Nechochwen_Heart of Akamon1I’ll freely admit to having thrown up my hands and walked away from the majority of black metal over the past five years. Whatever drew me to the style in its infancy with Bathory and onward through Emperor and Darkthrone has all but died. I’ll still pay attention to releases by the big names, but for the most part I’ve given up the ghost. One of the rare bands that still holds a special place in my nonblack heart is West Virginia’s quirky and obscure Nechochwen. Essentially a one-man act, it incorporates loads of folk and Native American tribal music into the sound and makes it works exceptionally well. Adding flavor to the musical package, lyrics eschew the usual “Satan this, Wotan that” poppycock in favor of Native American mythology and concepts. Their debut Algonkian Mythos was an album of simple but enthralling acoustic guitar work similar to early October Falls, while Azimuths to the Otherworld added black and traditional metal as well as 70s prog, giving the music multiple layers and a unique sound. Heart of Akamon continues the evolution, taking the black and prog influences even further while telling the history of the Native Americans and their leaders like legendary warrior, Tecumseh. The result is a beautiful, emotionally charged and unusual piece of art which, if there’s any justice in the world, will elevate Nechochwen‘s status to that of one of metal’s most creative and interesting acts.

“Serpent Tradition” opens the show with sweet acoustic guitars before giving way to blackened blasting that manages to retain a strong sense of melody. There are numerous tempo shifts and when Aaron Carey’s (Nechochwen) clean vocals come in, you’ll swear you’re listening to Opeth‘s Damnation or Dan Swanö’s Nightingale project. The guitar jumps between black, traditional and death metal ideas and even manages a few leads that belong on a classic W.A.S.P. album.  “Lost on the Trail of the Setting Sun” also contains a cosmic buttload of exquisite guitar work, and the riff at 5:40 is right off an Atlantean Kodex opus.

The high point comes with “October 6, 1813,” which is a stripped down acoustic piece with heartrendingly beautiful vocals and a strong Pale Communion vibe. It’s Song o’ the Year material and as sad as it is, I cannot stop playing it. There’s a lot of Agalloch‘s The Mantle drifting through the ideas on “Traversing the Shades of Death” and those influences are deftly paired with morose Finnishness akin to Rapture or Insomnium. “Skimota” is an adventurous merger of Ulver and Opeth and will hook you in immediately, and closer “Kiselamakong” even dabbles in melodic doom and pulls that off equally well.

Nechochwen_2015aThere’s so much amazing music here that it boggles the mind. Each song has its own mood and many moments of lush experimentation, but none of it feels overly proggy or pretentious. The production is impressive despite the DR6 rating, sounding much fuller and deeper than you’d expect. The acoustic segments have a rich tone, and when things get metallic, they guitars have enough punch to get the point across. The vocals in particular pop and have a great place in the mix.

The two biggest selling points here are the guitars and vocals and Carey is responsible for both along with handling flute, Native American hand drums and the lalawas. The guitars are especially impressive throughout, be they acoustic or electric. The sheer number of sweet, hooky leads is breathtaking and there are many moments where a solo or harmony will seize your attention forcefully.  His forlorn clean singing is closest to Dan Swanö’s, but there’s plenty of Mikael Akerfeldt there too. Heart of Akamon marks the first time Carey has help, with Andrew D’Cagna of Obsequiae joining to handle drums and bass. He cements the sound and provides a solid foundation upon which the duo build all sorts of interesting musical edifices. With such a musically rich and diverse album, these two gentlemen deserve all sorts of credit for making it as listenable as it is while never giving in to the temptation to over-wank.

This is one of the most enthralling and exquisite pieces of music I’ve heard in a long time. In a way this is the Native America version of Bathory‘s Hammerheart, and a lot of the atmosphere I loved on that classic platter is here as well, but with vastly superior musicianship. This will appeal to metal fans of almost any stripe and it’s one of the best albums you’ll hear this year. Do not miss this one!


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 188 kbps mp3
Label: Bindrune Recordings
Websites: nechochwenbandcamp.com | facebook.com/Nechochwen.com
Releases Worldwide: September 4th 2015

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  • Karmazov

    There’s been Viking metal, Slavic metal, space metal, and now there’s Native American metal? Hell yeah I’m on board! This is awesome! m/

    • About damn time the Native Americans got their epic metal props.

      • Kalsten

        You have Spirit Horse of the Cherokee by ManOwaR. What else do you want!?

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Tomahawk did a good job

      • Wilhelm

        Europe “Cherokee”
        Testament “Trail of Tears”
        Agalloch used some Native American quotes/lyrics

        • [not a Dr] Gonzalo Salazar

          Nightwish “Creek Mary’s Blood”
          … Anthrax “Indians”

        • Pagliacci is Kvlt

          Iron Maiden “Run to the Hills”

      • [not a Dr] Gonzalo Salazar

        I’m sure Incas count as Native Americans.
        Chaska has them covered. With Andean instruments and all.
        Check out the song Pururauca. It’s a bit long. It is an epic song about the conflict between the Incas and the Chancas that starts around the founding of the Inca Empire and spans several generations, ending when the Inca Pachacutec calls the rocks from the Andes to take the shape of warriors, walk down the mountains and kick the Chancas’ ass.
        Peru represent.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I remember reading about a Tibetan metal band, I think on NCS. They incorporated some native instruments and melodies into their music. Of course now I can’t locate them. It was neato.

      • Wilbur Teegrus

        Tengger Cavalry is sort of like that.

        • If it was NCS, it was probably Tengger Cavalry.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            I seem to remember they were specifically from somewhere in Tibet, rather than Beijing. My mind might be playing tricks. Likely TC, as not much else comes up on a search.

          • Andy777

            Are you thinking of Cthonic?

          • Monsterth Goatom

            No, but thanks.

        • basenjibrian

          But not very good, sad to say :(

      • Karmazov

        Yeah Mongolian Folk metal is the freaking best!

      • Mad_Iguana

        Was it the Nepalese Band “Dying Out Flame”? I seem to remember finding them on NCS.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          That’s who I was thinking of. Thanks! I was off by one country. : )

          It’s been a while since I listened to them.

          • Mad_Iguana

            Glad I could help.

    • De2013

      And how about Testament’s Native Blood Native as American metal?

      Edit 1: thematically speaking, not considering the instruments such as flute, Native American hand drums and the lalawas et cetera

      Edit 2: Great review, I will check this out! Mentioning W.A.S.P., Opeth, October Falls, Bathory, Atlantean Kodex and listening to the embedded song, got me totally excited!

      • Karmazov

        Forgot about that haha! Not up to date on my Testament!

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Talk about ticking all the right boxes…

  • Aggrael Obadiah Dunn

    I find in the acoustic parts of the album the magic that Opeth lost since Watershed. This album is amazing. I will definitely get the vinyl when it will be released.

  • Patrick Colombo

    To be honest, sometimes I forget that West Virginia even exists, but right now I’m pretty glad it does!

  • With such a musically rich and diverse album, these two gentlemen deserve all sorts of credit for making it as listenable as it is while never giving in to the temptation to over-wank.”

    Over-wank. That’s a good term for it. :) Perhaps this is a signal we’ve hit peak wank. :)

    Great review.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      How do you know the wanking has reached over-wank level? Because it’s not pleasant anymore.

      • I’d wager the futures market on wanking won’t ever over wank, though.

      • [not a Dr] Gonzalo Salazar

        A bit like underwanking…

  • Monsterth Goatom

    All that name dropping has my mouth watering. I wanna run out and buy this. It’s great to see artistic effort pay off like this. You reap what you sow.

  • Martin Langley

    I’ve had this record for the last week and I’m still getting to know it. Some of acoustic sections are just stunning. Great review, but no mention of the awesome cover art?

    • Mark Hunt

      Do you know if it’s an original painting for the album or if they used an existing painting as their cover?

      • It’s a fairly well known painting: The Shooting of General Braddock at Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh), 1755 by Edwin Deming.

  • Wilbur Teegrus

    Amazing album…bought this right away and have been jamming it multiple times every day!

  • tomasjacobi

    Thank you Steel Druhm. Nothing beats discovering an awesome band you didn’t even know existed. Just listened through the whole album on Spotify. Loved every second. I’ll be getting this on vinyl when it’s released.

    • My pleasure. Check out their earlier stuff as well.

      • tomasjacobi

        Think I might just do that.

  • I fell in love with Nechochwen with OtO. This one ticks all the boxes as well, great stuff.

  • cirkus-lizard

    I have this on pre-order from Bindrune. Come on Marty let’s get those copies shipped. Really looking forward to.

  • maurismind

    I just created an account now to post this: Thank you very much for reviewing this, I first found this album at NoCleanSinging, and I was surprised as folk metal has never really been my cup of tea, but I absolutely loved this and it’s without question my favourite album of the year so far. I will listen to their previous albums too and I am exited to discover what they released in the past!

  • You wot m8?

    Living in Montana, I’ve heard a lot of great Native music. I’ve heard traditional native, native rock, and even native dubstep, but this takes the cake. In other words: Damn, this is good!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Wow sounds excellent, I’m hopping on this hype train.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Hhhwhhhat?! I must have this!

    • DrChocolate

      My thoughts exactly. I think I even made that noise.

  • pfk505

    Really one of the best albums I’ve ever heard, from a band I have followed for years. Here’s to hoping they begin to get some of the recognition they richly deserve.

  • Kronos

    Album of the month is almost guaranteed to go to this.

    • Pimpolho

      You know it is great when even the deathcore guy likes it. (just joking, please no hammer)

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Extra points for Coroner T-shirt in band photo :)

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I was going to say the exacy same thing.

  • Philip Pledger

    They had me at about two minutes and forty minutes in to The Serpent Tradition, with that tasty contrast between tasty acoustic noodling and frantic full-blast drumming. Bloody hell, this site wreaks havoc on my wallet, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    • Worldeater

      How dare you to post the exact same comment i was going to write! Maybe we can establish a support group for people who went broke because of the recommendations on this site? “Hello, my name is Worldeater and i am a follower of AMG!” “Hello, Worldeater!”

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        “Don’t worry, Worldeater. Debt is never a problem when you have a new and improved library of tasty riffs!”

        • Worldeater

          True thing! You can’t blame the guys from Nechochwen, their pricing on bandcamp is more then fair!

  • Luke_22

    Yeah this sounds like another unsung gem of the year. Great write-up.

  • mauler77

    Does anyone know how to pronounce the band name? Soft ‘ch’? Hard? A mixture? Liking the music so far though.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Probably “ne-chock-when”.

      • Wilbur Teegrus

        I saw a video on the official FB page, he pronounced it “ne-chawch-when.” =]

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Thanks.

  • Wilhelm

    I’m listening to this and it sounds like some kind of magical concoction of a bunch of really amazing bands. I’m hearing Windir, Agalloch. Opeth (Damnation?) and I’m not sure who else but I love the harsh vocals; I’ve always been partial to extreme vocals that are well articulated and easy to understand.

    Thanks for reviewing this – I probably would have missed this one.

    • I definitely hear some Damnation era Opeth in here, as well as Nightingale and even the clean sections of Edge of Sanity’s Crimson.

    • Mark Hunt

      Oak Pantheon

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    Another American folk metal triumph this year!
    Listening to the stream on Bandcamp and it sounds glorious. Thanks for the review, it has led me to another great band.

  • siegbran

    I know these opening paragraphs are mostly senseless banter, but dude if you’ve only been following the big names in black metal you’ve been barking up the wrong tree for the past fifteen years, no wonder you’ve given up.

    • I pay more attention to releases by bands like Agalloch or Deathspell Omega, but due to my job here I’m exposed to a lot of newer black metal acts (Imperial Triumphant, etc.) and when a staff writer raves about something, I check it out. Still, my taste for the style has waned a lot over the years.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    About the “usual “Satan this, Wotan that” poppycock in favor of Native American mythology and concepts” bit…
    Why deprecate Norse mythology and Judeo-Christian Mythology as “poppycock” ? Because it is overdone?
    Native American mythology might be regarded as poppycock as much as any other mythology.

    If the intention is to praise innovation just praise it, there´s no need to deprecate tradition to do it. If fact there´s no need to deprecate anything in order to praise its opposite.

    • Kronos

      We’re tired of hearing the “usual “Satan this, Wotan that” poppycock. It’s not that Christian or Norse Mythology don’t have great subjects for songs, but it’s nice to hear something you haven’t before.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        The whole point of innovation in music is hearing something we haven´t heard before. Agreed.
        What I meant is that any and all mythologies could be regarded as poppycock.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    One thing I really appreciate is how up front the instruments are in the mix, rather than the usual things-placed-in-the-distance BM soundscape. When the electric guitars and drums erupt after the acoustic intro in The Serpent Tradition…. Eargasm!

  • This sounds pretty cool. Will check it out.

  • Lasse Momme

    Oh my god, this so good! I’m getting a bit of a Bask vibe off them only with the combo of folk music and metal, difference being bask played americana folk and doom and these guys are playing black metal. This is absolutely terrific, the serpent tradidition is a monster of a song.

  • Damn I’ve already listened to this album 5-6 times.. Totally mesmerising! Can’t wait for the LP release. Wish more vinyl pressing plants existed…

  • Grymm

    This entire album is majestic. I haven’t said that about a black metal abum in a long time. “Skimota” is on perpetual repeat; that chant near the end is so beautiful.

    Great review!

  • Hammersmith

    I listened to a ton of Azimuths, some really great acoustic pieces on that one. Looking forward to digging into this!

  • groverXIII

    Bindrune Recordings is killing it this year. Between Nechochwen, Obsequiae, and Infera Bruo, they’ve got three quality releases this year, and there’s still the new Panopticon album yet to come. This album is excellent.

  • AnnieK13

    I absolutely love this album..definitely makes my EOY list!

  • Christopher McGrath

    Spot on review, this album is fantastic.

  • Luke_22

    Between this and Wilderun and Obsequaie’s 2015 releases, you have a hell of a blackened-prog-folk trilogy (with a pinch of death in Wilderun’s case).

  • Meriyas

    This album is damn good! It’s definitely going to tie me over until the new Panopticon album next month. I would never have even known it existed if it wasn’t for you guys, thanks!

  • Rob Nine

    While not a fan of the growling vocals, I love everything else about this album. I just purchased it on Bandcamp (thanks for link from someone who is lazy even on the internet) and am on my second full listen this morning. Definitely just entered contention for one of my top 5 favorite albums of the year.

  • Sharp-Blunt Boy

    I just received the CD last week. Still playing catch up.

    However, what an excellent surprise – and completely worth the lengthy wait. This is a really well considered beast that straddles all the things I love about the realms of black metal. Confident, skillful, diverse, innovative and a whole heap of corporate **** word bingo words that probably won’t do it justice.

    Hail 2015!

    • SegaGenitals

      Glad to see I am not the only one haunting old reviews. Great album.