By: Alex Phillips
Label: Metal Hell Records
Available: February 1, 2014
Official Website: http://tengger-cavalry.com/
The Mongol hordes built one the greatest land empires the world has ever known. They conquered vast swathes of central Asia, from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and countless peoples who dwelt in-between. They inspired the Great Wall. Millions of men living today share a chromosome from a common ancestor, believed to be Genghis Khan. In his magnificent book Travels in Siberia, Ian Frazier spends a good thirteen pages describing how the Mongol hordes under Khan and his direct descendants not only united more than half of Asia under one ruler, but also exerted a profound and lasting influence on the development of Russian culture, literature, religion, and identity. On Ancient Call, the sixth full-length album in five years from China’s Tengger Cavalry (铁骑), you get a sense of just how great the vanished empire of the Mongols truly was.
Tengger Cavalry’s musical style is best described as a blend of traditional Eastern oriental music and Western folk metal—imagine if Chthonic and Korpiklaani had a baby that growled in Chinese. The band blend the two styles blend seamlessly, featuring throat singing, the dombra, Mongolian fiddle, and of course the guitarwork and double bass drumming and growled vocals you expect from the folk metal style.
The opening track, “Galloping Towards the Great Land,” captures the overall tone of the album in one thundering song, and leads into the majestic “Battle Song from Far Away.” Majestic is hardly the only adjective I could use to describe this music. A thread of the epic mode runs throughout the album, similar in a way to what you would hear in power metal, but yet different, epic in a new way entirely.
Ancient Call isn’t entirely metal. Some tracks, such as “Echo of the Grassland,” consist entirely of traditional instrumentation and rhythmic throat singing. It’s the kind of music the Mongols themselves would have played in their camps. “The Battlefront” captures the epic mode in a more ominous way (it also calls to mind the Game of Thrones theme, though I don’t believe this was intentional) that leads into the final two tracks, “Chant of the Cavalry” and “Legend on Horseback.”
Tengger Cavalry was founded by one man, Nature Tianran Zhang, as a project in traditional Mongolian music, and has since grown to include a number of musicians. The traditional influences run deep, however, and help to create a beautiful style of Eastern folk metal in a Chinese scene only recently coming to world prominence.
Folk metal done right: it’s a rare thing. If you haven’t heard this band, don’t miss out.
[Video link] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6vJir53Cz4