Remarkably it’s been half a decade since Transylvanian progressive black metallers Negura Bunget released a full-length album – where does the time go, eh?
And for that matter, where did the band go? A significant shuffle in 2013 saw last remaining founder member Negru replace every single member of the band, making this the debut for some six of the group’s musicians. Given that the replaced musicians weren’t original members, it’s unsurprising that the band have shifted their sound considerably in the nine years since their career highpoint, Om, and Tau offers a further step into new territories.
That’s not to say that the content is unrecognisable, mind you – the use of pan flutes, pipes, horns and xylophones continues to grant these songs not only a folk overtone but also a haunting sense of the epic and, for most listeners, a sense of exoticism.
Slow- building Curgerea Muntelui is an obvious example, its broad landscapes powerful in their emotional pull and almost cinematic qualities. More obviously metallic songs such as the 10-minute opener Nametenie also prove that the group’s sense of dynamics is firmly in place, the song offering an ebb and flow between the stirring clean sections and the driving, heavy passages.
Nonetheless, there are changes. At times the material leans toward bombast and even slickness, resulting in loss of subtlety, atmosphere and, arguably, authenticity. The dominant and sweeping synth strings and piano arpeggios of Taram Valhovnicesc, for example, bring to mind Dimmu Borgir’s more obvious numbers. Other tropes of the past stand discarded, such as the rhythmic use of picked notes over swelling synths, a combination that served the band well and is missed, the feeling of almost spiritual revelation it brought now rarely in evidence. To be clear, this isn’t a bad album; it’s well above average. But it’s hard not to conclude that it’s a step down from previous works.
Via Lupus Lounge