Negura Bunget's impressive musical evolution took a significant leap forward on their third official release, 2000's Maiastru Sfetnic, which featured just six epic compositions covering nearly an hour of avant-black metal tempered with the folk music of their native Romania. Though still bound, to some degree, to core black metal values, the multitasking trio of Hupogrammos Disciple (vocals, guitar, keyboards, and other exotic instruments), Sol'Faur Spurcatu (guitar), and Negru (drums, percussion, xylophone) was now truly striving to go where no extreme metal band had gone before. As a result, the album's minority of blastbeat-dominated storm fronts, "Vremea Locului Sortit" and "A-vint in Abis," in all of their wanton savagery and beastly vocalizing, seem like an apocalyptic farewell to the group's baser black metal instincts as it prepares to leap headlong into the unknown. These leaps begin with more majestic tracks prizing midtempo marches over brazen speed, including "In-Zvicnirea Apusului" (which unfurls almost comically eerie synthesizers over its granite slab riffing and a metallic free jazz-metal spazz-out midway through), "Al Locului" (highlighted by quasi-symphonic passages), "Bruiestru," and "Plecaciunea Mortii" (both featuring shockingly tranquil opening atmospherics and further displays of the band's budding orchestration abilities). If all of these still sound somewhat sketch-like, in retrospect, that's because they are; inept production and a few iffy arrangements do mar some results, and there's also the matter of Maiastru Sfetnic's lyrics, which proclaim their overarching concept (fusing black metal ideology with Transylvanian mysticism) in such abstract and complicated terms that not even listeners who speak Romanian seem capable of making head or tail of it (not even the bandmembers like to discuss it…alrighty then). All things considered, though, most observers would agree that Negura Bunget have achieved a Comaneci-like landing with Maiastru Sfetnic, instead of a very possible belly flop, thus setting the stage for their next opus, 2002's more accomplished 'N Crugu Bradului, to validate their vision and solidify their reputation as one of metal's most daring ensembles.