Three years ago we had the privilege of premiering a complete stream of Lunaris, the sixth album by the long-running Polish black metal band Arkona. Today we’re fortunate to host the premiere of Arkona‘s seventh album, Age of Capricorn, in a career that’s now more than a quarter-century long. If this were to become a tradition, we would be quite happy, because Arkona have once again demonstrated, in astonishing fashion, that the fires which set them ablaze so long ago have not diminished in the least, but seem to be reaching new heights of extravagance
The band’s particular formulation of black metal is by now well-established, and their devotion to it is unswerving. Their music, as manifested so powerfully in this new record, set for release on December 13th by Debemur Morti Productions, disdains the mundane and the commonplace. Delivered with dominating supremacy, it combines unchecked ferocity, emotionally powerful melody, and an atmosphere of terrible, otherworldly grandeur and shattering bleakness. It seems to embrace death and to manifest visions of what lies beyond the pathetic scrabbling of daily existence.
In the album’s opening moments shimmering mystical synths, swelling in volume, and a gruesome guttural voice intoning terrors from sulphurous depths pave the way for thunderous double-bass, methodical snare cracks, and intense twilight-zone riffing. And from that mystifying start the band launch a shock-and-awe assault of jet-propelled drum blasting and white-hot cyclonic riffing, augmented by vocals that are equally super-heated in their blood-boiling intensity. True to its name, “Stellar Inferno” combines sensations of incineration and terrifying celestial splendor, as if sending the listener through the heart of a sun.
The sound is sharp and clear, yet that knife-edged effect in no way detracts from the immense power of the experience, which takes different forms in the song. Waves of wondrous symphonic and organ melody rise up and cascade over stately drum cadences. Shivering guitars shine and simmer like feverish sonic radiation. And these contrasting sensations become a hallmark of the album as a whole, because sheer fury is only one of the music’s experiences.
You will notice a vibrant piano arpeggio rippling through “Alone Among Wolves“, surrounded by titanic percussive detonations, neck-wrecking snare patterns, and full-on light-speed blasting, as well as searing waves of whirring chords and scorching vocals. The mood of the music is ominous and perilous at first, and grows increasingly unhinged and unearthly, though still bleak, but the rising splendor of the music is unmistakable. It might put you in mind of the kind of full-throttle, all-enveloping extravagance that often forms the closing movement of a classical symphony, and its own soaring crescendo is itself extravagant. However, you’ll get a chance to breathe again as the song then guides you out into the cosmos on mystical ambient waves.
The breather that comes at the end of “Alone with Wolves” is short-lived, because the album’s title track again resumes the pulse-quickening assault of furious drumming and searing vocal madness, of all-consuming riffage and borealis-like sheets of slowly cascading synths. The music is so wondrous and so intense in its grasping toward the heavens that it swells the listener’s heart to the rupture point, and it again features beautiful piano accents as well as electrifying strummed chords. The drumming alone continues to be so eye-popping that it almost risks diverting attention from every other eye-popping sensation surrounding them.
Feelings of melancholy are intertwined with visions of glory in “Age of Capricorn”, and the transitions are so seamless that you don’t immediately realize they’re happening, almost as if the music is capturing the realization that the spectacles we see, almost within reach, will never be grasped.
“Deathskull Mystherium” seems to intensify that beleaguered feeling, as the riffing, the piano keys, and the mind-mauling vocals channel terrible anguish as well as rage. Arkona‘s music is so explosive that the song never overtly descends into crawling doom — its firebrand energy is still very much in evidence, but here it creates sensations of oppressive tension, flesh-stripping pain, and seizures of madness, to go along with the oppressive cloak of hopelessness.
Majestic and mystical organ chords accent the maniacal barbarism of “Towards The Dark”, creating an atmosphere of darkness ascendant, of a colossus striding the earth and scouring its surface of all pathetic human creations with the sweep of its taloned hands, pausing to howl its triumph to the storm-roiled skies above. As always, the music intertwines differing emotional energies, and here seems to portray the misery of huddled creatures surveying the devastation of their lives and awaiting the final abyss, a vision further defined through the wailing cries that rise up in seeming supplication for a reprieve that will never come.
The album seemed to begin among the stars, in a slow drift within the void and only haunting spoken words as company, and that is also how the album’s closing track begins. But of course that is again only a prelude. True to its name, “Grand Manifest Of Death” combines the awe-inspiring majesty of orchestral synths and the obliterating impact of off-the-hook drumming and throat-lacerating vocals. Death looms in the music, spreads wide its draconic wings, drips poison from its pores, and feasts upon misery, and those feelings of implacable menace and helpless surrender come through in the dismal and discordant melodies that dominate the song’s closing minutes — before one final breathtaking display of hurtling power and horrifying majesty.
Age of Capricorn was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Impressive Art Studio, and is completed with cover art and layout by Church Of Chaos Multimedia.
DMP will release the album on digipak CD, gatefold 12″ LP, a special edition gatefold 12″ LP limited to 100 copies, and all digital platforms on December 13th. Pre-orders can be placed via the links below.
And in other Arkona news, we’ll mention that the band are confirmed to play Metalowa Wigilia 2019 alongside Sólstafir, Primordial, Carpathian Forest, and more on December 21st, and have already started confirming tour dates for the new year, including Under The Black Sun Festival 2020 with Naglfar, Mystifier, Endezzma, and others on July 2nd. Follow their social media to get updates to their activities in the months ahead.
North America Webshop:http://bit.ly/arkonaUS
European Webshop: http://bit.ly/arkonaEU
And people wonder why I don’t make my best-of-the-year list until after Xmas every year. So much good stuff is coming out in December this year.
Here I was thinking Arkona blew….Theyve matured quite a bit, then?
You might be thinking of Russian folk metal band Arkona, instead of Polish black metal band Arkona. The Poles came first, fwiw.
I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are confused.
No, no—-I wasnt confused about which Arkona it was. Never too late to eat my own words and thereby alter my judgment. I love to be surprised in this way.
You’re all wrong
While Polish Arkona does indeed kick ass, Russian Arkona plays awesome pagan/folk and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to clean the wax out of their ears
I’m also a big fan of Russian Arkona, and lucked out seeing them live in Seattle a few years back — they put on a hell of a show.
It sure is Black Metal, got all that tremolo picking and stuff…repeats a simple melody, has blastbeats…yup. There are a thousand bands that play this exact Black Metal. Boring