Review Summary: Transcendent mystics of the Transilvanian forests, conjure the archaic prophecies of their heritage on magnum opus “OM”.
There is a major quandary when it comes to reviewing an album that has been out for a number of years. The problem comes from trying to decide the best approach to take. Do you review with the youthful exuberance of someone discovering the record as if it has just been released? Or do you tackle with hindsight and review it with an eye to its impact since its release date? The questions posed here are simply rhetorical; it is up to the reviewer’s own discretion to decide which approach works best. I for one think; it’s probably best to review in the present tense and not masquerade like its 2006 again!
But what a year it was for progressive metal; 2006 saw the mighty Celtic Frost rise Lazarus- like from their squalid catacombs with “Monotheist”, Norse crimson kings Enslaved released “Ruun” and Gojira’s ”From Mars to Sirius” landed with the impact of a pod of “Flying Whales”. However, 2006 ended up being - The Year of the”Dark Foggy Forest” (to which Negură Bunget roughly translates and which also may be a lesser known Chinese New Year!).
Cinematic in its orchestration and flawless in its execution Negură Bunget’s “OM”, at the time of its release, tore apart the confines of what constituted black metal and re-imagined it in line with the band’s own morbid visions; which were entirely unique to their Romanian surroundings. You can almost hear the rainfall trickling down through the sombre trees of the Carpathian Mountains on this record. It’s Floydian in its scope and its attention to even the slightest detail borders on astounding. It’s a masterpiece of art, not just music.
To a reader approaching this record, my language may seem somewhat hyperbolic yet it’s vindicated once the ideas contained within are absorbed and allowed to flower and reveal their austere beauty. The ideology behind Negură Bunget is based on Transilvanian spirituality and archaic practices and beliefs; which according to the band have existed for millennia. The essence of this spirituality is “the immortality, the blood and the wisdom.” This triumvirate held as gospel by Negură Bunget puts them light-years ahead (even though they reach to the past for inspiration) of the Christ-bashing adolescence that makes up a large part of the black metal movement. Negură Bunget transcends all prior trappings of the genre. Musical lineage is best compared to Burzum (see “Cel Din Urmã Vis”) yet ideologically speaking, they have more in common with band’s who assemble at the Throne of Wolves.
The introduction that begins the album (“Ceasuri Rele”) is unsettling to say the least; Huppogrammus Disciple’s vocal histrionics are comparable only to Attila Csihar, as he chants, evokes and exorcises his passionate decrees and blood-curdling screams in his native tongue; which resonate like a Romanian curse. The vocals right through are unnerving as they are entrancing; much like the musical sound-scapes the band creates.
The labyrinthine layers of guitars, keyboards and a whole arsenal of traditional folk instruments interweave to create a unique tapestry, as seen on centre-piece and album apex “Țesarul de Lumini”. The song structures are unorthodox (even by black metal standards) -sounding not unlike a soundtrack to a Romanian art-house film on “Inarborat”, whose beginnings contain deceiving jazz-influenced inflections. The keyboards and the bass work (an audible anomaly for black metal) steal the show and document the mood, whether complimenting the effervescent lead guitar or darkening the atmosphere to coincide with the weighty aura that the band is trying to convey. Speaking of aura’s - “Cunoașterea Tăcută” creates bleak visions as tempos thunder with disharmonic riffage, leaving the listener in an aurally-induced hallucinatory state. While “Hora Soarelui” acoustically led pastoral-folk section creates a contemplative mood with melodies entirely homogenous to the Romanian hinterland where it was conceived.
Over the years since its conception “Om” still hasn’t fully revealed the magic contained within; it will probably take another ten years for this album to be fully understood. This record turned out to be the original line-ups swansong before going their separate ways (Drummer Negru retaining the Negură Bunget name and Huppogrammus and Sol Far beginning the entity known as Dordeduh). When the annals of black metal are finally written - Negură Bunget’s “OM” will sit at the pantheon along side classics such as Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger”, Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and Emperor’s “In the Nightside Eclipse”.
People have based religions on less - “OM” is black metal (and art) - in excelsis!