Negura Bunget – Tau (Lupus Lounge)Thursday, 19th February 2015
Now two albums removed from the shakeup in the band that saw two-thirds of the golden-age lineup of Negura Bunget depart (members Hupogrammos and Sol Faur, part of the team that brought us NB’s masterwork Om, currently play in the well-received band Dordeduh), Tau marks the seventh studio album under the Negura Bunget moniker. By all accounts a messy divorce, drummer Negru is still carrying the flag for black metal, Romanian style, as they’ve been doing for twenty years now. Additionally, nine years removed from their critical high-mark, can the band do justice to the name that made Romanian metal a known commodity to so many and topped countless best-of lists for critics around the globe? I think they can, and do – and while the heights reached on Om are not necessarily repeated here on Tau, the essence of the band is well intact.
Using another new personnel lineup on this effort (Negru being the exception), what jumps out straightaway is the musical depth on the record. Now a five-piece, traditional metal instrumentation is supplemented with keyboards, pipes, horns, pan flute, percussion and other pastoral sounds. Where the album succeeds is with the conveyance of Romania, delivered in aural form, right out of your speakers. While this writer has yet to visit the historic and seemingly mysterious place (it is on my list), and thus can not authoritatively speak on it, the overall vibe and sounds of NB’s music are all about being a distinct thing, well outside of traditional black metal – sort of the weird cousin with a strange accent of the black metal family. Thematically, the album celebrates the natural wonders of Transylvania, and does a great job at taking the listener along on a trip, through this interesting, sometimes odd, folk-steeped and progressive black metal.
A dark listen from start to finish, harsh vocals work well with epic clean singing at times to add heft to the left-of-center melodies herein. The folk element being an integral part of the sound, it can be said that NB still stand apart from other folk black metal acts, by virtue of their culture. Complete with gypsy-circus sounding elements, it’s impossible to forget who you’re listening to on Tau.
Though not an outstanding release, NB comes off with a win on this effort. Weakness being found in a lack of truly memorable moments, it’s good enough. What’s also good is that the album closes on one of the best songs in “Schiminiceste” – always nice to leave off on a strong note.