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Nechochwen - OtO

by Tom Coles at 01 October 2012, 3:53 PM

Folk and Metal fusions are often problematic, because often the Folk element is embodied through a use of tropes and reference points; simply put, many Folk Metal bands simply bolt bland elements of folk onto melodic Death. NECHOCHWEN, however, have created something much different by utilising Folk’s grassroots feel; this is music that has a real purpose and a real sense of feeling and identity.

Their love of Native American heritage is expressed through soundscapes, Folk instrumentation and elements of extreme Metal. This record instantly strikes the listener as beautiful. In fact, ‘beautiful’ is probably the most consistent term to describe the record throughout its (unfortunately brief) playback. The acoustic guitars throughout most of the first half of the album are gorgeous and ethereal, reminiscent of Al Di Meola but without the technical aspect – this is a band unconcerned with chops or flashy wizardry, and it is way better for it. Music this well-written doesn’t need duelling egos.

It’s cheap to compare such attempts to OPETH, but this album really is reminiscent of "Still Life". It really goes for the light/ dark contrast, albeit with a much more intense focus on the folk aspects. The vocals, whilst not sounding like a mirror of Akerfeldt, have the same smokiness and depth and the harmonies are absolutely gorgeous.

Unfortunately, if this album is great in ideas then it is poor in execution. Sadly, the Metal elements don’t match up with the folk at all – it comes across as lustreless, weak Black Metal which doesn’t match up with the excellent standards of the rest of the album. There are some flourishes and gradually it develops into passable stuff, but the quality of the metal never reaches the height of the beginning of the album. Not only that, the Metal elements only arrive at the very end of the album, making it feel tacked-on and rushed. I really wish they’d just kept it acoustic; you can hear the influence in the guitars even with a world music direction, much in the way that the guitars in Rodrigo y Gabriela are so quintessentially Metal whilst still being classical. Indeed, they’re creepy and brooding enough to stand up on their own.

The second major gripe I have is with the multi-tracked vocals on "Otomen’pe", the third track. Whilst they expand on the themes in the second – Native American heritage and wisdom – they seem trite and deeply clichéd. Unfortunately, it ruins the mood of the whole piece and reduces it to a work that dangerously borders on self-parody.

I’m deeply disappointed to give a grade of anything less than excellent as there’s so much that could be good on here; the ideas are all here and if these guys got on the right tours then they’ll find very strong support from those yearning for mid-career OPETH. Sadly, for now this album shows strong potential but ultimately lacks somewhat in execution.

3 Star Rating

1. Cultivation
2. On the Wind
3. Otomen'pe (Our Ancestors)
4. Haniipi-miisi (Elm Tree)
5. He Ya Ho Na
6. Pekikalooletiiwe (Insrtructions; an Exhoration)
Nechochwen- Nylon and Steel String Guitars, Vocals, Hand Drum, Flute and Lalawas
Pohonasin - Drums, Bass
Record Label: Bindrune Recordings


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