posted on 4/2010 By:
There are some heavy expectations for Negura Bunget and Vîrstele Pamîntului, not in only following up 2006's critically acclaimed Om – an arguably classic, landmark black metal album that elevated the band to an Emperor-like pedestal -- but also in founding member Negru doing it with an entirely new band after a split with the other original guitarist/vocalist Hupogrammos and long time bassist Sol Faur. However, with the new line-up, Negru has managed to continue the essence of Om and Negura Bunget.
I’ll say this right away; Vîrstele Pamîntului (loosely translated to ‘Land of Ages’ or ‘Ages Land’) is no Om -- at least, not musically. But it's still a magnificent album, and despite a lessening of black metal elements and much more emphasis on ethnic ambience, you can feel the very essence of the band and of Negru, Romania, seeping and dripping from every note and instrument on what is most-assuredly a painstaking work of art. Heck, you can even get a special edition of the album with some soil from Romania contained.
Still melding Romanian ethnicity and black metal, Vîrstele Pamîntului is instantly recognizable as Negura Bunget but takes it's time to get going, taking your hand and leading you slowly and artfully through time and history, with mystical nods to a regal and strife-ridden nation, to the Bulgars, Moldavians, the Vlachs and, some say, the very origins of Dracula. The essence of the Carpathian mountains, where Dacian Romans and Goth clashed, where Huns roamed and where the Ottoman Empire collided with the West. And all of this is contained in the notes that fill Vîrstele Pamîntului. The first two tracks “Pãmînt” and “Dacia Hiperboreanã” will test patient listeners with almost ten minutes of ambient ethnicity, spoken words, whispering and pained calls to God. About three minutes into “Dacia Hiperboreanã," new vocalist Corb and Negru deliver a steady double bass march over some stirring synths and shimmering guitars and the tone for the album is set. If anything, Vîrstele Pamîntului is moving, but it rarely enters into anything blistering, with a steady gait and trot throughout most of the black metal parts.
However, ethnic tranquility and craggy majestic ambient hues fill most of the album, such as the aforementioned first three tracks as well as “Umbra”, “Jar” and “Întoarcerea Amurgului”. It's not until four tracks in with “Ochiul Inimii” where you get a sense of anything vaguely black metal, but it's still a steady, controlled rage, and it's all drenched in Slavic/Balkan instrumentation and atmospheres that are simply captivating. “Chei de Rouã”, “Tara de Dincolo de Negurã” and “Arborele Lumii” are the album's most direct, harsh black-ish tracks, but amid the shrill riffs, screams and Slavic austerity, Corb displays his fittingly accented clean croon. If Dracula were in a black metal band, this is how he'd sound.
As with Om, Vîrstele Pamîntului isn’t just an album, it's an experience--an experience driven by (and filled with) ethnic and historical pride that you can feel and not just hear. I’m reminded of the recent Nechochwen release--even those disappointed in the lack of truly vehement black metal should still appreciate the sheer amount of artistic brilliance and deeply rooted passion that fills this release that is not superior to Om, but a more than worthy follow up.
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Poarta de Dincolo
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