Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Negura Bunget - Zirnindu-Sa

Negura Bunget - Zirnindu-Sa
1998 (?), Bestial Records - also on Breath of Night

Over the last few months I have been listening to Negura Bunget's material backwards, starting with their latest album, and then progressing in an atypical fashion to what has come before...I should say here that without the eager advice or urging of Arkadin, I probably would have finally arrived at the point where I was ready to examine this music much later, perhaps a few years in the future - who can say? I never felt I was exactly 'prepared' to adequately understand this band's music, and even now, when I have listened to their entire oeuvre a number of times, there are points where I still don't feel ready to try to 'explain' or describe it to others. One must be prepared, when faced with Negura Bunget's output, to travel into lands seldom seen, seldom noticed, and even less frequently discussed at length. This is not really because their music has been 'ignored', or it hasn't reached a great number of people - it has by this point - but rather because the music resists any kind of definite adjectives by which one could grasp its 'meaning'...it simply flows past the power of language to capture it or hold its essence. As Arkadin wrote in his earlier review of 'Sala Molksa', their second release, this band's effusions have a certain 'purity', a sound that is completely idiosyncratic. This is frustrating for me, as I have made something of a small career here in trying to decipher what is normally indecipherable...but I will attempt it again...

Whereas their later work has started to become increasingly complex, weaving epic series of melodies and themes together into extended tone poems, this earlier album is mainly composed of 'traditional' black metal, meaning: simple melodies, only one guitar line, and motifs that do not wander too much from their origin unless it is to spin off a catalogue of variations. Because of the incredibly spectral guitar sound on this recording - a series of tones without any real power or a percussive edge - what one notices in the progression of these songs are the mystifying keyboard melodies in league with the almost 'ambient' barrage of the drums (more cymbal crashes than anything else)...out of the swirling mix of these elements, which sound as if they were somehow 'veiled', or presented behind a wash of white noise, extremely harsh vocal utterances appear and disappear almost randomly: low moans, strange barking and howling, as if a pack of feral dogs was running through the studio, and cries that are so nerve-rending I don't think anyone could ever claim, after listening to this album, that Negura Bunget do not throw themselves completely into their work. But what are these songs about? Are these verses or choruses that I'm listening to at any given time...who could tell? Just what is this band calling on? Ancient spirits? The power of their ancestors? Because I can't speak Romanian, I am left guessing...it sounds very persuasive, though...

I think that the only bands I could ever really compare this Negura Bunget release to would be Enslaved (early - say, their first album) and Graveland, because all of these groups were motivated to present 'pagan' or folk elements in their music combined with a definite taste for the epic, extended, trance-inducing effects of repetition and ear-numbing, alien musical themes or motifs...most of the guitar melodies on this album are so discordant, bizarre, and purposefully inchoate that they are mesmerizing - add in the poor sound, the inhuman, tortured vocals, the almost-absent rhythm work and the over-powering keyboards, and you have a masterpiece of black obscurity...it is like a recording of music made by forest spirits, mountain demons, the ghosts inhabiting the crags of the Carpathians, not human beings...at its best it becomes a whirling, suffocating sorcery, a white blizzard of enchantment, a call from the past...

In fact some of this music is so utterly unearthly that is as if a portal opened before you when you place this record in your stereo, and you step through this gate into another world, another time...there is distinctly nothing of this time in Zirnindu-Sa...it does not reflect the present at all...marvelous. When I listen to this now I am almost instantly transported into a pre-historic landscape: torrential storms and snow-covered heights surround me, I struggle through icy drifts and cursed groves of dead trees, wolves howl for my blood, the voices of the dead fill my ears...

In any case, this band is now something of a legend - especially in the Eastern European circles - and this album will let you hear some of the themes and ideas which they later developed even further on 'Sala Molksa' and their newest record, 'Maiastru Sfetnic'...but aside from that it is a great recording in its own right, and deserves to be listened to with rapt attention...