Nechochwen’s Deep-Rooted Black Metal Cuts Deep on “Kanawha Black” (Early Album Stream)
It was to one of America's most famed geologists, William B. Rogers, that we owe the first recorded description of the Kanawha black flint of Virginia. Though brief, his assessment of the chert, summed up with the words "...a most valuable key rock in the greatly thickened deposit of the region" draws a frighteningly accurate parallel to Nechochwen, a West Virginian band who led the indigenous and frontier-themed black metal movement that we see thriving today. In the seven long years since the band released their groundbreaking third record Heart of Akamon, black metal bands who openly bear their Native heritage now dominate the genre's underground, passionately elevating the typical devices of black metal through their impassioned, history-fueled deliveries. It's a phenomena that Nechochwen initiated, so it feels particularly fitting that they return during the height of this sub-sub-genre with their best album to date, Kanawha Black. Stream it here early:
It's a record that's emblematic of the duality present within Nechochwen's music. Though the band–initially the sole project of Aaron "Nechochwen" Carey, but later joined by Andrew "Pohansin" Della Cagna–began as nothing more than a simple if not spirited neofolk project, Heart of Akamon introduced a heavy streak to their music that Kanawha Black expands upon. More than half of the album consists of these bursts of black-adjacent metal, too furious to be referred to as anything else, but stuffed with too many classic heavy metalisms to rightfully be called pure black metal. There is nothing half-assed about how they approach this synthesis of sounds however; the fiery riffage that kicks off "Visions, Dreams, and Signs" is pointed enough to stand up heaviest black metal bands while also incorporating harmonized licks that would make Iron Maiden blush. It's a combination that will satisfy your sweet tooth without leaving you in fear of developing cavities in the process.
Of course, Nechochwen's acoustic origins still play an integral part of their sound. Inspired by the works of early Ulver and Abigor, Carey's classical plucking feels indebted to those acts yet clearly places their influence in the context of early 1800s Appalachia. The intro to "The Murky Deep," despite its name, sounds soothing and bright, with natural harmonics ringing out until the song kicks into overdrive. Even then, the acoustic notes contour the electrified riffage tethering the more metallic play to the band's acoustic roots. A large part of what keeps Nechochwen's music so consistently exciting, is the interplay between the two sides of their music, where at any given moment the song could completely change direction. Of course, these instances could come off as sloppy or unkempt, but Nechochwen always seems to have the foresight to set the stage for success.
Whether in Kanawha Black's most intense moments or its most calming, Nechochwen find a way to incorporate elements of their Native American musical ancestry without it feeling forced or pigeonholed. "As Visions, Dreams, and Signs" whimsically fades out, the distinctive boing of the jaw harp cuts through the acoustic tinkering, while "Generations of War" features a gentle flute melody that soars above tremolo riffs and blast beats. Here, these elements are used as accents that once again remind of Nechochwen's roots without detracting from meticulously built metallic structures that now make up the foundation of Nechochwen's music.
It's difficult to imagine what black metal would look like today without Nechochwen's influence. The way they transitioned from neofolk to black metal with a strong emphasis on Native American culture felt revolutionary for its time. Now that it's become somewhat commonplace one might expect Nechochwen to have fallen by the wayside in favor of the bands they inspired, vet Kanawha Black is a statement piece that makes them feel more essential than ever. I just hope it's not another seven years before we see them again.
Kanawha Black releases May 13th, 2022 via Bindrune Recordings.