Ratnaya Strala
[Funeral Pyre]

Second release from the Belarusian (some even say cult) horde. Well, not quite a horde anymore. Darkut and Radzim are the only ones left from the original line-up. Nevertheless, this fact did not prevent them from capitalizing on what the band had already built up. "Ratnaya Strala" ("The Battle Arrow") picks up right where "Na Yazichnitzkai Zyamli" ("On Pagan Land") left off, but with more complexity, enriched textures, longer songs, more keyboards, acoustic guitars, and they added a bass to their arsenal. More epic in other words. They didn't wimp out though. The production is raw, albeit kind of muddy, but overall very much like "Na Yazichnitzkai Zyamli." The bulk of the record still consists of raw guitars and rough vocal workouts. The bass and drums are muffled in the mix, but that's alright because with their present production the band have a fairly unique sound. If they sounded all glossy and polished, the whole thing would be ruined.

Because of the above developments, I can't really call Oyhra's music black metal per se. Blackened Pagan metal is more like it. In terms of song writing, they still keep their teeth sharp, but now the songs are not as immediately rewarding. Because of the increased length and complexity, it will require patience and repeated listens to fully appreciate them, so if you are not prepared to put in the effort - don't bother.

The lyrics are still in Belarusian, but now they printed the English translation in the inlay, and I was very much surprised to discover that they almost entirely deal with Northern mythology. Mostly Viking, and there is one song that deals with Finnish folklore, Kalevala and such. Weird. I must congratulate the band and their label for doing a grand job on the tape's packaging. The cover art is gorgeous, and the inlay layout is classy. Cool looking logo too.

And so, once again I must say that Oyhra are good. Truly, a unique instance of Belarusian metal.

2000 boris