Album Title: Har
Label: Prophecy Productions
Date of Release: 14 May 2021
Sometimes, internal conflicts within bands can be a positive thing. We normally view these events as negative, but it isn’t always the case. This is one such. Dordeduh, taken from three Romanian words meaning ‘longing for spirit’ was formed in 2009 when internal tensions within atmospheric black metal band Negură Bunget became too much. Out went Edmond “Huppogrammos” Karban and Cristian “Sol Faur” Popescu to form Dordeduh, whilst drummer Gabriel Mafa continued with Negură Bunget. Whilst Negură Bunget have now folded, the metal world still has Dordeduh to enjoy.
Despite being in existence for well over a decade, ‘Har’ represents only the second full-length release from Dordedah, the debut ‘Dar de Duh’ released nine long years ago. I missed the debut release for one reason or another, probably as I’d just become a father for the first time, so I come to ‘Har’ with minimal knowledge. However, having been a fan of Negură Bunget in the past, I came to ‘Har’ with high expectations.
Joining Huppogrammos (vocals, keyboards, guitars, mandola, tulnic) and Sol Faur (guitars, keyboards, hammered dulcimer) is Andrei Jumugă (drums, percussion, toaca), and bassist Flavius Misarăs. And it is fair to say that the fruit of their combined efforts is really very impressive indeed. ‘Har’ stretches out to just over an hour and during that time, the eight individual compositions explore a myriad of different genres, ideas, and sounds, all wrapped up in a wonderfully powerful yet clear production courtesy of Huppogrammos himself, with Jens Bogren enlisted to add his mixing and mastering prowess.
I’ve wrestled for many days on the question of how to succinctly describe the musical landscape of ‘Har’. So far, an eloquent, pithy summation eludes me. Instead, I’ll just say that ‘Har’ takes a core of black metal, but then adds Romanian-inspired folk, cinematic soundtrack music, Gothic, electronic, and progressive rock to create something even greater than the sum of its numerous parts. So much so, that the core of black metal is often well hidden or completely absent, as the quartet explore other soundscapes. ‘Har’, as you might very well expect therefore, is not an easy or straightforward listening experience. However, it is a rewarding one if it is given the time and attention that it deserves.
In many ways, it is apt that the lyrics, delivered in the Romanian tongue talk of matters spiritual and Esotericism, because ‘Har’ is an incredibly deep and immersive experience. I may not know what the exact words are, but the compositions are able to speak to the soul at points, making this an extremely profound and enriching body of music. The way I which the mood can shift from soothing and delicate, to brutal and extreme is one the many strengths of ‘Har’, as is the clever utilisation of authentic instrumentation, rather than relying solely on computer generated sounds.
There is not one composition that does not touch me in some way, be it a melody, a crushing guitar riff, a piece of orchestration, or something else entirely. And, with most compositions in excess of six minutes, some considerably longer, Dordeduh are afforded the time and space to experiment within the songs themselves. As such, each one is a multi-faceted affair that covers plenty of ground, often disparate in approach, feeling, or intensity. I shall therefore do my best to pull out the best bits and give you a little more idea of what you can expect with ‘Har’.
The album begins with the longest single composition, ‘Timpul Intilor’ and immediately, we’re offered an insight into the spiritual leanings of Dordeduh thanks to the tinging of a bell alongside deep hummed chanting sounds. It’s like being on the side of a Tibetan mountain, or what I envisage it might be like. However, in comes a throbbing bass, the sound of which is rich, resonating and pulsates beautifully. The remainder of the instruments gently build in something of a post-rock manner, before the death metal heavy guitars are unleashed and we’re transported into extreme metal territory, complete with double pedal drumming and bruising riffs. The black metal elements come forth strongly, with blastbeats and sharp, fast-picked guitar work, but the whole thing is much more than black metal. The atmospheres created by the synths are very bold, whilst the vocals deviate between low, guttural growls, to soaring clean singing, a little ethereal in their delivery. Moments of calm litter the track, allowing for quiet introspection, as well as an injection of more pronounced melody, wrapping the listener in a wonderfully warm embrace.
Next up is ‘În Vielisţea Uitării’ and it’s one of my favourites mainly due to a few shatteringly heavy guitar notes that shake the foundations of my house. Alongside the unashamedly cosmic-sounding synths, there’s a death metal-meets-electronic vibe that I adore, enhanced by the slow, ponderous melodies that sit at the heart of the song. It’s an uncompromising opening, but as it develops, the track then takes a turn for the more serene, similar to ‘Tuonela’-era Amorphis thanks to the chosen atmospheres, melodies and vocal delivery. The song is then brought to a close via an extreme metal battering, just to remind us that Dordehuh have a brutal core.
I disliked ‘Descant’ initially, as it delivers what I felt was a really annoying and ridiculously catchy melody. However, the more I listen, the more I have grown to really like it. Authentic instrumentation litters the composition, as the bass once again pulses like the beat of the Earth. The song moves between ideas, from quiet and subtle, to bursts of aggression, but continually returns to the hypnotic, catchy melody until the end when it’s drawn to a close via an elegant melody and spoken-word lyrics.
‘Calea Magilor’ is an intriguing tribal, percussion-led interlude, that reprises the sounds of the opening introduction to ‘Timpul Intilor’, whilst ‘Vraci De Nord’ is just scintillating. The opening moments are dark and full of intrigue, blending lead guitar notes and folk instrumentation with a throbbing electronic backdrop. It feels a little sinister and claustrophobic, but slowly, hints of melody emerge to lighten proceedings a touch. It turns into a brutal doom-infused death metal beast, only for some beautifully haunting lead lines to arrive, sending shivers up my spine as they do. The clean, breathy vocals are equally as compelling, but nothing prepares you for the full-on cinematic score that emerges from an already stunning composition. For over three minutes, we’re plunged into an incredibly tense, and grandiose soundtrack from an unknown film, although it wouldn’t sound out of place in a sci-fi blockbuster, especially when laced with bold electronics towards the end.
‘Desferecat’ also explores a cinematic film-score soundscape, but not before we’ve heard some of the most sinister-sounding material on the record, where a repetitive rhythm is overlaid by some depraved-sounding growls and chugging guitars. The beauty in the cinematic music that develops from the heaviness is that it sounds both foreboding and beautiful in equal measure. It comes as no surprise then, when the track ends on an extreme bludgeoning of blastbeats and sharp riffing.
The hammered dulcimer is a favourite instrument of mine and its clever use at the beginning of ‘De Neam Vergur’ just illustrates why. It sounds melodious and haunting in equal measure but here it is greatly enhanced by the ever-swelling symphonics and electronics that create another deep soundscape. The song builds inexorably through an insistent beat, and when it finally opens up, along come the goosebumps yet again. The guitars pierce through the song with angelic beauty, strong yet brittle. From all out bombast to death/black metal extremity, to subtle melancholy, this is yet another prog-infused tour-de-force of a song, covering more ground than it should have any right to do. And yet, it remains cohesive, smooth, and entirely in keeping with what’s gone before, albeit with an identity all of its own. As with all of the longer compositions on this record, the ten minutes flies by in what feels like a heartbeat, as I’m totally invested in the music. And the melodies…did I mention the melodies? That guitar lead that returns towards the death is heart breaking.
‘Har’ is brought to a close by ‘Vasnesit’, which is an Earthy and spiritual-sounding instrumental piece with strong symphonics and wonderful hummed voices, ending the record on a soothing note.
Given the nature of the music and the complexities within, I felt it only right and proper to delve into each one in turn. Without this detail, I’m not sure I could have done this album justice. I’m still not entirely sure that I have managed it to be perfectly honest. What started out as a review into an album that I thought was intriguing and original, has turned into a review of an album that I have fallen in love with. I love the variety, the crushing heaviness, the quiet introspection, the way that it makes me feel as I listen, and the gorgeous melodic aspects that are incredibly strong but not overdone. ‘Har’ is a genuinely original body of work that is an absolute delight to listen to. But more than just listen to it, you feel it too. Everyone should hear this record and everyone should know the name ‘Dordeduh’.
The Score of Much Metal: 94%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: