Drudkh


Forgotten Legends

Drudkh - Forgotten Legends ©2003 Supernal Music
1. False Dawn
2. Forests in Fire and Gold
3. Eternal Turn of the Wheel
4. Smell of Rain

Drudkh first came to my attention while skimming through Ebay listings. Someone had bid $120 on this particular picture LP and immediately I needed to know exactly what was so great about this band that someone would plunk down so much scratch for it. I tracked down some Drudkh material and have discovered their allure to black metal fans worldwide.

The band features members from Ukraine's Hate Forest and Lucifugum. Ironically, Hate Forest is one of those highly praised black metal bands that simply never caught my ear. However, Drudkh exceeds Hate Forest in most every way. The band's debut, Forgotten Legends, is an epic, monumental affair that is entirely entrancing and impressive. Drudkh takes in some influence from the likes of Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss time period and gives it their own treatment. The album is made up of three lengthy songs and one short ambient piece (essentially the sound of rain falling). The songs stick to the KISS formula. Wait, before I lose half the readers, let's clarify that KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid and does not imply any tongue waggling butt rock. Each song essentially uses a few basic riffs and chords, often slightly atonal, and utilizes subtle movement within the songs. The prime example is "Eternal Turn of the Wheel", which puts shoegazer music's wall of hazy guitar through a black metal blender and absolutely nails it. Of all the material here, this one has the speediest tempo and best example of Drudkh's approach.

Forgotten Legends is an entirely impressive debut that should be sought by any black metal fan. Granted, I don't think I'd spend so much money on the LP, but otherwise, this band commands deserved attention and praise.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2008

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Autumn Aurora

Drudkh - Autumn Aurora ©2004 Supernal Music
1. Fading
2. Summoning the Rain
3. Glare of Autumn
4. Sunwheel
5. Wind of the Night Forests
6. The First Snow

Drudkh's follow up to their excellent debut, Forgotten Legends, picks up the same thematic thread of naturalist music sent through the filter of black metal. Autumn Aurora retains the nature-based, majestic and powerful style and simply offers up a few more tunes. To a certain degree, Autumn Aurora fails to live up to its predecessor, but that's hardly an insult. Drudkh simply set the bar rather high for their future output.

Not too much has changed in the band's approach for their second album. The band throws in the obligatory sounds of nature, such as wind, as well as mixes things up with acoustic guitar and very subtle keyboards. The songs range from between five and nine minutes long, so they're neither short nor bloated beached whales that stink up the entire seashore with the rotting carcass of excessive, unnecessary music. (That could very well be the worst analogy I ever wrote.) However, these songs are not quite as spectacular as the one on the debut. That said, we need to point out that "Sunwheel" absolutely knocks it out of the park, using a rather unorthodox sound for black metal. The song is incredibly well-textured and has hooks that pop bands would die for. Seriously. It's what a pop band might sound like if they died and were voraciously consumed by the most evil demons in the bowels of hell. That's how freaking good "Sunwheel" is.

Drudkh has harnessed the best aspects of Burzum's Filosofem era, eastern European black metal and the atmosphere of Bathory's Twilight of the Gods. While I'd still pick Forgotten Legends as the better of the band's first two offerings, Autumn Aurora is still a very fine effort that will please many ears.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2008

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The Swan Road

Drudkh - The Swan Road ©2005 Supernal Music
1. 1648
2. Eternal Sun
3. Blood
4. Glare of 1768
5. The Price of Freedom
6. Fate
7. Song of Sich Destruction

On their third album, Drudkh finds themselves unexpectedly treading water after two well done releases. The Swan Road, which features a title and song names in their home tongue as well as English translation, is a step backwards for Drudkh and their least interesting of the three initial albums. While many of the trademark aspects of the band are intact for The Swan Road, there is a feeling that their best riffs, guitar textures and song ideas had been used up by the first two releases. Nowhere on this album does Drudkh hit a song out of the park, as they do on the first two records. The band throws in some occasional fast neo-blast beats, which diminishes their impact greatly. Much of the material is bracingly bland, lacking the impetus to really put it over the top. Careful listens will illuminate the band's ability to weave some decent guitar textures, but they're not enough to really catapult this album. The final track is a traditional folk ballad (I'd assume it's Ukranian, considering the band's dedication to their homeland), but it sounds more out of place than Eric Cartman at a klezmer festival.

While The Swan Road rates higher than a lot of black metal releases, it represents a painfully colorless and average effort on the part of a band that has established itself as something truly unique. It's tough when you set the standard for own music so high that it's hard to achieve success, but it's also a form of compliment. Marduk, at their best, could never come close to Drudkh at their worst.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2008

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Blood in Our Wells

Drudkh - Blood in Our Wells ©2006 Supernal Music
1. Nav'
2. Furrows of Gods
3. When the Flame Turns to Ashes
4. Solitude
5. Eternity
6. Ukrainian Insurgent Army

Much like The Swan Road, Blood in Our Wells finds Drudkh in the throes of being "pretty good", but not as "mindblowing" as their first two releases. I put those words in quotes not for effect, but because it creates the impression that this review is considerably more profound than it really is. Although my initial listens to this album were a bit of a letdown, it has grown on me with each new play. The album, the longest of the band's catalogue so far, sticks to the Drudkh formula of brooding songwriting, drawn-out structures and good guitar texture mixed with the black metal foundation provided by the members' tenures in such acts as Hate Forest and Lucifugum. While much of the music dwells in a hybrid of doom and black metal, there are occasional moments where they bust out a catchy riff (such as the intro to "Eternity"), which is where Drudkh ultimately excels.

There are still sections where the band pays homage to their Ukrainian heritage. The opener, "Nav'", picks up with the traditional folk song that ended The Swan Lake and the final track is rather blatant with its intentions ("Ukrainian Insurgent Army"). Blood in Our Wells, while again not the pinnacle of Drudkh's existence, may not immediately blow your socks off, but it's a grower with enough solid songwriting and playing to make it worth the hunt.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2008

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Songs of Grief & Solitude

Drudkh - Songs of Grief & Solitude ©2006 Supernal Music
1. Sunset in Carpathians
2. Tears of Gods
3. Archaic Dance
4. The Milky Way
5. Why the Sun Becomes Sad
6. The Cranes Will Never Return Here
7. Grey-Haired Steppe

Talk about career missteps...

To set the record straight, Songs of Grief & Solitude is by no means a Cold Lake or St. Anger. Not even in the same solar system. But it's certainly a blunder for Drudkh. For whatever reason, the band decided it would be nifty to release an acoustic guitar album that contains no vocals and minimal other instrumentation. Perhaps they were spending too much time in a trendy coffee shop, making friends with artistic new age bohemian types. No matter what the inspiration, it wasn't the best of moves. To put it bluntly, Songs of Grief & Solitude is a dreary bore and an utter waste of time.

The songs on this album are almost exclusively played on acoustic guitar. Occasionally the band gets clever and includes a sound of nature or a flute. Its style does not contain much folk elements. It also doesn't contain many interesting ideas either. Fans who own all of the Drudkh albums may notice some familiar sounding sections as these songs contain parts and even rearranged songs from their earlier releases. Unfortunately, when removed from the black metal blender, these riffs and pieces are rendered entirely bland. Songs of Grief & Solitude may be attempting to come across as a deconstructed, acoustic version of Drudkh, but really, it just sounds like a half-assed demo dressed up in pretty studio sound. I wouldn't even recommend this to completists.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2008

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Anti-Urban EP

Drudkh - Anti-Urban EP ©2007 Supernal Music
1. Fallen Into Oblivion
2. Ashes

Anti-Urban's main purpsose is to let fans know that the power is back on in the Ukraine and the acoustic mess of Songs of Grief & Solitude is a stylistic tangent (hopefully) left in the past. This EP is a limited edition slab of 10" colored vinyl that finds Drudkh juicing back up and returning to their more familiar style. The first song is a slow instrumental number, demonstrating how pagans brood and get lost in darkened thoughtfulness, presumably about same topic of nature. The second song is a bit speedier and features buried vocals. Neither song exactly finds Drudkh at their prime, but neither are bad either. This release may simply exist to satisfy the vinyl jucnkies in the metal world who absolutely love the concept of a limited edition collectors item and they will stop at nothing, including visiting Ebay, to get a copy. And fortunately, the band has remembered that most metal bands really don't pull off "unplugged" well at all. That in itself makes Anti-Urban notable.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2008

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Estrangement

Drudkh - Estrangement ©2007 Supernal Music
1. Solitary Endless Path
2. Skies at Our Feet
3. Where Horizons End
4. Only the Wind Remembers My Name

Estrangement, Drudkh's latest full length effort, finds the band toiling away at a gloomy, oblique sort of black metal with tinges of Burzum (post-debut rawness, pre-MIDI nonsense). This is a sound that Drudkh is considerably more adept at playing, unlike their lousy acoustic abortion in 2006. Three of the four songs here are over ten minutes in length, all of which succeed in never quite getting entirely bogged down. There is a tendency to stick to repetitive riff pattern, but the band understands the value of texture. This generally allows them to get away with repetition that other bands entirely fail at doing. Heck, in the final song, "Only the Wind Remembers My Name", Drudkh busts out a soaring guitar solo that any arena rocker would be envious over.

While still not quite up to snuff with their first couple of records, Estrangement is a worthy addition to the band's impressive catalogue. Their general ability to create both stripped down yet texturally rich music is pretty rare in the black metal world. While I'm still more likely to reach for either of the early records, I heartily recommend Estrangement to fans of the band and those seeking out black metal that rises above the unwashed heathen masses.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2008

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Microcosmos

Drudkh - Microcosmos ©2009 Season of Mist
1. Days That Passed
2. Distant Cries of Cranes
3. Decadence
4. Ars Poetica
5. Everything Unsaid Before
6. Widow's Grief

Armed with a new record on a new label, the mysterious Drudkh regains their moxy with Microcosmos. Over the course of their previous few albums, Drudkh began the process we call "treading water" and even "screwing the pooch" (as they did on the awful Songs of Grief & Solitude). Drudkh's last album, Estrangement, was adequately functional but still lacked the pizazz of the band's first couple of efforts. Microcosmos doesn't stray far from the band's general operating procedures and fortunately finds them remembering that good songwriting still reigns supreme.

Microcosmos sticks to the band's formula: long, drawn out songs and heaps of guitar textures. The band doesn't try to sneak in a lengthy acoustic bit nor do they bother with electronic effects. Rather, Microcosmos does one thing and does it well. Drudkh's original strength was the ability to weave together chewy riffs under the guise of black metal aesthetics and create a great song. "Ars Poetica" pulls off the sneaky hook, which is a neat trick considering the song approaches ten minutes in length. Although they don't sound particularly like Moonsorrow, they do share the rare ability to compose lengthy songs and keep them interesting throughout.

On Microcosmos, Drudkh has returned to what made them interesting in the first place: strong songwriting skills with well layered guitar textures. This is easily their best effort since their initial two releases.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2009

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