Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Album Review: Krynitza - "Hail to the Sun"

Krynitza - Hail to the Sun

Band: Krynitza (Russia)
Album Title: Hail to the Sun
Label: Sonnenvolk / Stellar Winter (Russia)
Released: 2007

Krynitza's debut album, Angel, was well-received among metal fans, despite not resembling metal in the slightest. Nothing terribly surprising there, considering the critical success of folkish bands like Tenhi and latter-day Empyrium in the metal realm. Krynitza, faced with this success, could have just pushed out another album similar to Angel, but instead has greatly evolved their sound with the follow-up album, Hail to the Sun.

Rodoslav (who now plays the zhaleyka and balalaika in addition to vocals, flute, and guitar) has fleshed out Krynitza's line-up into a full folk band, at least in the studio (I don't know if they ever play live). The female vocalist from the previous album has been replaced by the very capable Maria, and the violinist has been replaced as well. Also in the band are an additional guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, and a mouth harp player (the same mouth harp player from Angel). The final track also features a bayan (Russian accordion). What results is a very rich and full sound, aided by much-improved production.

Hail to the Sun is a great step forward for the band, and one of the most beautiful pieces of pagan art you are likely to hear this year. There is a greater variety among the songs on this album than there was on Angel. The sound is more aggressive, overall, due to the percussion and bass. Also, the female vocals are better-utilized, as Maria is not relegated to singing "Ooh" and "Aah" as Tatyana was on the debut.

The most experimental song on the album is the traditional Russian song "Raven Dark." On this track, the traditional instruments are done away with entirely (except for the mouth harp), replaced by electronics and sound effects. Some may not like the inclusion of this track, but I thought it provided a bit of variety and a nice break in the middle of the album.

Unfortunately, Hail to the Sun is almost as short as its predecessor, clocking in at just under a half hour. With music this good, naturally you want it to last longer, though I suppose shorter run times are typical for folk albums. But, like their debut, Krynitza's second album is a great journey while it lasts. This time around, they were kind enough to include English translations of the lyrics and recording information, courtesy of a separate insert, though I'm not sure if all copies of the CD have this. It's nice to see that they are keeping their non-Russian-speaking fans, like myself, in mind.

Hail to the Sun managed to exceed my already-high expectations for a follow-up to Angel. I would imagine that few if any Krynitza fans could possibly be disappointed with this release. As an aside, Krynitza's nationalist politics are made known on the closing song, "Motherland," but if you're already familiar with the Stellar Winter stable of bands, then there is nothing here that will offend you.

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