MOTANKA is a four-piece band from Ukraine. Founded in 2015 in Lutsk, Ukraine, MOTANKA combines […]
By Joseth Radiant
July 23, 2019
Motanka - Motanka album cover

MOTANKA is a four-piece band from Ukraine. Founded in 2015 in Lutsk, Ukraine, MOTANKA combines the tried and true band formula of guitar, drums, bass and vocals with the Ukrainian dulcimer and ocarina as well as a smattering of electronic music to create a unique fusion that the group has called Mystic Metal. The name itself comes from the Ukrainian word for the knitting doll that ancient Ukrainians used as a ward against evil spirits as well as a means to communicate with their ancestors. After qualifying for and taking second place for Wacken Open Air Festival's Metal Battle in 2018 and signing with Napalm Records later that year, MOTANKA is ready to rise from the East and show the world what it means to remember the past and how we are all connected to it and the Earth.

In a statement released from the band, the main idea and mentality is, "...the unity of humanity and nature. Ancient people of different civilizations all around the planet did rites and rituals for communication with nature; they respected it and worshiped its might and power. Every song on the album describes this or that bond, opens the curtain to the magical world, where spirits and nymphs were living. Nature felt humanity's intentions, and humanity felt nature's intentions. Ukrainian rites are still preserved until today, their roots come from the deep past, and their features were amongst other things was the spirit of fight and the thirst for living - these features are rooted within the Ukrainian mentality and as the tree roots, they never give up and this mentality has helped to survive through all of the storms that come and go. The purpose of MOTANKA's music is to make people recall the memory of their past, to remember about the strength and will that every person has. This strength and will are found by nature as well as everything alive on the Earth. This debut album certainly reflects the aforementioned mindset and mentality in a way that is both unique and familiar all at once.

As one delves into the album, the listener is immediately drawn into another world. As CS Lewis stated when he read Longfellow's poem Tegnér's Drapa about Baldr the Beautiful dying, the listener of this album experiences "an extraordinary feeling, a notion of great cold expanses of northern sky". But instead of the cold expanses of the North, it is the sweeping plains and stark mountains of the East that this album draws the listener to as each song unfolds after the other. MOTANKA reminds this reviewer of PRIMORDIAL and ENSLAVED where the music gives a voice to that which has been lost or destroyed by the sands of time. The Old Ways are not extinct or forgotten; they are remembered and are thriving within these songs.

This album has two incredibly rare qualities that must be discussed. Firstly, it's a debut album that does not have the quirky awkwardness of most debut albums. It sounds like an album that has been released from an already established band that has put out a groundbreaking album. Most of the songs are in the key of C sharp, but with the various tempos, throat singing, as well as the hammered dulcimer, these songs sound vibrant and lush. Gerrit Haasler of Blackstone Studios in Berlin demonstrates his Grade A producing and mixing skill throughout the entire album, and Hauke Albrecht's mastering abilities are on full display about how to make an album sound as if each song is a chapter of a great book, where each chapter flows into the next seamlessly. Also, Maria Peters' backing vocals on both "Bosymy-nizhkamy" and "Voroh" make for additional layer of beauty and complexity to both songs.

The second quality that needs to be applauded is that this album has the feeling of listening to a vinyl record. Most albums nowadays are meant to be listened to from beginning to end and are missing the charm of turning over a record to Side B after you've finished Side A, and there is always a nervous expectation that you're never quite certain about what the second half of a record would sound like. MOTANKA succeed in this because there is enough of a break in the middle of the album for the listener to catch their breath before it moves on into more tales and myths that delight and deeply move the listener. The lyrics are both in English and Ukrainian, which to this reviewer's mind is a blend of the Younger Ways and the Older Ways coexisting together in relative harmony. Both are necessary for the album to make the impact that it has and one cannot be without the other. The lyrics are not incredibly complex; they are meant to be simple in the way that the chant of a shaman uses simple yet powerful words to guide everyone into a trance.

MOTANKA's sound is slightly reminiscent of all of the great qualities of what the metal scene was doing in the early 2000's without coming off as rehashed or boring. This is new music that has reminded the world yet again that the Ukrainian metal scene should not be overlooked or passed over. This may be early days for MOTANKA, but if this album is any indicator about the direction they are going, then it will be exciting times to see this band refine its sound even more as time goes along. Keep your eyes on MOTANKA, because as its momentum builds, taking this music as a live act to different parts of Europe as well as the rest of the world will surely become a reality for this rising star of a band. A thoroughly satisfying album with more than a few breathtaking moments lie within for the listener. And as always, Buy This Album!

9 / 10

Almost Perfect








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"Motanka" Track-listing:

1. Alatyr (Instrumental)
2. Fire Burns
3. Air
4. Des'-u-horakh (Somewhere In The Mountains)
5. Oy-ty-moya-Zemle (Here You Are, My Land)
6. Bosymy-nizhkamy (Barefoot)
7. Voroh (Enemy)
8. Berehynya (Hearth Mother - Instrumental)
9. Horizon
10. Pace Of The Space
11. Khreshchennya (Baptism)
12. What Are You Living For
13. Verba (Willow Tree)
14. Kroda (Instrumental)

Motanka Lineup:

Viktor Zhalnin - Vocals, Keyboard, Dulcimer
Anatolii Zhalnin - Guitar, Backing Vocals
Sergii Khodorchuk - Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals, Ocarina
Dmytro Diachenko - Drums, Backing Vocals, Throat Singing

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