PICK OF THE WEEK: Nechochwen’s homage to land’s history, gets new colors on ‘Kanawha Black’

There is music that just feels like it lives in the earth around where the art came to life, and as time goes on, that gains legend and magic. Norwegian black metal feels like it exists amid the forests; Cascadian black metal rages among the mountains and fog; classic death metal bubbles in the swamps and branches, ready to pull you under. That immersion in location adds that extra level of spirit.

Ever since they came to be, Nechochwen have brought to life in their music the Appalachian region, the areas that stretch over West Virginia (where they call home), Ohio, and Pennsylvania. That continues on their long-awaited fourth album “Kanawha Black,” the title inspired by a county in West Virginia, and the music delves into historical and anecdotal frontier and pre-American happenings, events that shaped the region where they live and long has bled into their music. But this record, their first in seven years, certainly has musical ties to what preceded it; but there are new energies and sounds, increased atmosphere, and something that jolts your insides a little harder than before. This duo—Nechochwen (guitars, vocals, flute), Pohonasin (drums, bass, hand percussion, jaw harp, vocals)—sounds as moved and inspired as ever, pouring every bit of themselves into the music and experience.

The title track opens the record, and it’s a killer, jolting with guitars and great energy, Pohonasin’s infectious singing over the chorus delivering the same power he supplies with Icarus Witch and Ironflame as he bellows, “The answers still remain unknown.” Excellent opener. “The Murky Deep” begins with hearty acoustics and a gentle flow before the pace picks up, and the power bursts. Sweltering clean vocals and harsh cries combine, and the leads increase the rousing spirit, rushing to a breathless end. “I Can Die But Once” is delicate and folkish when it dawns, and more great singing makes your heart race, the fires burning brightly. Harmonized vocals add new textures, and then the electrics bustle again, giving the back end of the song a blistering prog finish.

“A Cure for the Winter Plagues” is rustic and crunchy before the guitars bleed in, and the clean calls pave way for the growls dive bombing. The pace keeps picking up as the song progresses, the playing gets increasingly hypnotic, and colors fill your head as the track comes to rest. “Visions, Dreams, and Signs” trudges and battles, speeding up and sending rock and mud flying, fiery vocals tearing into the terrain. The drums maul as the playing blasts, the leads slice a path through the wilderness, and the animated approach gives the song an electrified folk feel, telling stories lost to history in as aggressive a manner possible. “Generations of War” begins with reflective guitars and flutes signaling a deep-forest feel, almost as if your boots are crunching branches and leaves alongside them. A thrashy burst gets the juices flowing as the playing mashes, and sinister guitars increase the pressure, with Nechochwen noting, “When every stand is your last,” paying off the blood and debt paid to win the battle. “Across the Divide” is the closer, entering with acoustics dancing as the playing rushes open, the vocals swelling and paying the price. Speedy jabs and soaring leads work into an acoustic field that settles the mind, but around the next bend is another attack, spilling savage new blood into the dirt. The final minutes quake and dash, combusting dangerously and burying everything in a pile of smoldering ash.

Nechochwen’s return after seven years is a most welcome one as they’ve long been a favorite at this site, and “Kanawha Black” is yet another reason why that’s the case. The roots of their earlier material remain, but they’ve expanded their vision, never compromising their heart or their heaviness, always trying to morph into something more devastating and always thought provoking. The band’s heart is buried deep in the soil where they live, and their homage to those who came before them spills from their veins and into their art that never has sounded stronger.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/nechochwen/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.bindrunerecordings.com/products/nechochwen-kanawha-black-lp-pre-order

For more on the label, go here: https://shop.bindrunerecordings.com/