posted on 6/2012 By:
Din Brad, in theory, should be a rather compelling group of musicians. The band’s main focus is traditional Romanian folklore and symbolism, and their music is meant to reflect their connection with the natural and spiritual world. When I first read this, I admit I rolled my eyes at the suggestion that yet another band would be using nature as their main source of inspiration, but I figured that Din Brad might be able to convey a somewhat tired concept with a fresh infusion of originality. Sadly, this was a heavy dose of wishful thinking.
The opening track, “Amar”, opens with some stormy atmospherics and unsettling whispering. It gave me the creeps in a pretty cool way, so I was dismayed when a repetitive and flat-sounding bass drum made its entrance, with the only detractors from its glaring one-dimensionality being a pleasant but uninspiring female voice, some synth patches, and a flute. At this point I glanced up to see how much of the song was left, to discover that nearly three minutes still remained. It’s not a good sign when a five-minute song compels you to take a break due to mind-numbing boredom. It’s not that the elements here are terrible, but Din Brad creates next to no atmosphere. Birds chirping, followed by a solo flute? This isn’t exactly anything new, and there’s no fresh coat of paint splashed on this neo-folk convention. I hesitate to place Din Brad under this genre tag, and they’ve assigned themselves the classification of “Traditional Romanian Soundscape”. I’m not sure what Avant-garde Romanian Soundscape would sound like, but I’d very much like to hear this as opposed to the forty minutes of plodding fare on Dor. It's not entirely awful, it doesn’t assault the ears (often), and anything that incorporates dulcimer usually has my vote, but this is background music that never truly achieves a haunting or mesmerizing quality.
I imagine the music might translate better live (the band had an opening stint for Negura Bunget), but on record it falls flat. Especially considering that Dor is supposedly half-comprised of traditional Romanian songs with little to no re-arranging, I’d expected there to be fuller production for those tracks, to make up for the lack of original stamp Din Brad would be able to contribute. Not so, and the sparse instrumentation coupled with the lackluster presentation of material makes this album mediocre at best.
At nearly the halfway mark, “Cîntecul Cununei” was the nail in the coffin for my listening experience. It’s yet another vocal solo sans accompaniment, this time performed by what sounds like an elderly woman – highly possible, given that Din Brad recruited many local musicians for the first half of the album. Initially, I was receptive to the notion that perhaps I’m too “close-minded” to “understand” this record, but two vocal solos within five minutes of each other? I struggled to connect, despite my best efforts.
“Dor” provides more instrumentation (and even some of those chilling whispers from the first track), but it’s too little too late. I enjoyed this song, but again after a couple of minutes, I found myself waiting for it to end. That’s what never-changing tribal drum beats will do to you, especially if you’re a drummer. Many of these songs are like percussive Chinese water torture (although I guess in this case, it’s Romanian). Nevertheless, I was in better spirits after this tune, until the next one began. You guessed it: a four minute solo vocal piece.
At this point, I realized that Din Brad’s music is not even approaching “metal” in a Tenhi or Negura Bunget way. This is a dull album of traditional music, with a couple of eerie whispers thrown in. “Durere” attempts more dynamics with (barely) synced-up keys and drums and a more hurried pace, but there is no natural rhythm to the song, and it’s a painfully awkward attempt at spicing things up. Flute wails overtop chanted vocals, and the same dissonant keyboard chord is repeated over, and over, and over, and over, again. True to form, Din Brad follows this up with…Another male vocal solo! Then there’s another track that was seemingly written while these Romanians overdosed on horse tranquilizers. Though I was praying for a reprieve, the band chose to end Dor with a fifth vocal solo. By this point, I was just relieved the album was over.
Maybe if I had more Romanian blood in me, or if I loved traditional folk music a bit more intensely, I would have enjoyed this record. But as it stands, I don’t think it’s a matter of “not getting it, man.” Din Brad just isn’t offering all that much in terms of content, atmosphere, or emotion. In small increments, I can see glimmers of potential for this band, but Dor as a whole left me unconvinced and severely underwhelmed.
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