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Negură Bunget – Vîrstele Pamîntului

negură bunget – vîrstele pamîntului


After Hupogrammos and Sol Faur’s departure the future of the band seemed rather uncertain. I don’t intend on recapping the drama behind the scenes but it ended with the two previously mentioned members forming Dordeduh, and whether agreed upon or not Negru continued the Negură Bunget name. Four relatively new and unknown members would join him, and without two of the three men responsible for their previous opus Om many fans were filled with doubt. Now finally almost four years after Om Negru has released the ‘Vîrstele pamîntului’ marking a new era for one of the great modern black metal bands.

Obviously with two members the sound has changed slightly and the opener ‘Pamantul’ strongly signals this. Rather than trying to improve on the same style as the monumental Om Negură Bunget shifts gears a bit and takes on a different approach while keeping their unmistakable sound. Negru’s dominant creative control clearly shows with the much stronger folk influence which I imagine has to do with his folk project Din Brad. This leads to some songs that are hardly metal at all, such as the album closer ‘Intoarcerea Amurgului’, which is also one of the stronger tracks. Also compared to the flurry of guitars on Om this offering is much more melodic, favouring tremolo picked single string guitar riffs. This mixture of melody and folk gives ‘Vîrstele pamîntului’ a much ‘earthier’ sound compared to the cosmic journey of ‘Om’.

I can’ t really say this transcends their previous album, but it’s certainly one of the best albums to come out this year. The album improves with each spin, and songs like ‘Arborele Lumii’ and the previously mentioned ‘Intoarcerea Amurgului’ are among the bands best. Although the previous turmoil within the band was unfortunate ‘Vîrstele pamîntului’ is another black metal masterpiece from Negură Bunget. And hey now fans have twice as much music to look forward to with Dordeduh’s debut hopefully being released this year. (Jake McCloskey)

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One of those rare and powerful sudden collisions between fate and unusual personal circumstances would have induced me to carve a special place in my heart for this much anticipated album in any case, but one quick listen was enough to make me realize that ‘VIRSTELE PAMINTULUI’ was in fact going to jump straight to the top of my all time favorite albums’ list on its own merits only. Negura Bunget s previous opus, the jaw-droppingly good ‘OM’ (considered now a cornerstone of the folk/ambient Black Metal genre) had touched many souls, creating interest in the mysterious lyrics deeply immersed in the archaic spiritual and historical traditions of the band’s native Rumania. Four years on, this new album is finally released (Code666/Aural Music) not just to confirm the absolute solidity, seriousness and talent of the Negura Bunget project – thus hopefully sweeping away in one blow all the hasty negative comments about the line-up change – but to present a stunning, mature work that elevates the band’s musical exploration and ideological voyage to further highs.

The bold choice of opening the album with two of the most memorable, soul-ripping tracks back to back pays off as they immediately thrust the listener into the spirit of this magnificent album. Pamint clearly foretells the magnitude of the epic, mystical tales of human exploration across the mysteries of the primordial and the universal. Then Dacia Iperboreana unfolds, snake-like, into an atmospheric, touchingly spiritual and powerfully visual journey deep into the Carpathian valleys. As the imagination probes further ahead into the wilderness of the awe-inspiring forests, the mind’s eye witnesses the arcane displays of nature’s power and wonder: a pack of wild hungry wolves dashing across the virgin snows; a huge storm of black crows circling in a swirling vortex over the soaring silent trees; the mystic form of a majestic eagle pointing skywards into the whiteness of pure light. Next the instrumental Umbra introduces us to the evocative, ancestral sound of the horn, an instrument that is universally found amongst the most ancient mountain dwellers (think of the famous Tibetan ones). It is a great build-up to the next track, Ochiul Inimi, an over eight minute long mind-blowing, grandiose cavalcade of distilled Negura Bunget at their best. Its intense Black Metal adorned with traditional folk is distilled with alchemical perfection, showing not just pure musical skill but a deeply rooted passion and commitment to a life dedicated to ideals that happen to find their ultimate expression through music. And this is only the 4th track of the album!…

As it only rarely happens, the entire content of this inspired work is worth of praise for the ripeness and beauty of the composition and style amalgamation, from the spellbinding acoustic folk interludes and intersections employing wonderful hand-crafted traditional instruments including percussions, xylophone, panpipes and horn, to the dark ambient drenched in Wiccan esoterism (Jar) and, of course, the breathless blasts into the realm of pure Luciferian metal. I wish to give new frontman Corb and Ageru all due credit for the excellent vocal performances and acknowledge Corb’s stunning melodic guitar parts. But it is of course Negru’s intensely charismatic and creative drumming (a clear consequence of his natural attunement to the primordial magick of tribal rhythms) that carries and complements the Negura Bunget sound with an art than evidently comes from hours and hours of hard work and total dedication and commitment.

Production-wise, I happen to be a fan of a non overly-polished sound in a genre where the organic, natural, approach is wholly fundamental to the truthfulness of its ideology. I do like this final mix very much: I find it meticulously cared for and clear for the enjoyment of each individual instrument but still keeping the right balance with its authenticity. Just like with the use of the ancient Rumanian language, I feel it is the only appropriate way of approach, true to the band s own philosophy.

Finally, it will be up to each one of us to find a favorite track within an album of nine painfully beautiful and coherently homogenous stand-out tracks. But a word of warning: this album will take your aching soul to places you have never seen before. Just allow yourself be transported by its universal flow! This band possesses the rare gift (perhaps not unlike Cynic) of redefining people’s spiritual journeys through the love of music. As ‘Virstele Pamintului’ is clearly destined to become yet another milestone, I warmly advise those skeptical nostalgics who fixate on individuals rather than ideals, to embrace the nobility of the Negura Bunget project. NEGURA BUNGET is immortal and we are lucky to have it amongst us. (Alex)