I'm always happy to entertain review requests from bands, and this EP exemplifies why. Being a critic allows one to hear some little-known music from around the world and experience some very unique material. In the case of Russia's Woodscream, this means folk-inspired heavy metal of a rather straight-forward and rocking variety that is rather accessible, easy to catch on and get in to, and a fair bit of fun.
Pentadrama is, as one might expect, comprised of five songs. All of them are quite short and sweet, falling in the 3:00-3:40 range. For an EP this works very well, as it allows the group to explore some ideas and melodies without wearing out their welcome, especially since their work isn't proggy or experimental. The production here is more than fair for an unsigned EP, and the listen time is short enough that there's no redundancy either. Many of the melodies are decidedly Russian in character, but are coupled with the rather modern tone and timbre of guitar and voice, so this quite an easy album to listen to.
Part of what helps is vocalist Valentina Tsyganova, whose voice is a bit more easy to follow than say, Laura Binder of Dalriada. It doesn't have the same nasally tone and is generally a bit more sharp-edged and aggressive. Otherwise, there are certainly some similarities between Woodscream and this by now well-established Hungarian folk band. Woodscream are more brief and simple in nature, but may actually be considered listenable to more people. As I mention above, I consider them folk-inspired heavy metal rather than folk metal itself (the violin is really the only persistent instrumental element that implies folk), though there is definitely a blurring of lines. Death vocals are only present on a single track, and don't really push my opinion one way or the other.
I expect the market for this sort of music is pretty good over in eastern Europe, but this may be restrained from expanding much because it is sung in Russian (I for one generally do not mind). There is a point during “Чёрная Cмерть” (“Black Death”) with a spoken section that drags a bit. I'm never a fan of this in any music, and especially when I have no idea what is being said. The band is redeemed however, by a couple of very nifty keyboard sections that are mournfully brief but extremely well executed. This is definitely something that I'd want to see more of on a studio album, since the run in “Аббат Джон” (“Abbot John”) is particularly excellent. In spite of this, my favorite track remains the excited “Аконит” (“Aconite”), with its furious fiddling.
Pentadrama is a neat little EP, and doubly so for those of us who are interested in seeing more young folk talent rise out of a country like Russia. This is energetic and challenging music, but could benefit mainly from a bit more alternate instrumentation (more pipes and keyboard). With any luck, This young group will find themselves a bit of critical acclaim and attract some attention. Russia pumps out enough mediocre heavy metal that something like this deserves a bit of recognition.
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The Protagonist's Rating: 7.0 out of 10