Album Title: Siberian Heathen Horde
Label: El Puerto Records
Date of Release: 27 March 2020
I listen to a lot of music whilst writing reviews and articles for this website. A very positive number of times, I find myself pleasantly surprised. Either by new names in the business or simply by the discovery of a band or artist about which I previously knew nothing or very little, and who deliver something to catch my attention. Therefore, I’m always on the look-out for the next big thing to get me excited.
One such name that cropped up a few weeks ago was this: Welicoruss. Formed way back in 2002, this band are relatively unknown in the Western world, having initially plied their trade in Novosibirsk, Siberia as this was the home of founding member and current vocalist, Alexey Boganov. The band later moved to Prague and have steadily built a name for themselves in the metal underground. However, it is this, their fourth full-length album, and first for German El Puerto Records, entitled ‘Siberian Heathen Horde’, that has brought the name Welicoruss to a much wider audience at last.
Billed as a blend of black metal, symphonic metal, Russion folk, Gothic and progressive metal, I was rubbing my hands with glee as I downloaded the album. After spending a fair amount of time with the album, I must confess that I’m now wringing my hands with frustrated disappointment.
How is it possible for an album that is so multi-layered, multi-faceted and grandiose in scope, to leave me feeling disappointed and worse, flat out bored? I mean, that’s an impressive feat in anyone’s book, surely?
The record starts off well enough, with ‘Spellcaster’ and the title track. The opener kicks off to the sound of a howling wind, a simple drumbeat, almost tribal in tone, and an ever-increasing dramatic and cinematic symphonic element. A foreign tongue speaks as if to introduce a story and then in comes a great riff, fast-paced drumming and lashings of symphonic arrangements as well as choral vocals. When the real vocals kick in, they are gruff and the music feels like a half-way house between Dimmu Borgir thanks to the overblown theatrics and Moonspell for the vocal delivery and the Gothic tinge to proceedings. The chorus, when it emerges, is actually memorable, catchy and easily the best on the album, full of grandiose pomposity in a positive way, almost a stirring battle hymn one might suggest.
The title track which follows, introduces the sounds of wolves before the heaviness enters stage right. If anything, there’s a vague hint of Rammstein here because of the vocals to begin with. But the chorus is another decent one, albeit not as strong as that of the opener for my money.
And that’s really the story of the album. After a strong start that has me thinking that I could easily get on board with this Russian outfit, things start to fall away rapidly, until I’m actually starting to think of other things like what to eat this evening, where to take the kids at the weekend and, worst of all, when is this album going to come to an end? That’s not a good sign but unfortunately, that’s what happens as I listen.
I’m sure that there is a market for this kind of music and that there will be a select group who will heartily disagree with this review. But taste is very much subjective and as far as I’m concerned, ‘Siberian Heathen Horde’ does very little for me, personally. This statement should not be confused with ‘I think Welicoruss are rubbish’ because that’s not what I am saying.
What I am saying however, is that the music on this record is not for me. I find the theatrics and the samples at the start of many of the songs a little cheesy and unnecessary. I love overblown symphonics in heavy metal – I like Nightwish for example, I have a healthy relationship with the music of Epica, I love Dimmu Borgir and I adore Fleshgod Apocalypse. But here, I find that the symphonics take on too prominent a role, at the expense of just about everything else. The songwriting is solid, but ultimately unremarkable and I am frustrated at the strength of the melodies or the hooks to demand me to return for future listenings; there are precious few that speak to me forcefully enough to grab me by the throat and pull me back.
I also happen to think, despite the gruff vocals, the powerful drumming and the riffs, that the music just doesn’t feel heavy or extreme enough. It all feels a little anaemic if I’m honest, as if the story, the theatrics and the desire to create something majestic and bombastic has robbed some of the power from the metal element of the music.
I have listened to ‘Siberian Heathen Horde’ several times in the hope that maybe I am wrong and that maybe I have missed something. But I don’t think I have, and with each spin, my initial thoughts are only given added confirmation. It is a shame because I was excited by the prospect of Welicoruss and what they might bring to the heavy metal battle. Sadly, it’s not an army to overthrow the ruling elite. Maybe next time.
The Score of Much Metal: 61%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: