Tengger Cavalry – Die On My Ride (M-Theory Audio, 02 June 2017)
Hey folks! Got some breaking news for you: I’ve just learned that Tengger Cavalry, famous for blending traditional Mongolian music within the context of modern metal, have put out a brand-new album a few days ago and simultaneously embarked on a North American tour! So of course I wanted to take this opportunity to pass along the information to all of you. First, we’ll address the new music, which they’re now streaming in full, then down below (in the comments) I’ll share the list of dates …
Named for Тэнгэр, the sky god of Tengrism (a shamanistic and animistic religion whose roots can be traced to central Asia more than two thousand years ago), Tengger Cavalry began in 2010 in frontman Nature Ganganbaigal‘s hometown of Beijing, China. The vocalist and multi-instrumentalist reformed the band in the USA when he moved here to study music composition at NYU. Last week’s Die On My Ride full-length is the latest in a very lengthy discography for the highly prolific group.
As longtime readers will likely be aware, we tend to be big fans of folk metal around here — and more generally, fans of uncommon or unexpected musical juxtapositions. When they work, that is. Too often, people just take some random folk instrument and throw it on top of a metal song, and the result is a mismatched mess. Nature, who employs such traditional elements as Khöömii (throat-singing), морин хуур (horsehead fiddle), Товшуур (a vaguely lute-like two-stringed instrument), and Mongolian flute, has managed to craft a sound that combines the disparate parts nearly seamlessly.
Starting with the mournful strings of introductory track “Snow,” a staccato bowed background part and occasional piano combine to set up a tense mood for what’s to come. Throughout much of the album, the tempo and overall mood match well with the thing people most associate with Mongolian culture: hordes of nomads on horseback. The title track takes off at a galloping pace with the drums and guitar riffs; likewise “Strike” and especially “Cursed,” where the fiddles almost seem to be imitating the whinny of horses towards the end of the song.
The “throat singing” — often in English — makes up the majority of the vocals here, although plenty of clean “regular” singing can also be found throughout. For those not familiar with the Khöömii style, it involves a vibration of the vocal chords that produces a sort of drone note in conjunction with a deep-voiced singing that originates in the throat. To an extent, the sound could be compared to the mechanical buzz that characterizes someone using an electronic voicebox (“Electrolarynx“) — and here again, Nature has managed to blend the styles brilliantly: in several places, such as “Strike” and “Me Against Me,” the somewhat unnatural-seeming vocals are complemented by a bit of an electronic/industrial vibe.
Frankly, the only real misstep to be found (in this reviewer’s opinion, anyway, and you could probably chalk that up to personal bias) is the ballad “Ashley” where the concept of artificial sounds is taken too far: digital drums are layered behind the piano and strings, while the exclusively clean singing is dripping with autotune.
Outside of that, though, the album showcases an intriguing mixture of traditional with contemporary, contrasting the electric and distorted metallic facets with the acoustic and the classic — along with a strong appreciation of the natural world. Besides the horse motifs previously mentioned, “Independence Day” introduces a bit of flute that resembles the call of a dove, while closing track “Prayer” features some more bird-like flute sounds accompanying throat singing that here seems more like an ancient form of chanting.
You can preview the new album Die On My Ride using the player below, and then buy yourself a copy here.
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