Album Review: Heart of Akamon by Nechochwen
Posted by RiffRaff
For how much metal delves into histories of their nations I’ve always been rather disappointed that the Native Americans are so poorly represented. Sure, there are songs about the Native Americans and even bands that capture the atmosphere of the spiritual aspects of Native American culture, but until now nothing I’ve heard has been full on Native American; capturing the history, the nature, and the spiritualism. Having a large part of my heritage being Native American (I’m of Seneca descent and grew up in NJ, a Lenni-Lenape region) I’ve always had interest in Native American culture, in particular the music. Naturally there’s always been a desire to want to hear the traditional music and tales blended with my favorite form of music, heavy metal (obviously). So you can imagine my glee when I saw that our very own Irmelnis had posted on her Facebook wall a link to an album preview for Heart of Akamon by Nechochwen, a full on Native American metal band. Not only did they come from a label I’m really starting to come to admire quite a bit (Bindrune Records) who hosts some amazing artist like Panopticon and Falls of Rauros but also integrate Lenape and other Eastern Woodlands Native American history and lore into their music. Damn straight I went right to the Metal State inbox to see if we had gotten a promo of the record. And oh yes we did, and oh yes am I more than content and have bought the entire discography already. Where has this band been my whole life?
Nechochwen means ‘stand alone’ in the Lenape language, and that is pretty much what the music does. There are similarities Panopticon with the raw Appalachian black metal sound and hints of Agalloch with outstanding classical guitar passages, but there really isn’t anything else out there quite like Nechochwen. While I haven’t spent much time with Nechochwen’s backlog being so new to the band, I can say that their new album, Heart of Akamon, is their most aggressive record yet as it has many themes around the injustices done against the Native Americans as well as songs of battle, struggle, and mortality. But it’s not all doom and gloom as stunningly beautiful passages draw upon the spirituality, tradition, and harmony with nature the Native Americans are known for.
One of my favorite songs on the record is ‘Lost on the Trail of the Setting Sun’. This song is faded into the sounds of musket-fire and battle cries from the previous track, ‘The Impending Winter’, where we are treated to the hypnotic tattoo of a drum accompanied by shamanistic acoustic guitar passage. It is like going from the preparatory ritual into the thick of battle. Whirlwinds of black metal, melodic guitar leads, acoustic under-tracks, and charged screamed and clean vocals create an atmosphere that is perfectly bittersweet. You feel the sorrow and anger but also the strong love for who and what was lost; this deep, spiritual respect. This is further amplified by the following song, ‘October 6th, 1813’. Performed without a hint of metal aggression, this folk tune is a dirge to the warrior souls. Traditional flutes provide a chilling sense of beauty as they seem to personify the passage of the souls into the next realm and lyrics that are sorrowful but leave a more positive feeling of hope, tradition, and determination.
Heart of Akamon continues on with the same outstanding sense of flow and beautiful bittersweet. Whether coming with full on metal attacks ranging from black to melo-death to doom, calming acoustic passages, or traditional Native American melodies, rhythms, and language there is not a single disingenuous or disengaging moment whatsoever. This is a project that is overflowing with love, and you really feel it. There is so much heart on here. Maybe because music of this nature is something I’ve desired for a long time but lacked the talent to produce myself or my heritage, but no album has hit me on such a deep, personal level in quite a long time. I more than highly recommend this album, as well as Nechochwan’s other albums (all available on Bandcamp) and encourage more metal musicians (and anyone in general 😉 )to look into Native American history for inspiration as there is a lot there that should be explored more often than it is. Wëlànkuntuwakàn, Aholtëwakàn, Ahpikwe!!! (Peace, Love, Play Music!!!) 5.0
Heart of Akamon is out Sept. 4th, 2015 through Bindrune (USA) and Nordvis (EU).
P.S. If you know of other bands that incorporate Native American music and lore into any form of heavy metal, I’d love to check it out. Drop me a comment 🙂