arkonaLong-established Polish black metal band Arkona, not to be confused with the Russian band of the same name, are back with their sixth album and a few other bits. I expected no frills. The intro is short because there’s hatred and venom to be expressed. A withering, spite-filled riff is the familiar accompaniment to the sonic depiction of fiery cauldrons. “Droga do Ocalenia” (The Way to Salvation) has classic imperial authority, breaking away into choral symphony before coming back to hit us hard. There’s a strong melodic structure, which goes with the so-called second wave of black metal, and it’s very much in evidence on the pounding “Ziemia” (Earth). At the start it’s reminds me of Khold and not at all of the harsher classic Polish black metal style. But as if a switch is turned, dark clouds come in and “Ziemia” migrates to a stone-heavy and impressive world of grim fury. Patiently life is sucked out of everything. “Śmierć i Odrodzenie” (Death and Re-Birth) then swamps us in power. The drums are merciless but there is a melancholic majesty. I wasn’t sure how re-birth was going to fit into this. There is a smooth transition into a haunting keyboard-inspired section, and then a return to the blackened fields in which Arkona specialise. But it’s not all devastation as the mood swings towards another melancholically majestic section. I still can’t say where re-birth fits in, but this is a powerful and interesting piece nevertheless.

“Nie Dla Mnie Litość” (No Mercy for Me) lives up to is title and remorselessly battles its way through grim and fiery soundscapes. Arkona again demonstrate their skill in transforming scenes fluidly by injecting a suggestive and sinister symphonic section towards the end, and breaking it up with violent brutality. Raw violence gives way to the shadowy and darkly ringing “Lśnienie” (Shimmer). The drums provide a deep undercurrent while the guitars cry out in their uncompromising way. The vocalist utters words I do not understand and roars. I do not imagine it to be about the beauty of the landscape. This is drawn-out agony, atmospheric darkness of a higher order. I liked “Lśnienie”. The closing title track takes us back to the beginning of this album with its all-out black metal assault, which expands into a powerful and dark display of desperation and helplessness.

You can’t go wrong with this. “Lunaris” follows classic black metal patterns throughout its course. Brutality and of course darkness are the norm, but there are atmospheric and symphonic moments which reinforce the mood and break the violence. It is always sinister. The music is well structured. The result is a world of chaos, disorder and despair.

(8/10 Andrew Doherty)