MUSIC FEATURE: Ones To Watch – Romania
Welcome to Romania, the land of “vampires” & Vlad the Impaler, beautiful landscapes, and… metal?! Yes, you’ve read that right! In this latest entry in our Ones to Watch series we’ve set our sights on ten Romanian bands which should get more recognition than they do outside of their home country. Spanning genres such as folk metal, trap-metalcore and hardcore, there’s bound to be something for you here. Having said that, let’s take a look, shall we?
Touting themselves as “Romania’s most prominent metal band”, Bucovina are indeed one of the most well-known acts in the country. Named after the region which is now split between Romania and Ukraine, the band was formed at the start of the millennium and has been active for the past 20 years. Having released their latest album, Septentrion, at the end of 2018, they continue to offer fans their phonetically-spelled “folc hevi blec” brand of metal, with songs such as Asteapta-ma Dincolo de Moarte (“Wait For Me Beyond Death”) often based on the dynamic between the two singer/guitarists: Florin “Crivat” Tibu taking care of the unclean vocals, and Bogdan Luparu providing the clean vocals. Provided everything will be fine by then, Bucovina have a European tour lined up for 2021, so be sure to keep an eye out for them in the future. (FP)
Featuring a sound similar to that of Deftones, in terms of the balance between crushingly heavy nu-metal and soothing alt-rock passages, Coma have grown to amass quite a following since their inception in Bucharest back in 1999. In the years since, they’ve opened for artists such as Linkin Park and Ozzy Osbourne, collaborated with Faith No More bassist Bill Gould on the song Mai Presus De Cuvinte (“More Than Words”) and released four studio albums, the latest being 2016’s Orizont (“Horizon”). While fans are eagerly awaiting their next album, thought to be released this coming November thanks to a countdown on their website, Coma have dropped two singles in the meantime – Bine (“Good”/”Okay”, a song standing against bullying) and Icar (“Icarus”). Let’s hope the current COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been too much of a problem for their upcoming plans! (FP)
There are some bands that get far more than they deserve, seemingly coasting through life and picking up praise as they go. There are also plenty of hard working, impressive musical outfits that get nowhere near enough recognition for the high calibre of music that they create. The Romanian outfit Dirty Shirt sits comfortably in the latter category, having honed their craft consistently since their musical journey began twenty five years ago. The band have crossed musical genres so much over the years that it is nearly impossible to pigeon-hole them at this point, but then again…why would you want to?! The blend of heavy industrial metal style riffs, booming drums and folky moments create a style of music that is entirely their own, screaming party and brutality in equal measure. This is drinking metal, this is moshing metal, this is anything you want it to be, and the fact that their entire discography, including their latest stellar effort Letchology, is available to stream worldwide means that there is no longer an excuse to sleep on this particularly unique band. BECOME FAMILIAR. (RW)
Similarly to Dirty Shirt, E-an-na are a band that takes elements from traditional Romanian music and combines them with metal, to create a new blend of folk metal. In the years since their formation in 2014, the band has opened for bands such as Wintersun, Niburta and Netherfell, embarking on a nationwide tour with Dirty Shirt and The “Transilvania” National Folklore Ensemble, as well as winning 2nd place at the Wacken Metal Battle in 2017, thus rendering Romania as the only country to get into the Top 5 twice in the whole history of the contest. Listening to the likes of their latest single Ies (“I’m Out”) or Codru (“Forest”), from their debut EP Jiana, it’s easy to see why that is. (FP)
For the Wicked
Transylvanian trap metal band For The Wicked are a five-piece that are shaping the modern metal scene in Romania. Taking heavy vocals and rampaging riffs and combining them with colossal choruses, this group have the boldness to cause complete confrontation towards the so called “true metal genres” of their country, and as a result are now one of the best “fake metal” bands around. Since forming in 2015, For The Wicked have released EP’s Trust Your Heart and II, performed at prestigious events including Rockstadt Extreme Fest, recently toured with Enter Shikari and won an array of awards including a Metalhead Award. Over those five years the band has evolved as an entity, locally and globally, sharing the scene with an array of bands from Dirty Shirt and E-an-na, to Kill Achilies and Suicide Silence. Now, For The Wicked are stepping things up a gear, with their upfront, unapologetic style and sound cutting above the metal and trap-core noise. (KCF)
Implant Pentru Refuz
Translated as “Implant For Refusal”, Implant Pentru Refuz (IPR) came together in the year of 1995, when the soon-to-be-founders met up, by chance, via the Romanian seaside city of Costinesti, and out of the desire to start playing hardcore music, instead of the punk some of them had started with. 25 years later, one could say it was a good decision: they’ve released eight studio albums so far, the latest being 2019’s Sub Radar (“Under the Radar”), as well as a live acoustic album – interestingly enough, though, only their three most recent albums are available on Spotify. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Korn and Soulfly, IPR have managed the feat of opening for the two acts previously mentioned, in 2015 and 2004 respectively. While the 2020 line-up of the band only features one remaining founding member, vocalist Octavian Horváth, it’s safe to say that Implant Pentru Refuz aren’t going away anytime soon (thankfully!). (FP)
With a name which translates to “Bitter Moon”, after the Roman Polanski movie, Luna Amara are yet another of the older bands mentioned here, having formed in the Transylvanian city of Cluj-Napoca in 1999. As well as being the first band to adopt trumpets into their mix of alternative rock and progressive metal (see Gri Dorian), the five-piece frequently feature political themes in their lyrics and participate in projects to save endangered seahorse species in Vama Veche, or to save the Rosia Montana region from cyanide poisoning. Throughout their career, they’ve played in the likes of Germany, Turkey, The Netherlands as well as at the Sziget Festival in Budapest, and songs such as Rosu Aprins (“Red Hot”) or Chihlimbar (“Amber”) have frequently reached number one in local airplay charts, so their endurance of over twenty years should come as no surprise to anyone. (FP)
It’s impossible to feel sad while listening to these guys, a fact advertised even from their motto: “Happy Punk For Happy People”. Reminiscent of other pop-punk acts such as Blink-182 or Sum 41, Ska-nk also draw inspiration from ska (hence the name), reggae and rap, and infuse their songs with a type of humour that’s made them standout among other pop-punk bands across Romania – case in point, another one of their slogans: “Loving Your Mother Since 2010”. Since their songs are all in Romanian, though, that humour sadly tends to get lost in translation – such is the case with fan-favourite track, Arata-i c-o iu… (“Show Her You Love Her”, spelled in a seemingly provocative way) – but trust the resident Romanian, they’re a funny bunch, especially during live shows. (FP)
Some of those reading this may remember Negura Bunget, a band that was quite well-known in the underground scene for their black/folk metal mix. Sadly, the group disbanded in March of 2017 due to the passing of the last remaining founder, Negru (Black), a.k.a Gabriel Mafa. That was not to be the last of the rest of the band, however, as in 2018, Sur Austru have risen from the ashes of Negura Bunget. Roughly translated as “Grey Wind”, they released their debut album in 2019, Meteahna Timpurilor (“The Sin of Time”/“The Weakness of Time”), thus continuing to offer what became their signature sound in their previous incarnation: a crushing barrage of tremolo-picked riffs, vocals which shift between droning and deep gutturals, and some eerily atmospheric soundscapes, coupled up with archaic instruments such as the alphorn or semantron. If any of that appeals to you, you’re definitely in for a whale of a time here. (FP)
Finally, we’ll take the look at another one of the more experienced acts: Trooper. Formed in 1995 and named in honour of the Iron Maiden song of the same name, the heavy metal group have released ten studio albums, one EP, two boxsets and a live album – that’s quite the track record there. With 2018’s Stefan cel Mare – Poemele Moldovei (“Stephen the Great – The Poems of Moldavia”), Trooper have effectively released the sequel in their “Poems” series of albums about past Romanian rulers, the first one about Vlad the Impaler released nine years prior. Now, twenty five years later, it’s easy to see why they have endured for so long, and why they’ve managed to open for the likes of Iron Maiden: this is quality heavy metal. (FP)
Written by: Florin Petrut, Katie Conway-Flood and Richard Webb
Check out our Ones To Watch – Romania playlist below!