Arkona – Lunaris – Album Review

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Artist: Arkona

Album Title: Lunaris

Label: Debemur Morti Productions

Date Of Release: 4 November 2016

The focus of this review is the Polish black metal band Arkona. They are not to be confused with any other Arkona, of which there are many it seems, particularly from Russia. Anyway, I simply had to review this record for two main reasons. Firstly, the music by this is actually really rather good. Secondly, I could not waste the opportunity of poking fun at the ludicrous press that accompanied this promo. Are you ready?

‘”Lunaris” is a palimpsest of haunted modernity with an underlying raw howl straight from primitive lifeblood”

Say what now? And if you thought that was bad, the very next sentence reads:

“With this emphatic new record, Arkona trigger a free-fall deep into the metaphysical dream logic of the genre.”

Come again?

I’m all for flowery language and the occasional descent into hyperbole but this is utterly ridiculous. A press release needs to be grounded in some semblance of reality but more importantly, it needs to make sense and be understandable. This is neither and, to be honest, reading it just makes me laugh, albeit with a hint of incredulity and despair. I mean, come on people, Arkona are a black metal band, not some aural gateway into life’s thesaurus for the overly verbose. Oh hell, they’ve got me at it now…

Mocking aside, the press release does get it a little more accurate elsewhere, albeit rather pompously, when it declares:

“Consolidating and updating the earthen grandiosity perfected on classic 1996 debut ‘Imperium’, Arkona have created the perfect synthesis of forward-reaching Pagan Black Metal, dark neo-classical melodicism, corrupted romanticism and raging existential power.”

I can reluctantly agree with the majority of this. Ok, so I know nothing of the band’s back catalogue and Akona’s sixth album ‘Lunaris’ is not ‘perfect’. But importantly, it does provide the kind of black metal that I like, namely heavy, powerful, melodic and symphonic. In many ways it reminds me of the early output of Dissection thanks to the fast and abrasive tremolo-style riffing, relentless rhythm section and burst of grand melody. Given that ‘Storm Of The Light’s Bane’ is a top 20 of all-time record for me, I’m giving Arkona a fair compliment here.

‘Nie Dia Mnie Litość’ is a case in point; the drum rolls and fills are very reminiscent of Dissection, as is the galloping tempo and the riffs that dominate the first half of the song before it descends into something much quieter and eerie, complete with hammer-horror organ. It’s a cracking song if I’m honest.

As I mentioned earlier, ‘Lunaris’ isn’t perfect and it definitely doesn’t reinvent any wheels. The influences are worn on the sleeves of the quartet which, as far as I can tell, is a very new incarnation, with three members joining the band within the last two years. Joining founder Khorzon (guitars, keyboards) are guitarist Nechrist, drummer Zaala and vocalist/bassist Drac.

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The production is typical of the days of black metal yore, namely raw and slightly treble-heavy meaning that the bass is rendered almost redundant for the most part. However, what it does do is provide the listener with some very high quality music, the kind that I had almost forgotten that I loved. On close inspection, there really isn’t a weak track amongst the six that comprise this album and it brings a rather bleak but satisfied smile to my face as I listen.

The album begins in ominous fashion with synths casting a dark shadow and a fetid atmosphere in true 90s black metal fashion before relentless drumming and fast-picked riffs come from nowhere to bludgeon the listener into an early submission. Conventional raspy and unintelligible screams join the fray before the tempo reduces slightly and a bouncier riff takes centre stage. And in classic symphonic black metal style, the mood changes appreciably at the half-way mark as a wonderfully groovy and catchy melody kicks in. ‘This is marvellous’, I mutter to myself and that’s before the heaviness departs momentarily to allow the synths to carry a super film score-like melody alongside choral effects that add an undeniably epic quality.

‘Ziemia’ is more of a mid-tempo stomper of a track but with the ability to accelerate up to warp speed when required. There’s less emphasis on overt melodies but Arkona are still able to make the song both dark and accessible, a neat trick that they pull off cleverly.

The unpronounceable ‘Śmierć I Odrodzenie’ follows and is quite possibly my favourite track on the album. The true definition of epic, the layers of keyboards come to the fore to underpin the incessant battery of the rhythm section and those cold, jagged riffs. The moment of ambient, synth-led calm is both grand and superbly atmospheric, a welcome counterpoint to the bruising extreme metal that surrounds it. Again, tempo changes are prominent, allowing for more accessible melody to come to the fore when the speed is reined in.

It is down to the title track to carry ‘Lunaris’ over the finish line and, in keeping with the preceding 40 or so minutes, it doesn’t let us down. It starts off in frenetic fashion as is the Arkona way but blossoms into an epic anthem that finally gives way to a few moments of stunning ambient beauty and simplicity.

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea but with ‘Lunaris’, Arkona scratch a real itch with me. I adore this kind of extreme metal that’s heavy and uncompromising one minute and gloriously melodic the next and where the symphonic elements make the whole thing rather epic, grandiose and almost pompous. If you have a similar weakness, then Arkona are definitely a band to check out.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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