Album Review: Kanawha Black by Nechochwen (Bindrune Recordings)

West Virginia’s revered black/folk metal band, Nechochwen, will release their new album titled  Kanawha Black, on the 13th of May via Bindrune Recordings.

Formed in 2005, West Virginia’s Nechochwen is the passionate exploration of Native American Indian heritage through stunning classical guitar instrumentation and lush atmospherics. From the ashes of the band Angelrust, Nechochwen, the sole creator of this art and man from which the “band” receives its namesake, set out to create a very powerful trip back in time with his music and further explore the tales and lives of his ancestors. Nechochwen is passion, creativity and a powerful spiritual awakening that the listener can feel pouring out of the compositions of this art.

After seven years since the release of Heart of Akamon, West Virginia’s Nechochwen return, unveiling Kanawha Black! Fierce melodies and heartfelt composition/riff stylings further cement the rich and powerful legacy that Nechochwen has nurtured since their inception. Kanawha Black is a vibrant mix of uniquely black metal influenced aggression, up against moving classical instrumentation that unlocks an inspiring glimpse into what extreme metal can achieve.

Kanawha Black is entirely created by Nechochwen on guitars, vocals and flute and Pohonasin on drums, bass, hand percussion, jaw harp on “Visions, Dreams, and Signs”, vocals for chorus on “Kanawha Black”. The album was engineered, mixed and mastered by Pohonasin with photography by Alex Long, layout also by Pohonasin and the logo by Austin Lunn.

Kanawha Black Nechochwen band

Speaking of Kanawha Black, Aaron (Nechochwen) explains more:

“Though Kanawha Black was inspired by events both factual and anecdotal in American prehistory and frontier history, the song writing gradually progressed into an album that has a less earthy and more otherworldly atmosphere. As we tracked, mixed, and mastered this album over several years, Kanawha Black seemed to originate from and reside somewhere in the ether. On the surface, the songs’ topics continue to explore our region; Appalachia (specifically the Ohio River Valley of West Virginia and Ohio as well as the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania) continues to provide our greatest artistic influence. However, we hope that these songs will  also convey to the listener that the essence of the past, even in fleeting moments in our  modern lives, is still connected to us in many ways through natural mystery. Kanawha Black is  our attempt to tap into the veil of this connection.”

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Kanawha Black comes with 7 tracks on it and around 42 minutes of inventive metal, getting under way with the title track, Kanawha Black. A crunchy groove leads the track in before an impressive drum assault takes the lead, combining with screaming leads. The groove start soon descends into black metal anarchy, feeling raw and punishing with vicious vocals with plenty of depth joining the heavy instrument assault. The chorus switches into cleans, adding a little of that folk element I am so excited by. Its catchy and clean, working well as a breather amongst the much heavier surrounding verses. I really enjoy the changes and transitions here, moving from violent intensity into cleaner sections, a bit of groove, a clean harmonising solo. There is a ton of variety and it all works.

Speaking of variety, that creative streak is so apparent across Kanawha Black. The Murky Deep starts with a melodic traditional instrumentation before moving into acoustic melody. Sorrowful and emotional feelings pour out from the strings before a growing crescendo of the heavier stuff builds up. I love how it doesn’t banish the melody, instead joining together to create a clever soundscape. Melodic with fast drums, heavy but ballad like. It’s a wonderful track and really showcases a lot of Nechochwen’s ideas. Clean verses with beautifully sung passages give way to heavier blackened sides all while the thread of melody remains. Sometimes with heavier instruments joining it to create a wall of power, sometimes alone to bring back the more introspective moments.

I Can Die But Once keeps the cross over blending at the forefront. A gorgeous melody leads the track in before haunting whispered vocals join. The whispers turn into cleans as the melody grows in intensity, then drops away. The whispers return, like spirits calling out to you, then turn back to cleans all while driven forward by the stunning and thoughtful melodies. A Cure for the Winter Plagues starts with another short melodic section before turning into a doom like slab of chunky, bass heavy riffing. Slowed down, dark and all encompassing, it has real impact. Superb deep growls join the atmospheric number which is very musically led with the vocals sitting far back in the mix which just adds even more depth to the short song.

Visions, Dreams and Signs is back up tot he long ones at nearly 7 and a half minutes. With bands such as Nechochwen, extra time just means more time for creative flex. I am pleased to see them go for the jugular from the off with a punchy and aggressive blackened death sound. Punchy riffs and intense drumming combine with fiery leads to create a pit destroyer of a track. There really is a bit of everything on Kanawha Black. The vocals are harsh and intense while the drums continue to rain fire and the guitars pound out headbanger riffs. Nechochwen, as I know by now, won’t stay standard black metal so a sudden drop into a western twang guitar melody isn’t surprising yet still sounds awesome.

The pick back up into heavy is insane though and did throw me as it came back so quickly. A clean chorus follows, sitting over heavier instruments still and having a choir like echo to it. So far it is probably actually the most straightforward song on Kanawha Black. Little creative flexes still appear amongst the darkness. Melody, cleans, stops and starts – there is plenty, it is just more subtle. That sudden subtlety is creative in itself showing intelligence and knowing what a song needs. Not everything needs to be constantly twisting.

The penultimate track, Generations of War leads us in with a Native American melody played on the flute before it transforms into a filthy ripper of a track with fiery lead guitars and intense rhythm. The heaviness stays at the forefront but the flute returns in bridges. Black metal with added flute is a sound that needs to be used more by bands. Away from that mesmerising sound, this is yet another banger. A superbly heavy blackened track with pace changes from pit breaking chaos to chunky head banging groove. The vocals are impressive, really portraying depth and intensity. I love how the heavy groove comes back at the end but this time the vocals turn to spoken word passages. This is good!

Sadly the end arrives, as it always does, with Across the Divide, a near 8 minute long ending to Kanawha Black. Morose melody leads us in, beautiful but sombre. An explosion of metal jumps in, supremely heavy with more intense drums and riffs attacking yet the vocals come in with a deep, clean and melancholic style. They blend beautifully with the heavier instruments really ramming home that folk/black metal crossover sound. Nechochwen really go to town on the transitions here. The vocals change to a more traditional black metal style before then changing again to cleans. That leads us into a wicked heavy metal guitar solos that goes on for ages, but still not long enough.

We then move back to the melody from the intro before we are thrown back into the vicious assault of traditional black metal again. This song just twists and turns continuously, constantly keeping you engaged before closing out with a sudden stop at the end of another intense black metal section.

Nechochwen really do seem to have mastered their craft creating an album in Kanawha Black that is very well balanced between all the different elements and styles in use. You feel constantly engaged and intrigued, emotional and involved. Twists and turns, transitions through styles, keep the excitement high all the way through an album that has left me feeling thoughtful, excited and hungry for more. You would be foolish to not give this a listen.

You can preorder Kanawha Black from Bindrune on their Bandcamp or label shop by following the links.

Nechochwen Links

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  • Brendan Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Heavy Metal and reading, two things I have always loved so they are the two areas you will find most of my reviews. Post apocalyptic is my jam and I always have a book on the go and have for decades now. From a metal perspective, age has softened my inadequacies and I now operate with an open mind, loving many bands from many sub genres but having a particular admiration for the UK underground scene. In my other time, when not focused on Dad duties and work, I try to support the craft beer movement by drinking as much of it as I can and you will also find me out on the streets, walking. I love walking, I love exploring new places and snapping nature photos as I go.

Kanawha Black by Nechochwen (Bindrune Recordings)
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