Drudkh is one of the leading bands in the world of völkisch metal. The Ukranian group has been active since 2002, releasing nine albums of blackened fury in love of their homeland and one album of folk music. The band is notoriously secretive, giving no interviews and publishing no lyrics; they didn’t even have a web site until their label made a MySpace account in 2009.1 A Furrow Cut Short is the band’s newest release – at the time of this writing – and sees the band finishing the first half of their second decade as a consistent project.
At an hour of runtime in seven tracks, this album is long. Now that right there should be a warning for any listener who enjoys black metal, much less the epics that Drudkh wrote for Autumn Aurora or Forgotten Legends. Most strains of European black metal – especially the atmospheric type that Drudkh is famous for harnessing in the context of their Ukranian folk roots – revel in extended minimalistic passages to beat down the listener (e.g. Immortal), to put the listener in a trance (e.g. Burzum), to emphasize complex technical roots that would otherwise be lost in “brutal” music (e.g. Deathspell Omega), and to create an atmosphere of order out of chaos – natural or man-made (e.g. Drudkh). A Furrow Cut Short, however, is just long – and with black metal, that usually means boring.
Black metal has a curious relationship with production values. On one hand, you’ve got Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger, which is an incredible testimony to the power of low-fidelity in the establishment of a haunting, visceral affect. On the other hand, there’s Krallice, whose careful production choices emphasize the motifs and fugues present within their music – especially seen in the basslines to tracks like “The Clearing” from Diotima. For the most part, Drudkh favor the former style, which has worked quite well in setting a theme of nature and pagan simplicity that reflected the band’s worldview.2 A Furrow Cut Short continues the progression set by A Handful of Stars in more elaborate, crisp production – and unfortunately, it does not lend itself pleasantly to Drudkh’s music. Whereas the repetitive nature of tracks such as “Кров” from Лебединый Шлях (The Swan Road) and “Forests In Fire And Cold” from Forgotten Legends were made more palatable by the primitive sound quality, tracks such as “To the Epoch of Unbowed Poets” and “Till Foreign Ground Shall Cover Our Eyes” on A Furrow Cut Short are simply monotonous in their ceaseless riffing. The production even diminishes Thurios’ typically visceral scream, relegating it to yet another black metal screech with scant novel inflection.
A Furrow Cut Short has several brief melodic interludes that hint at some progressive ideas that barely peak out from under the woodwork. “Cursed Sons II” has an excellent yet subdued guitar lead that pops up about one-third into the song, but it’s quickly forgotten in favor of another four minutes of riffing. “Dishonour II” – the best song on the release – has several downtempo moments and a wonderful minor fugue that is consistently referenced through the track. It’s great, and although it certainly isn’t the standard Drudkh, that’s by no means a bad thing; it demonstrates a band that is both willing and able to evolve with the times as they present themselves without losing their roots back home, but it does not demonstrate the full realization to which such influences hint.
This is not a poor addition to Drudkh’s discography, but it is dangerously tedious. Drudkh are in danger of becoming yet another black metal band that continues on past their prime, and they will need to innovate past good production and moderate riffing in order to compete with modern black metal acts. Maybe they don’t want to compete – may be they just want to make music for and of home. More power to them. And yet that message would be so much more powerful and so much more immediate if Drudkh were not stuck in a static creative rut.
1. Cursed Sons I – (9:20) – ★★★☆☆
2. Cursed Sons II – (7:05) – ★★★☆☆
3. To the Epoch of Unbowed Poets – (9:00) – ★★☆☆☆
4. Embers – (6:27) – ★★☆☆☆
5. Dishonour I – (9:11) – ★★★☆☆
6. Dishonour II – (9:22) – ★★★★☆
7. Till Foreign Ground Shall Cover Our Eyes – (8:25) – ★★★☆☆
1… and even then, there ain’t shit on this web page: https://myspace.com/drudkhofficial
2At least, the worldview that one can see interpret from their art alone.