Arkona is definitely one of the most remarkable metal bands from Russia. Those who have seen these pagan metallers in their boiling energetic live shows, know that this is something hard to forget. The same goes for their music and to prove that once again, Arkona is presenting the new album, called “Yav”. In this interview band founder and vocalist Masha tells all about it and more.
What’s the meaning of the album title “Yav”?
Yav is “Reality”. The world we live in. In Slavic mythology there are 3 worlds: “Yav’” (our world), Nav’ (the other world, dark one) and Prav’ (world of gods and spirits).
What was the first – album title or cover? How did they influence each other?
“Yav” is a concept album. Concept not in the sense that each song relates to the previous one and the whole album is in the style of history, but that all the songs are about our world today and it describes my point of view on it. The cover completely repeats the conception of the album.
The girl, bent over the water, it is Yav. Reality that we want to see. But her real look is in her reflection. If we look around everything is the same in the modern world. Humanity wants to make the world better for itself, but ruins it. The concept of the album is my philosophy of nowadays. It consists in the thoughts that the real essence of the modern world is hidden under the artificially made beautiful form. Truth is not what we want to see, but what is in reality and what is really hard to see. That’s what the main cover represents.
Death is like a shadow or reflection of our world, that’s what we can see in the reflection of perfect reality.
Of course, at first the music was created, then conception and lyrics and in the end there was the appearance. Every painting depicts the plot of the song that I’ve created before. The main image of the picture was also created by me and that is what I presented to the artist. He should make his own image according to my vision and ideas.
Could you please introduce listeners to the content of the album?
The album’s lyrics are made in philosophical manner and narrates about the world around us. The world how I see it, it also describes my feelings and emotions about the world’s problems and opens the philosophy of my views about the future of our generation and empathy to the changes which have started.
Some words about the songs:
The song is about the making of the world, created after the first word “OM”, according to the beliefs of the ancient ones. It was woven of the divine face (the Universe itself) on a cloth of black by Vles’ thread. Life on the Earth was originated from the divine womb. The human being appeared as the last creation in this line, and the men build their own life upon the graves of their creator (who was buried alive), thereby the men carry out self-extermination.
“On Guard Of New Aeons”
The song is about us – the people of the present. Those people who are glorified as the guardians at the gates of the New Aeon of the New World, who are always ready to open the gates to the new life, the life which will be absolutely different. The birth of the New Aeon means this world’s death and creation of the new one.
The song is dedicated to the land of our brothers, to the land which was sprinkled with blood a hundred years ago, and which still keeps the visible marks of the recently experienced war. It is both the grief for the fallen ones, and the call to get up from the knees, closing the wounds, standing on own two feet and holding the everlasting banner under the name of Serbia, which makes the wounded Heart of the Earth beat again and again.
“Empty Villages’ Call”
It is about the abandoned villages and about the feelings that overfill you. When you’re staying at a ramshackle house and hear squeaks of the rotten shutters, when you are standing being stunned with a drop of the rain, gazing at the inviting stellar firmament, when you are eager to howl with the emptiness overfilling your soul.
“City of Dreams”
The song is dedicated to the city of Kharkov in Ukraine. The city is connected with some images that have been pursuing the mind since the author’s childhood; with her mother’s stories about her wonderful life in the distant city, where sincere affection is still alive; where the extraordinary beauty of the Nature still exist; where kindred souls still live – the souls of those who seemed to be lost. And where you are eager to rush ahead, run without ever looking back, and stay there for ever.
It is a dialogue between an inquisitor and a witch. Both of these essences are related with the real time and the Middle Ages. The Inquisitor plays a role of a religious society. A role of a person, who is out of this religious society, and who lives by her own laws of her own world, is played by the Witch.
This song presents the idea of the author concerning the unseen world of the autistic children, i.e. of so-called “Indigo children”. They are sung as our world’s pariahs who communicate with the Gods, but they are sung as well as the future generations of the world to come. They are our descendants, the children of the guardians staying at the gates of the New Aeon. They are the New People of the New World.
In this song Yav’ (the visible world of the alive ones or the Life itself in the Slavonic mythology) is treated as a proper name. The text concerns its, or better say, her torments and wounds which we inflict her as a blade, trampling her, breaking her bones, spilling her blood. She suffers at her last gasp, prostrates herself, seeing her own shadow as an image of death, but she rises again realizing that she is immortal. As for us, we bring upon our shoulders the burden of her strife – twisting the knife in her wounds because of our twice heavier burden.
“Embraced By Sedition”
The song concerns a man who is dying because of the pain and the strife of loneliness, who is sinking both in his love to himself, and in his hate towards the persons of the same kind.
How does the album differs from earlier ones?
“Yav” is written in a completely different way and doesn’t look like our earlier albums. The music is mixed from different styles. It has elements of prog, art rock with addition of shoegaze and electronic elements. All of it takes place inside a black metal core of the songs.
This album has limited number of folk moments, in comparison to our earlier ones. I want to admit, that pagan metal is first of all based on ideological lyrics and don’t have any genre limitations. Pagan metal can be “folk/black/death..” etc. You can add prefix “folk” to our earlier albums, but you can’t do the same with “Yav” because there is no “folk” in this album.
Songs from “Yav” are quite complex and dark. What was the main inspiration to you while creating songs for this album?
This album musically uncovers the state of my soul which I had in the definite moments of writing the songs. I think, that real creativity doesn’t look for sources of inspiration. As a rule, it appears from nowhere like someone implants it into your brain. Actually, the creators take music from other world and demonstrate it to people. Music can born at any time in your life, you can be in subway, work on something important. It can interrupt your dialogue with someone or come during the sleep. You will never know when it happens.
Art of lyrics is the reflection of my ideology. I sing about what I see around myself, what I feel and what I live with. My lyric art is very versatile and doesn’t come to nothing more than single definite things. It can be private or world problems, stories, tales, feelings or anything else. During all our life we know more and more, build the pyramids of our thoughts, make parallels between past and present, looking at the face of future. All of this is reflected in the lyrics of our upcoming album.
Why is the third song dedicated to Serbia?
The song “Serbia” was written after our visit to Balkan lands with tour several years ago. Postwar ruins and trees which grow through it shocked me. Near the club an old woman came to our sound engineer and became to stroke his hair and cry. She repeated that he looks like her dead son, who had the same beautiful long hair.
During the concert I noticed a huge man with naked chest, he had a bullet wound near his heart. He stayed so close to me and cried listening to our song “Rus’”. After the show he came to me and presented the T-shirt with the word “Serbia” on it. I was so touched that had written the song which I’ve devoted to the postwar times of our Slavic brothers. And we will think about it, we can understand, that this holy land was covered with blood hundreds years ago.
The song “The Witch” (“Ved’ma”) differs from the others because of its role play and guest vocalist from Thyrfing. How did you come up collaborating with Thomas Väänänen?
Thyrfing is one of my favorite old groups. In one’s time they impressed me with their music and continue to excite me even now. We became good friends with these guys in our tour “Paganfest” last spring. Then Joakim Kristensson (bass-guitarist and one of the founders of Thyrfing) and me had an idea of Tomas’ participation in Arkona’s new album. That’s it.
Usually there are many guest musicians in Arkona’s albums, are there going to be some of your guests on the stage as well?
It would be nice, for sure, but it depends on future possibilities.
Why did Arkona decide not to use chorus?
This album still have thousands of my own voices, so I decided to leave only mine. Chorus became excess in this way and didn’t give the necessary effect. I think that now our album sounds very harmonious and additional instruments or voices can make it supersaturated.
On your website you’ve announced a new drummer – Andrey Ischenko, are there any more changes in the band? Could you tell more about it?
Our new album was recorded by two drummers, the first six songs were recorded with our old drummer Vlad Artist, and the last three were recorded with the help of our new drummer – Andrey Ischenko.
Vlad left our band because of disagreements in our staff, that lasted from the moment of studying of the new material and accrued for this time for even more. The decision about the longer activity of Vlad in our group has been made by all members. I think it is a normal situation when someone become tired or uninterested in continuing the work with the band. He leaves and finds himself in something else. Vlad is imperceptible part of our band. We wish him only luck in his life!
When the decision about Vlad has been made we immediately offered Andrey to take his place in our group.
Andrey Ischenko is our old friend. We know each other for many years, so that was easy to accept him to our staff. Andrey is a very famous Russian (and not only) drummer, who dedicated his life to the work in different groups. He worked a lot with many groups not only as a session musician but as a constant member of many old Russian groups. We are glad to see such a great musician like Andrey in Arkona!
It is the only change in our group at this moment.
Will the video clip follow the album?
We wanted to make a video clip for the song “Serbia”, but the label didn’t share our idea and refused to support it financially. That’s why I don’t know anything about the future circumstances. I have no ideas about the video for any other songs.
What are band’s plans after album release? There some concert/festival dates confirmed, are there going to be more?
We have huge plans, and this summer we are going to visit numerous festivals. We also know that all the upcoming autumn we will be in tour with the absolutely new program dedicated to our new album. At the moment we keep all our plans in secret, and I can only advice our listeners to watch for the new information on our official resources.
Are there any particular places/ festivals you would like to play that you didn’t before?
I think we have played everywhere we can imagine, and we always wish to return to the places we have already been.
Thank you a lot for your answers.
We as well thank you for interesting interview! Good luck!