pit.
They hit their final song of the evening with "Yarilo" which is the Slavic deity of vegetation, fertility, and the spring season. Setting the final tone of the evening with one of uplifting regeneration was a great way to hand the show over to tour-mates Korpiklaani.
It was another amazing performance from Arkona showing they really are the pinnacle of pagan folk metal. Everything from their costuming choices, to the musicianship, and most of all their vocal and song structures, conjures the essence of this genre and what draws people to it.
Despite her singing entirely in Russian, people sang along and were pulled into the worlds and narrative that Masha wove which is always exciting to be a part of. I am already looking forward to the next time they tour as you can never get enough Arkona.
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