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guys help me out what's the secret to liking this - 22%

RapeTheDead, June 21st, 2013

I don't get it.

I guess that's how I could describe, in four words, how I feel about OM and really this band as a whole, after several abandoned-partway-through attempts to get into them. In this case, "I don't get it" doesn't mean I'm just scratching my head in confusion at the forward-thinking modern art put in front of me, uninformed and unenlightened at the marvels presented in front of me, though; no pearls have been cast before a swine here, and that's sort of the issue. I get what Negura Bunget are trying to do with their music and this huge, conceptual piece and I understand why it has been lauded the way it has, and because of that I also understand exactly what they did to fuck it up and why it sucks a mean one. What I don't get is how they managed to do it so horribly when everything else seemed right in place! This must be what normal people feel like when they listen to Agalloch.

This really is just a fucking huge monster of an album. The track divisions seem completely irrelevant at times, because this is clearly meant to be listened to as one big piece; songs tend to neglect introducing or concluding themselves and instead blend into the greater fabric of the album. This is a daring move on the part of any artist; in a way, it completely alters the format of an album itself for the listener, as instead of listening to it as a collection of individual songs one instead solely remembers the moments; the slow disassembling and reassembling of the music and the energy within, the climaxes, the explosions of riffs...much more difficult to pull off, and it's definitely a music fan's sort of album but the result is much, much more worth it in the end. The difficulty is increased tenfold when doing it under the guise of one of the most musically minimal genres in metal, folk black. Pagan black metal was always more of a genre that works better when the core ideas of the genre are refined; because the music is so minimal the riffs have to be the driving force of the song. As a result you'd think that prog folk metal would be an abomination, but hey; Tyr's pretty cool and Enslaved actually have some worthwhile material in their later career so it's obviously possible. There is, however, one key difference between those two bands and Negura Bunget. For all of Enslaved and Tyr's experimental dabbles, unconventional structuring and meandering diversions, there was never any point in time while listening to them that I wasn't 100% sure I was listening to metal. With OM, that feeling crept up on me several times. I mean, it takes what seems like forever before any actual metal even kicks in and several-minutes-long orchestral ambient sections are often jammed in between bundles of riffs, interjecting before you ever have a chance to start enjoying the metal. It's not that they're different, it's not that they're long, it's not that they're a major element of the music (if anything, I'm actually kind of happy someone chose to nurture that side of the music more- in theory, anyways), it's that more often than not they DON'T DO ANYTHING. Sometimes it's because they're nothing but ominous chords drenched in reverb, sometimes it's just because the melodies are way too simple and boring but the frequent exploration and bridge-building this band does kills all and any momentum. It is wayyyy too easy for one's mind to wander away and lose interest due to the length and sparsity, and it's supposed to be this slow, gradual buildup into powerful, surging riffs, but Negura Bunget missed the mark and when the "big moments" do hit, they're extremely cheapened because there is no tension built in the song. How they'll build it up makes no sense at all, either; they don't really build into it, they'll start off with a simple ambient passage, add bit by bit to it to make it bigger, but there's rarely an actual transition into the massive metal sections; they simply appear in fits and starts- the structuring is fine, but nothing ties together the way it should. It's either that or the music is put together too well, which is not as far off from being sloppily put together as you may think. Sometimes the music doesn't stop adding on to itself. It builds and builds, even as the metal riffs pass through you spend the entirety of the time listening to the music waiting for THAT riff, the one that makes it all make sense but it never comes. The intensity of the music waxes and wanes, peaks up and down but never takes you along for the ride. It's a caveat of the conceptual nature the album takes. I can only imagine what the reactions of the crowd must be like listening to this live; does everybody just kind of stand around inspecting the ceiling during the ambient parts, wondering whether or not they're playing the song or just having technical difficulties? Nobody would be able to tell until the guitars came back in.

To me it seems like people are so initially fascinated with the approach and overarching concept and how "adventurous" and "epic" it is that the actual music within the concept becomes secondary to the enjoyment of the album; yes, the path they took certainly is an interesting approach to an album, but really, the best thing I can say about the metal riffs is that...well, they're genuine, I guess. They are black metal riffs. These guys listen to black metal and have done well at creating riffs authentic to the genre. The folk metal influence that dots the riffs and sometimes takes center stage is better done than most, too, I'll give them that; they do their best to shy away from the horribly cliched tropes that often kill that genre and the more pagan-black oriented parts are the most enjoyable on the album for that reason. Still, though...nothing memorable in the slightest to be found among any of them. Maybe it's partially because these guys are Romanian, and as there isn't much of a defined scene there the same way there is in Sweden or Norway or Germany they don't really have much in the way of their own sort of style; the only thing truly unique about this music is the way they present it, and while it could be argued that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts the parts themselves are completely barebones and dull. Heaviness is actually one of this band's greatest enemies; the more I listen to this the more I wish they just dropped all pretenses of being metal because any attempt this band makes to sound abrasive and crushing just rolls off your back, hilariously weak. "Dedsuptul" is a great example of this. Dear lord, I've never found myself so unamusedly repulsed and bored by metal riffs. The parts more rich in higher-register melody and uplifting atmosphere are much more tolerable, but they fail to invoke any sort of feeling in me regardless. Even the inherent metallic nature there feels like a drawback. Shit's been done before, of much higher quality and by better bands both metal and non-metal.

Nothing ties together and counts for anything, so the more adventurous forays of the music (example: the "tribal war call" thing going on at the beginning of Inaborat) seem cheap and tacky. There's potential here; perhaps the most potential I've ever seen out of a metal album, but ultimately it's one of those concept albums that doesn't fill the shoes of the concept. Negura Bunget are a band heavily immersed in Romanian folklore and the natural and spiritual world, so perhaps it's fitting to end with a metaphor demonstrating that. OM intends to paint a soundscape; a crystalline capturing of the images of vast Romanian landscapes and forests in the artists' head, synthesized into a huge, symbolic piece. Though OM is not an album structured around the track divisions, the album is very much a series of half-painted landscapes; clearly all a part of the same region, but never seeming connected in that sense. Nature is not but a series of flashes of instant beauty; nature represents new life created through the old, and should be marveled at not for the picturesque scenes it displays but simply for how massive and singular it is, and for the work put behind it that it took to make it grow from nothing. What I'm trying to say with this pretentious shit is that this is the type of music that should intrinsically be organic, and this sounds anything but that to my ears. Negura Bunget wrote a masterpiece with OM, they just need to fill it with melodies that make me feel something.