Dordeduh – Dar De Duh

Negură Bunget’s 2009 OM release is without a doubt one the greatest folk based black metal records of all time. Infusing black metal with traditional Romanian folk created a beautiful but dark soundscape that really propelled Negură Bunget out of obscurity and into the limelight. Soon after its release though, internal conflict within the band caused the founding members to disband. But drummer Negru had a sudden change of heart, and decided to continue under the name of Negura Bunget, while guitarist Sol Faur and vocalist Hupogrammos started a new project called Dordeduh, an annexed form of the Romanian words “Dor de duh” or “Longing for spirit.” Though Negură Bunget still lives on and has released one full length and an EP, they still haven’t lived up to the bar set by the original lineup. Conversely, we’ve only had a promising yet terse taste of Sol Faur and Hupogrammos’s new endeavor, with their 2-track 2010 EP, Valea Omuiui. It has taken two full years for Dordeduh to write their debut full length in Dar de Duh.

Name jokes aside, Dar de Duh is loosely translated as “spiritual offering” or “gift.” And what a gift it is. At over 77 minutes, this Romanian offering is a tour de force and true spiritual successor to OM. Dar de Duh is a phenomenal release that invokes all the majesty and glory of its Eastern European heritage. And like Negură Bunget, Dordeduh does not just layer folk music on top of traditional black metal idioms, but writes music that truly transcends genre boundaries to create a very singular listening experience.

Given that first impressions typically mean everything, the fact that the album begins with the 16-minute epic “Jind de tronuri,” is a testament to Dordeduh’s writing prowess. The opening track starts off in a very subdued manner with chimes and percussion giving way to deep chanting for almost two minutes straight. Hupogrammos then announces himself and a fury of blast beats is let lose before some unorthodox percussion give us a rhythm to hold on to. For the most part, Hupogrammos’s vocals are more of a low-pitched blackened rasp that at times, occasionally fades into cleanish chants. The song ebb and flows between awe inspiring folk melodies and percussion to blackened guitar work and intense drumming. It ends with a mental field trip to a Romanian campsite, where hammered dulcimer gives way to Dordeduh singing songs of yore over flute.

Though shorter, “Flăcărarii” is no less intense. Keyboards and drums create a serene atmosphere as if we were surveying the beautiful Romanian countryside before an epic battle is about to take place. One aspect of this track that immediately grabbed my ears is the wonderful bass line about 3-minutes in that just catapults the song to its apex. The song’s ending actually bridges us to the next track, “E-an-na,” which is more of a drawn out but highly contagious introduction to “Calea roţilor de foc.” Unlike previous songs, this 12-minute track unloads most of its blackened roots upfront before a gorgeous folk finish. “Pândarul” follows a similar formula as earlier tracks with multiple guitars dance and forth around each other weaving an aural tapestry that is dark yet awe inspiring. The next two stellar tracks, “Zuh” and “Cumpăt” are taken directly from their 2010 EP before the album ends us with “Dojană.” What’s was odd when this album was announced is that “Dojană” was the first released single which has zero metal to speak of but still provides a fitting ending to an incredible journey.

If there is one negative point to be made, it would bethe album’s pacing. Unlike OM, whose aural message was more immediate, Dar de Duh is quite spacious in construction allowing all the folk bits to truly thrive and flourish within a song. A by product of this artifact is that the album feels more rooted in traditional folk than black metal. I am not claiming that this isn’t black metal, because it most certainly is. Its just that the infectious Romanian folk melodies are more at the forefront than they were on OM. Some may not like this aspect of Dar de Duh which is a pity, since paying homage to Dordeduh’s homeland is really what this band is all about.

What makes Dar de Duh sound so inspirational is its magnificent production. I am overjoyed to report that for the most part, the album is not brickwalled. Transients are intact and the bass guitar never, ever gets lost. And because folk music plays such an integral role, the mix ensures that the more unorthodox instrumentation is fully represented. Balanced would be the operative word here, with really no single instrument taking complete control. Even during some intense black metal parts, a flute or mandola will play in the background to add a bit of texture that never gets drowned out like a lot of poorly produced records. Keyboards are masterfully done providing ambiance as well as melody. Even though I still believe an even overall wider dynamic range would benefit this album, I really can’t complain given some of this year’s abominations.

Dar de Duh is a stunning debut and probably my album of the year. It’s that good. If you aren’t even a fan of black metal, you should do yourself a favor and check this record out. I believe a lot of the music here transcends genre pigeonholing and should be appreciated for what it is: great sounding metal.

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