OK, it’s time for a confession. Up until now (and with the Cardinal sin of not actually finding the time to hear a note) I have always thought of Tengger Cavalry (and perhaps overlooked them as a result) as simply a typical Folk Metal band. Maybe it is them being sold as having Mongolian instrumentation and influences, maybe it was album imagery evoking battles, insignia and even horses, or perhaps the band’s attire or a combination of, I’m not entirely sure, but with latest effort Cian Bi (Napalm), it only took a couple of songs in to prove just how wrong I was!The truth is Tengger Cavalry are a fascinating hybrid of accessible Metal elements with some, at times, pretty barmy delivery.
The atmospheric introductory track ‘And Darkness Continues’ is the albums most obviously Eastern influenced part with its traditional instrumentation, before ‘Cian- Bi (Fight Your Darkness)’ shows off their more prominent Nu-Metal/Industrial sounds, with a fairly stock but certainly catchy riff style, with the Eastern style sounds ever-present but far from dominating overall. ‘Electric Shaman’ adds some signs of electronica/drum and bass style effects on top of a guitar line that wouldn’t be far out of place on a Skinny Puppy album, whilst the likes of ‘Redefine’ feel reminiscent to the hypnotic, spidery feel of early System Of A Down. There is definite potential for mainstream crossover here, as they retain an endearing simplicity, even if the juxtaposition with the traditional soundscapes feels a little chaotic.
The vocals are a weak point, with some of the delivery being little more than distorted, part-chanted part-spoken word, all of which feels like an after-thought (though this could well be the point), while elsewhere, with some of the more obvious “sung” passages, it is unclear whether they are meant to be more empowering than the flatness they actually muster. Again, though, this may well be to purpose.
Cian-Bi is far from being the deepest album you will hear all year, but could well prove to be a sleeper hit in gaining some mainstream crossover. With enough similarities to some of Metal’s commercial successes, and with just enough unique character of their own to stand out, Cian-Bi is a very catchy, if a little bit silly but grin-inducing, effort which certainly puts them far away from simply being a Folk Metal band.
Not that there is anything wrong with folk metal.