Drudkh – Handful of Stars Review

Drudkh // Handful of Stars
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Good, but not exactly earth shattering or anything…
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: myspace.com/drudkhofficial
Release Dates: EU: 20.09.2010 | US: 09.21.2010

Not to be snatchy or anything, but I have to say that Drudkh is probably one of the most hyped underground black metal bands of all time (to the point of not really counting as underground anymore, I think). After Microcosmos made a big splash in 2009, I wasn’t sure that they were going to be pulling out a new record in 2010, but the band is back with a record that is proving to be a major disappointment for a lot of fans. It’s not a surprise, however. How do you follow up a record that was hailed as the greatest thing since Varg Vikerness first took a shit on a microphone and called it art?

The answer is, of course, that you don’t. And what makes Drudkh a better band, in my not-so-humble opinion, compared to so many other bands in the modern black metal scene is that they don’t pander to the trends and they have consistently put out records with different sounds. So as opposed to being Microcosmos II, these guys put out a record that sounds like a cross between Shining and Alcest. And to pretty good effect, according to this Angry Metal Guy. While the tracks are repetitive (this is black metal), the band manages to make the feel of the music the center piece, and the feel is well portrayed by the cover art; sleepy, slow and melodic.

In a lot of ways this record has a lot more in common with sludge records that have been coming out in the past few years than a lot of black metal. It’s got a feel similar to something like Cult of Luna, with long, dragging songs. Surprisingly, however, despite playing one guitar part that nearly goes on for 9 of the 12 minutes on the first song “Downfall of the Epoch”, there is something that latched on for me and when I was just chillin’ out and reading some postcolonialist theory and drinking my fair trade chai latte and eating some vegan brownies, it all clicked. (Alright, alright, I *was* reading postcolonalist theory, but I wasn’t drinking fair trade chai or eating vegan brownies.)

That said I have some substantive complaints about this record. Firstly, the bass playing is shitty. Drudkh has the distinction of being a band that actually has audible bass on Handful of Stars, but because of that distinction I can make out how incredibly banal the bass lines on this record are. When the bass should be doing interesting things it’s dropping in staccato quarter notes and stinking up otherwise beautiful guitar passages by just being generally crappy. This was not the case on Microcosmos (or the band’s previous material that I managed to get around to), so it really stood out for me (check out “Towards the Light” for an example of this) and it annoyed me the whole time. Secondly, and I’m going to take heat for this, they really could have just cut some pieces here and there. There are passages on here that put me to sleep like Sigur Rós. Is that really the goal?

But all-in-all this is actually a really good record. Melodically it’s beautiful and the guitar parts are pretty unique and inventive (though again I’m surprised that Le Neige isn’t involved) and the vocals really remind me of Kvarforth and that’s a major compliment as I think he’s one of the best and most emotive vocalists in black metal today. Is this as good as Microcosmos? No, but it’s damn good in its own way and if you’re a fan of the band or atmospheric black metal you should check it out.

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