Reviewed: May 1, 2022
Released: May 13, 2022, Bindrune Recordings
Reviewer: The Elitist Metalhead
I’ve loved folk/black metal ever since I first heard MOONSORROW, FINNTROLL and the like. The scene was bursting with folk metal at one point and almost all of the bands were from Europe. The genre took off in the States a little later with bands like PANOPTICON taking American folklore and legend and adding real life touches to life in Appalachia. Around that same time West Virginia native Aaron (Nechochwen) Carey started his solo project under the name NECHOCHWEN, a name that means “Walks Alone” in the Native American Lenape language. Along for this ride is another West Virginia native, the multi-talented Andrew (Pohonasin) D’Cagna contributing drums, bass, and his unmistakable vocals in certain places. NECHOCHWEN’S fourth full length, Kanawha Black, is their first in seven years but after the first listen, it was well worth the wait.
Wasting no time, the title track kicks things off with some great riffing, blast beats and the black metal vocals. A slight shift in time to a more traditional metal tempo and then those vocals that I would recognize if I went deaf. Mr. D’Cagna’s vocals are some of the best in metal and he is my favorite vocalist of the NWOTHM movement with his band IRONFLAM. He’s also the current vocalist for Pittsburgh melodic metal titans ICARUS WITCH. Oh and on top of that, he is also the bassist (McCartney style) of stoner/doom band BRIMSTONE COVEN. His vocals are a treat and add a lot of melody to the song. “The Murky Deep” follows it up with some acoustic guitar tapping taking into a more melodic direction as it builds to an epic wall of riffs over the acoustic guitars and some really good clean vocals and some deep growls. The clean vocals melodies that carry the song to the end are some of the best in the genre.
Another thing about this band that takes it to the next level are the acoustic parts. “I Can Die But Once” is mostly acoustic all the way through and it’s brilliant. It reminds me of OPETH with a 70s folk rock vibe. The vocals were all clean and the melodies were infectious. The clean bluesy solo that came towards the end really added another element. A twist, but a really nice one. That is the only song that is mostly acoustic because some are outright epic as well. “Visions, Dreams, and Signs” is one of those huge songs where the riff just grabs you early on. Seven and a half minutes in length this song moves from fierce blasts and intense riffing to melodic acoustic interludes never losing the listener but instead takes you on a journey. The acoustic part in the middle is perfectly placed and well executed and adds another layer to the song. And I’d be derelict in my duties if I failed to mention the absolute monster of a closer, “Across the Divide.” This song is almost indescribable. You have infectious riffs, killer solos, incredible vocals, face melting metal, and some of the most beautiful and hypnotic acoustic melodies ever recorded.
Once again, I unapologetically love that blackened folk metal sound and NECHOCHWEN take it to another level. The way their songs flow from heavy and furious to slower and more melodic makes them unique just in how they execute it. I could put this album on and just get lost in the music. In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing since I got this album. You should too.