By Dr. Abner Mality

You are about to take a journey to the heart and soul of the Transylvanian woods. "Tau" is the vehicle that will take you there and the drivers are Negura Bunget. Few indeed are the albums which are actually able to transport you mentally and spiritually to a different place, but Negura Bunget do it time and again. "Tau" is the beginning of a trilogy that will musically explore the Romanian countryside.

I don't know what you would call this music except "Romanian" or more specifically "Transylvanian". Heavy metal is far too limiting to encompass the sounds of "Tau". Folk or ethnic music is closer to the mark but still not inclusive enough. Ambient, progressive, even free jazz are terms that can also apply...but never completely describe the end result. So let's leave it at "Romanian". And by the end of "Tau" you'll feel like you've walked through the dense, moist forests or visited the cold mountain tarns and grassy hills.

The journey starts with "Namatenie", which has the ominous, mysterious feel of a very deep forested valley. The tune starts quietly with flute and soft guitar, but builds itself up to some organic, rugged metal....not the black metal that Negura Bunget began their career with, but something more properly called folk metal. It's really moody, atmospheric stuff with an almost cinematic quality. These guys use whatever instruments they can to bring their visions to life so be prepared for anything!

"Izbucul Galbenei" has more of a gypsy feel and definitely cranks out some fast, blackish metal with deep, guttural vocals. Yet the rural feeling of Romania clings to it. "La Hotaru Cu Cinci Culmi" hews much more to the folky, authentic style and features lugubrious clean singing as well as spoken word in the native Transylvanian tongue. "Curugea Muntelui" brims with dark ambient synths and a spooky, fog-shrouded feeling that's pretty epic. After this gloomy ride, "Tarim Vilhovnicesc" is melodic black metal with a symphonic touch....surprisingly "conventional" compared to the rest of "Tau". In a real change of pace, "Impodobeala. Timpului" starts with almost deliriously happy and drunken folk metal with chortling whistles. It sounds almost like a Korpiklaani outake but becomes the heaviest song on the disc while also the happiest. There's also a smoking metal guitar solo included!

"Picur Viu Foc" takes us back to the deep forest with a relaxing beginning before heavying up to a guitar barrage accompanied by strident male choirs. It's a dramatic sounding cut with flute and even what sounds like a free jazz workout. I thought the album would end with some huge, long epic, but instead the final song "Schimniceste" is relatively brief. It begins with more mysterious and moody ambience, accentuated by choir-like vocals and a whispering voice in the background. Distorted electric guitar and tubular bells chime in, but the song retains a slow, mysterious feel.

These descriptions of mine are marred by brevity and a vocabulary that can't really capture the actual complexity of the material. The odds are overwhelming that I will never step one foot inside the forests of Transylvania, but thanks to Negura Bunget and "Tau" , I will always feel like I've walked there.