Low fidelity production in black metal can be an immensely efficacious tool in establishing atmosphere, with the most (in?)famous example being Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger. Sometimes a lo-fi aesthetic is necessitated by financial constraints on behalf of the band, which is at least one of the reasons why Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden has its characteristic buzzsaw sound. Other times, it’s to enhance a trance-like mood, as heard on Nachtmystium’s psychedelic Instinct: Decay and Burzum’s hypnotic Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Even more artists – especially within the USBM scene – use lo-fi production to create a depressive, weighty milieu – as on Xasthur’s The Funeral of Being and Leviathan’s The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide. Finally, there are artists who utilize lo-fi production as a way to seem natural, ambient, or otherwise warm in constrast to the stark clinical sound that higher-quality production may provoke, as heard on Drudkh’s Forgotten Legends.
Forgotten Legends is the only album by Drudkh to not utilize keyboards – with the exception of neofolk Пісні Скорботи і Самітності (Songs of Grief and Solitude). The album’s songs are minimalist guitar riffs with neither solos nor frills; this is extremely bare songwriting with a wall-of-sound production style that possesses a surpassing amount of warmth in contrast to the frigidness of the Norwegian scene. Each track is built on single interval themes that are continually repeated with changes in dynamic heralded by percussion, far removed from the thrashy foundations of Immortal and Gorgoroth. Drudkh’s current modus operandi as a deeply volkisch band is nigh-absent on Forgotten Legends, with neither the folk melodies nor the acoustic instrumentation that may be found to varying extent on all future releases. Sparse sound effects are interspersed throughout the work – such as birds chittering, leaves crunching, and rain falling. Few black metal albums can get away with an ambient outro without betraying a dearth of inspiration, but the three minutes of storm sounds on “Smell of Rain” are the perfect coda to thirty-six minutes of naturalist black metal.1
Although Ildjarn utilized the term “forest poetry” in description of his music,2 it is Drudkh to whom the phrase most handily applies. In stark contrast to the vicious, blistering production and themes of their pagan colleagues, Drudkh forsake violence, death, and “anti-“3 for the celebration of nature and pride in one’s heritage.4 We aren’t looking at tracks labeled “As Flittermice As Satans Spys”5 or “Thorns of Crimson Death;”6 instead we have “False Dawn” and “Forests in Fire and Gold.” While Drudkh adamantly refuse to publish their lyrics, they do extraordinarily well at establishing the idea of nature’s supremacy over man through gorgeous artwork, glowing sound, and passion.
1. False Dawn – (15:57) – ★★★★☆
2. Forests in Fire and Gold – (8:55) – ★★★★★
3. Eternal Turn of the Wheel – (11:44) – ★★★☆☆
4. Smell of Rain – (2:47) – ★★★★☆
1“Black metal for bird-watchers” felt like way too try-hard of a description.
2… and title of one of his works.
3… with the exception of anti-industrialism.
4… which treads a very thin line between pride and racism, but that’s a discussion best saved for Лебединый Шлях (The Swan Road).
5From Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger.
6From Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane.