Review: Sieta – Novgorod

Sieta is a relatively new Slavonic folk metal band hailing from Russia. It is a project of Skyglow-members Aleksandr Mokin and Sergey Stepanenko, who have started it in 2018. Vocalist Aleksandr and guitarist Sergey completed the band with bassist Viktor Khaychenko, drummer Dmytro Herasymov and backing vocalist Artemiy Gorchakov. Their aim was to release their debut back in 2019, but it took the guys until 2020 to finish it. Sadly their agony didn’t end there, as the search for a label turned up empty. The band then started a crowdfunding and are finally ready to release their long-awaited debut, a full-length called Novgorod, in June of this year. The album, filled with music that is supposedly comparable to that of Moonsorrow and Ensiferum, is lyrically build around the true story about a single region called Novgorod that defied Knyaz Vladimir’s decree that Christianity was the only allowed religion in 10th century Russia and that Paganism was prohibited. For that reason the lyrics are written in two languages, namely old Russian and old Church Slavonic. To underline the discord musically as well, the band alternately uses black metal and folk metal, which is meant to distinguish both religions from one another.

As complicated as all of the above may sound, when you simply put on the tunes it’ll all become clear. The ball kicks off with bird sounds that are soon joined by a flute and what appear to be medieval instruments like the hurdy-gurdy. I’m not sure if the actual instruments have been used or that they are computer generated, but either way the song, appropriately called Introduction, brings a rather bright and cheerful atmosphere. An atmosphere that, due to the fluent transition, is carried into the second song which is called Novgorod. It isn’t for too long though as soon the atmosphere turns a bit more grim when Aleksandr’s growl set in and Novgorod unfolds into a full-blown folk metal song with, again, a star role for the flute. Then we get to meet the dark force in the story of Novgorod by means of the song Knyaz, in which the atmosphere seriously darkens. Aleksandr’s grunts are more aggressive and so does the music. The overall speed is significantly higher and the arrangements much darker, adding to the clearly increasingly grim atmosphere. Not even the lighter intermezzo can change this, even the flute seems to share in the sorrow. Although I sadly have no idea about the lyrics, my knowledge of Slavonic languages is next to nothing, there is no doubt we’re dealing with the bad guy here. The relentless drums and ditto guitar tend very strongly toward black metal, be it a rather melodic variety.

The band have chosen to keep switching between points of view from good and evil roughly with every subsequent song, so after the dark Knyaz it is the good guys’ turn once again as the brighter atmosphere, again lead by the flute, returns in Our Spirit. The vocals are alternately clear and grunts and especially the clear vocals summon some sort of heroic feeling, that rapidly disappears as Darkness blasts from your speakers. Much like Knyaz this too is a strongly black metal influenced song that has a similarly unnerving feel to it, due to its aggression and overpowering composition. After all this heavy violence it’s time for a little breather that comes in the form of the with beautifully soothing melodies starting Dream. Halfway through the song the calm ends when a great riff sets in bringing the song to a fading end that starts a tad too early in my opinion. Of course the fading has a good reason as it leads us to the inevitable yet still completely logical pinnacle of the story and thus the album: the 12-minute long masterpiece Battle.

The song’s opening battle call coming from a horn and the guitar riff that fades in are a clear prelude to a massive track. Its countless musical and vocal switches and highly varied composition is an excellent depiction of a battle with its all too familiar ups and downs. This is exactly what a pinnacle song should sound and, equally important, be composed like. It ends in a few moments of silence after which they start singing again and take over the scene, ending the battle definitively. What is left is absolution, which probably not coincidentally happens to be the title of the album closer. It’s a moody piece that brings the calm and quiet one needs after a fierce and intense battle.

As you have probably figured out already, the build-up of this album is most certainly one of its strong suits, but the same can be said from the composition and the execution of the songs and the music. Though still a new, young band, Sieta already bears all the hallmarks of a behemoth in the making giving me great hopes for whatever else they will conjure up in the future. If they manage to maintain this high quality they have a very bright future, in my opinion their debut is one to be treated with great respect. A no-brainer for folk metal fans, a certain pleasure for black metal fans and a definite recommendation for all other metal fans.

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1 Comment

  • Thanks for review and your kind words! Once the album is released, we will publish all the lyrics. Two of the song lyrics with translation are already available on our Bandcamp.

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