25 Jun 2022 - Thorsten
Atmospheric Black Metal, Blackened Folk | Bindrune Records | Release date: 13 May 2022 | Favorite song: The Murky Deep
The Kanawha river is a tributary river of the Ohio River, flows through West Virginia and it was named according to the Iroquoian language spoken in the region meaning “water way”. When a black metal uses such a name for an album, you already get some idea that they will not be talking about Sci-Fi-battles or medieval castle sieges. Nechochwen from Ohio fit that idea perfectly with their fifth album called Kanawha Black which is a must-listen for all fans of this kind of mix between black metal and traditional folk!
When listening to the new record of the Ohio-based duo one might be a bit a lost for words, because it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is the magic behind Nechochwen, but one perfect starting point might be to look at one of the tracks which explain their work adequately and ”Generations of War” is a perfect fit for such an approach. The track starts with a wonderful mellow and hopeful acoustic guitar part which is soon join by some really upbeat drumming and then – by a flute which at first seems somewhat non-coherent but when listening to the track for a third or fourth time, it all falls together pretty convincingly. When the black metal blastbeats set in, the flute is gone for a short moment, but then even within this part, is re-appears and adds that somewhat unconventional flavor. However, it becomes clear – the flute and then also the re-appearing acoustic guitar underneath the black metal thunder hold the track together. They make it different, and even when the whole track slows down, the flute still lingers on at the back of one’s mind because sometimes the guitar slides even imitate the sound of the flute seemingly. Thematically, the band talks about all the times of war the Ohio River Valley has seen over the centuries. In some sense they combine the experience of times long gone with problems of the future – general problems of mankind that prevail in many regions and cultures, here exemplified in one track that is a perfect example for what Kanawha Black has to offer.
Another highlight is ”The Murky Deep” (as in the Ohio River) takes even more time for its trad opening before the slightly doomy black metal part kicks in but never letting go of the folk elements, not even when the blast beat drums are still kicking beneath it all. The clean vocals add even more beauty to this majestic track and its perfect flow.
The listener is rewarded with really beautiful acoustic passages which easily remind one of bands like Stygian Bough or Aerial Ruin, who was a label-mate at Bindrune Recordings at some point. But even looking beyond that there are bands that easily come to mind like Bell Witch or – even closer to Nechochwen’s soundscapes – Panopticon. It seems as if the split that Nechochwen did with Austin Lunn’s high-quality folk-meets-black-metal-project was a match made in black metal hell (of course not in heaven!) - because it brought together two projects with a very similar musical vision and also a shared love for regional topics. Using a deductive method looking at local topics and then projecting them onto a larger scale.
Kanawha Black is a very convincing record in the sense that neither side of their musical roots is less important than the other and it seems as if the two guys (who also use Native American stage names for this project) are able to purvey their love for the pre-Independence-history of the USA, for the Native people of the region between Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands and West Virginia’s Ohio River Valley and, in general, Appalachia. One can sit at home and envision these regions so well, that one might consider the question why there is not more about this region in modern American culture as it is one of the most interesting regions of the US, both historically and culturally.
This record is really well-done and enthralls with a flow that is hard to master this elegantly and naturally. A must-listen for everyone only slightly interested in black metal or trad folk!