Folk metal seems to be quite popular in Russia, with many new bands popping up once in a while. Грай (Grai) is one typical example of these bands and a good one. They were formed in 2005 and changed their name twice before their first demo in 2007. They finally released their debut album “Полынь-Трава” in 2009 with Volh Records. After the good reviews they got, they managed to get a deal with SoundAge Productions (the biggest label of the genre in Russia I can think of) in order to release their second full-length “О Земле Родной” in 2011.
Since their beginning Грай played folk metal with all the typical Russian tunes and instruments and the characteristic Slavic folklore female vocals, combined with metal guitars and a few male brutal vocals. The good thing is that they are very good at what they do and that they have improved a lot with time. Their sound is solid now and the production is very clear with the right balance between instruments and vocals. There are 3 female singers (Irina, Rimma and Aliya) and unlike many bands of the genre, they are all very good. This adds a lot to their songs, since it allows them to perform properly their complex vocal lines. “О Земле Родной” contains 10 songs that last for 45 minutes. They have this typical “happy” folk atmosphere, with vocals and flutes holding the key roles in the compositions. Except for some growling vocals, their music isn’t extreme at all. On the contrary they are very melodic and the metal elements are not so dominant. They just give a “metallic” tone to their folk songs, something that works for the band since the result is very decent. Of course the lyrics are in their native language, dealing with local pagan folklore.
Overall “О Земле Родной” is a very good effort, that fans of Russian folk metal shouldn’t overlook. Грай have done a professional work and it seems that the band is trying to make the next step into something less underground. If you like bands like Alkonost or the quieter parts of Arkona you must definitely check them. You can listen to several of their songs in their official pages below.