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Sunday Old School: Negura Bunget

For the second time in only a month, Sunday Old School presents itself in a sombre tone. Having lost Kittie bassist Trish Doan in February and paying tribute to her at the beginning of the month, this column pays its respects to another fallen metal musician, Gabriel Mafa, better known to the world as Negru, the drummer and co-founder of what is perhaps Romania's best known metal group, Negura Bunget, who tragically and suddenly passed away five days ago from a suspected heart attack at the age of 42.

The roots of Negura Bunget can be traced back to 1994 when Negru, along with Hupogrammos Disciple (real name Edmond Karban) on vocals, guitar and keyboards, founded the band Wiccan Rede in the major city of Timi?oara in west Romania. Under this moniker, the duo recorded and released one demo, "From Transilvanian Forests" in 1995, before changing their name to the now familiar Negura Bunget, which roughly translates to "dark foggy forest." Following this decision, the two musicians traveled to the Romanian capital city of Bucharest to record their debut album, "Zîrnindu-sa," which translates to "getting weak."

"Zîrnindu-sa" was well received by listeners, who were impressed with the progressive nature that Negura Bunget brought to the black metal scene and found fresh ideas in their sound, setting them apart from the younger black metal groups merely aping the likes of Darkthrone and Mayhem. Negura Bunget then expanded into a trio, recruiting guitarist Christian Popescu (AKA Sol Faur,) who made his recording debut with the band on the 1998 EP, "Sala Molksa." This was followed by the release of the band's sophomore album, "Maiastru sfetnic" in the year 2000, which once again earned plenty of praise from fans and critics alike.

After the release of "Maiastru sfetnic," the group attracted attention from record labels outside of their home country and eventually signed with Italian company, Code666, through whom they released their third full length album, "'n crugu bradului" in 2002. It was something of a radical record, featuring only four tracks which titled "I," "II," "III" and "IV," all of which clocked in at over ten minutes long. Once more, the unflinching and uncompromising nature of their music impressed listeners of all aspects, garnering plaudits across the globe.

While Negura Bunget had been steadily increasing their fan base and building a solid cult following, it could be argued that they didn't break through into the conscious of the metal community until 2006, when the group released, "OM," which is cited still as one of the most beloved albums of the band's catalogue. It was rated as the second best album of the year by Terrorizer magazine and included a DVD containing videoclips, live footage and a slideshow of the song, "Primul OM."

Despite the attention and success of "OM," the band soon found themselves at odds with each other, with Negru on one side and Hupogrammos and Sol Faur on the other, which eventually caused the group to splinter in 2009, with the latter two members forming the band Dordeduh, while Negru continued with the Negura Bunget name. It wasn't long before this new incarnation of the group was heard by fans, as they released their next album, "Vîrstele pamîntului" in 2010, which put the worries of their following to rest as the album lived up to the high standards set by their previous releases, something which "Vîrstele pamîntului" was always going to be compared to, not least because that same year, the group released a re-recorded version of "Maiastru sfetnic," this time entitled, "Maiestrit."

With the new version of the band fully introduced to the world, Negura Bunget worked on and released other projects, including the EP, "Poarta de dincolo" and the live album "Focul viu," both in 2011. Two years after these releases, the lineup was completely overhauled by Negru once again, replacing all the other members of the band. These new musicians were first heard on the 2013 single, "Gînd a-prins," before they released a full length album, "Tau" in 2015. The record received a mixed response from fans, who were overall unimpressed with what was on offer, a feeling which remained for their next album, "Zi," which was released in September 2016.

The band embarked on a European tour to promote "Zi," which included stops in Poland, merely days before Negru passed away. As of the time of writing this, the future of Negura Bunget remains unclear, with many feeling that with the only founding member gone, the name should be put to rest. Whether or not it continues, it will always live on as one of the most experimental and at nature bands in all of metal music and which grabbed the attention of the metal world and made it look to Romania.

Negura Bunget - "Negrii"

Negura Bunget - "Vremea Locului Sortit"

Negura Bunget - "II (Vara)"

Negura Bunget - "Cunoasterea tacuta"

Negura Bunget - "Dacia hiperboreana"

Negura Bunget - "Nametenie"

Negura Bunget - "Tul-ni-ca-rind"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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