For those unfamiliar with the history of Dordeduh, the band formed from the splintering of the original trio behind Negură Bunget in 2009. After having released their now-iconic album Om a few years prior, multi-instrumentalists Hupogrammos and Sol Faur were at creative odds with drummer Negru, leaving the two parties to go their separate ways. Negru continued on under the Negură Bunget banner with a rotating cast of other musicians to release three new full-lengths and an EP before his untimely passing in 2017. Hupogrammos and Sol Faur continued their artistic endeavors under the new name of Dordeduh, but were decidedly less productive, having only released one EP and their debut album in 2012.
There comes a turning point in every relationship where you no longer feel pressured to fill the void of silence with constant chatter, incessant planning or never-ending physical contact to reassure one another you’re still there. Eventually, you’re comfortable enough to just sit around on the couch and do nothing or sit next to each other simply reading a book in comfortable silence. That’s the kind of comfort Hupogrammos and Sol Faur exhibited with Dar De Duh. They explored deeper wells of quietude and blended the folk elements more deeply into the tracks to make it a less bombastic album, but one that felt a bit more cohesive and nuanced; the feeling of exploring an ancient darkened forest continued, but with more introspection and calm.
Sophomore album Har continues that trend but has a distinctly more modern lilt to it. Jen Bogren’s (Amorphis, Amon Amarth, At The Gates, Opeth and about a million other amazing bands) production is a huge part of the sense of modernity. The crisp and open sound allows notes of music to echo, bounce, swing, swell, jab and do all the other verbs that musical notes can do across this exceptionally well-crafted hour of music. Even during the simplest parts of the songs, or those with the least layers, small details poke through the open space to create atmosphere and tension.
The more direct elements of the creators’ earlier black metal style have continued to be reduced. “Timpul întâilor” offers some powerful grinding tremolo work, the final moments of “În Vieliștea Uitării” are a satisfying barrage of blast beats, and around the 5:30 mark of “De Neam Vergur” offers a delightful burst of Moonsorrow folksy-black-metal swing, but outside of moments like those and the overall atmosphere they build, Har has as much in common with Cult of Luna as it does black metal. Many of the riffs are slow or mid-tempo and the strength of the album comes in the form of tension built through songwriting. Nearly every song exhibits an expert understanding of dynamics and layering that make the softer moments engrossing and the heavy parts absolutely crushing when they finally hit. The build-up and use of open space are half the fun.
The sense of dynamics doesn’t only come through on the softer clean guitar plucks pitted against the hefty crush of a riff or a pummeling drum passage, but also with an increased light in the tone of certain songs that beam a glimmer of hope among the darkness. “Descânt” opens with a downright bouncy passage and “De Neam Vergur” has a section where the bass is bopping along with a guitar pattern that your head can only bob to rather than bang. Every passage of levity, however, is countered by eerie or harsh elements to prevent Har from being a sunshine stroll in the park.
The liner notes list all of the following traditional instruments: Tambal, xylophon, toaca, tulnic, nai, fluier, caval, dube, timbale, lemne and mandola. That’s a long list, but many of these instruments are used in a more blended manner rather than taking center stage as they have in the past. When they do take over the mix, these instruments conjure elements of significant darkness like around 8:15 in “Vraci De Nord,” which could’ve been the soundtrack to the final moments atop Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. Another surprise move is the use of electronic elements that Dordeduh has integrated this time around. The opening to “Vraci De Nord” has a pulsing beat and has electronic sounds laced throughout that add to the atmosphere and tension without turning into a Mariner space trip.
Despite the modern sheen, Dordeduh’s music still feels like the ancestral journey through a dark forest that their name would imply. This time around though, you’ve found your family’s history among ruins and can simply rest by the giant lake nearby to recount the dark horrors of the past in conjunction with hopeful thoughts about the future as you stare up at the stars.