The tumultuous waves of underground metal have allowed a relatively new force to emerge, Tengger Cavalry.
The folk metal act, located in China, has been representing heavy music with their blend of shamanism and Mongolian culture roughly since 2010; Tengger Cavalry is characterized by the incorporation of one of Mongolia’s traditional string instruments, the morin khuur (horse-head fiddle) and the usage of traditional throat-singing. While the usage of the morin khuur uniquely rests among the well-known instruments of Western folk metal (let’s say, the nyckelharpa), Tengger Cavalry thrives in the familiar fashion of some metal acts that are one-man projects. Nature Zhang handles the majority of the instruments, but has assistance with bass and drums, respectively Wang Wei and Ding Kai.
With all works maintaining a folk metal focus, Tengger Cavalry has released 2010’s Blood Sacrifice Shaman and Black Steed, which came out in 2013. The arrival of another full-length, The Expedition is expected for June. Found in between the span of previously mentioned albums, Sunesu Cavalry and Mantra were both released in 2011 and reveal some strengths of Tengger Calvary.
Sunesu Cavalry offers a comfortable balance of extreme metal and folk themes.
Fully representing its name that recalls images of forward-moving hooves, the opening instrumental track, “Galloping Steeds,” immediately thrusts a fast tempo that introduces the rich sounds of the morin khuur.
“War Horse” could be the twin of Korpiklaani’s popular number, “Keep of Galloping,” as it has a similar rhythm. But, “War Horse” delivers harsh vocals along with the traditional throat-vocalizations; its folksy vibes are more apparent as the fiddle and acoustic playing have frequent appearances on the track.
“Golden Horde” opens with an almost psychedelic appeal as the thuds of drumming are heard underneath light strums, reminiscent of the very tinge of gold. Those preferring the frenzy known to metal are given snippets of rhythm changes. “Cavalry Folk,” its successor, has the typical characteristics of upbeat metal and is made unique with the tendency to groove.
Defying the previous song, “Sunesu Cavalry” thrusts intense throat-singing, and sporadic blast beats are close behind. After an instant change, the song bursts into emotional harmonization.
“Universe-Shaman” introduces itself with raw percussion, obviously oriented toward the title but insists on charming folks with its enchanting atmosphere.
Following the fleeting intro track, “Prophecy,” listeners are given a taste of extremity with “Leader Wolf”; this song begins with a fierceness, presents a driving rhythm, raises harsh vocals throughout, and has a rocking vibe. While keeping the rich sound of the morin khuur, listeners are treated to a wild guitar solo.
Giving a nod to its title, “Blade of Blood” wastes zero time airing Tengger Cavalry’s ability to show its speed, sixteenth notes being chopped and sliced about.
Perhaps the next track, “Cavalry Folk-The Legend,” eases any tension felt with the previous songs. With an average speed, the absence of vocals is what gives it an overall down-to-earth nature, dedicated to a lack of fury.
“Under the Welkin” ends the album with an even slower pace, seemingly softer with a folk essence. Eventually releasing some clean vocals that have an airy feel, the song engulfs listeners in melody.
The bulk of Sunesu Cavalry can be appreciated for its ability to tinker with ways to balance folk with the intensity that is comfortable for the extreme metal junkie. The album succeeds in boasting the Mongolian musical styles with strings and vocalizations. However, it stays consistent with the metal spirit of upholding low riffs throughout. Sunesu Cavalry is a suitable way to discover Tengger Cavalry and makes one anxiously await the arrival of The Expedition.
Until then, follow the trail, pitch a tent at Bandcamp.com, and listen to Sunesu Cavalry.