Sunday, August 22, 2010

Drudkh - Handful of Stars (2010)

Ukrainian black metal legend's are back again with their new album, Handful of Stars. A year after, Microcosmos, and album that, many felt was a bit too "out of the norm" for Roman Saenko and the rest of the band, they've reinvented themselves once again. They keep their Burzum-calling, dirty black metal riffs, with Thurios deep scream, but they manage to lead away a bit, with some moments near Alcest, and even some near the more post-rock leaning screamo artists, a Heaven in their Arms, for example.
Opting for a dedicated "Intro" track, "Cold Landscapes" nearly paints its own title. A sparse piano track, slightly dissonant, very moody in it's own right, unsettles the listener, leading up to the longest song on the album, the 12 min.+ "Downfall of the Epoch. Epoch, is a very Drudkh-like track, for the most part. Long, atmospheric passages, with screams here and there, it has a very Roman Saenko-esque riff structure, and a tone similar to what they've been doing since they began back in the early 2000s, although with slightly cleaner production than their early albums. It's a pretty straightforward "atmospheric black metal" song, with the occasional softer guitar passage to lead into a new riff, but that's not to say it isn't a *good* or unique track. It's certainly a great track that is a perfect way to announce that this is, in fact, a Drudkh record, as after this, it begins to fog itself.
From the beginning of "Towards the Light", it's possible to think Niege made a guest appearance. Even though Drudkh is partially known for keeping a rhythmic groove with its percussions, teamed together with the subdued guitar, it might call us back to some of the more "black metal" of Alcest's discography. Thurios manages to bring us back with his familiar screams, and the riff structure is, again, very much within Drudkh's vocabulary. And it goes on in typical Drudkh fashion, it continues to build and rest along, keep the atmosphere of Ukraine as it's point of focus, until a point about 5 minutes in, when things start to lean to that screamo/post-rock style I mentioned before. A solo guitar streaming arpeggios as a bass punctuates and a drum rolls in an upbeat, "un-black" groove. It's not entirely out of place here, in fact, it's a nice touch with the music. It may be a point where many Drudkh fans stop for a second, and question what they were thinking, but it's not an amateurish move, in the least. And they come back to a very Blood in our Wells type sound, adding a solo and building to a final minute of nice heavy black metal, a fitting end.
A similar feeling with the next, this one marked exactly 9 min., titled "Twilight Aureole", although this certainly does more to bring a Alcest-esque sound, in the beginning minutes. I have a feeling a large complaint will come from the second half of this, as around the 5:20 mark, we get, probably the most un-Drudkh moment of the album. A very "involved" riff comes in, not much like anything Saenko has done... ever. I almost have to say it sounds like, may get backlash from this,a very Opeth like section. It's a bit more technical with it's general sound, and the bass comes into much more of a contrasting riff against the guitar. It's not horribly out of place, but it is a bit different style than what we've been so used to. I'll hold off on calling this a bad track, but it's a low point of the album, imo, although the "solo" adds a very unique sound to the ending moments.
Another 9 min. track follows, much like the general flow of the album, with a slight more of a callback to "Downfall of the Epoch", I'd say, and then we get the closer. The minute long, mostly solo-guitar track, "Listening the the Silence", lets us off with a short passage reminiscent of their acoustic album, Songs of Grief and Solitude, a fitting end, letting us regroup with what the past 40+minutes had to offer us.
All in all, I'd say it's a successful album. It's not Forgotten Legends or The Swan Road but if this is a band trying to reinvent themselves, this isn't a bad way to go. I'd hate to see them evolve further into this direction, but maybe I'm wrong for pleading to "stagnation". Maybe it's just that they've perfected their sound, and now they need to expand it. Whatever they plan to do for the rest of their careers, I won't stand against them. As they've proved with Handful of Stars, they are a band that can still handle a little "experimentation".

myspace (label-run. Drudkh somewhat refuses press and basically all attention)

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