Truly Transylvanian
CoC interviews Negru of Negura Bunget
by: Pedro Azevedo
In a way, it should be one of the last reasons for you to feel like investigating a band's work, but a black metal band from Transylvania, of all places, is bound to at least generate some curiosity. These Romanians, however, are quite detached from all Stoker-isms and today's fashionable gothic vampyrism, and prefer to discuss more spiritual and cultural issues. In CoC #38 you can find a review of their second release, the _Sala Molksa_ MCD (which followed their debut full-length _Zirnindu-sa_). With a second full-length release on the band's horizon, Negru of Negura Bunget answered our e-mail questionnaire.

CoC: I have seen the expression "Transylvanian Spirituality" associated with your music quite often, but not in a vampyric sense as might be expected. Can you tell us more about it?

Negru: Indeed, this Transylvanian Spirituality concept is one of the most important for us. We see all of this matter as a complex set of practices and beliefs gathered around these lands over the millenniums, some of which are still active in the deep spheres of today's traditional Romanian mentality. The vampyric elements are a part of this whole, an important one, but usually not in the form and manner the outsiders would expect. I mean, all this modern preoccupation with the vampire matter is usually nothing but pure romantic garbage. The real local elements connected with the matter of vampyrism are about burial rituals, the view over the relations between this world and the dead one, about immortality. All kinds of concrete beliefs and practices are performed even today in these contexts. But all of this we see is a result of some national archetypal spiritual patterns of behaviour and understanding, impressed over the millenniums on our collective unconscious. Through our black metal involvements we always try to explore the ultimate consequences of these archetypes in a process of constant spiritual evolution.

CoC: Would you accept to play live with a black metal band you might consider as pseudo-vampyric -- like Cradle of Filth, maybe?

N: Personally I could imagine such a possibility, not because I'm such a big fan of CoF (more like the opposite, in reality), but because I think we should assume such a responsibility if we'd like to really speak about the real aspects of these matters. But it would be really subversive towards CoF.

CoC: As far as I know, you were born in Transylvania, like the notorious Dracula. I suppose Dracula, Transylvania and vampires have become such trendy subjects these days that you could probably set the record straight about certain inaccuracies. What is your point of view on these subjects?

N: Well, you're right! Especially that I'm quite familiar with real history as well as with the mythological consequences of this reality. This situation is quite difficult for us. If we want to speak about such a thing, first we must say what it doesn't mean, and only in the end what it really is all about. At the same time it is quite fascinating to see how a local element created such hysteria all over the world.

CoC: Just out of curiosity, how does it feel like to look at the title of a legendary black metal album like Darkthrone's _Transylvanian Hunger_ and see the name of your birthplace there?

N: Actually, that album was always quite special for us. But I was a little bit disappointed when I had the opportunity to ask Fenriz about it and he chose not to elaborate on it.

CoC: Although you do use keyboards, you still seem to be quite concerned with keeping your music rather raw. In what way do the keyboards help you reach your kind of musical objectives, when many believe that there is no place for keyboards in the raw black metal upon which your sound is based?

N: I think it all depends on the way you use the keyboards. I mean you can use them to make your sound much softer, with a musically melancholic touch, but at the same time you can use the keys just to accentuate the intensity of the atmosphere you want to create. This last one is the way we try to use the keyboards in our music. We really enjoy that raw savage feeling, but at the same time all the keyboard atmospheres are very important for our music. Moreover, I like to think that through those keyboard atmospheres you can also express some spiritual aspects of the actual music much better.

CoC: Does the fact that Romania is the only Latin country in Eastern Europe have any influence in your music?

N: I think it is actually quite the contrary. We usually focus on the local elements previous to the Roman Empire conquest of Dacia from 106, destroyed by the very latinisation process. On the other hand, we are who we are today as a result of all of these, so it wouldn't be logical and rational to try to deny this. Consequently, we assume this Latin identity trying at the same time to reveal the ancient pre-Latin spiritual elements.

CoC: What does "Negura Bunget" mean? And what about your album titles and lyrics? I believe there is quite a strong connection with ancient Romanian history; can you give us more details on that?

N: Firstly, I should say that we see our name as having more of a symbolic nature. It is the most appropriate expression for the unknown, the inexpressible parts of our spiritual system, something that surpasses our natural abilities of understanding. That way it means a black fog, coming from a deep, dark, dense forest. It tries somehow to picture the kind of atmosphere (both musical and spiritual) we'd like to portray through our music. Also, the two words are from the Dacic-Tracic substrate of the Romanian language, the oldest, containing about 80 words, as the connection with our spiritual past is very important and symbolic for us. As for our albums' names, _Zirnindu-sa_ is quite untranslatable into English; coming from the Indo-European term "zirna" (black), it would be something like turning into black, dying. As for _Sala Molksa_, that's also from the Indo-European items. It is also in close connection with our ancient Dacic ancestors' highest spiritual value: immortality. This way, _Sala Molksa_ is the very place of unbeingness, where the bravest ancient warriors went after their glorious death. All our lyrics, except the one and only from _Sala Molksa_, are in old Romanian languages. We always focus on getting the most of the spiritual, semantical and phonological atmospheres of the places we came from.

CoC: I personally don't know any other Romanian metal bands; which ones are currently thriving in the Romanian metal underground these days, in your opinion? What do you think the Romanian metal scene is like compared to other countries in your region of Europe?

N: Well, I would say there are a few very interesting bands in the Romanian metal underground. I would recommend Psychosymphony, with an impressive progressive death/thrash easily similar technically to Death or Cynic; Grimegod, quality death/atmospheric/gothic/dark or the dark/ambient Thy Veils. I think the Romanian metal scene is nothing less than the others from around here. Unfortunately, I'd say not many do know or want to properly promote their music.

CoC: You have recently released an MCD, _Sala Molksa_. How would you describe the material, compared to your previous album _Zirnindu-sa_? And what do you think will be the main musical changes in the forthcoming full-length compared to _Sala Molksa_?

N: I would say _Sala Molksa_ is much faster than _Zirnindu-sa_, except of course for the first track, a little bit more complex too. Also, on the second track we used a quite concrete Romanian folkloric touch, a territory we'll probably explore subtly in the future. In fact, we see _Sala Molksa_ as a transition between the first album and the second one. It's not so different from the first one, but for sure not at all like the next one will be. On this one, there shall be more speed, cruelty and savagery, a quite new and unique lyrical style, and quite a few other things as well. But you better wait and hear for yourself.

CoC: What did the addition of a third member, Spurcatu, change in Negura Bunget?

N: It was actually a move we prepared for a long time, as he played live with us for quite a while. Our main intention was to compose all the music from the very beginning with two guitars, instead of only one, and another one just into the studio, as we previously did. And I think it was a good move, you can see that a little bit on _Sala Molksa_, but mostly on the new album, where there shall even be five guitars at a time.

CoC: With a new full-length album being prepared, what other plans does the band have for the near future?

N: We are about to enter the studio these days to record the new album. As we worked on this one for more than two years, we really have high expectations. So, for the moment we are focused mainly on it. We are also preparing for the near future the re-release of our first demo, _From Transylvanian Forest_, strictly limited to 345 hand-numbered copies, with a brand new cover, and two new songs recorded live at our rehearsal place.

CoC: Any final words for this interview?

N: Thank you very much for the opportunity. Stay black!! And may the ZSALAMOLKXISA be your way!!

Contact: Negura Bunget (Negru), Str. Timis, Nr.1, Sc. D, Et. 3, Ap. 16, 1900, Timisoara, Timis, Romania

(article submitted 25/5/2000)

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