“Cian Bi”

By Dr. Abner Mality

My first encounter with Tengger Cavalry came on the “Mongol Metal” compilation a few years back. That was a real eye opener, because I don’t think I ever heard two sounds that melded together as perfectly as traditional Mongolian music and heavy metal. I still feel that way when I hear that particular record. But now it is 2018 and Tengger Cavalry have made their full length debut on Napalm Records with “Cian Bi”.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It is only partially the same band I heard on “Mongol Metal”. The band have added a ton of new influences as well as a shiny major league production job. I think it has taken some of the edge off their steel. One thing’s for sure, “Cian Bi” is not as instant as what I’ve heard before. There is still some of that rushing, wind blowing through your hair Mongolian battle metal the band does so well. “Strength”, “Chasing My Horse” and “Ride Into Grave and Glory” have that pounding metal pace mixed expertly with traditional Mongol instruments like the Morin Khuur (horsehead fiddle) and  Yatga (zither-like instrument). The weirdly guttural throat singing that makes the vocalist sound like a barbarian robot is here in spades. But there’s a very modern metal sound that has crept into Tengger Cavalry and  I don’t think it works as well. “Redefine” is basically Mongolian nu-metal and “The Old War” features clichéd modern radio rock vocals in addition to the gutturals.  It’s an uneasy sound.

That’s not all. “Electric Shaman” is a real weird one, with straight-up techno mixing with Mongolian folk metal. Very experimental for sure.  “Just Forgive” is a kind of Mongol ballad. The first half of the album is strong, straightforward Mongol metal like Tengger Cavalry is known for but the second half disappears into unwieldy experimentation. I can support a band trying to broaden their horizons, but when it dilutes what they’re best at, the experiment is not successful.

This is very much an up and down album.