Alkonost – The Path we’ve never made lands – 3.5/5
And we approach another Russian folk metal band, this time with a slight doom-like edge to them, with epic ballads to follow as they meander on their blissful path. Describing what to expect here is no easy challenge, as there is little to compare them to. They heavily rely on keyboards to produce the atmosphere, the majority of the vocals taken up by an operatic vocalist (who is actually operatic, not just a nightwish wannabe), interspersed with the occasional growl, whilst on paper it all sounds rather good, it felt lacking, not through doing anything particularly badly, but by simply not being done as well as it could be.
Now, I’m a big fan of ‘folk’ instruments in folk metal, the tin pipes, flutes, bagpipes, accordions, violins and so on. I’m well aware of how well folk metal can work without them, but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that here it was sorely missed. The soft and simplistic structure seemed ripe for a layer of flute work to spruce up the tone, to add depth to the atmosphere and for the best part of the album this could have worked wonders in improving it.
Instead we are left with the drums supplying a basic framework, built on by the guitars to supply rhythm and the keyboards to supply atmosphere. The guitars rely largely on chord work during the vocal passages, and interchange with the keyboards in supplying melodic riffs between vocal work, and it must be said they succeed in doing a good job maintaining tone. There are no virtuoso solo’s to be found here, rather interesting instrumental passages used to break up the rather lengthy tracks, which could easily become rather monotonous.
The vocals, however, are easily the strongest part of this album for me. Soothing operatic vocals draw focus, and provide much of the sustained interest in the album. The growls are used all too sparingly, and could have added much needed diversity to the sound, as even the wonderful operatic work prevalent here cannot sustain interest for even the full length of a song, let alone the entire album.
And that constitutes this albums major downfall, it’s too monotonous. The tracks all sound identical, they blur together and there is little to really separate them - even the guitar interludes seem rather similar. It is sorely lacking in energy, there’s a spark needed to really provide a thick atmosphere, a sense of strength but it ends up feeling like a rather lacklustre affair. It must be said, given the praise I’ve seen them given, this is rather disappointing.
Highlights: Track 1, Track 3, Track 7