Negura Bunget - ZiBack in my university days, I had a part-time bar job and on one occasion we played host to a Romanian wedding party, complete with traditional dress, dancing, and folk music. It was a magnificent, albeit slightly surreal evening that opened my eyes to the folk genre and broadened my musical horizons immeasurably, so when offered the chance to review Zi — the latest offering from storied Romanian blackened folk metallers Negură Bunget — I jumped at the opportunity.

For those unfamiliar with the band’s history, Negură Bunget formed as a fairly straightforward black metal act in the city of Timișoara in the mid-nineties. Operating as a three-piece for most of their career, they gradually established a more traditional Romanian folk-inspired sound along the way, however, an internal dispute in 2010 led to the departure of principal songwriters Hupogrammos and Sol Faur, who withdrew to form their own band, Dordeduh. This left drummer Negru to recruit an entirely new lineup of musicians to fill the ranks, and many feared this to be the spiritual end of Negură Bunget altogether, with their two studio albums post-split — Vîrstele Pămîntului and Tău — meeting with mixed reviews. The arrival of Zi, therefore, is something of a make-or-break moment for the band’s new incarnation. Fortunately, they have managed to create something very special indeed.

Through their music, Negură Bunget seek to provide a window into the esoteric world of their homeland and its traditional way of life. Utilizing an array of native folk instruments, they craft a strange, otherworldly atmosphere, sucking the listener in and transporting them to another time and place altogether. Invoking images of rolling grassy vistas, dense woodland and glistening rivers meandering their way down from the towering Carpathian mountains. Zi paints a vivid picture of the majestic Romanian landscape in the mind’s eye, pristine and uncorrupted — an environment still resolutely the domain of nature as opposed to man.

Zi is a slow burner — a record to be listened to in one sitting, in chronological order and with no interruptions. When these conditions are met, however, the album takes on the form of a living entity in its own right. Starting with the creeping, breathy quiet of opener “Tul-ni-că-rînd,” it gradually builds up to a resplendent peak, before gracefully winding down to the gentle conclusion of “Marea Cea Mare,” inviting the listener to sit back and contemplate the journey upon which they’ve just embarked. Each track is like the chapter of a book, purposefully complementing the last and leading into the next, and this is why it’s so important to experience Zi in a single sitting; everything has a context in which it must be appreciated in order to provide perspective and clarity.

Negura Bunget 2016

The production of Zi is a vast improvement upon that of its predecessor, Tău — which came under fire for its somewhat synthetic overtones — sounding deep and organic, as true folk music should, the instruments balanced perfectly so as to render each component audible without being overbearing. Indeed, it is difficult to find much wrong here at all, however, if I am to be especially picky, it would have lent the album a more cohesive air if each track flowed seamlessly into the next, as opposed to having defined periods of silence dividing the record into blocks. This is hardly a terminal issue however and certainly does not detract from the overarching quality of the record.

When Hupogrammos and Sol Faur parted ways with Negru, many people had Negură Bunget written off altogether, however, the stubborn drummer and his band of acolytes have proven that such fears were premature. Zi requires patience and calm to digest and an open mind to experience fully, but it rewards the listener with a beautiful, captivating, ethereal experience that truly transcends national, cultural and linguistic boundaries. A few years ago, I was at a Sólstafir show and recall Addi describing the manner in which music can do just that; “Most of you will have never been to our country, and even fewer of you will speak our language,” he said, “but through the power of music, you understand exactly what we’re about.” In that moment he could have almost been talking from the perspective of Negură Bunget in 2016, as Zi is an immersive listening experience and represents a triumphant return to form for Negru and his new compatriots.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lupus Lounge – Prophecy Productions
Website: negura-bunget.bandcamp.com | negurabunget.com |facebook.com/negurabunget
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2016

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Great review. I feel these guys get slammed unnecessarily in many circles. Always loved this band, pretty hyped now to spin this.

    • Lord Lucan

      Cheers, I agree. A lot of people sided with Sol Faur and Hupogrammos after the split but for me this eclipses Dordeduh’s studio LP entirely, and that was a damn fine album in itself.

  • Reese Burns

    Definite AotY contender. Love me some blackened folk.

    • Lord Lucan

      Totally. It’s probably 25% metal to 75% folk but that’s part of what make sure it so good. It ramps the atmosphere up to 11.

      • Reese Burns

        I actually thought their last album was pretty good as well!

        • Lord Lucan

          I agree, I thought it was better than many people gave it credit for. For some reason it didn’t sit too well with many of their long term fans though. I suspect band politics might have played a part in this.

  • Diego Molero

    Funny, just a couple of weeks ago I was doing some Internet-metal-research, and came up with this band, I read that OM is considered a masterpiece in black metal and metal in general. I take note of it but kind of forgot it. But with this review I’m totally in, will be checking this album as well as OM.
    Great review!

    • Lord Lucan

      Thanks! Glad to help. While Om is their most well-known record (and with good reason as it’s excellent) many fans argue that it’s precursor ‘N Crugu Bradului is their finest work. You can’t go wrong with either album though, they’re both superb.

      • Diego Molero

        Huh, didn’t see anithing mentioned about that album while I was digging, but I’ll trust your word on this one. Got quite some homework to do then, better get to it.

        • Lord Lucan

          I’m no expert on them by any means but I know it’s highly regarded. There’s a lot of their back catalogue I still need to explore myself.

    • Reese Burns

      It’s on the same level as Autumn Aurora by Drudkh and Rain Upon the Impure by Ruins of Beverast. Absolutely amazing.

      • Diego Molero

        Drudkh is a really good band, haven’t heard of Ruins of Beverast, but I usually like all you recommend, so definitely will be checking that out, thanks man.

        • Reese Burns

          No problem, they’re a wicked atmospheric black metal band with a few cool folk touches

          • Diego Molero

            Ah, love some folk in my (black) metal, I’m in already.

        • mtlman1990

          Rain on the impure is one of, if not thee, darkest albums ever made. I love it.

    • Alex Timmer

      Ah yes. Om, the album on the pedestal . Thé one. Definitely worth it. Me and my friends used to play each other all kinds of tracks like ‘hey, you should hear this’, and whenever somebody had the courage to put Om on, the night was over. It can’t be topped so you’d either just go home and contemplate your life choices or do something very different like Rick Astley to break the spell :p

  • The Unicorn

    Insane amount of 4.0’s and 4.5’s lately. What a year in metal, especially for doom and BM. I may have to do a top 50 this year!

    • Lord Lucan

      It’s a renaissance for all things dark and atmospheric!

  • Martin Knap

    Props to the band for not looking like stereotypical metal bros, the Romanian shepherd look is the new cool.

    • Lord Lucan

      Who needs corpsepaint when you’ve got a rustic leather cloak and a hat made of twigs? It’s the new metal chic.

      • Martin Knap

        yes, chic is the word that I was thinking about ;-)

  • Wish I could say I’ve been to a Solstafir show. As for this, not much to hear yet, but I checked out Tau and really like what I heard. I will be digging deeper for sure. I recognise the name of this band, but I don’t know if I’ve ever actually heard them before.

    The guy sitting across from me on the train just leaned forward and squeezed out a fart. He made three attempts before he finally got it out too. 5 stars for effort.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of Zi.

    • Lord Lucan

      What a trooper, that guy’s going places. (geddit? he’s on a train. ba dum tsh!)

    • Reese Burns

      Trust me, if you like folky black metal at all, you’ll love these guys. Their name literally translates to Foggy Forest, if I’m not mistaken.

      • Well I ended up buying Zi and love it so far. The use of the stereo field is quite phenomenal. I actually stopped it a couple of times while listening on headphones to check if some sounds were coming from outside. I’m actually not a huge folk metal fan, but this doesn’t sound cheesy and the folkish parts are far more interesting and atmospheric than what most bands offer.

        When I listened to it yesterday I didn’t realise it was actually out as they only had one track to listen to on Bandcamp. I’m glad I checked again as its made my fart free train travel today really enjoyable.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    Three 4.5 reviews in as many days? Where did all the angry go?? This isn’t what I signed up for! Give me that Amaranthe, dammit!

    • Reese Burns

      Be careful when looking for trouble. You might just find it.

  • hallowed

    Good stuff. I’ve seen them less than two weeks ago and they played a couple of new songs, thought they sounded great.

  • Lars Barres

    That embedded song is like the Transylvanian version of Coltrane’s “Ascension”. Not my cup of tea, so I’m in the “they’re old stuff is better” camp… at least based on one listen to one track.

    • Lord Lucan

      The embedded track is the album opener and sounds a bit disjointed taken out of context. The rest is worth a listen if you’re half interested as it begins to open up further in.

  • herrschobel

    Thank yü for bringing this to my attention. Days are getting significantly shorter in Northern Europe and this provides the perfect Sound for the coming months.