Drudkh return to their darker days with gusty ‘The Eternal Turn of the Wheel’

You probably think you have a lot to do. You have to go to your job or school or both, pay the bills, fulfill some tedious social obligations, do laundry, make meals, and eventually find some way to squeeze in rest. It’s a lot to do, and everyone really feels for you. It’s all pretty silly, right? We have things to do. That kind of constitutes life, does it not? So we go about our day and do what’s ahead of us and start again tomorrow.

Things like that make me wonder how the dudes in Drudkh get anything done. Surely the Ukrainian black metal band members have their own responsibilities around the house and in their everyday lives, but on top of that, they also hold down their main project as well as a bunch of side bands. And they do it pretty damn well. Blood of Kingu have delivered two strong records, and the band’s latest offshoot Old Silver Key combined them with Alcest leader Neige for a spacious post-rock surprise that resulted in “Tales of Wanderings,” one of Meat Mead Metal’s top 40 albums of 2011. Then again, considering the band members never reveal their real names, don’t provide photos, have no official web site, and never perform live, that likely gives them more ability to focus on the matter at hand, creating stimulating music. Perhaps the secrecy and isolation from the rest of the world is their key to being so prolific.

The band’s new record “The Eternal Turn of the Wheel” is their ninth full-length offering since 2003. That’s a lot of music in a small amount of time. I feel like every time I turn around there’s new Drudkh music, and they’ve yet to let me down. I know some folks weren’t wild about 2010’s “Handful of Stars” because it was softer and a little more post-rock than metal. But I liked it, and it sort of served as a breather from a monstrous catalog that often was thorny and convulsive. It also seemed to pave the way for Old Silver Key and what they accomplished with that band. Their new one delves deeper into their past, sounding more like some of their heavier earlier work, but they still leave room for some lush atmospherics and gazey wonder.

Obviously we’re giving you the English translation for the band’s album and song titles, as they’re formally named in their native tongue, and you won’t be able to cull a hell of a lot from the lyrics unless you speak their language. But the band – Thurios (vocals/keys), Roman Saenko (guitars/bass), Vlad (drums/keys) and Krechet (bass/keys) – can move you with their music and help you feel an emotional connection that way. Their songs, that typically are drawn from Ukrainian poetry and are inspired by nature and history, are spacious and take deep breaths of air. Their music is heavy and quaking, but not really violent. You don’t get a sense of anger or hatred from what they do, and instead, you sort of feel alive and invigorated by their sound. It’s pretty unique for a black metal band to accomplish that.

The five cuts will please those who like their Drudkh more forceful and aggressive, and they tell a tale of a calendar year being born and progressing into the dead of winter. After a quick intro “Eternal Circle,” that gets winds whipping through your hair, they launch into “Breath of Cold Black Soil (March),” that blows open from the start with growling vocals, enrapturing melodies, and woodsy synth that keeps one foot in the forest. “When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls (August)” sounds just like what you’d think from reading its title. It has a battle-of-the-heavens sort of feel to it, like it’s transcending earthly bounds for a plane of existence once only can imagine. It has a dreamy underbelly, but on top is a full assault of forceful vocals, adventurous black metal and even some hints of folk. “Farewell to Autumn’s Sorrowful Birds (October)” also reveals itself in its title, as the song is crushing but mournful, with winds whipping back up and the guitar work travelling on those gusts. Only when the crow calls do you know this trail is at its end and the cold air is about to arrive. Closer “Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-Haired Stars (December)” is the strangest of the group, with an off-kilter melody holding the piece together, proggy melodies and gothic keys playing their part, and the vocals sound like they’re reaching out into the night for some sense of warmth. It’s an odd song that demands the longest adjustment, but the more I hear it, the more I understand what’s going on inside.

I’m sure by the time I post this review, there probably will be more Drudkh-related music awaiting me in my inbox, and I’ll digest it happily. So let’s wrap this before it happens. I loved “Handful of Stars” and “Microcosmos,” both of which started to show new shades of the band, but I welcome this return to times when “Autumn Aurora” and “Swan Road” still were new in our psyches. I’m always surprised and pleased by Drudkh’s output, and certainly “The Eternal Turn of the Wheel” is no exception. This band remains one of metal’s most consistent and active bands, and I doubt that’ll change any time soon.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/drudkhofficial

To buy “The Eternal Turn of the Wheel,” go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en/items/drudkh/eternal-turn-of-the-wheel/cd/30174

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/