Martolea is the one-man black metal project from Alin Drimus, known perhaps not by name but certainly by musical presence as the wooden flute and frula player on Negura Bunget’s already-legendary OM album. After releasing a promising but sure-to-be-cult demo entitled Gâlmele Întunericului in 2009, Drimus has returned with this unexpected but very welcome full-length: Noaptea Dihãniilor. The album should be viewed as a (free) satellite release to Negura Bunget’s discography that stands up to either of that band’s releases this year, a damn (free) riffy album for this style of Eastern European black metal, and just an incredibly enjoyable (free) heavy metal album regardless of its origin. I mentioned that it’s free, right?
Fans of both Martolea’s demo and Negura Bunget’s discography should feel right at home getting to know this album; it finds a happy medium between the two in terms of both music and production. Drimus handles all vocals (both mid-range croon and textural harsh styles) and instrumental duties, playing the guitars, drums, bass, folk instruments, and the glue that holds it all together—the wooden flute. It is the latter that provides the unique touch, acting as the mortar that keeps this black metal brick house standing. The flute helps to lead each track into the next and to make the album appear more as one 45-minute journey than a series of 10 tracks. At times the flute works in lieu of a lead guitar, providing chilling and unforgettable melodies such as those introducing “Joimaritele” or during closing track “Zorii.”
Although the flute may be the most crucial element, the most striking is the creativity on guitar. Considering how Drimus gained his one point of notoriety as a session woodwind player, the quality of the riffs on Noaptea Dihãniilor stand out all that much more. It is evident almost instantly that he has a knack for penning lines in the ilk of Negura Bunget, Drudkh, or even Hordanes Land– or Eld-era Enslaved. Near-8-minute track “Spaima” includes several of these, from the evocative and cyclical opening to the bouncy and toe-tapping folk bridge. It is one of several songs proving how Drimus not only knows how to pen good, oftentimes great riffs, but also understands the subtleties of songwriting that help guitar parts and melodies to evolve. The song structures–all unconventional–add to the feeling of the album being one long piece, hinting slightly at previous tracks and melodies and leading the listener along. Even the album’s track order and pacing do this, exemplified by how the doomy, wildly cool instrumental “Rasaritul Lunii” is perfectly placed in the middle of the album to signify a turning point in the music.
Because of the high quality of the album, and also because of Drimus’ connections through Negura Bunget, Noaptea Dihãniilor could have easily been released on any number of labels, given proper marketing, and made him some money for his labor of love. It may still receive this treatment, but for now it is free from the band’s website for anyone and everyone to download, listen to, and enjoy, proof that Drimus’ number one goal for his music is for it to be heard and shared with no barriers. It is the ultimate evidence that this album, and the Martolea project as a whole, is personal on the absolute deepest levels.
But all of that is secondary to the bottom line: even if Noaptea Dihãniilor wasn’t free, it would still have this personal and heartfelt nature and be a damn fine example of folk-influenced black metal to boot.