Review by Sonny for Negură Bunget - OM (2006)
I had avoided Negură Bunget and their best known album, OM because, for some reason, I got it into my head that it would be one-dimensional and dull, probably because the name is like a tantric chant or some such shit! In actuality it is a million miles from one-dimensional, it is more like a sonic tapestry woven from threads of many hues, some dark and thick, others scintillating and light, but all woven with exquisite artistry into a gorgeous and breathtaking whole.
The base canvas the Romanians use is atmospheric black metal, but it is then layered with a variety of textures and hues to create a sweeping and impressive vista that puts a lot of progressive metal acts to shame. The album's eleven tracks don't feel so much like individual songs, but rather like different movements of a single overarching narrative. There are a number of influences at play, not all of which are black metal-related, there is Burzum-esque tremelo strumming, soaring keyboards, dissonant sectons in the vein of some of the modern Icelandic bands, ambient interludes, melodic riffs, tribal drumming and, of course, the influence of the Romanians' traditional folk music. Vocals range from harsh screams, to chants, whispers and quite calm-sounding cleans. In other words there are a LOT of musical styles on display here. The skill here has been in forging those styles together into a single unified vision rather than a sprawling morass of divergent styles forced together just for the sake of a producing a diverse release.
I guess a band like Deathspell Omega is one that comes to mind when considering similar releases, especially when describing tracks like the ascerbic Inarborat or Dedesuptul, but they aren't as wilfully disonnant as the Frenchmen and can sound quite beautiful at times. They manage exceedingly well to impart a flavour of their Eastern European heritage within the music and it is quite easy to envision the forests and mountains of their native land and also get a feel for the darkness of some of their folklore - the tribalistic interlude Norilor is a track that is particularly foreboding I feel. At times they really let go, such as during Cel din urmă vis or De Piatra, but they also know when to exercise restraint - their handling of the keyboards being a particularly pleasing example, allowing the keys to enhance the sound and not swamp it with inherent cheesiness as others are wont to do.
This is one of those black metal albums that does genuinely attempt to do something different within the genres confines similary to Oranssi Pazuzu's last couple or Batushka's debut. I've got to admit that it doesn't exactly hit all my sweet spots, but there is more than enough to admire here and I can clearly hear that this is a quality black metal release that has attempted to push the genre forward into less predictable territiory and as such deserves massive respect. Should also appeal to progressive metal fans who are not scared of the more extreme fringes of the genre.