Monday, 10 March 2014

Album Review; Tengger Cavalry - Ancient Call

Track Listing:

1. Dance With The Wolf
2. Galloping Towards The Great Land
3. Battle Song From Far Away
4. Hymn Of The Earth
5. Echo Of The Grassland
6. Brave
7. Summon The Warrior
8. The Battlefront
9. Chant Of The Cavalry
10. Legend On The Horseback

The world of Metal is a far bigger place than it used to be. As a stand alone fact is a great thing; the more that our beloved music travels, the more it twists and turns and is made into something new and exciting. Just look at the Metal that has come out of South America; honest, brash and hugely aggressive music that talks of the everyday struggles with violence, crime and oppression that are a truth to them rather than a theme. The metal in Japan, which takes many forms, that display different sides of Japan's cultural quirkiness and eccentricities. The religious and sociological rebellion that has emerged from the staunch and conservative cultures of the Scandinavian countries and Poland. The list goes on. Metal is globalising, we all know this. I like to pay close heed to this globalisation and find as much amazing music as I can.

Recently, I found out about a band called Tengger Cavalry. For those who don't know, this is a band that hails from China. China has a fairly short but colourful history as far as Metal music is concerned. Some great bands like Tang Dynasty, Ritual Day, Chaotic Aeon, Baroque Of Dante, Hyonblud have come from that country, and its Metal underground is brimming with many more bands.

Tengger Cavalry were initially a one-man band, but now has a line-up proper. Formed in 2009, it's a relatively young band, but it's one that has been hard at work. 'Ancient Call' is their fourth full length record. They call their sound Nomadic Folk Metal. It's a good label to give them. What it sounds like is a mixture of Black Metal with traditional Heavy Metal tinges and a lot of great elements of Chinese folk music. Sound weird? Well, it works like an absolute dream!

The album opens with an acoustic instrumental. Alongside some form of eastern throat singing and very traditional percussive sounds, 'Dance With The Wolf' sets a great tone for what is to come. 'Galloping Towards The Great Land' is where the Metal starts in earnest. It's clear that Black Metal is the first half of their sound; the rasping vocals and the guitar tone show this clearly, but the way the song is structured (riff-based, punchy, sometimes-galloping rhythms, etc.) show that traditional Metal is the second half. Some great, familiar Chinese instruments make appearances, including (I believe) the Erhu, and another instrument that is in the Zither family. In fact, the Erhu melodies on 'Battle Song From Far Away' are simply captivating, but then, it is a beautiful instrument anyway.

The only problem I have with the album is that, in true Black Metal fashion, the lyrics, I cannot understand. It will come down to individual taste whether or not that's a bad thing. I've known plenty of fans of Extreme Metal that don't care what the singer is saying, only in what they sound like. If that is the way to look at it; Tengger Cavalry sound brilliant, so feel free to not mind.

By the time 'Hymn Of The Earth' and 'Echo Of The Grassland' have been and gone, it's clear that this band has their sound figured out and well honed into a very concise, effective and original art form. The originality, the freshness of the sound is the absolute key here. It's Folk Metal, but not as we know it! Anyone who likes a bit of a knees-up while they listen to their Metal will be frothing at the mouth over songs like 'Brave', which also has a great riff or two, and envelopes the listener comfortably, but with enough energy, pace and impact to keep an ardent headbanger satisfied.

'Summon The Warrior' starts out slowly, with a powerful feel to it. It's darker, the riff is great, and there are some sort of Melodic Death Metal tinges weaved into the song as well. This album never slips into generic territory. There's always an oriental flair to be heard, with those eastern folk instruments giving the Metal heard here a whole new dialect with which to speak. 'The Battlefront' provides a calm before the storm moment, as well as some more sublime music. The percussion instruments, alone, feel very powerful and moving.

'Chant Of The Cavalry' seems like the kind of song that this band should use as a live staple and set everyone into a frenzy with. It has the hallmarks of the more memorable Metal songs; Infectious riffs, a sense of groove, brilliant melodies and it's as catchy as a Godzilla-sized net. Again, the music as a whole is beautiful, and I feel it'd be great in the live setting.

'Legend On Horseback' sees Tengger Cavalry ends the album on a very high note, just by doing what they have done through the whole album. It's not been for a while that I've heard a new style of Metal and thought "I just want to hear more and more of that" but this album gives me the hunger for more. All props to the band; absolutely brilliantly done. 'Ancient Call' will probably stand as one of the best underground albums this year, but if not it's definitely going to be the most original.

Rating: 9/10

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