Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short

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In an age where all the mystique has vanished from the extreme music scene, Drudkh’s uncompromising no live shows/interviews/promo pictures/music videos approach is to be cherished, for it is the music they produce that is the only thing that matters. Of course the flipside to this is that the band are open to unsavoury accusations from those who seek to project their own agendas; despite no association with extremist ideology, Drudkh have been branded a far-right band primarily due to their lyrical references to nationalist Ukrainian poets.

While the four members may still draw inspiration from the glories and failings of their country’s past, it’s likely that the present is currently a far more pressing concern. The conflict in Ukraine shows no sign of abating, and with death and destruction a daily concern, it’s a wonder that they have been able to record a new album. But we should be thankful they have, for tenth full-length release A Furrow Cut Short (all Drudkh releases are Season of Mist) is one of their finest efforts to date.

The first thing one notices after pressing play is just how much passion Drudkh have captured here. The dry post-rock flavours of 2010’s Handful of Stars and the somewhat formulaic approach of 2012’s Eternal Turn of the Wheel have been consigned to the dustbin, with a much-needed injection of self-belief and renewed vigour the order of the day. Opening track ‘Cursed Sons’ follows the traditional Drudkh pattern of rapid, windswept riffing, energised percussion and sorrowful melodies, but is just that much more alive and urgent than on recent efforts, with vocalist Thurios in particular sounding mightily pissed off. The second part of the track slows down towards the end before racing off into an utterly triumphant finish complete with a fantastic guitar melody.

The influence Drudkh have had on current UK darlings Winterfylleth is evident in the magnificent driving riffs and subtle soaring keyboards of ‘To the Epoch of Unbowed Poets’, a stirring call-to-arms that harks back to the glory days of 2004’s Autumn Aurora, conjuring images of soldiers marching to war under a glaring sunset. Elsewhere, ‘Embers’ slows the pace slightly for a thoroughly melodic and more introspective six-odd minutes before the aggression returns with a vengeance on the first part of eighteen minute two-part epic ‘Dishonour’, with part two giving off a strong Burzum feel with its gloomy refrains and vicious, snarled vocals.

This is still main man Roman Saenko’s baby of course. As the main songwriter and guitarist, the man appears to be a bottomless well of creativity, and his guitar playing is capable of evoking emotion like few others. Well versed in black metal lore yet resolute in his vision, Saenko is a true artist who has made a fiercely private band from Eastern Europe into one of the most respected and revered acts in the annals of underground music. The music he and his comrades have captured on A Furrow Cut Short may not quite hit the heights of 2006’s magnificent Blood in Our Wells but it has come pretty damn close. Like all great Drudkh releases, this is an album that reveals more with every listen, a rousing yell of defiance backed by a passionate beating heart.

 

9.0/10

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JAMES CONWAY

Various Artists – One and All, Together, For Home

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In answering the question “What types of music do you like?” one suspects that one is not alone in having answered, from time to time, thus: “ I like two types of music: “heavy” and “metal””. Nurse! Nurse! My sides, they are splitting.  For all its supposed open-mindedness and sense of camaraderie, the world of heavy metal can be something of a closed shop with an equally closed mind. It can be a bit of a sense of; you’re either “with us or agin us”. This is fine and understandable to a point but it also can lead to a lack of imagination, a narrow mindedness of view and a dearth of creativity.

I was thinking about this odd paradox when reviewing this beautifully composed and arranged compilation album from the lovely folk at Seasons of Mist. One and All, Together, For Home is a compilation of folk tunes, brilliantly and expertly curated by Roman Saenko of Ukranian black/pagan metal outfit Drukdh and delivered with insight, passion and inventiveness from some of the more interesting bands around at the moment – Primordial, Winterfylleth, Kampfar, Himinbjorg to name but a few.

One and All… is one of those records that has so self-evidently been put together with love and insight, head and heart that one cannot fail but to be utterly captivated and enthralled by the resulting product. Saenko’s aim with this project has been to take a piece of historical folk music from the country of each of the bands represented here and to see what interpretation they would bring and, more, how the folk music of their heritage and hinterland had shaped and influenced their own creative and artistic impulses. The results are surprising, inventive and never anything less than beguiling.

Let’s take Ireland’s Primordial and the UK’s Winterfylleth as two examples of what I am referring to. Primordial’s connection to with Ireland – in the musical and metaphysical senses of the word – has never been in doubt. Here, that connection is amplified and deepened through their contributions; a brooding, contemplative ‘Dark Horse on the Wind’ and a startling rework of ‘The Foggy Dew’, the classic Irish lament, rich in alienation and discord is perfect for vocalist Alan Averill who brings a solemnity and melancholy that is both apposite and baleful.

There’s always been an intelligence and sense of history running through Winterfylleth’s work and their interpretation of ‘John Barleycorn’ only serves to underscore this. Ostensibly a song about drinking, Barleycorn is part of a much deeper English tradition that drives back to medieval times and is part of a broader pastoral heritage examining man’s changing yet enduring relationship with the land. If this is not the sort of thing you would expect to read about when reading a review of a standard heavy metal record, then you would be correct because this is not a standard heavy metal record.

Elsewhere on this exemplary compilation, we travel through Norwegian forests – literal and of the imagination – courtesy of Kampfar, swirl through the historical imagination of Finnish black metal stalwarts Haive, burn across the Gallic countryside and have evocations of Portugese fantasy courtesy of Himinbjorg and Ave Inferi respectively.

There are two aspects of One for All… that linger. First, despite the diversity of the artists involved, geographically and artistically, this is a cohesive body of work underpinned by the traditional folk architecture. Second, you get a very real sense of how heavy metal artists form part of a broader and much richer musical narrative that reaches back much further and deeper than the now familiar story of heavy metal’s genesis in late 1960’s England would seem to suggest.

More, One for All… places folk and metal as unlikely but compelling bedfellows, giving voice and presence to the lonely, the outsider and the dispossessed. When seen in that context, this compilation not only makes complete sense but feels curiously overdue.

 

8.5/10

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MAT DAVIES

Blood Of Kingu – Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon

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Ukrainian Black metallers Blood of Kingu are back with a new album, Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon (Season of Mist). It’s the third full length from the Babylonian-themed quintet, and continues in a similar vein to their previous efforts; black, bleak and unrelenting.

Led by Drudkh’s Roman Saenko, Blood of Kingu follow all the expectations of a proper black metal band; long song titles, blast beat, indecipherable lyrics and buzzsaw riffing. It’s pretty relentless stuff, full of dark atmosphere. And, unlike many records in the genre, Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon boasts some decent production values.

Opening with ‘Crowned Scarlet Moon Is Waiting for Eclipse,’ we’re given five minutes of pure blast beat fury, demonic vocals and endless abrasive riffing. It’s a good opening, managing to summon some really bleak and grim sounds. However, despite the promising opening, the album never really goes anywhere interesting. All the songs are samey and repetitive and there’s never any deviation from tried and tested formulas. The two ambient interludes really add to the eeriness of it all, before it returns to the standard blast beating fare.

For those who like their metal as Kvlt as possible, Blood of Kingu offer all the right genre tropes. For anyone who likes to see Black metal pushing the boundaries however, Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon offers little fresh or interesting.

 

5.5/10.0

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DAN SWINHOE