Dar de Duh
posted on 11/2012 By:
Following the glorious rise and tumultuous split of Negura Bunget, many were left wondering what was to be. Negru’s continuation of the band -- call them Negura Bunget 2.0 -- was quick to report back with Virstele Pamintului, a full-length that wore the name proudly and left no question that Negru contained much of the original band’s talents. But what of Sol Faur and Hupogrammos, the other two thirds of Romania’s favorite black metal sons, and their project Dordeduh? For their full answer –because they presented the Valea Omului EP in 2010 – we would have to wait two years. It now arrives in the form of Dar de Duh, a sprawling, majestic near-masterpiece of folk-inspired black metal that not only confirms the existence of two great bands where we once had only one, but presents a true spiritual and aural successor to the original Negura Bunget’s timeless OM.
Where Dar de Duh surpasses Virstele Pamintului (and shows that 2/3 is truly greater than 1/3) isn’t through any drastic amount of innovation or change, but by how natural it feels. There is little variation from the atmospheric, extremely skilled, and multi-instrumental music that was established with N’Crugu Bradului and OM. Folk themes, malevolently harsh and heavenly clean vocals, expansive compositions, soaring melodies, and moments of pure cold still dominate the proceedings, but there is a slightly different way that the two bands are presenting these threads. Negru and NB 2.0 nail the feel and execution of this sound, leaving little doubt that they deserve to carry on the name, but there was something about Virstele Pamintului that felt slightly forced (just slightly), as if they felt pressure to uphold the name they kept. On the flipside, Dar de Duh is the sound of a band that has this music deep in their veins, and can effortlessly will it into being.
Much of this comes from the quality of the compositions and studio work, but a ton of credit also has to be given to the new backing band that Sol Faur and Hupogrammos have assembled. Flavius Misaras (bass), Gallallin (keyboards) and Ovidiu Mihaita (drums and percussion) exhibit every bit as much skill for the material and tendency for nuance as their predecessors, breathing life and detail into many of the album’s smaller moments. (Like the original Negura Bunget before them, Dordeduh does soft better than most metal bands do loud.) Alin Drimus of Martola also returns to provide wooden flute and kaval, adding tones both playful and sorrowful, depending on what the song and particular passage demand.
Based on the results, it’s easy to assume that Dordeduh actually used the last two years to work and hone Dar de Duh in the studio, even if that isn’t the case. The level of meticulous crafting that must have gone into this is staggering, and it goes far beyond impeccable instrument tones and depth. Oftentimes a lead tone will be unique to one passage, such as the softer touch in “Jind De Tronuri,” or instruments will be layered differently from one section to another, even if the parts haven’t changed all that much. For example, a rather malevolent tremolo line towards the end of “Flacararii” actually takes a backseat to vocals and rhythm guitar, despite this being the climax of the song. It works to great effect not only as reward for those who listen repeatedly, but as a way to limit the level of intensity so early in the album, which is necessary because…
Dar de Duh works as a series of peaks, each higher than the next, each split with valleys of folk music and dynamic growth. Touches of self-referencing and foreshadowing also help to create cohesion over the mammoth 77 minute run time, such as how the transition from the soft “E-an-na” to “Calea Rotilor De Foc” mirrors the initial metallic burst of “Flacararii,” and the unflappable songwriting prowess fills in the rest. Guitar parts, ranging from heavier Enslaved punch and piercing tremolo lines to Middle Eastern melodies hidden away in “Zuh” and softer clean passages, are placed seemingly exactly where they need to be at any given time, with nary an awkward transition in sight. Sometimes themes are abandoned quickly, but other times they are repeated and built upon while the band weaves their beautiful and menacing web around them. Within “Calea Rotilor De Foc,” sections evolve within themselves, changing a drum pattern here, a rhythm guitar part there, swapping a clean vocal in for a harsh, or adding some flute as a countermelody. It literally works on several levels that can be peeled off as the album reveals itself, but as a whole it’s pure ear candy upon first spin. All of this leaves one wondering whether all of this was composed with such rigorous detail from the beginning, or if it came to be over a long period of time through strenuous jam sessions. It honestly doesn’t matter, as the end result is the same: This music is refined.
It was hard, really hard, to not think of this as a Negura Bunget album while analyzing it. To a person who has devoured that band’s discography, Dar de Duh has been an incredibly easy listen, but the treasure trove of things to discover meant that it was still an adventure. The first full length by Dordeduh actually surpasses every NB album not named OM, and the only reason it falls short of that classic are a few “hippie drum circle” sections that might wander on a tad too long, and the fact that nothing here quite equals the shear grandiose perfection of “Cunoasterea Tacuta.” (To be fair, how many songs really do?) Regardless of these two very minor quibbles, Dar de Duh is a massive accomplishment that was well worth the wait, a major statement by a band that needed to make one, and one of the year’s best albums. Rejoice, fans of OM, your sequel is here.
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