(BadWolf reviews the wonderful 2013 album by China’s Tengger Cavalry.)
Folk metal is hard. On the one hand, when the genre is executed to my liking, it’s one of the finest sub-genres of metal there is—full of character, interesting lyrics, groove, hooks, and interesting instrumentation. I’m talking about bands like Moonsorrow, Melechesh, and Primordial. On the other hand, most folk metal bands send me flying for the delete key: folk metal bands like Finntroll and Turisas get cheesy quickly, and the sheer earnestness behind that cheese just makes me pity them more—and want less of them in my ears.
File China’s Tengger Cavalry alongside Primordial on my list of folk bands that do it right. Invisible Oranges scribe Rhys Williams turned me on to this band of heathens with a few cuts from their previous album, Sunesu Cavalry. Tengger Cavalry hail from China, and play folk metal based on the myths and legends of nomadic Asiatic tribes such as the Mongols and Huns. What was once a one-man project, led by guitarist Nature Zhang, has since become a full six-piece band. Tengger Cavalry’s second album, and first as a live unit, The Expedition, dropped on Bandcamp early this summer, and it will trample you under hoof.
The tribes of Mongolia once raided as far west as the Roman Empire on horseback. With a name like Tengger Cavalry and song titles like “Black Steed,” horse sounds and imagery compose a big part of the band’s sound. The heavier tracks on The Expedition all use Iron Maiden-style gallops, as well as mid-paced triplets to great effect. The band even use a whinnying noise from one of their two (!) Horse Head fiddle players as accent marks in a manner reminiscent of Gojira’s pick-slide dive-bombs.