Negura Bunget, while it has always endeavoured to be a living entity seeking for higher ideals, has also shown us how to tackle the constant struggles we face as human beings: with tenacity and untamed spirit. In this world lacerated by apathy, selfishness and fanaticism, placing emphasis on an ideal, whatever that might be, means to face choices upon which our individual and collective lives depend. It is often a gamble, so it is endearing to see a band which, rather than hiding behind masks, exposes its ‘being human’ in everything they do.
5 years from Virstele Pămîntului is a long time, but since the first spin of Tâu it is clear that we have to push the time-frame further back to Om to unravel its place in the band’s history. Negurâ Bunget reaffirms itself to belong to that era: Negru has always maintained that folk archaeology was the perfect substance for a metaphysical black metal which represents the strong spiritual identity of the band. But here the captivating charm of much of Tâu comes not from the still beautiful, certainly very familiar NB brand of black metal ambiance, but from the organic, earthy, virile, spirited physicality of the folk elements. This is where Tâu links back to Om, in successfully taking us back to the central protagonist of all ideas and ideals, good or bad: Man.
This is a very welcome perspective, because after all, the folklore and mythology of the wonderful Transylvanian locations the whole package gives us a strong feeling of, is the fruit of man’s own relationship with a landscape that forged ‘our’ mind and spirit across the aeons. Capturing primordial feelings through ethereal evocative sounds and atmospheres is something that many black metal explorers do wonderfully well, but in my opinion it is far trickier to take us back to our more physical, organic roots: to be able to take our senses back to smell the muskiness of the earth and the acridness of a bonfire, to feel the wind and lashing rain on our face, to feel the adrenaline rush running through our body, the sweat running down our backs, the tribal unity through chants and primitive music instruments… this is something few can do well. Together with the sorely missed Lunar Aurora, Agalloch, Drudkh, supreme old masters in the art of inextricably linking Man to its own Landscape, the historical manifestation of Negura Bunget also gave us something extra-ordinary. But the past is the past, and it feels encouraging to see that NB are still alive and willing to enrich themselves and us with further explorations.
Backtracking to the Om roots for this 2015 incarnation of Negura Bunget does not entail blowing the fanfare of black metal triumph, but that of a return to a focus that is made of human flesh and bones, its heart and spirit, simple needs and yearnings. I can hear it trickle down from the vitality of the quirkier flashes, like for instance the Theramin solo in the middle of the opening track ‘Nămetenie’, the deeply evocative trumpet in ‘Curgerea Muntelui’, or the histrionic madness of ‘Împodobeala Timpului’, which speaks to me (beware: I do not know the actual lyrical content as yet) of ancestral man’s willpower to dance off malignant spirits through ritualistic gatherings.
So while Tâu might not soar to the top of all the international playlists at the end of the year, it will be a rewarding experience for those who will fine-tune their ears to what the band is trying to do (and lavishly so, with all the extra treats we are offered to enhance and guide the experience), therefore I am happy to give credit where credit is due. Negru has pulled together a strong line-up of serious and talented musicians who will grant us very organic and strong live performances, and if let bloom, this new incarnation of Negura Bunget to stronger, more expanse, weirder musical territories. Without a doubt, these hard-working old hippy travellers are set to give us more pleasure in the years to come.
3rd-eye view: 7.5/10