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Remember a while back when we suddenly had black metal from Romania, the land of Vlad Tepes himself, when Negura Bunget stepped into the limelight? While a big deal at the time, the focus has thankfully shifted somewhat now that Negura Bunget have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, and are no longer ‘the band from Transylvania!’ but are a name unto themselves by dint of their musical merits and not their location.
While they’d made some material already that was nice but not spectacular, it was with this ep, Sala Molksa, that Negura Bunget got to show what they really had on offer. And this is one original slab of black metal! On the surface they were, at that point in time, a symphonic black metal band, prone to complex arrangements. More than a cursory listen will reveal that they are far more than a mere complex symphonic metal band. Their rich cultural heritage informs almost every riff and melody, and their relative isolation from other scenes has preserved their originality.
Immediately from the opening notes you are immersed in a rich, thick atmosphere of guitars, sonorous synths and crashing drums. The riffs generally follow a Thornsian motif, but altered by their own Romanian musical sensibilities, making the progressions sound even more removed from this world, especially to people not from their particular area of the globe. The riffs have an ascending thrust, accompanied by synth-accentuations in the higher sound-registers (sometimes sounding completely synthetic, at others mimicking traditional Romanian flutes), while the whole is absolutely drenched in bassy synth-scapes and the speedy, cymbal-heavy drumming (thankfully not mono-dimensional and interesting to follow in its own right). This creates the effect of continually being thrust into sky, space and dimensions beyond. The utterly thick, enveloping and warm production further creates the feeling of being immersed in the sound; it’s simply everywhere around you, forming a new environment as a replacement to material reality.
The continuously shifting, unfamiliar sounding melodies (at times achingly beautiful, at others malignantly sinister) further reinforce the feeling of exploring unknown regions of Being, with wonders and dangers at every turn. And it keeps being surprisingly refreshing, the motifs and melodies constantly morphing in unexpected (but not random!) ways, while the usually intricate performance and complex structuring and layering give much to reflect about, both while and after the record plays. In that respect I am reminded very much of Abigor, most notably on Opus IV, who manages a similar thing, but in a different enough vein as to be complimentary without making Negura Bunget redundant. For one thing Negura Bunget is far warmer and more positively majestic, providing a feeling of transcendence and spiritual enlightenment; indeed as the at first malignant sounding riffs start sounding more and more familiar, it induces the sensation that these extra-dimensional forces are now closer to ones own being, as one starts rising to their level through Sala Molksa’s music.
This is music for enlightened, philosophical minds with an appreciation for the adventurous and out of the ordinary, providing a temporary musical dwelling place for the contemplation of the supra-mundane and transcendent.