Arkona: Wszechzlodowacenie

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Arkona: Wszechzlodowacenie
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Arkona: Wszechzlodowacenie
Pagan Black Metal
Hell is Here Productions
December 14th, 2008
Release length: 1:17:13
Myspace
Website
Not to be confused with the more well known (at least here in North America) Arkona from Russia, this is the Arkona that hails from Perzów, Poland. The group actually formed quite a time before the Russian band and all other bands using that name, which was way back when in 1993. Through the years, the band put out four full-length albums and a few splits in the years that followed their fourth full-length album, Konstelacja Lodu, the last one to be released since 2003. Among the following three split efforts, the band issued a compilation of their 1993-1995 material, and in 2008, Hell is Here Productions pulled together a compilation of all the tracks involved in those three Split releases, as well as a track from the tribute compilation Chronicles of Tyranny and Black – Tribute to Graveland, making this a release new Arkona fans will immediately find intriguing. There also is a new song recorded for just this release. But, are these split tracks worth buying this compilation for, or are these the kind of tracks you’re better off buying the out of print originals for collector’s purposes, and for nothing more?

Obviously, since all but one of these songs come from four different releases, the audio quality is going to be varied, but surprisingly it really isn’t by much. As you go through the release, the material seems to get sharper and at times a little clearer, which is odd since the first set of songs comes from the most recent split release dated for 2006. All the songs have a rawer quality to them, though the first four clearly moreso then the rest with a bass heavy, muddy sound to them that comes off more like a now traditional “kvlt” underground recording. The others are surprisingly clean but still a little low in quality, though not by much really, to give a darker, yet more open atmosphere to the tracks. There’s no real grim, cold, or melancholic atmosphere here, but thanks to the beautiful sounding keyboards, many of the songs end up sound gothic and beautiful, but in a more malevolent manner that just comes naturally from Black Metal recordings. The guitars never feel that sharp, but still heavy enough to compliment the fantastic drumming, which also is a little low and buried a bit in the mix. The bass varies from being rather loud and obvious, to more hidden and complimentary to the guitars. The vocals are never too loud, or too far in the mix, and usually are performed with a nice rhasp but with an effort and tone that matches the keyboards and subtle gothic atmosphere of the music perfectly, allowing many of the songs to become astounding and even emotionally moving passages, such as the song “Zrodzony Z Ognia I Lodu” with it’s beautiful atmosphere established from the keyboards and the harsher music that enhances the atmosphere, but gives it that burdening feeling that borders a bit on melancholic, but never really passes over that line into such territories.

But, that description really does better fit some of the earlier material that comes later on the recording. The first four tracks come from the W Szponach Wojennej Hestii split release with Moontower, and it shows a much different Arkona. The music really has a much more traditional Black Metal sound with some faster paced drums, sharper guitars, and the vocals are about the same but a little higher in pitch and overall just louder. The keyboards in these tracks are there, but greatly dwarfed and are more hidden in the background. This isn’t to say these songs are bad at all. While they are really different then later entries, the atmosphere here is far more sinister in comparison, and it really does establish a darker interpretation of the style from the band. “Swit Bogow Zmierzch Bogow I” kicks the split tracks and compilation off well material with an introduction common for Black Metal, a dark atmospheric interlude with distorted spoken words in reverse. Eventually the keyboards pick up and slowly build to the faster paced Black Metal that hammers away with great speed to get the track officially going and leaving a pretty intense and sinister impact on the listener. Shortly after this intense Black Metal ride is “Kajdany Zniewolenia”, which maintains the speed established in “Swit Bogow Zmierzch Bogow I”, except it does manage to pick up speed, as well as go into much slower, more haunting passages twice through the song thanks to well orchestrated transitions that make it all feel natural. This sort of atmosphere is what the band utilizes throughout the four songs for this split release, but while this track does feel like the band put a little extra effort into trying to make it unique, the song just sound more like a generic Black Metal song then anything too original, but still a solid song none the less. “Swit Bogow Zmierzch Bogow II” blows this track out of the water though. The song relies a lot on fast paced drumming with blistering double bass kicks, and while once again the song feels a little more traditional for today’s modern Black Metal style, the war sound clips utilized work nicely, the keyboards stand out much better and often play a more important role in the song to build up a more epic atmosphere at times, and the song just sounds far more brutal and razor sharp in comparison to “Kajdany Zniewolenia” and the other two cuts that make up this compilation. Clearly the atmosphere for “A Dark Dream” is also varied due to the fact that it is a cover track, and well executed interpretations of them at that. The same can be said for the following cover song, “Opetany Bluznierca” on both accounts.

The next set of tracks come from the Holokaust Zniewolonych Mas split with Besatt and Thirst, and while the guitars here still sound a lot sharper with a heavier distortion similar to the previous set of songs, the overall quality really does sound cleaner. The distortion is not as high, the keyboards are more upfront in the mix, and the audio itself just generally sounds sharper. This set includes a remixed version of the song “Gdzie Bogowie Sa Jak Bracia I Siostry”, which sounds great and again has that more sinister vibe to it that, with the new production quality, really sounds great and keeps the listener engaged the whole time. However, the cleaner production of these tracks shines through with the heavy war-based “Holokaust Zniewolonych Mas”, a short interlude with commanding, lower pitched vocals that feels more like a march to war thanks to the drums and clear audio effects of invasion alarms, gun fire, and evem planes soaring by overhead. It’s sad that the band really didn’t try to expand on this and build up to a far more epic conclusion then how they actually do it, meerly using a loud, higher pitched radio static that is actually quit irritating and lasts rather long.

The next set of split tracks are from the Zrodzony Z Ogniz I Lodu release with Szron. These tracks vary between the cleaner production quality, a little thicker one due to the distortion on some of the tracks. “Zrodzony Z Ognia I Lodu” really steals the show on this split, as well as the entire compilation though, and establishes what to expect from this set. Here, the cleaner production rears it’s head and gives the audio a rawer, but more gothic sound with keyboards that set in a rather depressing atmosphere. But the band’s ability to build that atmosphere into more organic epic passages, as well as weave in and out of the faster and slower segments so naturally, really causes this track to shine the brightest throughout the entire recording, and keeps the listener in place and attentive through the entire ten plus minutes that it lasts. But, sadly, that’s really the only song here that stands out. The cleaner quality doesn’t necessarily help out “Matka Zima”, but rather just ends up making it sound more like a traditional sharper Black Metal track that doesn’t really offer anything too new to the mix, and “Niech Polaczy Nas Kosmos” seems to be aimed more as a darker, melancholic kind of slower paced track and gothic atmosphere, but in the end it just ends up being very uninteresting and too overly simple with some later fading in and out that feels absolutely pointless and a bit tacked on. However, the distortion on this track for the guitars sounds great, which is mostly due to how loud everything is here. Outside the amplification to the guitar’s distortion, that increase in violence actually ends up being more annoying then anything else.

The compilation ends with the track “In the Glare of the Burning Churches” for the Graveland tribute album, and a new recording. First, the cover of “In the Glare of the Burning Churces” kicks things off with a fun folk song and the effects of a cold wind blowing while fire crackles, clearly representing the church burning. The band does a good job at covering this song, but it’s just not that great a track to begin with, and the cover is just not the much better then the original. The slower paced coupled with the raw quality and more stylish, colder keyboards ends up conflicting a bit, and the performance itself sounds more on the generic Black Metal side then the initial version of the song. The compilation concludes with the new song, “Triumf Nowej Ery”, which is yet another cover, this time of an original by the band Honor. Again, the song has a cleaner audio quality, which helps with the somewhat victorious atmosphere and rawer sounding guitars. The quality is very reminiscent to the song “Zrodzony Z Ognia I Lodu” with a little extra layering on the vocals, and it really sounds more like an authentic earlier Arkona song in the long run from it due to that atmosphere and quality.

Wszechzlodowacenie has it’s ups and downs. Obviously there’s a good variety to the audio quality, some songs are stronger then others, and some chunks of songs sound radically different compared to others. Overall it’s a nice collection of rarities that, at this point, are long out of print and very hard to come by. For fans who wanted to grab these but never did, now really is your perfect chance to grab these. But, outside of the Honor cover at the very end, there’s no real reason to buy this edition if you have all the source recordings, but the enjoyable addition of “Triumf Nowej Ery” is well worth picking this up even if you do have the original releases and want to have all of Arkona‘s releases. Overall, the material on Wszechzlodowacenie is still some solid Black Metal, and you can hear the changes in the band’s atmosphere and foundations from the varying years. Why the splits are not in order from first to last, and instead are from last to first is a bit confusing, leaving sort of a backwards exploration of the group’s recent material, which may end up confusing fans who don’t pay attention. Granted you can easily correct this today by simply burning the tracks in order of year of release, but in the end this kind of works in it’s own way. It’s as if you watch the band now and just walk backwards, watching them break down their own history. It’s not as effective, but it’s at least an argument why they did things this way. Other then that, if you happen upon this release and are a fan of Black Metal, it’s well worth exploring, especially if you never heard of this Arkona before, or any of their material in the past. There’s enough solid Black metal here to justify a decent price tag, and considering it’s eighty seven minute plus album length and the number of good tracks verses the bad, you can’t really argue over whether it’s worth the risk or not.

01. Swit Bogow Zmierzch Bogow I – 6:52
02. Kajdany Zniewolenia – 5:36
03. Swit Bogow Zmierzch Bogow II – 6:21
04. A Dark Dream (Veles cover) – 5:01
05. Opetany Bluznierca (Besatt cover) – 4:38
06. Gdzie Bogowie Sa Jak Bracia I Siostry (Remix – 2005) – 7:27
07. Holokaust Zniewolonych Mas – 3:10
08. Zrodzony Z Ognia I Lodu – 10:14
09. Matka Zima – 8:34
10. Niech Polaczy Nas Kosmos – 7:19
11. In the Glare of the Burning Churches (Graveland cover) – 4:40
12. Triumf Nowej Ery (Honor cover) – 7:27
Overall Score: 8/10


Physical review copy of this release provided by Hell is Here Productions via Godz of War Productions.