Live at The Regent Theater
Los Angeles, CA
November 19th, 2016
Review and Photos by Travis Baumann
Arkona return to Los Angeles before the end of the year, bringing with them their signature brand of Pagan Folk Metal that stands out from the rest of the pack in that they hail from Russia, and they are one of the few Pagan Metal bands to feature a woman as lead singer.
The band centers around founder and primary song writer, Maria "Masha Scream" Arkhipova. She is a talented artist that varies between harsh growled vocals and beautiful ethereal singing, usually in the same song.
Their lyrics are all in their native tongue, and are based on Russian folklore and Slavic mythology. What is amazing is that even though they are worlds apart from other "old world" music, some of their traditional song structures and instrumentation can at times bring to mind ethnic styles such as Native American chants or Medieval European melodies. For a decade and a half, this team of modern minstrels have been conjuring other times and places with their eclectic and layered sound.
Live they consist of Masha on vocals of course, and she is joined by her husband Sergei "Lazar" Atrashkevich on guitar, Ruslan "Kniaz" Rosomaherov on bass guitar, Vladimir "Volk" Reshetnikov on bagpipes, lutes, and ethnic wind instruments, and relative new comer, Andrey Ishchenko on drums.
I have seen Arkona numerous times over the years since first learning about them through their involvement with the long-running Paganfest tours. I am still always impressed by the energy and emotion that Masha invokes with her music. You can see it affecting her as she sings each tale, and that outpouring of emotion resonates with the audience in a way many bands struggle to achieve.
The traditional instruments lend an earthy weight to the songs, but there are plenty of modern layers of keyboard orchestration, riffing guitars, and moving rhythms that build a perfect hybrid of folk and contemporary Symphonic Metal.
My favorite songs are the ones where Masha focuses equally on the harsh and melodic vocals styles. In fact my all time favorite song of theirs, "Zakliatie", starts out with very little instrumentation, and is mostly her chanting in a way reminiscent of the aforementioned Native American style of singing, so I was really happy to get to see it live on this evening.
Their set time was a bit shorter than normal as they had been headlining the last few times through the country but on this evening they had joined forces with an amazing roster of bands such as Canadian heavy hitters, The Agonist, Fleshgod Apocalypse from Italia, and the amazing Dutch Symphonic Metallers, Epica.
Despite only having a short time on stage, they played favorites from throughout their seven album catalog including material from their latest release, "Yav". All the other bands of the night also featured female singers in some capacity, but they were the only Folk Metal band.
I think they may have picked a few more songs with her melodic vocal style for this show which worked well as an introduction to audience members not previously familiar with them that came for the headliner, Epica which features a melodic operatic style of singing.
Overall, I really love Arkona and they did not disappoint on this occasion. Masha's energetic delivery, constantly moving around the stage and trashing about, kept the audience enthralled as she showed two very different sides to her as an artist.
On the one hand you have this violent, aggressive woman warrior and on the other, there is the beautiful girl in touch with nature and emotion and pulling on your heart strings.
Arkona have gained a reputation as one of the very best Pagan Folk Metal bands the world over and there is very good reason... they are.
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