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You've gotta be fucking kidding me - 20%

Noktorn, May 27th, 2011

It's my job to clue you all in: Drudkh sucks. More to the point, Drudkh has ALWAYS sucked, and even their oldest material is no exception. I know there's plenty of people out there who think Drudkh's a shitty band but make some weird exception for 'Autumn Aurora' as if anything different from the project's dozen other boring albums actually occurs, but that's a totally bullshit claim. Drudkh really hasn't developed an iota since their first album because they really don't need to; they've learned that all they have to do to make money is put an appropriate amount of delay on their guitars, play generic Slavic folk melodies, and repeat themselves over and over again and you people will buy it because you have no standards.

Then again, I'm really coming to this late to the game- I've certainly thought Drudkh suck for several years now, but no one's REALLY given a shit about them since 'Estrangement' came out and disappointed everyone for reasons I don't really understand. It was kind of funny to see, actually- Drudkh was at the top of the world of atmospheric black metal for a couple years, and then seemingly instantly no one gave a shit anymore. I wonder why- maybe it's that their music was never great and essential like people said, but just transitory, flashy, and ultimately meaningless? No, of course not- they have lots of pictures of trees on their album covers! We're dealing with a modern, sensitive black metal here, folks, the kind that thinks Mayhem is kind of yucky and blast beats should only be used ironically or in conjunction with major key riffs.

My essential problem with Drudkh, which comes out more on this album than perhaps any other, is that they have no true personality of their own. 'Autumn Aurora' is quite literally nothing more than a shameless rehashing of 'Filosofem' with half the taste and twice the overwrought folk riffs and gleaming backing synths. The band makes no attempt to hide the fact that 'Filosofem' is the only point of reference: the guitar tone is an exact replication of Varg's, the vocals occupy a similar position in the music, and the perpetual repetition of simple melodic themes are all verging on plagiarism. The difference between Drudkh and Burzum is that Varg had an essential grasp of melody, of how to slowly develop a song over the course of a track- in actuality, Burzum isn't nearly as starkly repetitive as Drudkh is. On the other hand, the Ukrainians just slog through the same melodic fragments over and over again with little to no variation. In the pursuit of aping Burzum, Drudkh come out with the exact OPPOSITE of everything Burzum managed to achieve.

What are there, like five riffs on this album? Okay, maybe that's harsh, but I would say there's more than fifteen at a stretch, and even that's a really liberal estimate. Fifteen riffs over forty minutes means that each riff is getting almost three full minutes of playtime. This isn't necessarily a problem- I enjoy a lot of droning, minimal black metal- but the riffs are so fucking boring, simplistic, and cliche-ridden that I can barely stomach them. They're all listlessly strummed arrangements of Ukrainian folk melodies which have absolutely no drive or motion behind them because there's zero emphasis put on any sort of variation within them. Constructing riffs in an ambient manner can work, but the thing is that you have to add small variations, little elements that pile up and eventually take you to a very different musical place. Drudkh never does this- a track starts in one place and won't even take a single fucking step outside that tiny box it starts in. There's no sense of development or motion to this music, just an endlessly repeated and horribly generic 'atmosphere' that anyone could create with the same tools.

There's some really boring acoustic guitar work sprinkled throughout this record as well as some hilarious cock-rock solos, but neither of them do anything. Like the backing synths, they seem there just to maintain the illusion that there's more going on than there actually is. Everything on this album has reverb, delay, and distortion piled onto it to try and create a wall of sound that appears thicker than it actually does, but peel away the effects and you see how amateurish it really is. I think the vocals are a great example: they're just there. Someone is distantly screeching in the background, and it has absolutely no relevance to the music. They're so quiet you can just ignore them when they appear, used so sparingly that the album is borderline instrumental, and employed in such an arbitrary way that they don't even feasibly punctuate any major moments in the songs. Like the acoustic guitars and synths, they're only there to project an image, not to add anything to the music.

All this being said, I'm not going to avoid giving credit where it's due: the drumming is the sole bright spot on what's an otherwise incredibly boring album. Yuriy Sinitsky has a drumming style that's unobtrusive but still lush and creative, adding a lot of rhythmic dimension to otherwise static guitars and vocals. The way he plays with hi-hats and bass drums feels much more jazzy than conventionally black metal, but he weaves these unusual elements into the texture of the music with ease. I'd really like to hear more of this guy drumming- here's hoping he's involved with some projects of his own in the future. His work here is oddly more remarkable than most of what he's done with Lucifugum or other big name Ukrainian artists- I'd like to hear him bring some more of this style out, perhaps on an album he has more creative control in.

Of course, drumming isn't going to save a shit album, and it certainly doesn't here. Drudkh is one of the ultimate emperor with no clothes bands for me; their shtick is entirely transparent and relies on people with no critical thinking skills (or no familiarity with Burzum) appreciating them. I haven't heard a single Drudkh releases that deserves anything more than a $2 price tag in a bargain bin, and even this, their 'greatest' album, is no different. Please, force the black metal scene to have some standards and don't listen to shit like this. You're only making it worse when you do.