“Thunder In The Mountains” is the third full-length album from American Avant-garde (naturally) Extreme Metal band Dzö-Nga. It admirably continues the bands lyrical journey through Native American folklore (“Thunder In the Mountains” is lyrically based on on H. W. Longfellow’s epic poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’) as they push their sound even further than on previous releases, mixing Melodic Black Metal with touches of Folk and Progressive Metal to cement their own unique sound in the genre.

It takes all sorts to pique someone’s interest in a band and the round about way I came to review this album was because I was intrigued and interested to hear how this American band had come to have their album mixed by Øystein G. Brun (Borknagar, Cronian etc) and then mastered by Dan Swanö! Although these two European Metal stalwarts have had no influence over the recording of “Thunder In The Mountains”, it speaks volumes about Dzö-Nga’s musical approach as to why they would seek out these musical magician’s assistance in finishing the album’s sound. With this in mind, there are indeed hints of Borknagar, Witherscape and even Edge Of Sanity at times within the heavier part of the band’s music, but so many other elements are in evidence too. Sirenia, Tristania and Trail Of Tears spring to mind due to the bands use of Extreme Metal alongside melodic passages, as well as utilizing the harsh male vocals of Cryvas with the almost ethereal female vocals of Grushenka Ødegård. But also Wintersun could get a passing nod in many of the arrangements and Sins Of Thy Beloved are certainly a reference point due to the fabulous addition of violin to many of the tracks and the similar way it is used.

That violin takes the melodic lead expertly at times and certainly becomes the star of the show, also some subtle keyboard work adds a polish to the songs as do the occasional acoustic segments, but this would all just be window dressing if the songs did not have the aggression and diversity to carry themselves – which they do. It’s due to this attitude that the band can also work in the gorgeous and poignant cello-led instrumental ‘Starlight, Moonlight, Firelight’ as the album’s penultimate track before the album’s second 10 minute plus epic track ‘The Death Of Minnehaha’ closes the album in fine style (the other being opener ‘Song Of Hiawatha’). If you like Atmospheric Black Metal, Extreme Progressive Metal, Nordic Folk Metal or Symphonic Gothic Metal then Dzö-Nga will definitely have something to offer you as they boldly stride further and further into the possibilities their chosen brand of Metal has to declare. This is a band unafraid to take risks or respect musical boundaries, and Dzö-Nga’s album number three is further evidence of the rewards this can bring.

(8/10 Andy Barker)