Negura Bunget - Zău
Lupus Lounge
Atmospheric Black Metal
5 songs (50:58)
Release year: 2021
Negura Bunget , Lupus Lounge
Reviewed by Goat

A posthumous final outing for Negură Bunget after the tragic passing of Gabriel "Negru" Mafa in 2017 from a heart attack, this is the end of an era in more ways that one. Closing the Transilvanian trilogy started in 2015 with Tau, Zău is another dose of the band's spiritual, folk-infused black metal that will be sure to work its magic on fans of the style. And, as opener and near-sixteen-minute highlight Brad quickly proves with a slow build that takes at least seven minutes of ambient drones and whisperings before any metallic elements arrive, this will appeal a great deal to those that prefer the more mystical, atmospheric side to the band. The black metal aspects to the sound are present and correct, but very much restrained and in service to the heady, near-symphonic grandeur, aided by airy female vocals from Zi contributor Manuela Marchiș.

Indeed, the most profound moments here are the most spacious, where you can feel the music reverberating around your head - this is very much a closed-eyes-and-headphones kind of listening experience. A solid chunk of the album has a distinctly beautiful post-rock vibe, if not downright field recordings (the blissful opening to Iarba Fiarelor, for instance) yet even the black metal passages have a grandiose ebb and swell that overwhelm, a kind of Summoning-esque dreamyness apparent even with moments of relative heaviness. And with the shortest track here being the sprightly just-under-seven minutes of Obrăzar, this is very much an album that will appeal to fans of Om's still-legendary experience rather than those seeking shorter, sharper shocks.

Those who have been introduced to that particular classic of European black metal will know what an unfair comparison that is to make; no album, even from the same band, could really live up to Negură Bunget's finest work. Yet there are echoes here reminiscent of it, such as the echoing primordial hum behind the heaviest and most aggressive piece present Tinerețe fără bătrânețe, which also uses some groovier riffing effectively to mark itself out without remotely compromising the track's atmospheric assault. Each and every track features a patient, flute-imbued build (or other such ethnic instrument such as the kaval, nai, or duduk), almost like the beginning to some eldritch ceremony, and the album as a whole is about as weighty and portentious as black metal can be. Listening to it, like Om, feels like a pilgrimage or spiritual journey, particularly by the time you've reached finale Toacă Din Cer's percussive opening and clean-sung highlights between snarled entreaties; the peak of the mountain.

Negru had recorded his drum tracks for the album prior to undertaking the final Negură Bunget tour, and the remaining members filled in the rest (in their words) as respectfully as possible, heralding Negru's legacy and ensuring that the last full-length from the band would be in keeping with the level of quality expected. Listening, you can tell that the actual drum tracks are limited and there's a lot of ambient filler surrounding them, which for pretty much any other band would be fatal, but the focus in Negură Bunget is so intensely on that side of their sound that it's hard to mind.

Another elephant in the room is, of course, that 2021 also saw a wonderful album from Negru's former bandmates' new project Dordeduh, taking a more progressive and experimental approach to folk-imbued blackened metal, and although it's easy to prefer said elephantinum opus, directly comparing the two shows two very different beasts. How lucky to have both, how fortunate to have this final transmission of Bunget-ian genius, and how much will we miss Negru and his genius! Zău is a compelling, powerful album even in these sad circumstances, and is a more than fitting finale to a band that redefined and set new standards in black metal - long may their discography last on your playlists.

Killing Songs :
Brad, Tinerețe fără bătrânețe, Toacă Din Cer
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Negura Bunget that we have reviewed:
Negura Bunget - Tau reviewed by Jared and quoted 85 / 100
Negura Bunget - Vîrstele Pamintului reviewed by Charles and quoted 90 / 100
Negura Bunget - Maiestrit reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Negura Bunget - Zîrnindu-să reviewed by Dan and quoted 95 / 100
Negura Bunget - Om reviewed by Goat and quoted 97 / 100
0 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 1 replies to this review. Last one on Sun Jan 09, 2022 4:55 am
View and Post comments