without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
For the first half on the nineties Enslaved was by far my favorite band. As time went on and they changed their style, no one band rose up to replace them as kings of the wandering, multi-layered, chaotic long-playing epics of black metal art. Romania’s Negura Bunget, formed in 1995, first entered my radar in 1998 with Breath of Night’s reissue of 96’s Zirnindu-sa and impressed me with straightforward fast atmospheric black with an aggressive edge, but not impressive enough to stand above other similar bands. After a maturing process in musicianship, Negura Bunget started making waves outside Romania with the excellent Maiastru Sfetnic, released in 2000, finally a contender, but not quite. Now, with a new full-length, their fourth, N Crugu Bradului, they have surely released their masterpiece. Negura Bunget is a black fog coming from a deep, dark, dense forest. The two words are from the Traco-Dacic substrate of the Romanian Language.
Clearly they are influenced by Immortal, Satyricon, Darkthrone, Emperor, but lest you think perhaps they play early 90’s Norwegian black for nostalgia buffs, take the complex epic arrangements of early Enslaved add in an indomitable pagan spirit, ambient, atmospheric and primitive black components and lyrics in ancient Romanian, what comes out of the mix is more of a musical expression of being than a series of songs. One more Enslaved connection, then I’ll move on. You know how, with early Enslaved material, you get totally caught up in the music, lose track of time, feel it instead of hear it? Same thing here. Symphonic in the sense of Romantic era composers, not as in Dimmu Borgir, even though only drummer Negru has any classical training. Code666, who replaces long time promoter Romanian label Bestial Records, who actually started the label in order to release the first Negura Bunget album, bills this album as “...intertextualizing with old Romanian folk ballads with rhythms that transform patterns of Romanian folk music, combined with some of the finest black metal sounds...” Before making a comparison in your mind to old Cruachan, know that most of these folk rhythms and patterns are played with those instruments traditional to metal music, not with folk instruments. There are some older instruments used, mostly percussion, but not as gimmicks, with the band feeling that if using for the sake of using it is better not to do it at all. The music has a quality of natural sounds instead of electronic amplifications of sound samples.
This album is a journey, a shepherd who witnesses the cycles in nature while leading his flocks through the mountains becomes a cycle, a part of immortality. The significance here is that you go on the journey with him. Great music puts images in your mind, not just a series of notes for you to decipher, but an experience. This Transilvanian trio plays great music. Lyrics are very important, important enough to be sung in an archaic form of Romanian. Translated into English, an example: “In the depth of a thick night, the lonely moon unstitches to let the spell take place.” As is usually the case, poetic style is probably lost in translation, but reading the English translations I am impressed with their depth. “Brave sheep are rambling through valleys of majestic mountains.” and one can “hear the firs sighing and the beeches whispering,” and their topic of discussion is N Crugu Bradului. They call it “primitive Transilvanian” black metal, but that is primitive as in 200 BC, not as in ‘simplistic, talentless.’ The great early 20th century American artist Alfred Stieglitz talked of making photographs, not taking them. Every photographic image was, in his mind, an Equivalent, a portal through which your mind travels back to reminiscence of the feelings which inspired you to make the picture in the first place. In other words, that photograph hanging on the wall is a vessel that holds the key to your memory of a specific place. Just look at the picture to unlock the portal. Negura Bunget talk of feeling music, not hearing it. They hope to “unveil hidden essences of Romanian spirituality thus crossing the borders of Transilvanian dimensions.” In other words, their music is an Equivalent, a dimensional portal defying time and space, a connection with the infinite cycles of nature that links you with a timeless place, granting you a form of immortality. As long as the music plays, you are adrift in the mystical fog of ancient Transilvanian spirituality. Like the shepherd, you become one with nature, timeless. The band says their goal is to melt the conscience in with the Will of the universe.
N Crugu Bradului lasts 54 minutes and contains four tracks, titled I, II, III, IIII, representing the principle of 4, the four seasons, four phases of the moon, four winds, etc., saying it is “macrocosmos’ manifestation in microcosmos, the most balanced and moderated form of the contraries to coexist.” Their music is of a spiritual nature, focused on Dachs, the Romanian nation’s oldest direct ancestors who praised immortality, bravery, strength from 400 BC. to 106 AD. The Dachs felt they had to have a spiritually appropriate personality or their god would not except their sacrifice. Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the Dachs made themselves immortal. The dachs were well known for their great military skill, blood thirst and wisdom, often assimilated with their totemic war flag ritual animal, the wolf. This is the band’s entrance into transcendental spirituality, but it can be assessed from many cultural perspectives. They emphasize spirituality and knowledge rather than hatred and war, saying “black metal is something into which you must reach beyond personal identity... reaching to an archetypal state.” We are a consciously assumed consequence of this spirituality. The band’s fight is for the return of this ancient spirituality and to reveal the hypocrisy of the christian religion. Negru has a masters degree in the ethnogenesis of the Romanian nation, but you don’t need one to appreciate this disc. The more background you know the more you get out of it however. I’ve been waiting for Enslaved’s successor for a long time, Negura Bunget is the new king, and I’ll call N Crugu Bradului the best black metal album of 2002.
Originally written for http://teethofthedivine.com