Monday, January 17

Drudkh - Handful Of Stars

Handful Of Stars


Although I was (regrettably) born here in the United States, my ancestry is comprised solely of Slavonic origins, making it rather unsurprising that I feel quite a strong and rooted connection to the music of Ukraine's (no, there is no "the" before the country's namesake, despite popular, mistaken belief) Drudkh.  My first exposure to the magic of this enigmatic group of Slavic musicians came in the form of their second (and often hailed greatest), album - Autumn Aurora - which was amidst the summer of 2004, if my memory serves me well; the overall aesthetic, atmosphere and beauty of the recording took me quite by the throat then (when I was, admittedly, not as seasoned in black metal as I am now), being right up there with the likes Ulver's Bergtatt and Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss.  It was an astounding journey into a hazy, burning autumnal fantasia where the plentiful woes of humanly existence, if only momentarily, faded into oblivion; after six years or so, despite having a few minor dips, we find that Drudkh are still as potent and moving as they were then, as is elegantly showcased on their latest effort, Handful Of Stars.

A lone, desolate piano introduces the album in a most solemn fashion, readying the listener for the melancholic, impressionistic wave of black metal that is about to wash over them; indeed, this is Drudkh through-and-through.  Atmospherically, as the album title may imply, we're introduced to a slightly more cosmic, stark and cold aura than, say, we heard on their earlier recordings; it is almost delicate and, in comparison to Estrangement or even Blood In Our Wells, rather mellow as well.  The presence of clean guitars is more prominent than ever before, and the melodic sensibility is a bit more refined and streamlined than we have had previously from the band, adding a new dimension to the "Drudkh sound," if you will; overall, it is a very successful venture that does not compromise the band's character or tone.  I do not feel mentioning particular songs to be necessary here, for the album clearly functions as a whole; each song is as a movement, similar to any classical piece, thus only meeting its full potential within its full context.  Oh, and yes, the few guitar solos have never been as sublime, articulate and well-arranged as they are here on Handful Of Stars.

I would also like to make a quick mention of the album's artwork, done by none other than Fursy Teyssier (of Amesoeurs and Les Discrets fame); it is quite captivating, portraying imagery that is more than compatible with its audible counterpart.  The ship traversing the stars is especially gorgeous, reminding me that hardcopy listening is still the most whole and natural listening experience one can have, as opposed to downloaded, digital material.

It is, again, of no surprise that I adore and love Handful Of Stars wholeheartedly; it possesses a kind of spiritual yearning that I experience perpetually and daily, reminding me that there are others filled with similar notions of alienation and longing.   This album, overall, is a fine example of metal - and, more specifically, black metal - becoming the template for art rather than entertainment; the purpose and intent here is far greater than the stupidity of headbanging or the pomposity of virtuoso musicianship, being instead a beautiful, bold and genuine statement from one of Ukraine's absolute best.

9 // 10

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1 comment:

The Protagonist said...

Though I don't quite share your aesthetics for this sort of music, this is a fine review.