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Making Temujin proud - 90%

Abdolmartin, September 30th, 2016

You might find it strange that someone would review an album which is itself a reworked version of a previous one (that is, Ancient Call which came out in 2014). Bear with me, the changes are great enough to justify a new album. It does sound familiar, but it also sounds very fresh, and you'll get to know why soon.

Welcome to Tengger Cavalry, the band that made "Mongolian folk metal" a thing. The band defined by the horse-head fiddle, that Chinese instrument that sounds like an Asian guitar, abuse of the pentatonic scale, and the unique throat singing vocals, all wrapped in a package with lyrics about cavalrymen, nomadic life, and the beauty of the steppe.

The album Ancient Call came out in 2014. It was, in my humble opinion, a good but flawed album. It included too little throat singing (the singing bordered more on growls and was largely non-melodic), and its production quality wasn't very high. In addition, the absence of the fiddles in most songs made it feel lacking.

The new album Hymn of the Earth fixes all that. The melodies are reworked and made much more beautiful, the guitars are played with much more precision and their sound isn't drowned out in distortion, the fiddle is used widely, and the new versions of certain songs are so awesome they make you want to buy a pony, of the Mongolian variant. The songwriting isn't too complicated, but it is solid and usually there's a contrast between different parts of a song. For example, there's a stark contrast between the verse and the chorus (it's not really the chorus anymore, it used to be the chorus but it's now replaced by a sweet fiddle melody), both in the feeling of the respective melodies and also in the volume levels of the riffs and how crowded the soundscape feels overall.

Some of the songs in this album lean towards the folky side, some towards the metal side. For example, Summon the Warrior is a pretty heavy mid-eastern sounding crusher, ripe with headbang-worthy riffs and drumming. Despite that, the folk elements are never missing. In contrast to these heavier and angrier songs, there are songs like Hymn of the Earth itself that sound pretty vibrant and energetic, matched by their more positive lyrics. The folk elements don't really feel like gimmickry and I can't really say why; there's a genuine Asian element in how the songs are put together and how the riffs are composed. This seems to be the case with many Asian and Mid Eastern folk metal acts that base their work on the traditional music of their respective countries (e.g. an Iranian guy called Farzad Golpayegani - check him out, too). Each song has enough character to be a separate song and they don't feel faceless; this is an improvement over the previous versions, because I always felt that Ancient Call was too dominated by pentatonic riffs that sounded too similar. Not anymore. There are many more feelings and moods in the new versions than the old versions, and this is mostly due to extensively layered melodies. However, most songs will definitely need backing tracks when played live, although this is nothing new with Tengger Cavalry.

If you're hesitating to get this album because you think it'll be the same old thing, don't; you'll be surprised to see how new and fresh it actually feels. Go ahead and support these guys, and rock on!