Negura Bunget: Out of the Light, Into the Fog

Black metal is an ever-changing sonic experience. From the extreme raw and harsh tones to beautiful atmospheres that share the raw primal and spiritual exorcisms, all of it is an exercise in emotional releases and a general expression of beliefs and ideology. “Our music is a direct reflection of our souls. We do the music we do because of who we are, but at the same time we are who we are partly because of the music we do. Negura Bunget was always a spiritual endeavor for us, our ultimate goal is to have people sharing this,” says drummer Negru.
Recently, the strange and ever-evolving Transylvanian black metal band Negura Bunget opened the next chapter in their 15-year-lifespan by revisiting a past album: The band’s newest release Maiestrit is a re-envisioning of their 2000 album Maiastru Sfetnic. That recording is the last to include long time members Sol Faur and Hupogrammos Disciple. Remaining member Negru will propel the band forward with a new line-up and a new album Vîrstele Pamîntului coming early this spring. In an interview with Negru, the already vast and foggy shroud surrounding Negura Bunget wasn’t quite cleared. Questions were answered, but only more surfaced, which added to the already dense and mysterious themes that Negura Bunget has displayed on five studio albums and a few EP releases.

Negura Bunget’s lyrics, sung and screeched in Romanian, feel like whispers and hints explained through themes that only the band understands. Negru didn’t elaborate much on the lyrical content other than saying that they lie in the local spiritualism and that they’re very rooted to the environment of Transylvania. The feelings, however, that Negura Bunget purvey are still deeply felt in the layered atmospheric and haunting black metal displayed by the band.
Negura Bunget, which is translated as “Dark Foggy Forest,” started with drummer Negru and guitarist Hupogrammos in 1995, gained members and progressed as songwriters over the years. Each chapter of the band’s existence exhibits different ideas and themes. The band’s 2002 album ‘N Crugu Bradului, for example, used each track to represent one of the four seasons.

“The band is the main center of its members’ spiritual evolution. Since the first album, we got into the local [Transylvanian] spirituality, history and folklore, although initially more at a lyrical and conceptual level. In time, things shifted more towards a local traditional musical expression and a universal lyrical approach. The essence remained the same from the very beginning,” says Negru. The events that transpired to cause Sol Faur and Hupogrammos to leave may not have been pretty, but were typical of most bands’ disagreements. “There was a bit of a drama around the split, mostly done by the two former members. But now things have calmed down a bit I guess,” says Negru. “And I’d say it’s time for the music to do all the talking. That’s all that matters in the end.” The re-interpretation of Maisastru Sfetnic wasn’t finished when Sol Faur and Hupogramos left, and it wasn’t easy to complete Maiestrit. The end result, nonetheless, boasts depth to a record that the band wasn’t initially happy with.

“Since we left the studio after the original recording of Maiastru Sfetnic, we thought a time would come to re-record it. We always felt there was a lot more unexpressed there,” says Negru. Although the band had a clear vision of how they wanted Maiestrit to sound, Negru said putting the vision into reality wasn’t easy. The album is similar to its predecessor, but there are many small changes re-arrangements and new layers added to the songs, which all enhanced the atmosphere of the album.

If you listen to each track from Maiastru Sfetnic and Maisetrit back to back, similarities stand out easily, but so do the differences. The re-envisioned version is superbly layered and subtly atmospheric with melodies and guitar riffing that stands out. There is also a haziness to the sound, which creates a feeling of singularity amongst the songs and a highly layered effect. This culminates in more varied depths and naturally denser feel than the original.

The weary fan or newcomer may see different motivations to reinterpret an album—the most obvious being financial reasons. Negru explains the more personal motivation behind it: “Maiestrit offers a new vision of the original album. It puts it into
new perspectives and brings a lot of new elements to it. Of course people are always free to choose what to listen to and enjoy. We did this version because we owed it to ourselves first.”

With Negura Bunget’s Maiestrit and its predecessor, you can listen to either repeatedly and get a different reaction. There lies a mysterious reaction listening to the albums—anger, tranquility, deep thought and inner contemplation—all of which are brought on by a language I don’t understand. But such is the power of Negura Bunget’s music and black metal in general. It’s not a simple melody here and a chorus there. Negura Bunget’s music will make you look inward, outward, and contemplate the darkness and light of your soul at the same time.