Jinjer has got to be right up there when it comes to the busiest bands in all of hard music today. Just examining their 2019 schedule leads me to notice that they kicked things off with the Micro EP, toured Europe, launched their first headlining North American run this Fall and somehow still found studio time to assemble their fourth proper LP Macro (Napalm Records) just in time for another Euro trek. Don’t know how they do it, but nothing but respect for our Ukrainian friends even if our president is a vile pig monster who tried extorting you guys for political gain. Continue reading
With The Onlooker (Season of Mist Underground Activists) Ukraine’s Windswept has issued an open invitation to any and all Black Metal releases this year to challenge them for the throne. And maybe time will prove my assessment to be wrong, but several listens into The Onlooker its hard to imagine another Black Metal release as sonically satisfying as this anytime soon. Continue reading
If anything can be learned from Jinjer, it is that you can never have disrespect for drive and a strong work ethic. Aside from working on a new album and reissuing their 2014 LP Cloud Factory, these Ukranian upstarts also have a fresh EP in Micro (Napalm Records) ready to be dropped on a hungry audience. And let me tell you, that volume-centric approach is paying off nicely. Continue reading
Never giving interviews and never playing live shows is certainly a good way to give your band a certain mystique. It may seem pretentious and it does mean the art you create loses another dimension by never gracing the ears of a live audience, but there is something to be admired in letting the music quite literally speak for itself, especially when the scene is over saturated. Continue reading
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.
So, there you were, thinking that Eastern European Black Metal is just a load of one-man bedroom acts who own too many Burzum and Summoning albums, love to stand in the snow in animal furs and think that it’s their national prerogative to play a flute, regardless of skill. Well, you’d be right to an extent. For while Drudkh and Negura Bunget have made a name for themselves by actually branching out from their microscopic scenes and making good use of traditional instrumentation, you will always get acts like Zgard who are content to sticking to what they know. Thankfully, they happen to know a fair old bit, which is why Contemplation (Svarga) may well surprise you.
This sixty-two minute odyssey into Ukrainian forests may be one that listeners have taken before accompanied by the two big name artists mentioned above, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of pretty sights to be seen along the way as the aptly named ‘Through the Forest’ proves with its rushing tremolo guitars, soaring melodies, mystical keyboards and subtle choral vocals. There’s echoes of revered artists such as Kroda reverberating through the trees and you soon get the impression that mainman Yaromisl has plenty more to show you, which he does with the crowd pleasing jig-along that pops up during ‘Highlands’ and the quirky polka mischief that opens ‘Incarnation Memory.’
It wouldn’t be an Eastern European BM album without an instrumental piece however and we get just that with the haunting and thoughtful ‘Silence’, which knocks the socks off the latest effort from Herr Vikernes. Not forgetting of course the frequent wind and rain sound effects to remind you just how cold it is behind the old iron curtain and you have everything you need and nothing you wouldn’t expect. Clichéd? Perhaps, but it’s a cliché with plenty of mileage left in it and while the forest is still this beautiful, it’s one that’s worth taking a stroll into.