Temnozor may not be the last great hope for serious minded Slavic folk metal, but they are certainly one of the forerunners, and a package like Сумерки на Похоронах Зимы (Twilights at the Winter Funeral) does not arrive every day. Just how many of these folk/black metal artists get the opportunity to release a live CD/DVD double package, and with such great quality in the areas of production and design? This is probably the first I've seen, but I hope more will follow, since it's an attractive release that should delights fans of Temnozor, or their peers such as Kroda and Arkona.
The only reservation some might have is that this is in the PAL broadcasting format, so it's unlikely most people here in the US would be able to play the DVD on their localized player, or their PS2/PS3/XBox gaming system. If you've got some good open software on your PC, that might be the choice environment to watch it. I've got a 28" monitor and ran it there. The picture transfer is quite phenomenal, and the audio is among the better live recordings I've seen, possibly post-tracked. The band barrels through an hour of material, with the core guitars, drums and bass joined by flute, baritone vocalist and a cloaked 'guest' vocalist who appears near the center of the set. It's a good show, though like many Slavic bands, Temnozor remains fairly still on stage, all eyes focused on their pagan intensity. The baritone vocalist in particular is captivating, with an animal hide tosses across his shoulders. His presence reminded me a lot of Masha (Arkona), who can also strike a powerful chord without much movement.
To some, this very straightforward live delivery might lack some of the energy they are used to from extreme metal entities, but since I'm sick to death of my local area and all its 'jump the fuck up' metalcore and grind jocks, it made very little difference to me. Just pass me a vodka and enjoy the show, I say. If there's any just complaint, it's more that Temnozor's music can often feel somewhat monotonous, with all too simple flute melodies and guitar riffs that often follow along or simply don't offer much in the means of innovative chord progression. However, if you can shut down your expectations slightly, they do a pretty fine job of translating the studio work into the live setting. They look prepared, professional and very proud to be on the stage, sharing glimpses of their peoples' history with the crowd through through the passionate storytelling of song.
The set is the same on both the DVD and the CD, and it draws from over a decade material, hitting on all four of their studio albums. From the debut Sorcery is Strengthening the Black Glory of Rus' (1998), they've included "Did-Dub-Snop" and "Maslenitsa". From Horizons (2003), they offer "Werewolf", and Folkstorm of the Azure Nights (2005) is represented by the title track, "Watch the Falcons Fly" and "When the Lazure Skies Tear the Hearts Apart". From the new album Haunted Dreamscapes, released at the same time as this DVD, they've drawn upon "Evilgod's Ravens", "Silent Be the Wind" and "Sunwheels of Solstice". There are a few other tracks I didn't recognize like "Ravenscreech" and "As the Night Slowly Fades", but in all, the set flows consistently, with a mix of mid to faster paced material.
The artwork is beautifully laid out on the DVD case it comes in, the CD faces and the booklet, but Temnozor is no stranger to such an aesthetic, having used some superb art on their past albums. There are some full color and black and white photos from the performance contained within the booklet, and in all its just very tasteful and attractive, sure to please the band's fans. The level of professionalism here is proof that the Russians are prepared for bigger and better things in their career, so it's a shame they've had performances rescinded by paranoid PC types in Europe that fear the band for their connections to right-wing ideology acts, even though Temnozor's lyrics deal largely with nature and folk history and should probably be excluded from such persecution. This is a job well done by Gorruth of Stellar Winter, who is also the lyricist for the band, and any fan of Russian and Ukrainian black/folk metal should give it a glance, and they'll get some use out of the audio CD component, which sounds superb in the stereo.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10]