posted on 3/2010 By:
When bands choose to re-record classic albums or songs, the flags start flying. Is it just for a quick buck? Are they hyping some revamped lineup? Is someone being intentionally shut out of royalties? These questions are most commonly brought up for high profile albums or songs by high profile acts. While Negura Bunget maintain a moderately sized profile within the black metal underground, it is nowhere near that of say, Anthrax or Exodus, among other rehashers. Subsequently, the album being re-recorded (or “reinterpreted,” as the band insists) is 2000’s Maiastru Sfetnic, a relatively obscure album from their pre-fame years. As such, Maiestrit deserves to be treated by OM-era fans as a new album, and by fans of the original as a fresh interpretation (and improvement) on something they hold dear.
To the small number already familiar with Maiastru Sfetnic, hear this: as a fan of the 2000 album, I state with confidence that this vastly superior treatment damn near makes the original an artifact. The refined production and instrumentalism are quite similar to that heard on 'n Crugu Bradului, with hints of OM’s increased focus on Transylvanian folk. Special attention was also paid to balancing the mix of the rhythm section, a factor crucial to improving how these songs are presented and perceived. The performances, including the drums, vocals, and especially the bass, all take on the supreme class and session-quality professionalism heard in the band’s more recent work. In short, this slaughters the original in every way.
To the rest of you, the majority who have never heard Maiastru Sfetnic, fear not, ample details about the compositions follow. The songs contained here are far more aggressive and dense than the band’s more recent work, especially OM. Much of the music also qualifies for the symphonic black metal tag with the heavy use of traditional (and “medieval-sounding”) keyboards that resemble early Emperor or Hordanes Land-era Enslaved. Many of the riffs will also remind listeners of the latter, albeit with far more interplay between the two guitar parts.
And holy shit are there riffs. This is the Romanian boatload as far as Negura Bunget’s abrasive-but-melodic take on the genre goes. The constant bludgeoning of riffs and new ideas can become overwhelming at times, particularly in the lesser-composed early tracks such as “In-Zvicnirea Apusului,” but the album gets better as the minutes pass. It reaches captivating levels with the relatively brief (just over six minutes; the album contains three tracks over ten) “A-vint In Abis,” which features some wickedly effective symphonic passages in addition to three-way dancing by tremolo-obsessed guitars and the moving bass. In this situation the advantage of the re-recording is most apparent, as the role of the bass was largely lost in the original. Later songs decrease the riff saturation a tad, such as album highlight “Bruiestru,” but this comes mostly in the form of a lengthy and ambient intro, with the majority of the song maintaining the intensity heard earlier on the album.
In addition to the re-recorded original album, Negura Bunget also provide “acoustic” versions (not entirely unplugged) of both “A-vint In Abis” and “Plecaciunea Mortii.” Both are incredibly enjoyable and ape the style of OM’s lighter moments, but one would have been enough to provide the album with a sufficient bookend, as they push the total length of the disc to over 75 minutes. Still, as an afterthought to the reinterpretation, neither song can be seen as a fault to the total experience.
While Maiestrit falls slightly short in achieving the brilliance of the underrated 'n Crugu Bradului or the immortal OM, it effortlessly becomes the third essential album by an utterly essential band. Any re-recording skeptics should be silenced, as this is the treatment that these songs so desperately deserved a decade ago. It makes Maiastru Sfetnic seem like a demo in comparison, and is 100% recommended as the choice between the two. As the last work that Negura Bunget’s classic line-up recorded together before all hell broke loose, this is a beacon of fan service.
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