Ukraine's Kroda is a recent discovery of mine. I heard their music for the first time in December, but it was one of those occasions where I was hooked instantly upon the first listen. The music of Kroda may best be described as Pagan Folk Metal with significant Black Metal influences, an evolution--as with so many of the Slavonic Black Metal bands in existence--of the sound pioneered by Robert "Rob Darken" Fudali of Graveland. Yet such a comparison does not truly do Kroda's music the justice it deserves.
Поплач менi, Рiчко... (in English, Cry to me, River...) may be Kroda's debut album, but it sounds more like the work of seasoned veterans. Unlike most Black Metal, the production on this album is excellent--each element of Kroda's sound is perfectly audible, including the oft-neglected Bass guitar. The drumming is precise, and avoids falling into the pattern of monotonous blast-beats which plagues Black and Death Metal. The band makes sparing use of keyboards, reserving them for only the most appropriate of moments. The most effective element of Kroda's sound, however, may well be the band's use of traditional Ukranian instruments, including the cопiлка (sopilka, a sort of flute), which gives the music an extra touch of sincerity and spirit.
Not that it needed much help, mind you--the music here is epic in the fullest sense of the word. Grand, stirring melodies accompanied by rhythms both metallic and folksy are the order of the day, and the combination works fantastically. "Where Peace and Calm were Immortalized" and "Cry to Me, River... (Betrayal of Knjaz Volodymir)" are two of the best songs on the album, the former due to its effortless transition between fierce, full-tilt Metal and stirring Folk passages, and the latter because it represents the emotional climax of the album (appropriate, given that it is the title track!). Realistically speaking, however, there isn't a bad song to be found on this album.
Throughout, Cry to me, River... is a satisfying listen. Ukraine must be quite a place to have inspired music such as this.