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Widely considered to be the holy grail of Romanian black metal, Negura Bunget's 'Om' has a reputation that precedes it. Although widely unknown to those outside of black metal circles, the band's brand of 'spiritual metal' leaves an impression, and I would go on record saying that this is the best album the band ever made. Although somewhat more challenging to appreciate than much of the atmospheric black metal out there, Negura Bunget's 'Om' does reveal its grandeur over time, and while still not amounting to the genre's crowning achievements, 'Om' delivers on all counts.
The band is sure to face some debate as to what particular style of music they play here is, but it can be held to reason that Negura Bunget do not ever stray far from the sound of black metal. As one might tend to expect then, the heavier aspect of this music is dominated by higher register growls, atmospheric guitar riffs, and the abrasive drum techniques that define the genre. Negura does this style with some great skill, always sounding professional and letting the dynamic ebb and flow naturally. What makes 'Om' an excellent album though is the fact that there is a wealth of changes in the sound here; there is more than black metal at work here. A listener would be hard-pressed to find a segment of heavy riffing and metallic darkness that lasts more than a few minutes without the more mellow and introspective side of the band coming into play. It is in fact the mellow, ambient side of Negura Bunget that I prefer, as they seem to paint a vaster sound with it.
Long sections of ambiance and mellow interlude tend to drag on for a while, but they do sound incredibly beautiful. Every now and then, some pleasant folk instrumentation will pop up, giving a more authentic feel, but much of the 'pretty' side of Negura Bunget is left up to a keyboard, which is commonly heard as well during the heavy moments of the album. The band plays their compositions very well, and are clever to make added nuances over the abrasive guitar textures. Whether its the quiet sound of a bell harmonizing with the melody or changing keyboard chord, Negura Bunget has left plenty of easter eggs to hunt for on this dark, spiritual journey.
Negura Bunget have found an excellent album here with 'Om', although it does feel a little longer than it should have been. Nonetheless, a wholeheartedly recommended album for the more atmospheric and introspective side of black metal.