Interview: ARKONA
Title: Spirit dance of the natural force

Shamanically spiritual, archaic, and mysteriously mystifying, the Russian Pagan Folk Metal masters showing themselves on their new album „Khram“.

Singer Masha ‚Scream‘ Arkhipova and her four dedicated comrades reveal themselves to listeners as profoundly as never before.

In addition, musically even more diverse, because open for as original as suitable renewals, the unusually successful union of unwavering persuasion people heaves their own material far beyond the genre.

Like a fascinating metamorphosis, Arkona bravely proves worthwhile courage for further development, continuing since 2002 on the thoroughgoing search for themselves.

In the following, Masha candidly reports on the new release of her formation.

Are you fully satisfied with the global press results and the fan-reactions for „Yav“?

„Yes, we got what we expected in the end! This album was a kind of surprise for old fans of our music, some of them fell in love with it, someone did not get this album and keeps listening our old works. In the end, we are doing our music mostly for ourselves and to think all the time about how people like it or not … no, it's not our thing. In any case, it's perfect that someone accepted and love this album as we do.“

How do you feel now, after having finished these new, truly outstanding collection of Arkona songs?

„We definitely did our best, creating our new CD. Therefore, our feelings are only positive! Talking about myself, now I'm a little bit being in a strange state, when you seem to have completed what you planned, but you are still there, on the stage of creation. There is some feeling of emptiness after so active movement around the album, I'm not used to this state yet, but soon the inner emptiness will be filled with concerts and then everything will return to its places.“

What is the most important for you on these new - very special - release of Arkona?

„For me, as for the author of the whole creation, the main thing is absolutely every detail that I created. I can not point out something particularly important for me, I can only say that this album is arranged in such a way that one spills out of the other, it is growing and improves, grows to the maximum, then again goes into decline, turning all the events occurring in the songs, in time cyclicity. It shows the cycle of the temporary existence of our entire life. Everything is moving in a circle, everything is happening.“

Be so kind and describe the main musical character of „Khram“ with your very own words!

„You know, couple of times I was thinking about how I could describe all this, but I still have not found the word, because the even character, of each of the songs is too diverse to describe it. It seems to me that people should find and determine their own view to the nature of the sound of the album and describe it in their own way. Of course when they will listen to it couple of times.“

The often touching tearful as well as ’triumphant desperately' vocals on „Khram“ fitting one more time simply perfect to the material in each facet. It sounds partly even male.

You seem to bring out your most personal, most adult vocals so far there.

Please tell about the development of the newest, vocal work!

„Many thanks for your words, it's great to hear such amazing reviews! We have male vocals only in Intro and Outro. In the intro, men's throat singing belongs to our friend from the Siberian Ethnic Ritual Folk band Nytt Land, Anatoly Pakhalenko. And the scary voices you can hear at the beginning and end of the album, which even sounds more like samples, than the voice parts, belong to me and Sergey Lazar. All other vocal parts are performed only by me, including choral performance and all possible kinds of extreme vocals. Anatoly recorded throat singing in his home studio, after we sent him an unreleased version of the song. And those scary vocals we recorded at the studio. I remember it was a full moon, we were at the studio together and improvised, making different sounds in the microphone. The result is what you hear. It took a few days to record all my voices. It happened at the same place, at the Sergey’s studio called "CDM Records" where he also works as a sound engineer. Actually, Sergey recorded all my voices as well as all the other musicians. First I recorded all the clean voices, then the extreme ones, everything went pretty calm. The voice did not break, and could even reproduce sufficiently clear voice sounds during the conversation after the entire recording. Nothing extraordinary happened on the recording, everything was as usual, clearly, without any incidents.“

The grand, touching and emphasized, atmospheric passages - as f.e. in „Tseluya-zhizn“ are not only marvelous created, but also arranged with so much love for perfect moods. What is to tell about ?

„Thank you once again! I do all the arrangements at the same time when I write music. I’m using "Cakewalk pro audio". I'm drawing the entire arrangement in midi, so right after I’ve done with the song I have all musical material ready to go. Initially, everything is born in my head, I see and hear how each instrument should sound, I feel how each instrument should be combined with another. As I already have a lot of experience in arranging songs, it's easy for me to do everything at once, so later, during the stage of learning and recording material, 99 percent of the arrangement remains unchanged. I'm very painful about any changes in songs after my work is done, so I try to make the whole arrangement ready for recording from the beginning.“

Overlong, monumental composed songs with a playing time of partly 17 min. this time; what has been the main intention to do so?

„I’m never thinking about a song length while composing it. I just write, as I see… This is an unpredictable result of my writing, I am moved only by the vision of the song and the sense of what it should be in the end. There is no special reason in long song, it is just happening naturally.“

The new music of Arkona on „Khram“ is extremely emotional, but appears fully genuine … what kind of emotions dominate these songs?

„It’s true, it is very very emotional. Pain, sadness, dreams, experiences, memories and thoughts. All these intertwined inside me and everything inside me I expressed with the help of creativity. You can’t say which one dominates, they complement each other and interact with each other.“

Which special, heathen, shamanic visions are raising in your mind while performing these new material?

„There are a lot of pictures raising in my head, especially if you consider that I only thinking with images. They are constantly with me, throughout my life. If I now describe all the pictures in my head, then I will have to describe the whole world and its existence from beginning to end. My pictures are very diverse and there are millions of them. Those that most expressively touching the album, you can see in the illustration for each of the songs in the booklet, when the album will be published.“

Is it allowed to ask you directly about special musical influences which led to the new songs of „Khram“?

„Some songs I created under the strong influence of the Canadian Black Metal band "Panzerfaust". During the Canadian tour of Arkona in 2016, I met the leader of this wonderful band. His name is Brock, and he worked as our driver and light engineer. He gave me to listen to his album "The Lucifer Principle", which was not released by then. I was simply amazed by its atmosphere and I fell in love with it. After listening to this album for a very long time, the first ideas for my songs that were included in the album "Khram" began to emerge. Afterwards, Brock and I became friends, he helped me a lot with the lyrics ideas for "Khram" and brought a huge contribution to some important moments while working on all the material. He always suggested and gave many useful advices. It was a great honor and I want to thank Brock for the fact that he has invested his share in the creation of our new album!“

„Khram“ - translated „temple“ - which temple is meant? An 'Inner temple' of true and honest individualism?

„You are almost right, but I will say a bit more about this and will tell you what I meant exactly. Temple - this is a very extensive and diverse notion, because each of us has its own own temple in the world. It can be anything: a temple of the soul, a temple of nature, a temple of the living, a temple of the dead, a temple of the universe, a temple of the inner world, a temple, as the shrine of the sacred things of everything living and non-living, movable and immovable. In the new album, I open the door in my own temple, which also has multiply meanings to myself. The main cover of the album entirely reflects its internal concept. The first thing you see is a two-headed entity, one head black and one white. This essence lives within each of us and it is living in eternal struggle with its opposite essence, thereby creating chaos inside us. On the cover, the essence, cutting its flesh, shows its inner world as a universe, where absolute chaos reigns, created by us, inside of ourselves, and which we subsequently released outside. In fact, the double-headed essence is our inner temple, and it, in turn, opens the gates to its temple, to the world of eternal chaos, from which our entire universe exists, which, in turn, is the temple of our world and shows it to us through his flesh, in the form of a two-faced entity that lives inside us. Everything is interconnected in interaction with each other and revolves strictly in a circle, creating the movement of all existence on a Universal scale.“

Be so kind and bring the main lyrical content of the new tracks a bit closer!

„As I already wrote above - "Khram" is a very diverse concept, affecting many aspects of our lives and not only lives. In this album, the word "Khram" itself is something like an unseen thread throughout the entire musical canvas and is exists in absolutely every song, giving it special meaning. The lyrics on this album are very multifaceted, the lyrics contain a lot of philosophy relating to our world, being, the existence of man in this life and beyond. I also touch the topic of cosmogony from my point of view, embrace the essence of the chaotic movement that is born inside our temple and interacts with chaos from the outside, creating ultimately the absolute balance and harmony of our world, both inside ourselves and outside.The theme of life and death is showed as two sisters leading the eternal ritual dance. Also there are songs about my feelings, experienced at different periods of my life. There is also a cover version for the song of our friends, the band Vedan Kolod, which is called „Volchitsa"."

The songwriting process for „Khram“ itself, what is to tell about in general? Experienced any noteworthy up’s or down’s? Any changes to the past?

„The recording process has no differences from all previous works. Everything happened at the same studio, with the same musicians. This time, Sergey used 3 different guitars, one of which he bought specifically for the recording of "Khram". Most of the parts were recorded with Fender Telecaster, which is not typical for us and for heavy music in general. Sergey said that it’s because of specific guitar parts, which I wrote for the new album. Also the new experience for us was recording of a tuba.“

What do you think - are the most dedicated, most confident and most loyal protagonists to find in Russia and Eastern Europe, when one thinks about the global Neo-Pagan circles?

„I don’t think so. I met a lot of true people in different parts of our planet, and these people are really sincere, without a pseudo mask with the inscription "Folk Metal" and the other things, which is now called fashion. I see that there are more people devoted to their traditions who respect their past, seeking to find themselves in this life through the depth of knowledge of the world of their ancestors. It is just makes me glad, I am in real ecstasy, dealing with such people and my deep respect is going to them.“

© Markus Eck, 27.11.2017

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