To everyone with the slightest connection to the pagan/folk metal genre the name Oprich could very well sound familiar, because they have been around and active for quite some time now. Founded in the late nineties this Russia based, seven-man outfit consists of, in no particular order, Pan as vocalist and on flute, Jaromir as vocalist and on guitar, Kolyado on guitar, Peresvet on bass, Michail Romanov on folk instruments, Vladimir on drums and Pustosvyat who is responsible for the arrangements. Considering they had their maiden release, a split with Kroda, only in 2005, some seven years after being founded, the list of releases is relatively large. Since releasing their debut they have been a busy bunch, having released two more splits apart from the one with Kroda, one with Chur and a somewhat politically loaded one with Chur and Piarevacien. In addition to that they also released a mini-album and two full-lengths. Now, three years after their latest work they are ready to unleash their third full-length called All Sails To The Wind (or Poveter in Russian). Taking the genre and the line-up into consideration no one will have any difficulty determining what their music should sound like and lo and behold, that is indeed exactly what you get: Russian folk metal, heavily influenced by traditional instruments, of which the flute is the most distinctly audible. Lyric-wise this album tells the tales of the Ushkuiniks of Novgorod, the Vikings of the Upper-Volga, of which they see themselves as descendants.
All Sails To The Wind contains ten songs spanning a total of 44 minutes of folk metal, including an English and a Russian version of the same song, that vary in heaviness, intensity and atmosphere much like you’d expect on a folk metal album. There’s a little bit of everything to be found. The slow, heavy riffs in, for example, A Barrow Over The River, are equally fitting as the merry, frolicking tunes in, say, In Oars’ Splashes, creating an overall atmosphere of courage and heraldry, best exemplified by the intro of Campaign. The riffs are mostly tight and skillfully played (try The Ruthless Ones for example) and are backed by an equally tight rhythm section. In addition there’s room for all instruments to get in the spotlights at times. The drums in Campaign, the bass in Bear Hug and even the Didgeridoo-ish sounds in Winds’ Heady Mead, they all get their moment of fame. However, the overall leading part is unmistakably reserved for the flute, that loosely swirls through the song structures. And then there’s the vocals. It’s probably me and it most likely has to do with the fact that I am used to Germanic language, but I find the clean vocals in non-Germanic languages sang songs often create a distinct sound that I consider an acquired taste. Pan’s and/or Jaromir’s vocal lines are no different, however when they switch to grunting, which they are certainly good at and which they use for the majority of the vocal lines, that immediately disappears. And then still it’s not too big an obstacle in my opinion, it just takes a little getting used to.
Although the above might suggest otherwise there’s nothing really new to be found on All Sails To The Wind. All songs are solid, essentially not too complicated and recognizably folk metal pieces of work. There’s no room for useless complexity and it’s never very innovative, but that doesn’t mean this album is bad or solely consists of plain and simple songs. Every song needs some sort of complexity, which in this case is provided by details rather than by the compositions themselves. The use of arrangements, the way the guitar is used as a source of various soundscapes and the ever frolicking flute add the necessary variation to the song structures. I can’t find anything negative to say about this album, nor will I even if I searched for another week for it. There really is not a single bad song on this album, but on the other hand, there aren’t many true gems to be found either. It’s definitely a good release, that’s for sure, but to me it lacks some innovation. Even though there’s hints of adventure to be found here and there, I for one would have liked the compositions themselves to be a bit more adventurous. More like the Ushkuiniks they’re singing about maybe. Nevertheless, even though there’s no true surprises on this album, this still is well worth your attention and will especially please the folk metal fans around there. Poveter!