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EP 131: Fortunus and Dr. Metalhead (R.N. Roveleh) React to Arkona's "Zimushka" Lyrics + Analysis!



Listen on Spotify.


Watch a condensed version with music that we did for Dr. Metalhead/R.N. Roveleh's channel:



Summary:


Watch a shorter, more condensed version of this video where we listen to the music while commenting: https://youtu.be/wUVDU6gyz3c


Today, me and R.N. Roveleh (IG: @helevorn_bor), also known as Dr. Metalhead, join forces to review a song by the Russian pagan metal band, "Zimushka"!


Check out Dr. Metalhead's channel for more rock and metal analyses: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdVxf3vpZaj133BdVmHVKSg


Listen to Zimushka here: https://youtu.be/Q9wylzyFcKM


We got the English translation of the lyrics from here: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/zimushka-winter.html


Transcript:


Hi, everyone! Today me and Helevorn are going to be analyzing the lyrics of “Zimushka”, which is a song by Arkona. You can listen to the whole song by checking out a link in the description.


Fortunus:


So we're going to be first taking a look at the English-translated lyrics of the song and analyzing what this song is about and how it connects with the mood and feel of the song at the end of the song analysis. We'll talk about how it compares to other folk metal that we've listened to, including Wardruna and Finntroll, which you know. Wardruna you have actually analyzed on your channel, Dr. Metalhead, and we have included a link to your channel in the description below.


Helevorn:


Yes, indeed, and I'm really excited to do this reaction video with you on Arkona, because this is one of the bands that we both really enjoy and that we listen to a lot, but I'm not very familiar with Russian language or Slavic folklore all that much, so this is quite a bit out of my comfort zone, but I feel Arkona's music a lot so even if I don't usually look into the translation of the lyrics, I think that it is very timeless and very emotional and you can sense what is going on from the music alone.


Fortunus:


Right. So to begin, Zimushka actually means “winter” in Russian and I will start by reading out the first translated verse of this:


Winter winter, cold winter oh winter

don't freeze good young fellow


Fortunus:


So right off the bat, it's very interesting that Masha, the lead singer of Arkona is referring to winter as, a person as a good young fellow


Helevorn:


Indeed, the song basically begins with an invocation of winter. And this song is, as I understand, based upon an ancient Siberian native song. I'm not familiar with the original song but we can see that it has all the characteristics of a folk song. Folk songs usually portray the life of simple people and timeless themes like time, life, death, love, suffering family, and hard work, so this is all a very subjective type of literature and it's meant to be relatable and emotional and to make the events and the protagonists describe feel very real to the listener, invoking a strong emotion.


So I think that this is part of why it begins with an invocation, it is meant to captivate attention and also have a sort of a ritualistic function right with an invocation of a spiritual entity. And the young man could refer to the character that we are going to see in the next stanza, right?


Fortunus:


Rightm and I feel like the young man/winter is actually a personification, sort of like Persephone in the Greek myths, who is basically a personification of spring, and then in the winter she has to go to Hades, and she has to be in hiding. And I think here we have something kind of similar with this “good young fellow”.


So the next stanza:


Don't freeze winter good young fellow

Oh how wife with husband lives with no harmony


Fortunus:


Right, so now we're getting the sense that they're tying into more personified characters, I think, “wife with husband” so the young fellow was the husband and now there's a wife who doesn't get along with him.


Helevorn:


Exactly. And what is important to know about folk songs is that, in early societies, it was meant to be transmitted orally, so this leads to a series of characteristics, especially in terms of structure.


So, we see that the structure is simple, the lines are short, as we noticed, and there is a simple rhyme scheme and we have a lot of interjections (we saw the “hey” or “oi”, the callings) with alliterations and repetitions for the sake of easy memorizing.


So, we see that the lines are repeated in each verse. “Don't freeze winter good young fellow”, here it is again the first two lines of the next stanza; so this is how the song is structured because repeating certain words or entire lines makes the song more fluid and more easily transmitted orally, right?


This is how the meaning of the song is revealed to us gradually through these repetitions; we learned that there was a good young fellow that winter was asked not to freeze and now we learned that the fellow is in fact a husband.


Fortunus:


Yes and I think this also contributes to the slow pace of the song, for example, we see a lot of repetition here, “winter, winter” all over again and then you know “good young fellow” is repeated a couple of times, so basically there's a lot of overlap between each stanza with only pretty much the last line or the last two lines of each stanza introducing new content.


Helevorn:


Exactly. I see it as a sort of a theater stage where the curtain is rising gradually and we only slowly get to uncover the scene and see what is going on.


Fortunus:


Right. exactly. So then the next one is pretty repetitive and it says how:


Wife with husband lives with no harmony,

Oh, harmony she lives not,

she did not live in harmony.


In this one, we see that the wife did not have a good relationship with her husband and even though she didn't have a good relationship, she is asking winter to keep him safe which is really interesting because I think that it shows a conflict within her, within the woman who is the protagonist of this ballad. And this conflict inside is going to be the central piece of the song.


Helevorn:


Exactly.


Her husband she has plagued

oh plagued her husband

and in the green garden she brought him.


So this is why the husband is outside. She brought him to the garden and, you know, sometimes, when we see this sort of image of the woman who is sad because she doesn't have a good relationship with her husband, maybe we can imagine a different sort of scenario. But here, we see that she is the one who plagued her husband, so she is, so to speak, the reason why the relationship is falling apart.


Fortunus:


Right and, you know, she brought him to the green garden to plague him, so it seems like she has been plotting this for a while. She is kind of malicious in the way she is actively working towards getting rid of him.


Helevorn:


Exactly. Right, and then after he dies, right, and then she says:


Plagued her husband

Yes, to the green garden she has brought him

Oh, in the green garden

her husband she had hung


So it turns out that she had hung him in the garden. So she killed her husband and this is how she put an end to an unsatisfying relationship.


She hung her husband

Alone she went home

Oh to court she had approached

And on the bench she has sat


So we see her getting rid of his body, letting it hang, and then coming back into the house that they used to own and she's sitting on the bench and thinking about what she has done and about their life together.


Fortunus:


To court she had approached

On the bench she sat

Oh, on the bench she sat

And bitterly wept.


And this is actually the image of the cover of the song, which - let me produce it right now, actually I should copy it into the document - it's actually her sitting outside and basically, she is on a bench and she looks very sad. So i will copy it and paste it here


Helevorn:


Indeed, here we see the themes that are so prevalent in folk music: suffering, love, death, family, and time, as well, because we see the invocation of the seasons.


Fortunus:


Exactly, so this also ties back to the whole personification thing. So unlike Persephone, these two characters are actually not representative of the seasons, but what they're doing and the situation they find themselves in are representative of the seasons.


So when she hung him, you know, it says the green garden, right, the green garden’s always repeated. So this implies that she killed him in summer or spring. But then when he's dead, it's winter, as you can see in the artwork and at the beginning of the song, when she keeps him calling out to winter.


Helevorn:


Indeed. Exactly.


On the bench she sat

Bitterly wept

Oh, she's cursing her life

Once she lived with the husband


So, we see that even though she was the one who brought an end to his life, also she is the one who is sad about it, because she feels that without him, her life has no meaning.


Fortunus:


Exactly.


She is cursing her life

For when she lived with her husband

Oh, while with her husband, she was a housewife


So this implies that she did have a purpose as a housewife, but now she's just all alone and she's not defined by this role anymore, which terrifies her because she doesn't know what she is without that role.

Helevorn:


Exactly, so it feels like she has no identity without her husband around and well, I’m not sure what it's like in Russian, but in Germanic languages, housewife also has the meaning of mistress of the house, so a role of authority that a woman plays within the household.


So now, she is just a bereaved woman.


Fortunus:


Right, and I think in a lot of cultures, if someone didn't have children, because it's not mentioned here, when someone's husband dies, and they're not extremely old, I think they would probably go back to live with their parents, right?


Helevorn:


Yeah, I think so, yeah, in some cultures, yes, that is very true.


Fortunus:


So I guess literally, she would not

be the mistress of her house anymore, because she's lost it and now she has to go back and live with her parents who are the owners of their household.


Helevorn:


Yeah, yeah, probably.


When she was with husband

She was a housewife

Oh, when she was with a husband

She was a housewife


So that's a repetition.


When she was with husband

She was a housewife

Oh, without a husband

Wife is but a bitter poor woman


So, as we said before, the the role that she had is lost and she is now nothing but a widow, so she looks back with nostalgia upon the times that she was with him so the green garden, like you said, is a representative of that. While he was alive, it was summer or spring and now, it is winter, which represents her sadness.


Fortunus:


And then…


She went to the green garden

And called her husband's name

Oh husband. you are my husband

You are my darling


and then the last verse, which is a repetition:


Helevorn:


You are husband, my husband

Yes, you are my darling

Oh, you are my darling

Yes, we shall go home


I see this as extremely interesting because she doesn't see herself as the killer. She doesn't think that she did something wrong.


She just sees herself as a poor and sad widow and of course, we can understand that she is psychopathic in our time, but since this is a folk song, I see this as a sign of predestination, so a belief in the immutability of destiny, which was so prevalent in earlier societies.


Right, so, I think that she sees herself as the hand of fate, in a way, so his death is but a consequence of his actions. Maybe. We don't know if he ever did something wrong, because he's called in the first stanza, “A good young fellow,” and yet it feels like she was the one who just helped destiny fulfill itself by killing him.


So she did love him, but she feels that she had to do it and I think that she cries because she is disappointed that it came to this, because now she is alone and she this was her purpose, being with him or putting an end to his life.


But either way, her purpose was tied to her husband


Fortunus:


Absolutely. It's a very interesting point, about the predestination, but it makes sense, because she doesn't feel a lot of guilt and it just feels like it just happened, and now she has to accept it.


Helevorn:


Indeed. I really love this song and I feel that it is so emotional and so wonderfully transmits sadness and nostalgia and, at the same time, a very interesting psychological profile, because of what we discussed, of how she doesn't really feel guilt, because of predestination, her belief in destiny.


Fortunus:


Right, so how would you say this song sounds in general? Do you think it sounds very thoughtful? How is its temp compared to a lot of other Arkona or generally, pagan folk metal music?


Helevorn:


I think it is very true to authentic, so to speak, folk music, so unlike how folk metal usually is, which is just a very contemporary type of music, only drawing some inspiration from folklore and mythology and older poetry, I think that this is more true to tradition.


And I think Arkona has a lot of these songs, but maybe this is the most folkloric, so to speak, a song that I know from them because of the structure of the lyrics.


Fortunus:


Exactly. You're right, especially with the repetition. I mean, I haven't really seen the other ones yet, but I think there is a fair amount of repetition in a lot of their songs, but it varies and some of them are faster, and some of them have more of a metal sound.


I mean, there were these other songs which have, especially the ones with the covers with the black and white art, those ones sound more modern, but the ones with the covers that look like this, for example, you know more folksy and illustration-like, like it doesn't feel as typically metal.


It feels more like folk with only a little bit of a metal undertone. For example, you know, the typical electronic instruments, the beats, that feels a little bit metal, but it's always underneath the surface.


In contrast, in other bands, for example, Finntroll, I think we always hear the metal elements first and foremost.


Helevorn:


Definitely. I think that bands like Finntroll, Turisas, and Ensiferum and all these typical folk metal bands are more like contemporary people cosplaying medieval people.


So this is very different with Arkona.


I feel like they have a lot in common with Wardruna in this respect because it feels, not all of their songs, but like we discussed, this is one of the songs that feels very authentic because it’s based on a Siberian native song. I’m not sure how much it is based on that, I haven’t done the research, but I think that this really shows.


Fortunus:


It definitely does, and you know, you did a recent reaction video to one of Wardruna’s music videos. How do you think it compared to that song, like how did Arkona’s Zimushka compare to that song?


Helevorn:


Well, definitely, Arkona is more metal. Even in this song, which doesn't have elements as pronounced as in their others, because Wardruna doesn't have any of the rock or metal instruments and it only has very traditional medieval ones, even, you know, they make them out of bone and leather and horsehair, so everything is is meant to be very authentic.


But lyric-wise, I think that they are very similar because they both try to be very authentic in terms of respect to the culture they represent and to the folklore and the literature of that culture.


Fortunus:


So is Wardruna considered metal or is it a different genre?


Helevorn:


It’s not. It's just folk. I think it could be termed pagan folk, dark folk, or something like that, but now it's definitely not metal.


But it mostly has the same audience as folk metal black metal, but that’s maybe because the founders of the band used to be in a Norwegian black metal band. It may also be because the themes are so similar and also the sound in the weight is dark and atmospheric, so in what it expresses to the listener not necessarily the instruments.


Fortunus:


That makes sense. How about something like Cradle of Filth? Are they considered gothic metal?


Helevorn:

Yes, I think they are gothic and they started with a lot of black metal elements, but then turned towards the gothic later. They also draw some inspirations not from folklore but from mythology, but it’s mythology that is Victorian Gothic in a way, so it’s quite removed in a temporal sense from Wardruna and Arkona.


Fortunus:


I saw your lyrical analysis of Cradle of Filth and it’s very complex, the language, you know, it’s very flowery and very detailed. It uses a lot of hard words, so it’s very different from the simplicity that we see in Wardruna and Arkona, which uses a very folk song-like structure as well as syntax and word choice.


Helevorn:


Exactly, so Cradle of Filth does not do this. It is very Victorian Gothic told by contemporary writers so I think it’s very obvious how we can place the lyrics in our time and derive their influences from it.


Fortunus:


But yes, this was a really great analysis, and it’s really interesting to pick apart Arkona and compare it to other metal bands that you have analyzed on your channel and we’ll continue to analyze on your YouTube channel.


Helevorn:


Definitely, thank you so much for having me.


Fortunus:

Yes, and after this, we’re going to be recording a YouTube video that you will be posting on your channel and it will actually have the song in snippets.


We’re going to pause and then we’re going to comment on it and we’re going to talk about the lyrics as we listen to the song. And it will be on your channel. Link in the description!


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