NeguraTău is the first part of a planned trilogy with subsequent releases predicted for 2016 and 2108. Romanian band Negura Bunget simply do not do things by half, they never have and never will. With this you get so much more than mere music from the hard working act. They visually represent their output in every conceivable way both recorded and in the live arena, touring being something they never seem to cease, constantly on the road taking in as many places as possible. As a fan you need to give them their all with it, they deserve this as so much is put into their far reaching musical cosmos it would simply be wrong to approach it in a half assed fashion. This album we are told “focuses on the natural landscapes, exploring marvelous places, with their myths, legends and traditions, opening a window to the past of these legendary lands.” This has been necessitated due to a big interest from the group’s fans to know more about a place steeped in such an imaginative mystique. Representing it by music is one way that we can get more of an insight into things, short of jumping in a plane and traversing the Transylvanian heartland yourself.

Don’t go expecting hammy legends of Vlad The Impaler recounted here as ever this is a transcendental and epically naturistic affair that lives and breathes the essence of its home. We start with a massive piece which comes as no really surprise. It is quickly evident too that despite recent and indeed constant line-up upheavals the band having practiced on tour have everything perfectly co-ordinated. The acoustic caress of traditional instrumentation on opener ‘Nămetenie’ is instantly evocative and dreamlike as whispers calmly urge us into its arms. There is an undeniable feeling of mysticism about it and you are transported into a highly atmospheric and involving journey. Everything drops in, vocals are suitably blackened, weathered and craggy and melody is rich. Harmonic backing croons add to the textures and develop into the front of the mix fragrantly billowing away. The calm and harsh parts flow together breathlessly, naturally it is a lot to take in but you will no doubt be aware this is not going to be a quick fix album but an odyssey that you will need to travel with its performers. Although vast it’s also airy and expansive and those that have trod these paths before will instantly be comfortable and at ease to follow. A witchy sound from a Theremin takes back to Wiccan Rede days pretty much confirming what I have just said. Although sounding a bit out of place as it becomes more strident it feels as though it should have been expected.

After going all out things calm a bit as far as running times are concerned with more compact tracks, indeed at 50 minutes the album is not as long as you may expect; although it will be when tackled as a triptych in the future. After a twanging intro ballast weighs down and ‘Izbucul galbenei’ heavily rumbles away surging forward with angry rugged vocal growls. If you want more insight to the tracks themselves it is worth certainly with this one pasting it into a search engine for enlightenment. The pictures speak of the watery depths this one is rising from. Some good solid battering drums and jagged riffs here keep this one in a black mind-set before more traditional trapping such as pipes and the lonely cries of sea birds ebb in to the folk laden acoustic piece ‘La hotaru cu cinci culmi.’ Spoken word parts add to the mystery here as they babble away in their native tongue and by now you will no doubt be transfixed wanting to explore and peel away the layers that go with the music itself.

Expect the call of those big pipes that Petrică Ionuţescu wields about on stage as we continue. It has to be said this really does go far out to immerse you in the bands traditional culture with any conceived ‘black metal’ parts being fewer and further apart. This should not put anyone off who has been with the band so far and it is what they are really going for here with emphasis on the past times rather than the modern. After a couple of tracks though they do suddenly forge back in like a thundercloud with the angry sounding ‘Tărîm vîlhovnicesc.’ It moves fast and is a really jaunty number once it gets its teeth in with all sorts going on including some glorious symphonic sounding canters and some underlying retro keyboards. Probably the catchiest number here and one that will be great live is ‘Împodobeala timpului’ which has a pogo folky bounce to it that I would expect from Arkona as much as anyone else and a brooding black heart vocally. Some female chants suddenly spring up too catching off guard at first but again making perfect sense in the grand scheme of things. Somewhere amidst it all you could swear there’s the sound of a Mariachi band but I think that’s just jetlag sinking in!

You can feel the mist swirling sinuously along with what sounds like tinkling cowbells as we reach the end of the trip for now on Schimnicește. It’s been an involving one that has painted many a vision in my head and no doubt it will do wonders for the Romanian tourist board as this certainly puts it up there for a pilgrimage (especially with the expectation of beer being a lot cheaper than Scandinavia).

I wouldn’t say that this is my favourite album by the band or anything like it as it would be near impossible to knock the next to faultless Om off that particular perch but as ever this has been an incredibly rich adventure. Even after about ten listens so far I doubt I have done much more than scratch the surface but that is what good music should all be about! Catch them on the road and grab a copy of this to find out for yourself.

(8/10 Pete Woods)