Negură Bunget – ZI – Album Review

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Artist: Negură Bunget

Album Title: ZI

Label: Prophecy Productions

Date Of Release: 30 September 2016

If you’re on a quest to discover an artist that offers something just that little bit different, then Negură Bunget should be close to the top of your list. I have been a keen observer of the Romanian band ever since their inception and was keen to hear what the band offered with album number eight, ‘ZI’.

Named after a type of black fog that emanates from the dense forest of their homeland, Negură Bunget emerged from the ashes of Wiccan Rede in the mid-90s, offering the metal world their own personal take on black metal. Influenced and affected by several line-up changes, most notably in 2009 after which only original drummer Negru remained, their musical output has changed significantly over the years, meaning that in many ways, the band today is a very different prospect to what it was in its original incarnation.

That said, there are elements of Negură Bunget which remain constant. To begin with, there’s the atmosphere that pervades the entirety of the music, and then there’s the affinity with nature, particularly that of their Romanian homeland. Each album has some strong connection with their heritage in some form or another and with that, comes something very organic and authentic.

This latter ingredient has arguably never been stronger than it is here with ‘ZI’. The second part of a trilogy delving deeply into their homeland, this record has as its focus the local traditions and cultures, exploring them thoroughly within the framework of this six-track album. As a result, that sense of authenticity comes through very strongly, aided immeasurably by the inclusion of many traditional instruments and sounds.

For all the changes and difficulties, even after 20 plus years, the heart of Negură Bunget still beats to a black metal tune, albeit massively deconstructed to encompass many other influences along the way. And it is this constant evolution, the sense of daring, the feeling that very little is off limits that means that each Negură Bunget album is a fascinating experience.

The variety on offer within ‘ZI’ is quite extraordinary and the stuff on nightmare for reviewers. Each track has a distinct flavour, where different musical textures are explored, where minimalist ideas are deliberately juxtaposed with passages of dark power and where modern techniques combine with more traditional, basic instrumentation all aimed at conveying just the right atmosphere and tone.

‘Tul-Ni-Ca-Rind’ opens the album and does so in intriguing fashion. For the most part, the track features the rhythmic sounds and strange drones of traditional instrumentation delivering a simple, earthy composition that builds from humble beginnings complete with quiet chanting to finally explode at the eleventh hour with a simple but powerful riff and strong drumming at its core.

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The black metal of the band’s early days can be heard most succinctly via the rather wonderful ‘Gradina Stelelor’ and at various points within the equally intriguing, if slightly more dirty and schizophrenic output of ‘Baciu Mosneag’. In the case of the former, the track begins in quiet fashion, utilising hushed spoken-word vocals and the haunting sound of pipes atop a gorgeous ambient-like melody, before exploding with force and intent. Out of nowhere, the blast beats arrive alongside fast picked guitar work and deep growls before things turn strangely folky and a whole lot groovier for a time. The black metal elements are never far away though and what I particularly like are the synths that maintain a link to the melodic intro and keep the composition bathed in deep and rich atmosphere.

Elsewhere, ‘Brazda Da Foc’ is another captivating composition, where dreamlike passages and gentle ambient segments blend into something more in keeping with post-metal. The bass rumbles beautifully and when things take off, I love the juxtaposition between the serene and the extreme, led in the main by ferocious drumming.

‘Stanciu Gruiul’ is a delightfully odd song that begins by sounding exactly as I might expect ancient Romanian folk music to sound. The modernity of the chosen synth sounds is a nice counterpoint as the track develops whilst maintaining that traditional-sounding folk charm. It’s not normally the kind of thing I like, but I’m drawn to it somehow, perhaps because of the simplistic honesty that it offers.

‘ZI’ is then drawn to a close by ‘Marea Cea Mare’, the longest track on the album and one that is utterly delightful, creating a huge ambient sonic soundscape full of different emotions and subtle textures. It moves for the most part at a glacial pace but enthrals throughout, particularly thanks to the introduction of smooth and dreamy female vocals. Underneath the layers of synths, the guitar creates echoes of black metal but that is it; just echoes, as Negură Bunget take the listener on a thoroughly different journey.

I must admit that ‘ZI’ has really grown on me and thoroughly impressed me in the process. It is a strange, occasionally odd and challenging album. However, it is also very beautiful, diverse, rewarding and ultimately, deceptively entertaining. If you want something just a little bit different, give Negură Bunget a try.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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