Negura Bunget

support Fen + Scythian
author EW date 27/11/08 venue Purple Turtle, London, UK

For the first time in a long time I found myself turning up at a gig without a ticket, nor a guestlist space. Through forgetting to book myself one and not blagging the guestlist spot I often rely upon it was left to the gods of the Purple Turtle to make sure I got in otherwise I was facing a most solemn and early return home from a gig. Well, as you can see by the photographic evidence and the words you shall soon be reading I did get in to what turned out to be the most crowded gig I've experienced at the PT, and boy am I glad I made it.

Scythian

Kicking off later than planned were local lads Scythian, whom despite a formation back in 2004 and one demo under the belt have largely passed my radar until now. Their sound was that of a black/thrash combo, which in the live setting was fairly standard and orthodox, especially against what was to come. In a set spanning 30 minutes the tempos within the songs didn't change dramatically, the odd slower riff here and the odd refrain there, but with a static stage performance save for the obligatory flying hair it was hard to feel that Scythian will ever reach beyond a 'local' band status. Maybe they're better on record...

5

Fen

Whilst Scythian might have represented the darker, more blast-ridden side of Negură Bunget, Fen were a different proposition and stylistically closer to the 'theme' of the night - that being a concoction of blasting extreme metal, swathes of atmosphere and interesting incorporations of acoustic and ambient sounds. Despite formation just two years ago Fen have made significant progressions to developing a style of their own since then. At times during the airing of tracks from forthcoming debut album "The Malediction Fields", through the heavy usage of atmospheric keyboards and vocalist/guitarist The Watcher's shrieks and screams, Fen created an enveloping aura of epic grandiose metal combining Opeth, Agalloch and Primordial, in the meantime gathering an enlightened applause from the filling PT. Oddly though, amongst it all Fen managed to come across quite stale at times, through little in the way of stage presence (presumably down to a lack of gigs under their belts) and the feeling that such a kind of music might actually be better suited to quiet home listening.

Negură Bunget

For those who don’t know Negură Bunget I can guarantee you they are the greatest Romanian black metal of all time. Ok that's not saying much but I will also guarantee you they are of the most unique bands of all time, and certifiably simply one of the downright best in the illustrious history of extreme metal. For a start, what band crowds a small stage with 6 people AND (take a deep breath) a total of 2 guitars, bass, drumkit, 2 keyboards, a xylophone, a 10 foot long horn, panpipes, a tribal drum AND an utterly indefinable wooden-plank-thing? Not even Slipknot bring you all that. With a set starting at the ridiculous hour of 10pm (British gig-goers will understand that), the Bunget opened with the stupefyingly eerie "Ceasuri Rele", from which point onwards somehow proving themselves capable of conjuring up the magic and atmosphere of 2002's "'n Crugu Bradului" and 2006's "Om", their last two albums both of which require a strong argument to be denied the full 10/10 treatment.

Bunget songs range in length from your 'normal' length tracks to the 12-13 minute epics (that being the entirety of "'n Crugu Bradului" and two from "Om") to which we were treated to at least three (ok I can't remember EVERY detail). "Ţesarul De Lumini" is quite possibly the highlight of these containing every facet that makes Negura Bunget simply an outstanding band - unimaginably brilliant songwriting and percussive skills to create music that is both challenging and wholly entrancing, performed with utmost conviction and soul. One can count on the fingers of one hand the number of extreme metal bands to tick all these boxes. Let's not take away from the other songs aired tonight: "II: Catra Sipotu da Piatra...", "III: Colo n Jos Catre Apus", "Cunoasterea Tacuta", the mega-horn-introduced "Inarborat"...none were any less than brilliant.

Listening on record to "'n Crugu Bradului" and "Om" is an experience in itself; seeing these songs performed for your pleasure is a treat. When the band finally brought down the proverbial curtain at 11.20pm noone could say a bad word about the Bunget's performance tonight. I hesitate to ever give full-marks for it says that that band cannot do better, ever, but I see no doubt in this based on what a bunch of scraggly Romanians did on an otherwise bleak British November's evening. Well worth the tenner to get in.

10

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