Ah, Drudkh. Not too long ago (early-to-mid 2000s) in a country quite far away (the Ukraine), these pagan sons released a string of solid albums back to back, and were at one point heralded by critics to be the new kings of black metal. Then Handful of Stars happened, and while the sudden shift injected some much-needed variety into the groups’ sound, it did rub fans and critics the wrong way with its slowed drumming and shoegazing elements. Since then, the band has been playing catch-up stylistically, bringing back some faith in their diehard fans with 2012’s Eternal Turn of the Wheel. So is their newest, A Furrow Cut Short, a further extension of the olive branch?
It’s both a yes and a no, honestly. One thing you won’t find on A Furrow Cut Short is an atmospheric intro, as the band wastes no time going forth with the blast beats and tremolo picking in “Cursed Sons I.” Vlad has some incredible control over his kit and has plenty of attention-grabbing cymbal flourishes, and Roman Sayenko once again knows how to write commanding, icy-cold black metal melodies, especially at the :51-1:49 section. The riffing does get very monotonous after a while, clinging on to a proven theme for a little too long, only slowing things down around the 5:21 mark to add much-needed variance, but even then it’s well-written and catchy, with Krechet’s bass sounding loud and thunderous. At over nine minutes, it’s a bit long in the tooth, even with this style of black metal, but it’s a good, if repetitive, introduction.
Things do become a bit more varied later into A Furrow Cut Short. “Embers” starts off with a beautiful guitar melody that reminds me a bit of their earlier albums before going into a powerful mid-paced march, with more soft arpeggios lurking in the background, adding shades of much-needed color. “Dishonour I” has some interesting bass melodies under a turbulent sea of tremolo riffing, with an interesting break coming in at 5:49. Album standout “To The Epoch of Unbowed Poets” has some incredible melodic interplay between Roman’s guitar lines, interweaving like a battle-tattered flag, while Thurios’s keyboards provide a nice atmospheric backdrop, reminding me of a sunset on a bloodied battlefield, while his screeches are as shrill as ever.
So what’s the hold-up? In small doses, Drudkh hits that blackened sweet-spot quite well. For extended listening sessions, however, it does get a bit fatiguing and blurry, with several riffs repeating themselves, or being too long and drawn out (“Dishonoured II,” “Cursed Sons I”). In fact, there have been many times that I’ve had to check out before the last two songs (“Dishonoured II” and the awesomely-titled “Till Foreign Ground Shall Cover Eyes”) started playing, as that’s a lot to digest in one sitting, especially at almost an hour. Thankfully, the production is quite warm, especially with the bass being so audible and the cymbals bright, yet not painfully so.
Drudkh seems to be taking extra care in crafting quality black metal, and with A Furrow Cut Short, they are definitely heading in the right direction. While not exactly as mind-blowing as their earlier efforts, it’s a solid outing worthy of at least a listen. Here’s to them regaining their footing through the blood-stained snow on their path to the blackened throne.