Drudkh - Handful Of Stars
Season Of Mist
Atmospheric Black Metal
6 songs (47:18)
Release year: 2010
Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Giving Drudkh’s back catalogue a quick run-through before tackling this frighteningly sudden follow-up to 2009’s Microcosmos, it strikes me yet again how damn good a band the Ukrainian poets are. It can all seem rather repetitive if you’re just dipping a toe in, but when you’re used to their music the songwriting really comes to vivid life, painting aural landscapes of the steppes almost as well as those on the band’s brilliant choices in artwork throughout their career (the Filosofem-referencing cover to the recent reissue of Blood In Our Wells is especially stunning). Of course, this makes the cover to the band’s eighth album (in eight years!) rather eyebrow-raising, Roman and co. eschewing the usual forests for something that looks more at home on the cover of some graphic novel. “What,” the band’s fans said almost in unison when first viewing this, “the hell.” And it’s a fair bet that once said fans actually hear the music that Handful Of Stars contains, they’ll repeat those words, and utter others besides. We Drudkhites have been expecting them to do this for a while now, having faced each new album in the past with a slight sense of disappointment when Roman rolls out the same Folk-imbued melancholy – but finally, it’s happened. Drudkh have changed it up.

So, what is ‘it’, exactly? Well, to be honest I’m still trying to work it out, because the result is very much still the Drudkh that we know and love, but the band have clearly added lots of Post-Rock to their listening lately, moving Drudkh closer to the likes of Alcest in melody-driven atmospherics. The riffs, growls and nationalist melancholy are still present and correct, but the moment that the sombre piano of oddly cinematic and very short intro Cold Landscapes starts, you’re aware that something’s off, and the slow, melodic, almost Post-Rock melody of Downfall Of The Epoch only confirms it. Again, it’s easy to recognise as Drudkh, but a very different Drudkh – even Roman’s snarls sound more like someone from a band like Isis than the same man who produced such spinechilling growls in Hate Forest. Repetitive yet compellingly hypnotic, the expert riffing has had the sharp edges smoothed down until the harshest thing present is these vocal snarls, lying atop the rather beautiful music like a coiled serpent, catching your notice at first yet fading away as you pay more and more attention to the increasingly grandiose and stirring music beneath.

What this is, then, is Drudkh revitalised. The band have learnt their craft well over the last eight years, and here their full powers are unleashed to devastating effect – take Towards The Light as an example, building up with almost immediate blastbeats but shifting gradually away towards outright Post-Rock ambience until the mad rush through dark forests becomes a light stroll over sun-strewn hilltops. An almost gleeful shift to bass-driven post-punk will have the kvltest listeners reeling in shock, but it completely and utterly works within the confines of the song, and proves that the band’s songwriting capabilities are quite capable of leftfield lurches. Twilight Aureole, meanwhile, mixes its melodic surface riffs with subtly complex underlying drums, and The Day Will Come is pure melody, even with the snarls.

Added together and placed in context, Drudkh’s new sound is nothing more than another step on their career, logical when placed in context next to Microcosmos. Yet come to this band fresh or compare this to Forgotten Legends, and you could easily think of them as a completely different band. This time, I must sum Drudkh up differently than I did for Estrangement and Microcosmos – this is not ‘more of the same, but not the same’ by any means. I wouldn’t be surprised if on their next album, the harsh vocals were dropped completely and the band became a kind of post-Black Explosions In The Sky. Whichever direction Drudkh wander, their music is as hypnotic and beautiful as ever, and Handful Of Stars is another excellent album in an increasingly hard-to-fault discography.

MySpace (label-run)
Killing Songs :
Downfall Of The Epoch, Towards The Light, Twilight Aureole, The Day Will Come
Goat quoted 87 / 100
Other albums by Drudkh that we have reviewed:
Drudkh - A Furrow Cut Short reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Drudkh - Eastern Frontier in Flames reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Drudkh - Eternal Turn Of The Wheel reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Drudkh - Forgotten Legends reviewed by Tony and quoted 99 / 100
Drudkh - Microcosmos reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
To see all 11 reviews click here
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