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Album Reviews : Negura Bunget – Om

By on March 12, 2011

There is a major quandary when it comes to reviewing an album that has been out for a number of years. The problem comes from trying to decide the best approach to take. Do you review with the youthful exuberance of someone discovering the record as if it has just been released? Or do you tackle with hindsight and review it with an eye to its impact since its release date? The questions posed here are simply rhetorical; it is up to the reviewer’s own discretion to decide which approach works best. I for one think it’s probably best to review in the present tense and not masquerade like its 2006 again!

But what a year it was for progressive metal: 2006 saw the mighty Celtic Frost rise Lazarus-like from their squalid catacombs with “Monotheist”, Norse crimson kings Enslaved released “Ruun” and Gojira’s ”From Mars to Sirius” landed with the impact of a pod of “Flying Whales”. However, 2006 ended up being The Year of the ”Dark Foggy Forest” (to which Negura Bunget roughly translates and which also may be a lesser known Chinese New Year!).

Cinematic in its orchestration and flawless in its execution, Negura Bunget’s “OM”, at the time of its release, tore apart the confines of what constituted black metal and re-imagined it in line with the band’s own morbid visions, which were entirely unique to their Romanian surroundings. You can almost hear the rainfall trickling down through the sombre trees of the Carpathian Mountains on this record. It’s Floydian in its scope and its attention to even the slightest detail borders on astounding. It’s a masterpiece of art, not just music.

To a reader approaching this record, my language may seem somewhat hyperbolic yet it’s vindicated once the ideas contained within are absorbed and allowed to flower and reveal their austere beauty. The ideology behind Negura Bunget is based on Transilvanian spirituality and archaic practices and beliefs; which, according to the band, have existed for millennia. The essence of this spirituality is “the immortality, the blood and the wisdom.” This triumvirate held as gospel by Negura Bunget puts them light-years ahead (even though they reach to the past for inspiration) of the Christ-bashing adolescence that makes up a large part of the black metal movement. Negura Bunget transcends all prior trappings of the genre. Musical lineage is best compared to Burzum (see “Cel Din Urmã Vis”) yet ideologically speaking, they have more in common with bands who assemble at the Throne of Wolves.

The introduction that begins the album (“Ceasuri Rele”) is unsettling to say the least; Huppogrammus Disciple’s vocal histrionics are comparable only to Attila Csihar, as he chants, evokes and exorcises his passionate decrees and blood-curdling screams in his native tongue, which resonate like a Romanian curse. The vocals right through are unnerving as they are entrancing; much like the musical sound-scapes the band creates.

The labyrinthine layers of guitars, keyboards and a whole arsenal of traditional folk instruments interweave to create a unique tapestry, as seen on centre-piece and album apex ?esarul de Lumini”. The song structures are unorthodox (even by black metal standards), sounding not unlike a soundtrack to a Romanian art-house film on “Inarborat”, whose beginnings contain deceiving jazz-influenced inflections. The keyboards and the bass work (an audible anomaly for black metal) steal the show and document the mood, whether complimenting the effervescent lead guitar or darkening the atmosphere to coincide with the weighty aura that the band is trying to convey. Speaking of auras – Cunoa?terea T?cut?” creates bleak visions as tempos thunder with disharmonic riffage, leaving the listener in an aurally-induced hallucinatory state, while Hora Soarelui”’s acoustically-led pastoral folk section creates a contemplative mood with melodies entirely homogenous to the Romanian hinterland where it was conceived.

Over the years since its conception, “Om” still hasn’t fully revealed the magic contained within; it will probably take another ten years for this album to be fully understood. This record turned out to be the original line-up’s swansong before going their separate ways (Drummer Negru retaining the Negura Bunget name and Huppogrammus and Sol Far beginning the entity known as Dordeduh). When the annals of black metal are finally written – Negura Bunget’s “OM” will sit at the pantheon alongside classics such as Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger”, Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and Emperor’s “In the Nightside Eclipse”.

People have based religions on less – “OM” is black metal (and art) – in excelsis! 10/10

Band: Negura Bunget
Album: Om
Year: 2006
Genre: Atmospheric black metal
Origin: Romania
Label: Code666
http://www.negurabunget.com/

Track listing:
1. Ceasuri Rele
2.  ?esarul de Lumini
3. Primul Om
4.  Cunoa?terea T?cut?
5.  Înarborat
6. Dedesuptul
7. Norilor
8.  De Piatr?
9.  Cel Din Urm? Vis
10. Hora Soarelui
11. Al Doilea Om

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.