“During the pandemic I got into Mongolian folk metal.” The sentence you need to be saying to friends, loved ones, work colleagues and strangers you meet in the street. If you check out one new band or genre this year, make it Nine Treasures and make it Mongolian folk metal. Pioneers of the genre and a band for over a decade now (having formed in 2010), the unmissable five-piece provide a unique take on folk metal - with a Mongolian twist. Their goal is to take the genre to the world. Three albums down the line then, the band are set to drop their first ‘Best Of’ collection titled Awakening From Dukkha.
The tracks themselves are a mix of songs all taken off their previous three full lengths, but they serve as a tremendous introduction to the band for those who haven’t checked them out before - and indeed, to the genre in general. Some greatest hits records can be a little clunky, with tracks taken from different albums and eras of bands and clumped on a hastily put together collection to rake in some coins. This doesn’t apply to Awakening From Dukkha. It’s an album which stands alone and stands proud. This impressive collection of varied and remarkable music has the flow and togetherness of a regular album, all the songs seeming to complement one another and contribute to the intricate and rich tapestry of Nine Treasures.
Opener ‘Black Heart’ is bursting with energy and frantic fiddling, the drums going full pelt and the impassioned vocals driving the track forwards. Gang style backing vocals add to the jubilant spirit of the song with rhythmic and heavy guitar breakdowns further cementing the ‘metal’ element of the genre. Giving a good flavour of what’s to come, it’s clear from the outset listeners are about to experience something very different to what they’re used to here.
The folk element of the genre can definitely be seen pretty strongly on tracks such as ‘Nomin Dalai’, a fast paced jitty featuring some more frenetic fiddle playing and the occasional excited BV shout of “hey!” on the choruses, and the instrumental on Fable Of Mangas is a sterling example of combining traditional old school metal sounds with folk.
Take the musicality and passion of heavy metal music then throw in some traditional Mongolian folk instruments. Add a decent amount of lyrical content which references their culture and folklore, and a splattering of guttural Mongolian throat singing growled in their native language then you might have a general idea of what to expect from a Nine Treasures record. Totally unique and following no rules, the band have even adapted their guitar playing style and messed with chord structures to create that distinctive Mongolian sound and, once heard, never forgotten.
The deep, oscillating vocals and trance-like rhythms on tracks such as ‘Ten Years’ are both haunting and mesmerising, as well as incredibly addictive. There’s just something so satisfying about the way vocalist Askhan Avagchuud can manipulate his voice – the soft, gravelly growl, the slight trill when he rolls his ‘r’ sounds. The chorus is actually pretty catchy too. You don’t need to understand the words to get it stuck in your head.
The opening few seconds of ‘Tes River’s Hymn’ is almost pure metal, but soon, the traditional elements creep in and combine and grow to create something more beautiful. Again, the guitar opening to ‘The Dream About Ancient City’ could sound like any other metal song until the clunk of the balalaika kicks in. It’s interesting to hear how the band build up and contrast these elements, weaving them together in a seamless soundscape of infectious, feel-good metal. This is the type of music that makes you want to get up and dance. It doesn’t feel depressing or dark. Perhaps the title could be a clue there. ‘Dukkha’ is a concept from Buddhism meaning suffering, pain, unhappiness and the fundamental dissatisfaction many experience in life. The music of Nine Treasures is certainly the antithesis of this and spinning this ‘Best Of’ compilation a few times is guaranteed to put you in a fantastic mood to tackle whatever life throws at you.
Awakening From Dukkha is self-released March 19th.