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one of the best of the decade - 95%

username345, May 20th, 2008

While the first track of ‘Om’ is a very stereotypical and unimpressive ambient black metal album intro, that is as far as the black metal clichés go on this album. From the moment the second track starts you know what you’re listening to is very special.

Complex, melodic and atmospheric are the best words to describe ‘Om’. While many black metal bands feel the need to create simple riffs and repeat them hundreds of times, the riffs here are all very complex and progressive. Negură Bunget manage to add progressive influences to their black metal sound without sounding at all gimmicky or cheesy. The two styles compliment each other perfectly, complex yet managing to retain a very hypnotic black metal atmosphere.

And atmosphere is something ‘Om’ has plenty of. The production is perfect, which is very impressive as the band did it all themselves. It gives a distant but not too quiet sound as if it was recorded in a giant cavern. The production stops it from getting past a certain heaviness so despite the complexity of the music it is still quite accessible for a non-black metal fan.

Keyboards back the guitars, but mostly stay in the background so never overpower the music, instead just adding to the atmosphere. Often the black metal stops for lengthy keyboard led ambient sections. Some of the shorter songs are completely ambient led by keyboards with just vocals or chimes over them.

Flutes, pipes and traditional Romanian instruments also appear occasionally and give a nice folky feel to the album, but again stay more in the background so they never sound cheesy like a lot of folk metal does. The section near the end of ‘Cunoaşterea Tăcută’ which has a flute playing a melody over an otherwise ordinary black metal base is one of the most beautiful and atmospheric moments of any black metal song I’ve ever heard.

‘Om’ isn’t repetitive like a lot of black metal either. Before a riff becomes even slightly boring, it will be changed for something else or the song will suddenly change direction completely. ‘Om’ is full of inventive twists and turns like this so you never know which direction a song will go in. At one moment it may be in the middle of a pure black metal section complete with blast beats and tremolo picked riffs, the next in an ambient section with an odd twisted guitar melody over it. Despite the constant changing, none of the songs here seem at all rushed.

The drumming plays a big part in allowing the abrupt changes in sound to run smoothly. Although there are some standard black metal blast beats in places the drumming is often just as inventive as the weird melodies, and is never at all boring. Sometimes the percussion becomes almost tribal, played on what sounds like bongos.

The vocals are also very good. While it’s mostly in a typical black metal style, it’s more varied than most. Sometimes the vocals change almost into a death metal growl and clean vocals are also often used. Occasional chants are also used in a way slightly similar to early Ulver or Agalloch. While I’m not sure exactly what’s being sung as it’s all in Romanian, from what I’ve gathered it avoids the cheesy Satanism and is mainly about nature, forests and other such Black Metal topics.

There’s not a lot to criticise here, but there is definitely some filler and parts do drag on slightly. However, the rest of the album is so great you probably won’t even notice.