From beauty to senses corrupting blackened metal, the new album from US Apalaci folk metal band Nechochwen is a striking and at times totally mesmeric release. OtO the third album from the band continues their exploration of Native American Indian heritage bringing an enthralling mix of irresistible classical guitar instrumentation in league with the shadows and malevolent atmospheres of black metal. It is a sound and album which at times is simply stunning and in others provocatively intrusive to create a release which leaves one deep in thought and emotion.
From West Virginia, the duo of Nechochwen (nylon and steel string guitars, vocals, hand drum, flute and lalawas) and Pohonasin (drums, bass) have drawn strong and unadulterated acclaim with previous albums Algonkian Mythos and Azimuths to the Otherworld. Both found their roots and source in the historic and ancient past but with OtO the band ‘focuses on the guidance our ancestors bring to us in modern times’, the album title able to be translated as ‘Ancestor’ in English. The band considers the album as a double EP, its journey having two distinct sides representing the two sides to man and his place on earth. Nechochwen in the promo says “Just as there are two sides to this LP, there are two sides to all of us. One is at peace with our surroundings and the other attempts to conquer them. This album is a tribute to the balanced, ancestral self.”
Released through Bindrune Recordings, the album opens with the glorious magnificence of Cultivation. The guitar persistently strokes the air with its melodic grace and imagination whilst underlying rhythms and energy bring a brewing shadow which though never realised tempers the light. The track has an organic warmth and presence which cups the ear with pure artistry but beneath are sounds and elements which offer a suggestion of things not quite as they seem. The musicianship as reinforced throughout the album is impressive and fully hypnotic.
The excellent start is immediately outshone by the following On The Wind, a piece which envelops and unleashes thoughts and indeed emotions from the off. The vocals harmonies are thrilling and with almost a dual between further rasping dark ones and atmosphere lighting back ground calls, the track is an emotive instigator. Once again musically the pair is immense with the guitar work of Nechochwen the man, especially magnetic to the ear.
Otomen’pe (Our Ancestors) and Haniipi-miisi (Elm Tree) continue the aural caressing and evocative ambience upon the senses. The first without finding the heights of the previous two is a gorgeous golden kiss upon the ear though vocally the spoken delivery is far less effective than the singing in the first songs. With more of the rich harmonies and lush melodic imagination the song further immerses one into an instinctive and almost primitive grace. The second offers a folk/acoustic weave which sparkles within its gentle atmosphere and touch. One assumes this is where the band would say the first side of OtO closes and though it has a caressing almost melancholic breath there does feel a transition at play as it progresses.
He Ya Ho Na and Pekikalooletiiwe (Instructions; an Exhoration) complete the album and turn the atmosphere on its head though the beauty which soaked the release to this point is still underlying and assuming in the less aggravated moments. The first with its core Native American chant charges the ear with an electrified black metal intensity and tone without laying a truly destructive hand on the melodic and tribal glory. It plays like another step in the change leading to the closing Pekikalooletiiwe. From an acoustic peace the track builds into a furious and near malevolent rage to ignite potent energies. It is an exhausting blackened dramatic joy to end on though maybe from personal tastes does not manage to reach the levels and impressive levels found by earlier songs.
OtO is an outstanding release which has a place for all musical tastes, its beauteous and aggressive extremes encompassing every musical heart. Though Nechochwen did not with OtO ignite the strongest fires within compared to some releases this year, it lit many more than most to make it very rewarding.
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