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i got into Drudkh purely by chance. I knew a guy with money issues who was selling a load of cds, so i bought a load of them and Drudkh's 'Blood in our Wells' was one of them. I was hooked! Amazing record and it led me to buy all of their albums. Handful of Stars was probably the first new release i bought and it was somewhat disappointing.
This isn't a bad album as such, but it is a long way from the exceptionally high standards this band set with their first 4 albums. In theory this album isn't too different, long songs with a relatively good production, plenty of atmosphere from the minimalist riffing etc. But something is missing. Other reviewers have noted how this album has shifted from black metal to shoegaze. The change in riffing style takes a lot of power out of the songs. I've no idea what the lyrics are about but they sounded powerful on the black metal albums, on this it just sounds slightly out of place. This sounds more like Alcest and would probably work better with more laid back vocals.
I seriously can't differentiate between the tracks on here. Aside from a calm intro and outro tracks, the 4 main tracks here are indistinguishable from each other so any attempt of a track by track guide would be futile. If somoene played this album to me randomly i probably wouldn't even notice it was Drudkh, whereas an album such as 'Blood in our Wells' is immediately distinctive. The band has a familiar riffing style mixed in with Ukrainian folk influences which is truly unique. This album has a totally different approach to riffs (as mentioned above this is more like Alcest or even Les Discrets), the drumming is more restrained and the folk influences seem to have gone here too. Only the vocals remain familiar. I don't mind the more ethereal, shoegaze influenced black metal but this album lacks in both extremity and songwriting.
Simply put, the tracks sound too similar on this. Floaty riffs, harsh vocals, long drawn out instrumental passages. Repeat again for 4 tracks then a short last track. I certainly don't hate this album but it's not one i play regularly. Definitely have to be in the right mood for this. At least the album after was more of a return to black metal so all hope is not lost. If you're still curious about this album, just pick a track at random, the rest will sound the same.
Handful of Stars is the most underrated album by this Ukranian band. Many fans criticize it for being bland, uninteresting and a severe drop in quality. Whilst I can certainly agree that this album is far calmer and not as abrasive, I would however prefer to consider it more of a shift in gears rather than a drop in the quality of their musical output. It astounds me how so many people can criticize Drudkh for not altering their sound in anyway and when they do release an album that’s slightly different they proceed to grind it into the dust. Praise be to the internet trolls and their wildly inconsistent views on music.
The biggest criticism surrounding Handful of Stars is its apparently perceived similarity to infamous French band Alcest. I personally don’t see it. There’s no clean vocals, no twinkly melodies, nothing that actually sounds like Alcest. If anything it sounds more like Fen with the melding of dreamy atmospheric black metal with post rock. Sounds absolutely nothing like Alcest, please stop saying it does. It sounds like Drudkh first and foremost, only difference being the increased elements from post rock. The band has still retained their signature sound yet it comes wrapped in a lighter, much brighter package. The forest atmosphere is still present, it’s just not as melancholic.
So I think I’ve discussed enough how this doesn’t sound like Alcest and how it still sounds like Drudkh. How does the quality of the music hold up? It’s really quite excellent. The melodies are beautiful and powerfully atmospheric. There’s a good focus on the crescendo up to a climax that’s found in great amounts of post rock. The song structures themselves are good and well written. None of the songs ever meander around, the ideas fit comfortably into the song lengths. Some of the melodies are really beautiful such as the shoegaze inspired melody within The Day Will Come, it’s possibly the “least Drudkh” song on the album yet still sounds like them. It’s just a lot lighter, much more atmospherically bright than what they’ve put out in the past. It makes good use of the loud/quiet dynamics that has come to define any genre that has the post prefix applied. Of course it would be unfair to say that this isn’t at least influenced by Alcest, Drudkh focus on a much lighter, less aggressive style of black metal with Handful of Stars so the Alcest influence is apparent. However, whereas Alcest would often forego the black metal elements in favor of shoegaze, Drudkh still keep black metal the most important aspect of their sound. There’s just some extra added softer elements incorporated into their sound allowing Drudkh to reach new atmospheric heights.
But despite the obvious post rock influences, the only real change from their prior releases is just the lighter tone. Guitars have been cleared up a fair bit; they’re not as misty, much more bright and clear. I think it works really well with the melodies they are playing, creating some utterly ethereal soundscapes. It’s a good mix and one that has worked really well for this band. Drudkh have always been good on the atmosphere and Handful of Stars is no different. It’s a got a great forest atmosphere flowing within it, it’s not as melancholic and dark as how Drudkh sounded on previous albums. But atmospherically powerful it certainly is.
The criticism leveled at Handful of Stars is absurd; it’s actually a really good album that contains some astounding moments of beautiful post black metal. Sure, it’s a slight departure from Drudkh’s distinctive sound but they’ve worked really well with the new style. Another good addition to Drudkh’s discography.
Perhaps one could sense a bit of flirtation with a more openly melodic and post-rock influenced aesthetic on Microcosmos, but not in a million years would anyone have predicted the follow-up album would sound like this. Handful of Stars will definitely be, in retrospect, the sore thumb, the weird (some would say failed) experiment in Drudkh's discography, the oddball album. In that sense, I'm very grateful Drudkh did this; they have a tendency to recycle themselves quite a bit and there's a fine line between minimal, atmospheric genius and repeating three lazy Slavic BM riffs for ten minutes and Drudkh cross it constantly. This is a nice change of pace, and not only that's it's one of their more involved releases. For better or for worse, at least they shook things up and got people talking.
Come on now, would you really rather listen to their dorky folk music or one of their lazier albums than this? (It's not like that stuff isn't dotted around this album, anyways.) These riffs don't sound much different from past Drudkh material; the only real change is that their post-rock (more specifically, the modern french post-rock stuff like Les Discrets and Alcest) influence is much more apparent. I mean, come on, these guys recorded an album in collaboration with Neige shortly after this album's release; it's obvious that Saenko and company were hanging out with him and trading musical influences and whatnot, this wasn't some sort of bandwagon-hopping onto the recent trend of post-black metal as some have called it. They probably just felt like exploring newer sounds. I'm sure they took into consideration the sub-genre's recent popularity upswing, but something about this feels as though it's much more genuine.
The experiment improves upon Drudkh's sound in certain aspects; they build into riffs and bleed them out as opposed to just playing them repeatedly to generate a static atmosphere and the riffs are ever-so-slightly more detailed and textured, there's a good deal more to pay attention to. This is, of course, all for naught if you're not really a fan of the frenchie post-rock-cum-black-metal style present in the first place; fortunately, I am, so it works out for me just fine. There's still a few things that really get my goat about this album for me though; for one, why in the hell did they think it was a good idea to put the vocals so high in the fucking mix??? I mean, yeah, I guess they are somewhat emotive and occasionally work in certain sections because they have a distinct personality, but otherwise these vocals seriously grind against the music and often sound warbly and shakily delivered. Why not have vocals like these twist and dart around the edges of the album, barely louder than a whisper but traveling right to your core like they did on Autumn Aurora? God, that kind of production would have fit them perfectly.
It does draw attention away from realizing that the riffs, while certainly possessing a lot of novelty and a really smooth sound, don't vary a whole lot from song to song. The band may have leaned just a liiiitle too heavily on the gimmick in order to make up for a lack of ideas. Well, not entirely a lack of ideas- there's a lot of ideas on Handful of Stars, they're all just really similar. Perhaps that is a testament that Drudkh is still Drudkh, faults and all, and as much as I am am fan of the band they do tend to have a lack of variance within an album (aside from the acoustic folk interludes but does anyone actually like those or listen to the band exclusively for them?), it's just how Saenko always writes his music, his takes a couple textures and themes and gets everything he can out of them. The first three main tracks ("Downfall of the Epoch" through "Twilight Aureole") are all fairly similar, but the album's highlight is the closer, "The Day Will Come", which has a great Brave Murder Day vibe mixed with a modern black metal feel going on. My favorite tracks from these types of bands always seem to be the ones where they just play listless, hollow depressive rock-ish stuff.
This is not something I'd recommend to a traditional extreme metal fan- this is an experiment into a genre with a niche audience and I would recommend it heavily to people within that audience. This isn't nearly as bad as some people seem to think; however, it's not quite as good as it could have been, either.
After "Microcosmos" comes their eighth - "Handful Of Stars". The one, so undervalued; the one, so misunderstood in the circle of fans; the one, so hated by ones; the one, so beloved by others. Of course, some changes into the post-rock take the special place, but does such an outstanding music deserve that incomprehension. It's up to you, but I personally think that "Handful Of Stars" doesn't really yields to the previous opuses in any respects.
The first thing that arrests your attention is the softer sound. Also it became much less monotonous what has truly told on the music positively. Not that their music till the present time was worse, but just in that very case it sounds more suitable. By the way, after some changes they did not waste the utmost soulfulness and originality.
So, some people may hasten in their conclusion, if they compare Drudkh and Alcest. So, maybe, this album was made under the influence of Alcest, but really we don't have here anything adopted from the french shoegazers (their split-band Old Silver Key is an absolutely another matter, but, as for me, their album is not as crappy as one might say).
But if we're talking about some post-rock influences, so yes, there are many. But, as I said, that doesn't make "Handful Of Stars" a very bad album. The situation is quite the contrary. That's the evidence of their peculiar talent - even when they start to compose the music in the increasing tendency of playing the post-black subgenre, Drudkh do it in the expert way, also as original as earlier, and with acquainted notes from the past.
I like it, despite the certain retirement from the accustomed style to the newest tendencies. Post-black is not so bad, especially in the rendition of Drudkh.
To highlight: every track. They are captivating in their own way.
Drudkh. In the past, the band's very name has been one of mysterious enchantment, one of isolation, one of solitude. Drudkh has always stood out in the world of black metal as a band whose music contains some of the purest organic mixtures known to man. The band possesses the unique ability to harness all of the strong emotions of black metal and deliver them in a way that is both warm and comforting. If that isn't enough, Drudkh uses their music to explain how such a thing is possible. Surely, the same pain, loneliness, angst, desperation, hopelessness and estrangement (pun intended) lie within many other black metal albums, but the light in which Drudkh interprets these emotions in its material is unprecedented. While important musicans from the past have focused on the fact that feeling these emotions is an inevitability, Drudkh allows even the most shattered soul to take comfort in the fact that it's temporary; it allows one to realize that they can appreciate their own sorrows and misfortunes while still seeking to obtain hope for a warmer tomorrow. Perhaps this is the reason why their sound has never been successfully mimicked in even the slightest of ways. The echoing of Ukranian melodies -- which were all undeniably written straight from the heart -- has always been instantly discernable to the ears of anyone who has had the pleasure of reflecting on Drudkh's music. In fact, it may be impossible to casually listen to Drudkh. If not impossible, than it's at least perhaps insulting to the band.
Handful of Stars, in its structural sense, is very similar to all of its predecessors. As with Microcosmos, the quality of the recording leaves nothing to gripe about. To some, recent production experiments such as the snare drum on Estrangement stuck out like a sore thumb. To others, these imperfections are part of the reason why Drudkh's albums are so loveable. Regardless of personal opinions, most will agree that the production of Handful of Stars is right where it should be. "Downfall of the Epoch," the first of the four main tracks, gently eases the listener into the album. The bass line is just as easily recognizable as the twang of the guitars, which constantly ring out as new notes overlap. The drums are slow and steady, with brilliant fills standing out as the biggest element of variation. If you've ever heard a Drudkh album, you should know the routine by now. "Towards the Light" picks up the pacing slightly, with very subtle tremolo picking shyly hiding behind repeating chords. The double bass makes the heart beat faster as you wait for the ONE thing that will solidify Handful of Stars as yet another masterpiece... a 30 second guitar solo 7 minutes and 45 seconds into the song? Please, Roman Saenko, don't tease me like that. Matters just became personal. Don't ever fucking tease me like that again. Let's try this again with the next track, "Twilight Aureole." Wait a minute; it sounds like more of the same, this time with guitar soloing replaced by some out-of-place distortion effects placed yet again at the song's ending. Ironically, the next track is entitled "The Day Will Come." Will the day come again when we can all listen to a Drudkh album that doesn't sound as incomplete as this one? Sadly, that day is not today. About halfway through the album's "opus," comes the worst solo yet.
Before I start acting like the little boy from Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree with all the complaining I'm doing, allow me to sum things up. Handful of Stars has what would be three great lead-off tracks, two minutes of the usual intro/outro business, and an eighteen-minute-long "epic" with a little too much fluff. Musically, Handful of Stars lacks lengthier solos such as the one in "Only The Wind Remembers My Name," but yet it still gives off the feelings that are contained within their strongest releases. Have we really become so musically spoiled, that we're willing to deny an album of the brilliant qualities it possesses just because of a few missing pieces? Well I haven't...not yet anyway. While Handful of Stars may seem downright mediocre in comparison with their other albums, it's still a Drudkh release, through and through. Sure, we all know that the band is much better than this, but they've given us an album every single year since the beginning. Ultimately, I'm left in awe at how Drudkh's music is such an accurate portrayal of true human emotion, and Handful of Stars is no exception. So what if it may not be exciting enough to keep you awake... A mother's gentle lullaby isn't comforting because of its musical brilliance; it's comforting because of the familiarity that comes along with its loving delivery.
Originally written for MetalReview.com
It is not very easy for me to write this since I really adore Roman Saenko's former achievements. You know the feeling - that uneasiniess when it comes to saying negative words about something you like a lot.
To start with, I'll judge this album considering the other Drudkh albums. Maybe, if this is the first Drudkh you hear, you will like it. But if you're like me - someone who has a special feeling about complete masterpieces like 'Estrangement' or 'Blood in our wells' this comes like a slap in the face. Or more likely a wet piece of cloth coming slowly towords your face. Two main things suck about this release - the crappy production (really weak) and the lack of ideas combined with some experimental efforts that really do not work. I have no idea what Saenko hoped to achieve by combining post rock with something that used to be pure black metal with a soul but it is... far away from good.
The first track - the intro is in contrast with the other intros you have heard from Drudkh. Let me go a little back in time - you have 'False dawn' from Forgotten Legends, you have 'Fading' from Autumn Aurora, 'Nav' from Blood in our wells - intros that serve for their purpose - manage to make you feel for what is coming next and feel for the atmosphere of the albums. Whereas, this one is totally irrelevant.
The second track is a repetitive twelve minute song with a lack of a solo that makes you tremble - something so unusual for this band. No real anger, no contrasting emotions, even the screams sound polished. And by saying polished, I really mean polished - the whole album sounds if the drums are a distant, repetitive, powerless background.
However, some picks might be found - little soloes here and there but LITTLE and not anything to make you open your mouth with amazement - that happens so often when I listen 'Estrangement' and the first Drudkh classic and so obviously does not happen while "Handful of stars" is playing.
Again, I think that Drudh is a really, really good band - perhaps the best atmospheric black metal band but the 2010 release just don't posses the class of its forefathers. Maybe if you judge it seperately, like a post rock with black metal influences, not black metal with post rock influences than you'll love it..but it just does not do it for me.
Drudkh's previous album before this, Microcosmos, featured elements of progressive rock, and touches of all their earlier albums mixed with new additions, leading this reviewer to have the feeling that perhaps the next album would be a change in some way. It certainly was, but as other reviewers have placed it, it's in many ways a superficial change. Under the changes in production the Drudkh sound is still here, it's just a disconcerting change that first assaults the listeners ears resulting in a sense of dislocation.
The production is clear, one of the best that Drudkh has done so far. The guitar tone is what throws a lot of people off, as it is fairly clean, with perhaps a slight over drive on it. Underlying this clean almost Thousand Swords-esque guitar tone is a more distorted guitar that lays the groundwork, and then a bass that is quite active in the mix and in the overall songwriting. This use of bass has been growing since Estrangement so hopefully won't be a big surprise. I personally enjoy it, and the clangy folky sounding guitar. The drums are clear and powerful.
Within the songwriting we find two primary aspects, one is that the overarching songwriting is still very similar to older albums, slowly developing cyclical guitar riffs that build a mood. But here and there we find different riffs displaying an influence from post-rock/post-metal and from classic rock/metal. This is where I feel many fans feel somehow like Drudkh has betrayed them, which is interesting since everyone seemed to accept the insane solos of the past and other elements from non-bm sources, but now stripped of the monolithic guitar tones it feels a little more naked.
While I wouldn't go and say this is Drudkh's best album or anything, I feel fans should accept change, particularly when a band could have continued writing the same album over and over again, but decided to take the basic elements of their sound and mix in new ideas and new tones.
All the new aspects to the sound feature the same spirit and vibe of older Drudkh, but are given a new life with the post-rock guitars. The music is still emotional and filled with the folky natural spirit of their older music. Still contained on here is the touches of heathen mysteries and Earthen spirits, it's just given a slightly different wrapping.
Like all transitional albums however, this Drudkh album will be hotly contested by their fans. At first I hated it, but months later after revisiting it with an open mind I found myself drawn into the melancholic atmospheres contained on here. It's a grower, and often albums that grow on the listener and slowly reveal their mysteries are the far greater albums then those that are immediate. Personally I enjoy this album far more then the previous one with its sudden changes and odd experimentation, for this one feels more complete and of a whole piece, giving it more of a feeling of the older albums like Forgotten Legends (which is my personal favorite Drudkh album).
Listen with an open mind and if you still hate it, there's always the past to dwell upon. At least its not St. Anger.
Drudkh’s eighth full length album “A Handful of Stars” was easily the most dividing metal album of 2010. The album sees Drudkh substitute their dense, earthy black metal riffs for crisp, clean post metal riffs. Some considered it to be an obvious sign that band had sold out and was merely jumping on the post black metal bandwagon. Others thought the change in sound was a quantum leap forward, marking a significant and beautiful epoch in Drudkh’s career. I stand somewhere in between. The change in guitar tone is not significant to me either way—since I like both black and post metal riffs. The problem I have is that “A Handful of Stars” is not as original as it initially seems. Once one gets past the change in guitar tone, it is clear Drudkh has followed the same tired formula they have used repeatedly since “Blood in Our Wells”.
Like almost every Drudkh album, “A Handful of Stars” contains six tracks: forgettable intro and outro tracks plus four long, somewhat slow metal songs. As usual Thurios provides full throated, gnarling vocals. As usual, Drudkh load the album with very good melodies. As usual, the songs travel through long, heavy passages contrasted by shorter, clean passages. As usual, all the musicians contribute sharp, clean performances. As usual, there are some nice solos. In sum, Drudkh has released another quality album.
But that’s just the problem. We’ve all heard this album before, just with a different guitar tone. The members of Drudkh really aren’t challenging themselves. It’s easy to consistently do what you know you’re good at. Like one of those mystery writers who pumps out the same story over and over with just the subtlest of twists, Drudkh albums are becoming all too predictable. Drudkh are selling themselves and their fans short. This band has proven they can reach great heights. “Autumn Aurora” proved that black metal could be far more beautiful than anyone had ever imagined. “Blood in Our Wells” proves that nationalist metal can have depth, powerfully depicting of the resilient Ukrainian spirit, which has survived foreign invaders, genocide and famine.
What does “A Handful of Stars” prove? That if a band changes their guitar tone everyone will think (for better or worse) you’ve done something radical and new? It’s like eating spaghetti with pesto sauce for diner after eating spaghetti with tomato sauce five nights in a row. At first bite it tastes different, but after a few more bites you realize you’re eating the same damn thing again.
So Drudkh are stuck in a rut. Yes they write good music, and “A Handful of Stars” is no exception. The four metal tracks are all quality. But envision that the riffs are a little fuzzier and you will realize that you’re listening to the same old thing. You’ve heard these song structures before, you’ve heard these melodies before. It’s the same old Drudkh, and honestly that is becoming a problem.
(Originally Written http://listenwell-nocturnal.blogspot.com/)
After Microcosmos I didn`t really have high expectations when I saw Drudkh was releasing another album, especially not an album with a cheesy title like "A Handful of Stars". Microcosmos was to me dull and uninspiring, and their new post-rock approach is really not my cup of tea at all. When I look back at superb releases like Autumn Aurora and Blood in our Wells, I almost can`t believe how this band has changed. From an amazing band with brilliant atmospheric songs and memorable great riffs, and now this; A mediocre, boring band with some post-rock influences and even some prog elements.
"A Handful of Stars" starts off with a short piano intro, not unlike most of Drudk`s albums, but this one is particularly boring and in my opinion pretty pointless as it really does nothing to set the mood for what`s to come. The first real song on the album, "The Downfall of the Epoch", starts of slow with some jazzy drum beats, before it speeds up to a mid paced song with a few speed changes during the 12 minutes of the song. And while older Drudkh could make long songs with just a couple of riffs and create and amazing atmosphere, this album fails to do so, and I find myself bored instead. The riffs are not nearly as good as previous releases and this really destroys a lot of the magic Drudkh used to create.
The post-rock influences really becomes obvious in songs like "Towards the Light", where in the middle of the song there is a breakdown with only one guitar playing, and then the drums and bass kick in with this funky beat and ruins the whole fucking thing. It almost sounds like a Pain of Salvation song and this is not what I want when I`m listening to Drudkh. The guitars is not as distorted as before and the whole sound of the album is much softer, more grey than black, so to speak.
The rest of the album goes on in the same patterns, some dull, mediocre riffs over some light and sometimes slightly jazzed up drumming with the occasional breakdown. There is also an outro that`s just as boring and pointless as the intro. But it`s not ALL bad, the vocals is still like they`ve always been, there`s a couple of great guitar solos, especially at the end of "The Day Will Come", Which despite being stuffed with post-rock influences, is my favorite song on the album. So it`s not a terrible release, it`s just not Drudkh like we used to know them.
In the early years of the new millennium, the Ukrainian black metal band Drudkh made their first steps with the LP 'Forgotten Legends,' which while essentially a stylistic tribute to genre legend Burzum, is now considered by some aficionados to be a modern classic of black metal. As their music progressed, as did their sound; a folk influence could begin to be heard from the second album onwards, as well as some increasingly progressive approaches to their style. Seven years since the release of 'Forgotten Legends' now comes Drudkh's latest album to cap off the decade, 'Handful Of Stars.' Keeping in mind that Drudkh began as a much more straightforward black metal act, the scent of progress here is very strong, to the point where Drudkh's latest sounds very little like the grim and blistering sound of yesteryear. Now having finally adopted overt senses of post-rock and a little added polish to their mix, Drudkh's 'Handful Of Stars' will certainly alienate the black metal purists in their fanbase, but also opens them up to a new style, and a world of possibility for this metal group.
With 'Handful Of Stars,' Drudkh now sounds more alike Alcest, or fellow pagan-metal act Agalloch, than any pure black metal affair. However, despite this change, Drudkh has retained their melancholic, beautiful mood and flair. Although very different in terms of sound, the album structure here reminds me of their second album (and arguable defining masterpiece) 'Autumn Aurora,' beginning with a short intro before driving into the metal body of the album. After a pretty lulling and admittedly lackluster piano introduction to the album, 'Handful Of Stars' throws us the highlight right away; 'Downfall Of The Epoch.' Beginning as a very laid-back and surprisingly mellow piece of metal, the music does build gradually, before finally letting in the screamed vocals, which while not out of place in the sound, aren't particularly endearing or effective when contrasted to more dynamic growling elsewhere. From 'Downfall' onwards, each of the songs until the quiet outro generally follows a similar sound, using plenty of guitar harmonies, some use of repetition and a drawn out, yet fresh sound to the songwriting.
Of special note here is the incredible percussion work by the drummer listed only as Vlad. While many black metal drummers generally only focus on the ferocity of their blastbeats over anything else, the drumwork here is very intricate, always managing to put some very exquisite details into the performance, and at times playing very technical material even in the most mellow moments of 'Handful Of Stars.' Surprisingly enough however, nothing is ever overdone and it works perfectly.
While 'Downfall Of The Epoch' and the third track 'Towards The Light' are both excellent pieces of blackened post-metal, the album ends up feeling as if it drags on too long without throwing in enough musical ideas to warrant the length of the songs. This is a big development for Drudkh, but while they were masters of the nature-influenced black metal sound, they don't seem to have grasped enough of this new sound to compete with the masters of post-metal... yet.
Hmm, well- what to say about this album, Drudkh's 2010 "A Handful of Stars"? Should I mention the many great releases from Drudkh's past? Should I make reference to Hate Forest, a band with both similar members, and a similar sound? Should I refer to this year’s disappointing Blood of Kingu album? I don't know- what I do know is that I won't be making ANY reference to Alcest here. Well, maybe one....
We know what Drudkh do- long, repetitive, simple songs, sparse vocals, slow drumming. They have captured an intriguing essence of black metal; not the hateful, misanthropic aspects; nor the occult, orthodox elements. In fact, it’s rather hard to say just what Drudkh do capture, without resorting to flowery metaphors about seasons, winter, pagans and sorrow. This fact is made more prominent due to the use of Ukraine lyrics (a key trait of Drudkh, in my opinion). In fact, they could well be singing about ice-cream; it is the atmosphere of archaic mystery that grabs me with Drudkh, every time.
A Handful of Stars is a fantastic album; all the key Drudkh elements are present. The songs are long- the first 'real' track, track 2- Downfall of The Epoch clocks in at just over twelve minutes; and yet doesn't drag at all. The next three tracks are also lengthy, and also- they don't drag on. There is just enough variety in them to entice the listener (that being me) into spinning the album just one more time. And then another. And then...well, you get my point. The artwork is different to the usual 'landscape' style that Drudkh use; a crone, of sorts, reaching up to embrace what I will assume is a handful of star. The booklet contains various fairy-tale style, stallions and ships and some kind of kraken-like monster (I think....) Interestingly, the artwork was created by Fursy of Les Discrets, Alcest and Amesoeurs, amongst others. I personally prefer the standard 'photo-style' artwork of Drudkh, but this album is a slight change, and so a slight visual change is suitable.
Musically, it's obvious that Drudkh have progressed, sonically at least. The production on A Handful of Stars is a lot cleaner than any other Drudkh release, with a less fuzzy distorted guitar sound, cleaner drumming with an emphasis on compression, a less buried approach to the vocals and an excellent marriage between the bass and drums. Drudkh always impress with their use of prominent bass, as evidenced on their previous LP, Microcosmos. This time, we get a less 'twangy' bass sound, focusing more on smooth cushioning. It’s also nice to hear some blastbeats on Towards the Light, though Drudkh rely on weight more than speed, and rarely keep up any sort of fast pace at all.
The first track, Cold Landscapes; an intro; is a very dull instrumental; some mediocre piano riff that does very little besides setting a dubious mood. I find most intro's to Drudkh albums to be very pointless; this one takes the cake though. It’s utterly meaningless. In fact, it seems very out of place; I don't mind the folksy strumming stuff of previous albums, as they do at least fit into the general motif that Drudkh seek to convey. This "song" simply does nothing. Luckily it’s short, and can be overlooked.... Because, after that, we have the aforementioned Downfall of The Epoch, the second best track of this album. The simple repetition of a single, muted power chord works well in tandem with an overlayed melody and a "build-up" style of drumming, before evolving into a longer passage of several riffs. Vocally, a sense of true longing and nostalgia is captured; a sort of semi-apocalyptic anger, possibly enhanced by the tracks name. You do get a sense that something special is dying and that this death is worthy of extreme rage. And yet, the song itself is beautiful.
However- track four, Twilight Aureole is the highlight. A beautiful, subtle guitar melody, straight forward drumming, and some truly tormented and sorrow filled vocals bring to mind the rage of the natural world succumbing to the shitness that is modernity. Or something. There is a slightly clumsy stop-start/proggy style riff, which sort of annoyed me initially. I see it now as throwing the dynamic vocals into relief; light and shade, etc. An excellent song- possibly one of Drudkh's finest.
I don't imagine that those who dislike Drudkh will be won over by this album; this is a fan's album which perfectly fits into the band's catalogue, and offers little in the way of surprises. I can certainly see why people may label this as "post-rock/metal"; the production and subtle droning quality of the riffs do bring to mind bands like Isis or Jesu; I can also see why the album might be considered "boring" by some; the music isn't especially dynamic, and is very very very repetitive; to my mind, an attractive quality, but could be seen as a detractor. I can also see why people may insist that this isn't a black metal album; it’s not especially dark, nor is it raw, hateful, angry or dissonant. However, it IS black metal; atmospheric and evocative; and it IS a fantastic piece of art.
I have to take some points of due to the insipid intro and outro tracks, but overall, this has been one of my favourite albums of the last while, and (besides the new Deathspell Omega opus) one of the best albums of 2010.
How can one once so holy, fall so far from righteousness?(quoting Diablo II)
I knew this day would somehow come. The day that I would write off Drudkh. After having such a list of great, originally written albums, I knew that someday they would change into something completely different than they used to be. I just had this feeling. I think this all started because of a phenomenon I prefer to call the "Alcest-hype". I actually like the band Alcest, because I think it is one of the first band who added all the post-punk/shoegaze influences to mid-bpm depressive black metal, a more funkier played bass, which made it sound more "pop-like", and of course, no screaming vocals, or at least not many. This band has set the tone for me, because I had seen on MySpace that their formula attracted a lot of fans, lots of the females, and this proved for me that their music had become more accessible to "the grey capitalistic mass". I always believed that black metal never had any purpose such as attracting fans or making any big money out of it, so it had a great impact on me to see that even the music genre Black Metal had reached such a level of commerciality.
Sadly, also the once great Drudkh has given in to this phenomenon. Their formula of atmospheric black metal mixed with Slavonic folk worked, but doesn't last forever. It is on this album that they ran out of inspiration so badly that they had to turn into something completely different from their previous work in order to write something original again. This is what you get.
Their production has improved since the first album, and reached its peak I think, on Estrangement. As for most things: what goes up must go down. On this album, the production is completely overdone. For example, the drums sound totally computer edited. Especially the snare: it just sounds too perfect, it has no actual note in it as we were used to. I also hear a complete different way of playing, with ghost notes and even quite slow blasting parts. The drums now have a jazzy feeling, which I think doesn't fit with Drudkh.
As for the vocals: no complaints about that, but I have never heard them as clear as on this album. With the bass, things are even better. It keeps improving on every album, and I really can't state anything against how it is produced or anything. It's exactly how it's supposed to be, playing along with the chords with subtle variations from time to time, and with every album it is played slightly better.
The most important thing that saddened me were the guitars, actually. It was the production of the guitars which attracted me to Drudkh, because they used some distortion which made the guitars lines sound like a hazy distorted wall of sound (I later discovered it was Line 6 Insane). This made both Drudkh as well as the other projects in which Drudkh-members are involved sound very unique. On Handful of Stars however, there is no such thing. The guitars are only lightly distorted and the touching of the strings is well-articulated. This sound could even be used by any britpop band.
As for the music itself, what happened to the riffs? What is left of the Slavonic influences? Nothing, I say. Totally nothing. They changed into some post-punk related crap. There is no atmospheric black metal in the music left. Yes, they do have intermezzos, and yes, there are guitar solos and sure, there are clean parts, but the riffs just sound so empty, soulless, chewed-out and pretentiously sensitive. Like pop music mixed with Black Metal. Like, an Alcest album.
Drudkh, you've lost a fan.
Drudkh's album prior to this was pretty cool, a bit more of a rock influence, some proggy bits, perhaps a bit of post-rock added in even- not a positive or negative in itself, but it was smoothy integrated with Drudkh's fairly trademark big fuzzy walls of sound; ultimately it was a very satisfying listen. Is this album just a logical development on the sound of Microcosmos then? A failed experiment on turning up the rocky stuff to 11? I don't know, but one thing I can confidently say about this album is that it SUCKS.
There was some talk about how this sounded like Alcest and various other projects by sensitive frenchmen; I don't really think that's the case. We've effectively got some very, very tame alt rock- all jangly guitars, open strings a ringin', fairly light distortion- mixed with perhaps a bit of Brave Murder Day era Katatonia, except with none of the catchiness that such a combination would likely imply. Completely forgettable chord progressions (note i didn't call them riffs), the occaisonal pointless little guitar lead. It's not a good sound.
Yeah, I kinda wish that at least they'd rip off Alcest's fairly concise (based on Souvenirs anyway) songwriting for this. Drudkh have always been a fairly repetitive, long winded band but normally it's like Summoning's repetition- the amount of repeats is often fairly ridiculous, but the shit sounds good, so it's no biggy, you know? "Winds of the Night Forests" off Autumn Aurora was three or so riffs repeated for freakin' ages, but it worked because said riffs were rad. Here, the chord progressions are serious weaksauce, and thus things are really awful. Downfall of the Epoch is the worst offender, but all songs are overlong, tired snoozefests of the highest order. What not to do when you're writing shitty music? Repeat it lots of times!
This is just really bad! The songs are no good and said lack of goodness is compounded by repetition. A dreadful, really irritating listen; the only good bits being the fairly cool solo in "The Day Will Come" and the obvious DBZ influence on the cover art.
There are some bands that try something new, some that keep pumping out cookie-cutter replicas, and then there are bands that take elements from their experiences and expound on them in a fresh and interesting way. In that sense, I am talking about Drudkh. Every album has incorporated similar elements, while meandering through new territory with every release.
This album that we are presented with is a great album that has an almost post-rock feel; with very clean, yet powerful sounding guitars, massive basslines, and the standard Thurios growl. It doesn't surprise me when I listen to this, that there is an overbearing post-rock sound to this recording. I mean, perhaps I didn't expect this to be the direction the band would take, but I surely find that this is not a far cry from their previous works. I only came to this conclusion once I listened to this album a few times, and then subsequently compared it to parts of their back catalog.
Musically, the riffs and time signatures, the quirky drumming, harmonizing and sometimes noodling bass, machine gun fire vocals followed by many minutes of instrumentals, a higher and tinnier sounding guitar riff accompanied by a deeper and more full sounding one...It's all here, but presented in a new way.
This is one of those excellent qualities that I see from Drudkh. There are never really any completely different sounding albums, but they never sound the same. I see many similarities to their other works, but the guitar tone is much different. It is cleaner, and tighter, and the wall-of-sound induced reverb has been filtered out, leaving the skeleton of the beast. The good thing is, as with pre-historic skeletons of dinosaurs, piecing together the elements that form the faceless entity of Drudkh are easily realized. Melancholy, mesmerizing tremolos, and pace changes are rampant here, but nothing seems out of place or sloppy. In fact, the lack of tinny reverb or extremely heavy distortion to the guitars show just how well this band plays together, and how tight the musicianship.
This also gives the listener the ability to hear the small innuendos throughout their musical journeys that may have been more difficult to pinpoint in their earlier releases, be it production reasons, or a massively distorted sound. First of all, the drumming is extremely technical. There is very rarely just a simple mindless Ringo Starr type routine. There are interesting and help create an illusion dispelling the fact that there are only a handful of riffs per song, but are jumbled up and recycled in a very dream-inducing way. I can find myself falling into the different instruments of the band, falling into the harmonics of the bass guitar, or being thrashed with crashing of a multitude of cymbals. This is another fantastic journey for any Drudkh fan. Though this is not for everyone, and is a huge departure from the sound of Microcosmos, it is still all-in-all Drudkh, and even this clean and streamlined recording has moments of unabated beauty. I like this more and more every time I listen to it.
As was to be expected with their usual one-release-a-year schedule (2008 being the only exception so far), Drudkh calls their faithful to their knees and brings forth a new album, releasing it upon us as if it were a blessing. Too fanboyish? Yeah. Let's get this going.
At first sight the album presents some elements typical of our ukrainian friends; that is, a short ambient intro, four proper (and quite long) tracks and a short closer. This tells me what to expect, really, since anyone who knows their Drudkh well will know there are two tendencies that overall define their music: Their tendency to remain always the same at its core, while at the same time the tendency to introduce new and exciting elements with each record keeps things evolving and interesting. Let's now see if this album follows this guideline.
In this case, the intro consists of a soft piano piece, which is quite nice albeit not very remarkable. Once that's over the first proper song starts with a weird, almost irregular drum pattern (think of Nargaroth's Von Scherbengestalten Und Regenspaziergang. Not exactly like that, but just as weird) which is to be expected since drumming in this band has been getting more and more complex since day one, as more double-bass alternation and hi-hat-play get into the tapestry as the song progresses. They also sound more organic and not at all metallic like the ones in their previous album. Bass is quite prominent and well-thought, but it sounds softer and more drowned, unlike the almost slap-bassy feel of previous albums. This is not a problem, though, as the playful basslines succeed in offering not only alternate melodies for the listener to focus on, but also alternate tempos and accents for each compass.
Now how about those guitars? Their tone in this album is quite clear and less abrasive than its predecessor, closer to Estrangement in quality and crispiness than any other album, playing melancholic riffs with that low-note/high-note contrast they've been developing in the past few years. As a side note, there's some prominent chugging, which is not something I'm used to, Drudkh-wise.
The vocals were mixed in a very, very clear and upfront way. They feel sharper and neater than ever, as if one could, at times, almost hear the gargling at the back of Thurios' throat. I, of course, appreciate this. They're not overwhelming, though, as their volume is quite level.
The melodic styling and rhythm patterns seem to hint at both Estrangement and Autumn Aurora but in a heavier light, while clean/acoustic intermezzos not unlike on the previous album also hint at a Blood in Our Wells, as do the rocky moments, which makes this album noticeably heavier than its predecessor. As we'll see, it's the heavy/rock elements that will define this album more than anything else one would usually associate with black metal.
Moving on, the third track and second proper song starts with a very strange intro, for Drudkh anyway. It almost sounds like the song is about to become something out of an album by The Fall (or even something with which Neige would be involved), some squarish snare pattern underlining a simple chord progression. Of course this doesn't last much, since before we get comfortable, the first blast beats of the album kick in, awakening a distracted listener. These don't last long, though, and lead into a typically mid-paced, rock tingled song which could sit at home right in the middle of Blood in Our Wells (only missing a virtuoso solo and a happier feeling, since these melodies are quite gloomy).
The song develops into a droning repetitive riff with only drums varying from simple pounding snares and toms accenting the tempo as if they were battle drums to fluid and somewhat soft blast beats and regular midpaced drumming again.
As hinted, the whole album is very melancholic. Drudkh haven't sounded so sad since Autumn Aurora and have never been so epic about it. It's like, at times, they take melancholic daydreaming and in a moment's notice turn it into sorrowful and raw energy, only to lose strength and go back to quiet desolation. Very dynamic, indeed.
Now, about the new elements this album offers, it seems the band has been playing around with some effects in the studio, which is lovely and a welcome addition to the Drudkh formula. I hope they further develop this aspect of their music in the future.
As mentioned, there are some pretty nice if short clean moments, which serve as sporadic punctuation in a sea of distorted paragraphs. They're quite impressive, too, introducing moments in which any doubt about these musicians' skills come to a definitive end, as a display of soft and beautifully crafted melodies meddle with exceptional jazzy drumming.
There's more than that to this album, of course. Along the way we get treated to wonderful bits of musical experimentation previously unexplored, along with an expansion of previous sounds. Much like the solo at the end of track three, which combines the well known style of epicness distributed all along Blood In Our Wells with some simple and droning but extremely effective tremolo work, which is something I can't recall hearing since The Swan Road.
Track four and five further venture into experimentation with brand new elements, such as (what could be called) breakdowns, full stops amidst the distortion which caught me off guard and of course helped stir things a bit more, and a very tasteful and dramatic use of very dissonant riffing along with some FX-aided soloing. There's even some wah-wah, I think, but that just might have been my imagination going wild.
As I listen to this album and find so many elements from previous albums, I start noticing a pattern.
Lately, I feel, there's been a very strange if welcomed trend among some black metal bands (the very specific kind of black metal band which has evolved and improved greatly through time) in which their most recent albums represent a pretty great and thorough summary of their whole catalogue. Bands such as 1349, Burzum, Blut Aus Nord and now Drudkh are the prime examples. We can find elements which go as far back as Forgotten Legends and as recently as their previous album, all of them coexisting in perfect harmony and creating a brand new and quite wonderful creature. I can only hope this is not a final goodbye of sorts by these bands, although my romantic self cannot deny that it would be the perfect way to end any superb career such as the one this band holds.
The album ends with a short outro as has been Drudkh's trademark move (along with the short intro) for some time, which reminds me of "Fading - Summoning The Rain" off of Autumn Aurora but without the bird/wind/water samples.
All in all, this album is quite different from Microcosmos, while adopting elements from every previous album. As I said, Drudkh has been constantly changing and adding new elements to their sound while still remaining immediately recognizable with their trademark riffing and arrangements. This is more true than ever in this here album. It works perfectly as a follow up from Microcosmos, too, since both albums seemed to take care each of the two most prominent sides of the band's sound: Subtle and poetic aggression, and epic melancholy.
I even feel this album comes off as the counterpart of its predecessor. While Microcosmos had a much happier feeling to it, it was also of a very dark essence, much like the very forces of nature themselves. This album, on the other hand, carries a strong, almost terminal melancholic feel. This deceives the listener into assuming Drudkh was trying to portray utter hopelessness in their music. Oh but on the contrary, this album is all about hope. You see, while Microcosmos represented sunset, night, and seemingly evil (but actually beyond good and evil, as nature tends to be) power, this album represents sunrise, daylight, memories of yesterday gone awry contra positioning themselves against desire of a better tomorrow (as humans tend to be, more often than not). As they say, once you hit rock bottom, there's no way to go but up. And that, at least for me, is what this album represents.