I don’t know how it happened, but there is no denying that atmospheric black metal has become relatively fucking huge. Stemming from a genre once staunchly rooted in its own obscurity, the freak mutation of black metal has far surpassed existing as a niche within a niche as more bands strive to be the next Agalloch. Even against an infinite wall of ebony imitation, Drudkh have managed to distinguish themselves as forerunners of the genre and, like any successful band, divide their fan base along the way. While Blood in Our Wells set much of the underground on fire in a vicious outburst steeped in Ukrainian heritage, Handful of Stars got all boat-abusive and introduced an ethereal shoe-gaze element to the arsenal, sowing seeds of dissent amongst their audience and rendering each subsequent release a guessing game as to what the band might be doing next. This, of course, leads us to today’s question: Drudkh, where’s my car?
That’s probably not exactly what I meant, but to be fair I’m not exactly Sensible Metal Guy. Regardless, They Often See Dreams About the Spring is the bands 11th full-length, to say nothing of the splits and compilation appearances they’ve made along the way, and surprise, surprise: it sounds like Drudkh. For the entirety of its 5 tracks, Dreams is a return to the obsidian cacophony of Blood in Our Wells, 43 minutes of quality black metal that claws unrelentingly at the listeners face without so much as a pause to gasp for air. Fans hoping for another sonic glimpse of the Ukrainians’ feet may need to shuffle back to Stars to avoid cutting short furrows of dismay along their brows, but those who have been anxiously awaiting another frostbitten blast of undiluted fury: this one’s for you.
Dreams continues the loud march back home that A Furrow Cut Short signaled, the guitars alternating between grim tremolo barrages and more anthemic, battle-ready fare with the amps set to 11 for all but thirty seconds or so out of the whole album. Bassist Kretchet continues a proud tradition of cutting through the mix with thick, bouncy lines that provide the songs with a writhing, serpentine spinal column. Vlad, in particular, seems out to prove that Drudkh are still angry metal guys, pummeling away at the drum kit as though it may be responsible for the ancestral woes that the band has long lamented. Complimented perfectly by Thurios’s signature vicious shrieks – seriously, dude straight up sounds like Satan — the album is exactly what those left feeling betrayed by Drudkh‘s recent forays into postal territories have been dreaming ov, a blackened tour-de-force recalling all the wrathful triumph of previous conquests.
Though the overall sound is sure to please those hoping for a return to sheer, unbridled aggression, the catch here is that Dreams rewards those purist prayers with exactly what they wished for, to a T and possibly to a fault. Enjoyable and well executed though they are, each of the songs here would be just as at home on any of the bands earlier works, further continuing the Drudkh legacy but pushing zero boundaries. I particularly enjoy the sonic storm of “Vechirniy Smerk Okutuye Kimnaty,” yet I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I do so because it sounds exactly like Drudkh. Furthermore, the guys may have ditched the shoe-gaze aspect, but they’ve also attended zero Fat Trimming 101 classes between now and Furrow, and the music of Dreams somewhat suffers from this absence of education. Songs like “U Dakhiv Irzhavim Kolossyu” follow the same heavy footsteps as Furrow, at times reveling in their own chaos for a bit too long and threatening redundancy as a result. I can’t imagine any Drudkh fan having any major complaints regarding Dreams, and yet I’d be doing y’all a major disservice if I didn’t acknowledge how damn repetitive the songwriting can get. This is a great atmospheric black metal album, but perfect it is not.
All in all, Dreams is yet another solid outing by the quartet, a testament to the fact that there are rules to black metal greatness, and Drudkh abides. Ultimately, your level of enjoyment will depend on how much you already loved the lads in the first place. If the genre at large or the band, in particular, aren’t your thing, you’ve wasted your time on this
earth review. As to those who have spent many a night longing for the Drudkh of old: sleep my friend, and you will see that Dreams is that reality. Welcome home, now, leave me alone.