Goi, Rode Goi!, by Arkona
Suggested by Noli-Rose Nikitaki
Arkona are a Russian folk metal band, heavily influenced by Slavic mythology. Their music incorporates a plethora of traditional Russian musical instruments. Sounds promising.
I’ve two Russian asides to impart. The first is that I once shared a house with a Russian student. He was very shouty, especially when phoning his parents back home. He’d ask the oddest questions at peculiar times, barking out “when do you think they will invent flying cars?” halfway through Eastenders. He also introduced me to the music of Tenacious D, so he wasn’t all bad.
The second was my literal flying visit to Russia, when my travelling group had a stopover at Moscow Airport for twenty-two hours en route to Japan. We couldn’t leave the airport, so we spent most of the time supping very palatable Guinness in the airport’s Irish bar. The airport was run down and largely empty, and patrolled by camouflaged gun-wielding guards. And, with apologies for being indelicate, I tried for a “discrete evacuation” in the lavatory upon arrival, only to find three of the four stalls had their toilets smashed to rubble, while the fourth was piled so high with human waste it was crowning over the spattered seat like Hamburger Hill.
So! Goi Rode Goi… is it youthful, shouty and peculiar, or is it a massive pile of crap?
The first thing that purses my lips is the singer’s name: Masha “Scream” Arkhipova. She’s one of a handful of successful female vocalists that have mastered the Death Growl.
Well, ain’t that spiffing.
Happily, although she does deploy it a touch too much, it is but one of a number of singing styles that she deploys to great effect.
Musically, the majority is standard thrashing metal fare laced with wonderful traditional compositions. There are all manner of exquisite sounds occurring, from balalaikas to bagpipes and tin whistles and flutes and ocarinas and more. There’s an epic battlefield lean to the songs, with warriors gathering on the steppe to raise arms in the oncoming storm. The title track kicks us off with a frenzied gallop, and my choice for top track – Yarilo – has an almost pirate aspect, a rollicking jaunty adventure on the high seas.
Bizarrely, the fact that the songs are in Russian adds a grandeur and sense of excitement to the piece. I suspect if I spoke the language and had a handle on its lyrical nuance, I’d dismiss it as sub-standard Manowar battle hymn piffle. But when Arkrona pen a fifteen-minute war song that incorporates guest vocalists acting as generals for opposing sides on the eve of a great war, it’s more spine tingling than Spinal Tap.
Sadly, when the music veers down darker thrash alleys, there’s a downshift in quality and enjoyment. It’s actually not the growl this time; I made my peace early, as the quirk factor managed to eclipse it. It’s more the overbearing speed of some sections, which also sound out of control and almost flailing.
Overall, this is a flawed album which has some exceptionally charming aspects. Goi Rode Goi gets 6/10 from me. I won’t be revisiting, but it was interesting nonetheless.