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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Negura Bunget

Tau

Review by Mike Korn

I will almost certainly never set foot in the Transylvanian countryside, but after hearing Tau, I can feel like I’ve actually visited there. It’s rare to hear music that transports you completely into a different place, but Negura Bunget have surely accomplished that here. Their unique music has always been deeply rooted in their Romanian homeland, but never moreso than for Tau. This is the first album in a proposed trilogy of albums dealing with Romania and it is focused on the most distinctive and beautiful natural areas of that wild land.

The music of Negura Bunget is incredibly hard to describe. Their roots were in black metal and you will still find primitive harshness here. But there’s so much more. Many of the songs are brimming with authentic folk music from the Romanian countryside, using native instruments. There’s also a lot of eerie ambience that summons up the actual atmosphere of the places they describe. If progressive rock is the music of the unexpected, then Negura Bunget is one of the most progressive bands out there. There’s nobody quite like them.

It’s best to just slip into Tau the way you would an icy mountain lake….tentatively at first and then immersing yourself in the brisk and energizing water.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Nametenie

Dark and foreboding is the early atmosphere of this track, with somber flute and sorrowful native instruments.  Here you are in the deepest and darkest part of the forest, with no sign of the sun. Whispering voices guide you along further into the gloom. Suddenly growling guitar erupts, and a guttural demon voice begins to roar. The song becomes metallic, but boosted by choir-like voices and a symphonic touch.  Clear voices appear, and the song lightens, almost like the sun has appeared. But the heaviness again emerges. The prevailing feeling here is grim, but the song swings back and forth between folky ambience and brutal metal like a pendulum.

Izbucul Galbenei

This begins with a very gypsy-like flourish but soon intensifies into some fast and aggressive black metal. The layers of vocal and synth add a ton of atmosphere. The guttural vocals are back and very fitting, as there is some almost death metal brutality here. But always there is an underlying “Romanian” melody that drives everything. This is one of the more metallic cuts on the album, with a lot of changes in riff and tempo.

La Hotaru Cu Cinci Culmi

A very sad and solemn swell of sound turns into something much like a somber gypsy tune. It sounds like something that could be played at the funeral of a Romanian mountain villager. There’s some spoken word in native Romanian tongue as authentic folk plays in the background. I can’t understand a word of it, but it’s obviously a lament of some type.

Curgerea Muntelui

What a majestic and mysterious beginning they build to this song. The synth tones are dark and enveloping like a fog. Fat bass lumbers in the background as cymbals crash. Alpine horns give this a kind of Viking feel. It sounds like a storm coming in from on high. There’s a great change in tempo about halfway through that keeps things interesting. This is the kind of tune that transports you to another time and place. The horn playing almost comes across like free jazz! There is not much metal or even rock is present here, although growling vocals do make an appearance.

Tarim Vilhovnicesc
In contrast to the two previous songs, this is straightforward melodic black metal with plenty of guitar crunch. However, there are layers of synth and soaring vocals that make it a total wall of sound. There’s some relation to renowned BM acts like Dimmu Borgir, but with that unique Romanian twist of which only Negura Bunget seems capable.  The vocals are very tortured sounding here, and there’s a real wild organ solo.
Impodobeala Timpului

Whacky, almost delirious folk metal  starts this off with wild whistling and choppy riffs. It sounds happy and loopy, like drunken gypsies careening around a campfire. Then it morphs into one of the heaviest tunes on the disc, with grinding vocals equaling the roughest death metal. This song is crazy and unpredictable in the way it swings from pure folk to metal and back. There are clean female vocals, a killer electric guitar solo that almost brings Satriani to mind, and a sassy brass section. I think this one song sums up the unpredictability of both Negura Bunget and the Romanian soul better than anything else on Tau.

Picur Viu Foc

You are way out in the Transylvanian sticks here. Bird cries announce the arrival of a mysterious tune. It starts moody and low-key and then becomes a somber, black metal influenced cut with a male choir doing much of the singing. The tinny whistling of “Impodobeala Timpului” makes another appearance here. The overall feeling is downbeat, with a combination of psychedelic  and black metal elements.

Schimniceste
Very subdued and quiet tones usher this final song in. You can hear faint rumbles of thunder in the background. There is a mystical moodiness here that only this band seems to possess. It’s another lament, with chanted vocals and spoken word. The addition of tubular bells helps a lot. Even when the song gets heavier, it still has the feel of a sad mountain song and I would in no way describe it as metal. It’s a strange end to the album….not the towering epic one would expect.
 
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