. . .

This had to come sooner or later. Viking/Celtic metal releases have dominated the folk metal genre, largely marginalizing other great warrior cultures due to the glut of Euro-themed bands. As mentioned earlier on Invisible Oranges, many maintain that the internet threatens the sanctity of local scenes by replacing regional sounds with polyglot conglomerations that are directly influenced by globalization. However, thankfully, we may still have some hope for regional sounds in the censorship-laden Northeast Asian metal scene, from which Inner Mongolia's Tengger Cavalry hail. With less internet freedom than their Japanese/Southern Chinese neighbors, less access to quality instruments or recording technology, and with a culture that prides itself on conformity and tradition, this scene would appear to have retained a certain sense of identity that more open scenes, such as those of America or Europe, appear to be lacking.

Whereas much of today's folk metal comes from areas where such culture, both in terms of the metal scene and the folk traditions, does not originate (i.e. Celtic metal from Germany and Argentina, Norwegian black metal from America, sludge metal from Hungary, etc.), Northeast Asia has a regional identity that frequently aligns with the much-prided traditions of China and Mongolia. Tengger Cavalry is a prime example of this. This band is a lean, mean fighting machine of a type that could have only come out of China; so great is its blending of an original metal sound with folk traditions of a type not usually heard in the West.

Following their excellent 2009 self-titled demo, their debut album Blood Sacrifice Shaman bursts forth like a horde of the most elite Mangudai of the Khan's command. The culture of various forms of folk metal frequently predicates its pace: whereas most Viking metal generally follows a steady marching cadence to simulate the continual pull on the oars of longships, Tengger Cavalry roar forth at blistering thrash speed meant to invoke images of the horde of the Great Khan. The track "Tengger Cavalry" shifts seamlessly from a Pantera-esque gallop to black metal blasts and back again. All the while, ethnic instrumentation augments the onslaught, even during the fastest moments. However, this isn't just one great big blast of metal ferocity. Unlike many of their folk metal contemporaries, Tengger Cavalry are aware that reliance on ethnic instruments alone does not a song make. If you want to be truly "folk metal", and not just amplified folk music, you've got to make sure the metal end of the bargain is well represented. Thus, you get songs like "Hero", where a guitar lead that sounds oddly like Lamb of God rumbles alongside the rhythmic drone of Mongolian choomej throat singing. The song pounds along like a steppe-bound Children Of Bodom, with pinch harmonics trading places with traditional melodies, some played on guitar, some on erhu or marin khoor. "Wolf Blood" comes at you like Amon Amarth's Tatar cousins, with a ferocious d-beat/black metal vocal/palm-muted attack that brings to mind a storm of arrows launched from the quivers of a thousand horsemen, all the while running alongside traditional Mongolian-sounding guitar melodies.

In the end, Tengger Cavalry succeeds because of the image they invoke. As a Mongolian-by-way-of-China band who manage to tip the balance of folk metal squarely into the metal realm, it is impossible to hear them without conjuring images of the great Khanates of old. This is the secret to the greatness of the regional metal scenes: the ability to instantly visualize images upon hearing the music. Norwegian black metal brings to mind infernal rituals, Florida death metal a swamp festooned with human organs, et cetera. Metal is in large part about a sense of place, and Tengger Cavalry use this to full effect. It may not be the greatest music ever recorded, but it is instantly recognizable, and for that in itself, in this age of carbon internet copy, that is all that matters.

— Rhys Williams

. . .

HEAR TENGGER CAVALRY

. . .

Tengger Cavalry - "Wolf Totem"

. . .

. . .

Tengger Cavalry - "Blood Sacrifice Shaman"

. . .

BUY BLOOD SACRIFICE SHAMAN

eBay (CD)
Dying Art (China) (CD)

. . .