Considering most of you have kitchen scales lying around, it may seem strange that heaviness appears to have a subjective element. While no one will argue Behemoth to be heavier than, say, ABBA, what constitutes the ultimate in aural obesity seems to differ from person to person. For some, ultimate heaviness is a matter of drawn-out, downtuned, and downtempo riffing, like the molasses of funeral doom. Others contend that distortion and crunch define weight, citing bands like Eyehategod as the forefront of black hole music. A friend of mine would interject the type of breakdowns enjoyed by deathcore bands like Black Tongue. Whatever your preference and whatever your taste, I can tell you one thing: Drude is pretty damn heavy.
Though you wouldn’t say so when Drude — Drude — “Drude” begins to play. The track strolls out of the gate deceptively gently, with clean tones wafting lazily along a simple melody. But when the track means business it drops like a pallet of bricks. A massive assault of downtuned guitars joins roaring sludge vocals and a booming bass for an instant punch to the gut. The sound is massive and much of the credit for that goes to the bass, pounding down a foundation for the rest of the band with rock solid conviction and a crisp sound with a distorted edge for flair. The guitar riffs range from twisting to turning, often playing with tempo and timing, to relentlessly pounding at maximum volume, to a haze of blues-derived solos. The good continues on “Barbelo” which initially builds on a relaxed riff that’s almost country, but by adjusting the timing (and hitting the effects pedals) suddenly recreates it as an urgent and crushing pile-driver. Great proof of how well Drude understand their own music and how to morph each riff into something new.
A few flaws hold Drude back from steamrolling to true greatness, however. The typical hardcore sludge roar is well and good, but the few clean vocals are terribly uneven and don’t seem to quite hit the right notes. The album leans on the front a bit too, as “Demure” and “Eidolon” don’t hold as many surprises as the first three tracks do. This is compensated for a little as these tracks are also shorter, but the quality of the songwriting still drops a smidge and the album doesn’t do any wrap-up. It just runs out of ideas and stops.
Those are fairly minor issues, though. It’s my final nag that’s both the one thing holding me back from scoring this higher, as well as an extremely subjective point – the songs are composed seemingly by free association. Usually, even most progressive tracks will have some form of harkening back to earlier sections of a song, by chorus or reprise. It gives the feeling of a full circle, a complete package. Drude doesn’t play that way. Riffs will oftentimes morph or transfer from bass to guitar or the other way around, but they rarely if ever re-appear when they’re gone. This causes the songs to stand on their own much less, being defined only by individual moments, and if all tracks had been smithed together it would change little. For me, this makes the album lose coherency, but if you like long, free-flowing jams this is right up your alley.
Production-wise, there is very little to complain about here. The master isn’t very dynamic, which is par for the course considering heavy sludge, and the drums could definitely benefit from a bit more definition, but if any music is allowed to be a wall it’s probably this. The boost on the bass is excellent and the mix is good. These guys know what they’re about: riffs heavy enough to dropkick the sun, and a lot of those. I love the way they can play with tempo and timing to morph riffs, the pummeling attitude without losing sight of songwriting skills, and the fat bass underlining every statement made. Your mileage may vary on the song structure, but nonetheless, Drude still has enough irresistible gravity to have pulled me into orbit.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Releases Worldwide: February 16th, 2017