Negura Bunget Satisfies Fans' Transylvanian Hunger on First North American Tour
May 19, 2012, San Antonio, Texas—Watching Behemoth play material off “…From the Pagan Vastlands” is the closest most Americans get to Eastern European black metal. Many of these artists either don’t play live, don’t have the money to make it to America or fall into the familiar trap of not getting their Visa application in on time. Negura Bunget is one of the few bands of this fold you’ll find on a flyer. However, not until just a month ago could one find them on a flyer promoting a concert in America. Negura Bunget is not your average slash-and-burn-satanic black metal group. Hailing from Transylvania, the group blends traditional Romanian folk music with atmospheric black metal to illuminate the “dark foggy forests” of the primeval Carpathian Mountains.
Negura Bunget is not a band for banging heads, bodies or fists. They work more on the mind’s eye, recreating a world where superstition rules the land. This is perfectly fine for one band, but if the all the bands on the bill took a similar approach; I would have witnessed and partaken in a snooze fest. Thanks to promoters Beyond the Dark Horizon, we were treated to a diverse assortment of acts.
Even though there was no mistaking one artist for another, there was a dark, connective thread that ran through the evening. Goatcraft’s single bloody keyboardist produced classical music fitting for an Eighteenth Century Hellfire Club meeting. Goatcraft’s vision of classical musical seemed fitting for Din Brad’s Old World organic approach. The other local band, Ancient Malus was similar to Eclipse Eternal. Both bands subscribed to black metal’s harsher conventions yet incorporated melody and keyboards. Negura Bunget could have identified with both camps.
If not for Negura Bunget, Din Brad would have been totally out of place. Pagan/folk metal bands incorporate the folk element into their metal. Din Brad strictly plays folk music. Negura Bunget members Inia Dinia (keyboards and vocals) and Negru (drums) created soundscapes that conjured ideas of the natural and supernatural. Divided on stage by an annoying support beam, Negru sat on the left, beating a floor Tom and hand drum, while Dinia stood on the right playing keys and singing. Several artists participated in the making of their debut CD “Dor.” The video below also shows more than two people. The group didn’t sound as full as their CD with only two members on stage tonight.
Negru’s woodsy percussion and Dinia’s vocal rhythms lent a sharp tribal aspect to their music. Often, these rhythms created a hypnotic effect. Keeping my focus proved difficult; their music seemed a better fit for a campfire, but they did end their set with a song containing powerful, martial beats that stirred the crowd's coals. Even though their set seemed out of place for a metal show, it did help prepare the coming of Negru and Dinia’s main band.
Eclipse Eternal hails from North America’s answer to Norway (climate wise), Canada. The months of freezing cold and lack of sun can certainly result in feelings of depression and anger, which is glaring in the group’s presentation, lyrics and music. Vocalist Voldamares wore a necklace containing the skull of a small animal and a homemade T-shirt bearing the childish (twisted child) inscription “Kill Yourself.” His crown of black thorns contrasted his white face paint, which blended with the white of his eyes when he rolled them back into his head during intense screams. Melodic string play and the occasional funeral-type rhythm accompanied feel bad songs of the year such as “Writing With A Razor Upon The Blue Lines” and “Murder…Suicide.” Eclipse Eternal has its own sound and style, but if I had to compare their brand of suicidal BM to others, bands such as Limbonic Art and Old Man’s Child come to mind. Their brand is loud, full and dramatic. I hope this tour exposes Eclipse Eternal to a larger faction of listeners. The group deserves it.
Negura Bunget stood on stage with their backs to the crowd, at the point where the shadows converse with the light. Light techs use tempo to dictate the amount of lights and speed of light on stage. Negura Bunget’s foggy soundscapes beckoned low, slow light. Their dark presentation played out to swirling, choir-laden keys that stirred up feelings that were both relaxing and ominous. The crowd followed the group’s helicopter head banging during fast transitions, but the repeated notes of the guitars during these segments still made the band seem as if it were frozen in place.
One aspect of Negura Bunget that differentiates them from other bands, pagan included, is their use of traditional Romanian instruments. Band founder, Negru stated in an interview with Metal Underground.com before the show that the group brought most of these instruments on tour with them, but some were too big to carry. On display during their set were instruments such a pan flute, regular flute and some sort of percussion that look like two mini spades. Negru drummed a festive beat during one song that led to the crowd enthusiastically clapping in cadence. I couldn’t help yearning for more of that energy in their set. This could have been accomplished if they had played ten or fifteen minutes longer than the mere fifty minutes of stage time.
While I enjoyed the atmosphere that Negura Bunget created, I would have preferred just a little more speed in their set. I first noticed their use of black metal was secondary to the folk elements on the “Vîrstele Pamîntului” album. Their set conveyed that approach. Bonds 007 Rock Bar was a good venue to hold the band. Even though the stage was too small for their six members, and the pillar in the middle created a terrible distraction, the venue was just the right size. Our surrounding was full, but not crowded. Slow or fast, I wasn’t about to miss a rare appearance by an Eastern European band; nonetheless, one from Transylvania!
Go here for visual evidence of the show.
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