Monday, July 27, 2009

Album Review: Natural Spirit - Сита Роса

Natural Spirit - Сита Роса (Sita Rosa)

Artist: Natural Spirit (Ukraine)
Album Title: Сита Роса ("Rain" in ancient Slavonic)
Record Label: Sound Age (Russia) / Stormspell Records (USA)
Released: 2008 (Sound Age) / 2009 (Stormspell)

The debut CD of Natural Spirit, Русколунь, was a pretty solid pagan metal CD that went mostly unnoticed. The band disappeared for a while after its release and actually relocated to Kiev... or, rather, vocalist/guitarist Oleg Kirienko relocated to Kiev, and had to reassemble the band from scratch afterwards. Four years later, with an entirely new band backing him (some of whom have since left the fold), Natural Spirit re-emerged with their second album, Сита Роса, and, quite surprisingly, it's nothing short of excellent.

Let me preface this by saying that the most appealing element of Сита Роса, for me, is female vocalist Katerina Prischepa, and unfortunately she has since left the band. However, I've seen some live clips on Youtube of their new female vocalist performing with the band, and she appears to have a great voice as well. At least they were able to document Katerina's time with the band with her performance on this album, which is frequently breathtaking. Her voice appears trained and confident, and I seem to detect a bit of folk style as well.

It's hard for me to adequately describe the "sound" of Natural Spirit. There are elements of what some have dubbed "Beauty and the Beast" metal, with the contrast between Oleg's harsh, black metal vocals, and Katerina's heavenly, somewhat operatic vocals. I guess you could even compare them to Alkonost due to the vocals and the guitar leads. A few songs are dominated by Oleg's vocals, but even then Natural Spirit doesn't really sound like black metal. I guess I can only call it folk metal, though there are no traditional instruments used. The "folk" sound is produced by the guitar leads and keyboards, as well as the sound of the female vocals, and underneath it is a solid foundation of heavy metal with a strong production job. By the way, all lyrics are in Ukrainian, which is a beautiful language to hear, whether sung or shrieked, and it was a good choice for the band to continue writing their lyrics in their own tongue.

Natural Spirit's Сита Роса is a great mix of accessibility and depth, which makes it a good choice for Stormspell Records to have licensed for the North American market. The songs are catchy and interesting throughout the album, and there's a nice variety in the songs, from faster, more aggressive tunes like Дива ("Diva") to the ballad-like Сон ("Dream"). Overall there's just a really pleasant, inviting sound to this album. If you're new to Slavonic pagan/folk metal, this is a great place to start, and if you already have a sizeable collection of it, you also should add this one if you haven't already.

Natural Spirit may not be a household name in this style of music, but, after a great release like Сита Роса, they deserve to gain a lot of attention.

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