• Plastic shaman - A review of Tengger Cavalry's "kAAn"

    Tengger Cavalry - kAAn

    Tengger Cavalry once was a quite intriguing Chinese folk metal band inspired by traditional Mongolian folk sounds and tales. Along with Nine Treasures, the band started a trend that went viral with many international acts copying this particular sound and the bands getting international recognition. While Nine Treasures remained modest and faithful to their sound, Tengger Cavalry’s founder Zhang Tianran decided to sell out. The artist parted ways with the initial line-up, moved to the United States and gathered a completely new line-up around him. This line-up unnecessarily re-recorded numerous records from the past, delivered shallow alternative acoustic versions of several songs and released several short live records. In certain cases, there exist half a dozen different versions of the same song and instead of improving on the original versions, the new takes sound much less inspired and original than what the band did in its early years. Since Ancient Call three years earlier, Tengger Cavalry has only released disappointing records that seem to have no other reason to be than to grab some cash from international fans.

    The fact that Zhang Tianran exchanged artistic creativity for financial strategies even had an impact on the band’s live shows. I went to see the band in concert not long ago and was very disappointed. Instead of the regular line-up consisting of five musicians, only three were actually on stage. Aside of Zhang Tianran, there were a bassist and a drummer on stage while the musicians performing the traditional folk instruments that make this group stand out weren’t there at all. The band delivered faceless heavy rock with some throat singing and Zhang Tianran would only play a traditional instrument in a handful of songs during the concert. What the band offered didn’t have much to do with what Tengger Cavalry once stood for and most people in the audience felt cheated.

    kAAn is now the first EP featuring only new material in almost three years. You can buy this release on Bandcamp for eleven bucks and get eighteen minutes of new music, including an unnecessary intro and a short outro as well as a vapid demo version of one of the new songs. This means that you actually only get about thirteen minutes of music and that you are encouraged to pay almost one dollar for each minute of new music. If a band like Dream Theater had the same attitude, you would have to pay one hundred thirty bucks for their last record, just to give you an idea how incredibly ridiculous Tengger Cavalry’s present marketing strategy is. Zhang Tianran’s aggressive capitalism makes Jari Mäenpää almost look like Mother Teresa in comparison.

    That whole dishonest attitude would still be tolerable if the thirteen minutes of new material were at least convincing but even that isn’t the case anymore. The only positive parts of the music are the use of exotic instruments such as igil and molin khuur that add the longing and melancholic soundscapes the band was once known for. The rest however stands for everything that is wrong about the band these days. The bland fast drum patterns and the one-dimensional electric guitar riffs don’t fit with the folk instrumentation at all. They remind me of an untalented death or thrash metal band playing in a garage at best. Several songs sound unfinished and end with uninspired fade-outs after less than three minutes that prove that the band’s song writing was so weak that they didn’t even know how to accurately finish their songs. The worst thing are though the vocals that were once the band’s most charismatic strength. Even though Zhang Tianran still performs throat singing, his vocals are lacking diversity and power. They sound strangely monotonous and tame throughout the record and every single song is performed in the very same style. This repetitive pattern is so uninspired that one could actually copy the vocal lines from one song and paste them onto another track and one wouldn’t even hear any difference.

    Don’t get fooled by the band’s fake cultivated and intellectual image. The only thing this so-called band is interested in nowadays is to make a maximum of profit with a minimum of effort. If you are genuinely interested in Mongolian folk metal, go grab the original Blood Sacrifice Shaman, the double-album Cavalry Folk and the band’s final tolerable release Ancient Call. Every other record consists partially or completely of shallow re-recordings or uninspired new tunes from the exchangeable present line-up. kAAn is as close to Asian folk metal as a cheeseburger with some soy sauce poured on it is to Asian food. The only thing you will get from both is stomach pain. Avoid it at all costs.

    Final rating: 0.5/10

    This record doesn't deserve a video clip.

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