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Through with Looking Back

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Through with Looking Back

“…[the past year has] only made us stronger and helped us bound faster. Hard times break weak people, and harden strong ones.”

Bands re-recording their old material in an effort to either improve upon the original recordings, or in some deluded cases, to “thank” the fans, is not only a growing trend in metal, but a very contentious issue among fans. The fact is, no matter how positive a spin you put on it, a re-recorded early album will almost certainly be greeted with great derision. Negru, however, makes no apologies, stating bluntly, “Actually we did this mostly for ourselves. It was just something we felt we had to do.”

For all the flak Maiestrit is bound to take, it’s nevertheless a fascinating reinterpretation and re-imagining of a very, very good record, the best moments coming at the end of the album, as we’re treated to bonus acoustic versions of the brooding epics “A-Vînt în Abis” and “Plecaciunea Mortii”, the former showing there’s not a lot of distance between Negura Bunget’s compositions and that of Radiohead, while the latter slowly, gradually develops a similarity to Can until the comparison is utterly unavoidable. “I think the two acoustic tracks just bring a completely new feeling of the original ones,” Negru says of the pair of tracks, clearly proud of the end result. “They are more like present time versions of the original songs…I think Maiestrit is just like the names says (“Maiestrit” would be something like mastered, crafted), a finalized version of the original release.”

Right now, though, Negru is through with looking back, and he and his revamped band have their sights set forward, with their sixth album Vîrstele pămîntului ready to go, set for a late March release in Europe. When asked to explain the title, Negru responds, “Vîrstele pămîntului would be something like ‘ages of the land/earth’. It’s an album about places of the earth and places of the spirit, about bounds transcending worlds. The earth is where we came from and where go back into, the one from above and beyond us. Understanding and respecting it means to understand yourself, your purpose and destiny. Vîrstele pămîntului is an album about embracing your destiny, about choosing and consciously assuming a way of life.”

Still, you can embrace your destiny all you want, but the fact of the matter is, you’re stuck with writing a follow-up to one of the most acclaimed, intelligent metal albums of the last decade. Just how tough was it to get it done with so many new collaborators and still make it sound like a Negură Bunget record? “It’s always difficult to compose a new album,” he says. “But the pressure is first from within. If we are satisfied with a new work, it counts less in the end how other will judge it. All I can say is I am completely satisfied with the new album, and so far people seem to share our vision. This time we also did something we had in mind for a long time, we took seclusion through the wilderness of the mountains, dedicating entirely on finishing the album. It was both a musical and spiritual endeavor which hopefully reflects on the outcome of the music.”

Again, it all comes back to the classic Negru/Hupogrammos/Sol’Faur line-up; as long as Negură Bunget continues with that name, everything Negru does from here on in will be compared to that era. And it certainly doesn’t help that his former bandmates insist they were the primary songwriters in the band. “On all our albums it is written ‘all music and lyrics by Negură Bunget’ with a good reason,” Negru states. “But I guess they changed their minds again once they were no more part of the band. Negură Bunget was always something above the persons involved in the band, a concept that kept us tight together. That never changed, and that’s what makes it special. The musical vision is only a reflection of the spirituality behind it.”

“A-vînt în abis”, from Maiestrit

As for his new line-up of vocalist/guitarist Corb, guitarist Spin, bassist Gadinet, keyboardist Inia Dinia, and multi-instrumentalist a’Ger, Negru says, ” I knew them already for a while, and they were also all familiar with our music. Corb even played along us for the live DVD recordings. It was a natural step to ask them, and all answered with no hesitation. Negură Bunget is not something easy to be into, you have to be one-hundred percent dedicated and involved, and so far I more than happy on how the integrated in the band….[Writing Vîrstele pămîntului] was a collaborative effort again, same as it was in the past. All the present members of the band have been fully involved in this process.”

No matter how different the band’s lineup is, Negru insists the 2010 version of Negură Bunget will remain faithful to that distinct style that’s always been present in the band’s music, evoking the “black fog” that’s referenced in the band’s Romanian moniker. “I think there would be no point in keeping the same name if the music does not represent it anymore,” he explains. “So this will never change. The musical ideas can change and evolve a lot, but there is always a frame to keep everything inside.

“Actually [the past year has] only made us stronger and helped us bound faster. Hard times break weak people, and harden strong ones. We are now even more determined to prove Negură Bunget has a long journey ahead.”

“Chei de Rouă”, Rosenheim, Germany, 16 January 2010

Adrien Begrand has been writing for PopMatters since 2002, and has been writing his monthly metal column Blood & Thunder since 2005. His writing has also appeared in Metal Edge, Sick Sounds, Metallian, graphic novelist Joel Orff's Strum and Drang: Great Moments in Rock 'n' Roll, Knoxville Voice, The Kerouac Quarterly,,, and A contributing writer for Decibel, Terrorizer, and Dominion magazines and senior writer for Hellbound, he resides, blogs, and does the Twitter thing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

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