It had been a long weekend – and, to be honest, the pace of it was starting to tell on PM’s Belfast team as we prepared for our third gig in as many days and a review tally which would take us to 18 bands in that period (it would have been 19 bands only Northern Plague were forced to pull out of this particular show due to transport difficulties). It obviously had taken it’s toll on our fellow metallians as well, as the respectable crowd which greeted Romania’s Negură Bunget on their last visit to this same venue was distinctly unimpressive in its numbers by the time openers Grimegod took to the Voodoo’s compact stage.
For the uninitiated, Grimegod are basically Negură Bunget without drummer Gabriel Mafa, aka Negru – especially with Adrian ‘Oq’ Neagoe standing in on guitar for the live dates. The lack of a drummer – the percussion is synthesized – inevitably takes the spontaneity out of their set, as well as some of the passion from their delivery, but they are tight and efficient with a well-crafted and thought out repertoire of dark, grinding industrial-edged groove, filled with dense harmonics and plenty of nihilistic atmospherics.
By total contrast, Agamendon – who take to the stage to the ‘Godfather’ theme, suitably dressed in black and white suits and matching accessories – deliver pounding blackened thrash. Towering frontman Dugi has an impressive, commanding stage manner and, despite the language barrier, interacts well with the slightly enumerated crowd. Their huge harmonies and massive melodies combine with brutal downbeats in a huge crushing tsunami of sound, which effectively recaptures the good old-fashioned European/Teutonic thrash sound and is reminiscent of the likes of Tankard, especially in the way in which it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Having managed to miss Negură Bunget on the aforementioned the last time they played Belfast, I was one of the growing number present looking forward to experiencing their nihilistic Transylvanian pagan darkness – and I was not disappointed, as their traditional eastern European dark folk patterns intermingle with classic death metal miens. ‘Nămetenie’, from new album ‘Tau’, for example, gets off to a dense, brooding start before rising into an intense crescendo of crashing riffs and haunting psychedelic-edged vocals, as the band weave darkly hypnotic layers of introverted drama with discordant subtlety.
Negură are a band steeped in their Romanian roots, and use the nuances of percussion and wind to as compressed effect as they do their guitars, using the former in a way which would put even Soulfly to shame as they use the hammers of Transylvania to sound their demonic battle cries on the rain-soaked and darkened alleys of Belfast.
Negură Bunget present a darkly hypnotic, mystical and transcendent live experience which should be enjoyed by all who follow the more esoteric and ethereal side of the left hand path.
Photographs by The Dark Queen (c) PlanetMosh 2015