Volchii Ostrog are a Russian pagan/death metal band who flirt with melodeath and even progressive metal a bit. The band released their full-length debut Crimson Sunrise of the Renaissance early this year with the Grailight Productions label (which is a very good source for metal from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine).
At 14 tracks and 62 minutes, this is a whopper of an album. And as easy as it is for a record to get boring at that length, this release totally avoids that problem. Instead, the band shifts pace, aggression level, and style often enough to keep the material constantly fresh and interesting. I've noticed a tendency for many Russian folk/pagan metal bands to avoid being tied to the conventions of typical European groups in those same sub-genres, and this is true of Volchii Ostrog too. There is a huge range from mellow to intense on this record, with sounds ranging from up-the-gut death metal to soft jazzy beauty. Many of the tracks on this album have a surprisingly modern sound with little or no pretense of maintaining ye olde historical illusions. Much of the melodic death metal in their style and riffing tends to sound firmly rooted in the now, but this modernized trend is never so clearly displayed as when the band goes into sparkling progressive guitar solos a la Dream Theater. Further, the relaxing bass work on slower tracks adds to the newness of the feel.
Of course there are still strong traces of more traditional folk/pagan metal in the band's sound as well. The riffing strays into bouncy, folksy territory on a number of tracks, and the keyboard work and tidbits of spoken narration add to the atmosphere.
I really like the vocals on this album. They are mostly powerful harsh growls, and the vocalist's high-low range is excellent. Also, they sound clearly articulated enough that I'm confident I could understand virtually everything he was saying if I spoke Russian. I find that particular quality extremely appealing. In addition, the female guest vocals that crop up on the title track are stunningly beautiful, and that's coming from somebody who almost universally hates clean female singing in metal.
While there are several fantastic tracks on this album, but if I were to lodge one complaint, it would be that these songs don't always fit together as cohesively as they could. That factor prevents this album from being truly great, and it also makes it hard to really sum the record up effectively with a single sample track. This is still a highly worthwhile listen, though.
Excellent, interesting, and diverse pagan death metal from Russia.