Arkona Credit: courtesy the artist

Russian pagan folk-metal legends Arkona really didn’t need to hit the reset button and rerecord their 2004 debut, Vozrozhdenie (Napalm)—as their first throwdown of a chain-mail gauntlet, it still reverberates beautifully. But they did, and on their 2016 redo, driven now by the duo of front woman and songwriter Masha “Scream” Arkhipova and her husband, guitarist Sergei “Lazar” Atrashkevich (who mixed and mastered), the band joyously reaffirm their pagan roots with a more polished and savage version of the record with which they began. Fat has been trimmed and edges sharpened, and the peaks and valleys of the epic landscape stand out in sharper relief. If Arkona wanted to now start reworking their whole back catalog, I’d accept it well enough as an excuse for more touring—they’re a spectacular live act who in seconds flat can bring an audience to a gallop on the steppes or a romp around a bonfire in the forest.   v