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Nechochwen – Kanawha Black Award winner

Kanawha Black
by Gary Hernandez at 25 June 2022, 4:35 PM

NECHOCHWEN is a West Virginian Folk/Black Metal duo. The name of the band (a Lenape word meaning ‘walks alone’) and even the name of their latest album, “Kanawha Black” (ironically, ‘Kanawha’ means ‘white rocks’), had me expecting at worst some Hillbilly Elegy or Ron Rash inspired ballads or at best some shamanistic Black Metal played against a backdrop of field recordings featuring campfires, running streams, and wildlife. I was pleasantly surprised to find none of that. Instead, I got a deeply intriguing mix of Black Metal, Folk, and Prog. By track three (“I Can Die But Once”) I knew I was in the presence of whole different breed of Metal. This isn’t two guys who hide behind a lo-fi grayscape of dissonance, but rather step right out front and showcase a huge range of musical approaches from avant-garde acoustic to wake-the-dead distortion. They call it Apalači Folk Metal; I call it fucking incredible.

Kanawha Black” was released May 13, 2022 and is the fourth full-length studio album by NECHOCHWEN. For all the completionists out there, they also have an EP, one compilation, two splits, and a live album. They formed in 2005, so if you are new to them, there’s a bit of catching up to do. With that said, it has been seven years since their last studio release.

Thematically, it’s all about celebrating and exploring Apalači at a very deep level. We're not talking Naturalist poetry here, but more like Pagan nihilist free-form narrative. The lyrics are as verdant and moving as the music itself. Sometimes you get wandering descriptions of nature; sometimes mystic musings with Eldritch undercurrents; sometimes dark, wintry introspection. Like the wilderness they witness, these are lyrics to ponder over, to reflect on, to get lost in. And they are put forward with equal measures of both viscera and grace—from searing gutturals to lush harmonies.

There is so much to explore in this album. Expect to spend significant time with it. There isn’t a bad moment across the seven tracks and the 41 minutes, 48 seconds that comprise the album. While my personal favorites are “Kanawha Black,” “I Can Die But Once,” and “Across the Divide,” I would recommend each and every track to any discerning metalhead. I have to admit I’m way late to the game with NECHOCHWEN, and I expect there are many out there like me. The good news is there’s a great catalogue to explore and with the plague finally lifting, we can hopefully catch them live.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1.  Kanawha Black
2.  The Murky Deep
3.  I Can Die But Once
4.  A Cure for the Winter Plagues
5.  Visions, Dreams, and Signs
6.  Generations of War
7.  Across the Divide
Pohonasin – Bass, drums, vocals (backing)
Nechochwen – Vocals, guitars, e-bow, keyboards, hand drum, floor tom, rattle, cedar flute, lalawas
Record Label: Bindrune Recordings


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