Sur Austru – Obărșie [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

Earlier this year, Huck N Roll reviewed the final full-length release from Negură Bunget, following Gabriel Mafa’s tragic passing in 2017. For several now-former members of the group, however, the musical journey, and spirit of Negură Bunget, persists in the form of Sur Austru, which was formed in 2018 to continue that musical legacy. Unsurprisingly, the two projects feel similar: Obărșie, the band’s second full-length release, is a work of blackened folk metal with dark, mystic qualities. Here, passages of chilling traditional folk music are swept up by blistering movements of black metal, and the listener is treated to a ritualistic journey of epic proportions. In a word, it’s splendid, and if you did miss it this year, there’s no time like the present to change that.

What makes Obărșie such an accomplished album is the songwriting, which is little short of stellar. Opening with a thirteen-minute song is a bold statement, but “Cel din Urmă” confidently takes the listener down winding paths; ritualistic chants, killer, haunting moments of symphonic black metal, riveting tremolos, and gorgeous flutes and nai come over the listener with grace and power. Sur Austru are not wanting for ideas, but their ability to meld them together into cohesive music is impressive. With so much going on, it is Sergiu Nădăban (drums & percussion) who emerges as Sur Austru’s secret weapon. His drumming is lush, creative, and used to great effect, to maintain the black metal feel of the album even when the guitars are at rest. With so much traditional instrumentation sprinkled throughout the album, it would be easy for Obărșie to feel like a juxtaposition of styles, but instead, it feels like a union.

That union is the key to Sur Austru’s success on Obărșie, the melding of styles and the way each band member is able to shift between heavy and ritualistic, engaged and melancholy, forefront and supporting as the moments demand. “Cant Adănc” sees Sur Austru unleashing their heavier side, embracing black metal and allowing Mihai Florea (guitars) and Ovidu Corodan (bass) to really flex their skills. On the other side of the fence, there’s “Codru Moma,” where Ionut Cadariu takes the helm, with his flutes, nai, and keyboards melding to create a medley of atmosphere that feels like a natural interlude after the labyrinthine introductions of “Cel din Urmă” and “Taina.” Throughout it all, Tibor Kati is like a chameleon behind the mic, his gravelly cleans and dry growls adapting, seemingly effortlessly, to every urge of the Sur Austru sound. In “Caloianul” his ritualistic cries are evocative, flexible, and perfectly suited to the massive backdrop his bandmates create behind him. Everything comes together really well in Obărșie; here, we have a band who knows their sound, gets their sound, and loves their sound.

It is a little hard to avoid comparing Obărșie with Zău, but I believe that Sur Austru stand on their own. The immediacy, emotion, and mysticism with which they’ve expressed themselves here results in an album that grows on you with every listen as you discover nuance aplenty. Whether you like your black metal folky or you like your folk metal serious, I heartily recommend giving this album a spin. You might really like where it takes you.

Tracks to Check Out: “Cel din Urmă,” “Taina,” “Cant Adănc.”

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