Arkona

Ot Serdca K Nebu

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Encased inside black metal's already principally European and nationalist heart is a group of acts committed to reviving the traditional folk tunes of their respective homelands. Unfortunately, too much of this "folk-metal" is just bland renditions of folk songs amplified over unfitting metal histrionics. But Poland's Arkona lays down a proudly strutting epic with Ot Serdca K Nebu, which combines the feverish and frenzied whirl of black metal with melodies snatched directly from old Polish minstrels and traditional songs. Wow.

Guitars that would usually violently buzz instead leave the harmonic duties to traditional Polish instruments as well as flutes and accordions. It still retains the harsh, white noise bombast of black metal, but the ingenious intertwining of opposing sounds create entrancing pieces of music. The band uses two vocalists — one who provides the expected scratchy rasp typical of extreme metal; the other is a female vocalist whose layered harmonies flesh out the mellower segments.

But even as the music is enthralling, Arkona's atmosphere of Slavic nationalism permeates every single aspect of their image and ideology. Of course, it's not four guys thrusting salutes in front of a Nazi flag ... but it doesn't sound that far away, either. Even so, the group's infectious melodies will often leave you forgetting (or ignoring) their political stance and perhaps even blithely humming a tune or two. Ot Serdca K Nebu comes off strong, and with Arkona's fluent musical ears and skills: It looks like the start of a new (read: more interesting and useable) folk-metal movement. Just be aware of the thoughts behind the music.

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