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Drudkh - Autumn Aurora - 95%

ThrashManiacAYD, August 25th, 2009

To accompany my review of the recent Drudkh release "Microcosmos" I have taken onboard the opportunity to pass judgment on an older album of the bands'. Choosing my favourite is extremely difficult; despite clear stylistic similarities running between every Drudkh release (with possible exception to 2006's acoustic "Songs Of Grief & Solitude") they each possess a slightly different feel, a variance in their palette of colours used in the construction of such poignant, emotional music. Alas I have plumped for "Autumn Aurora" - "Blood In Our Wells" could equally have been chosen however such is the scale of greatness that Drudkh have frequently touched.

As I have touched on so frequently, an album's cover is intrinsically important to the overall view of the music contained within. For those who shamelessly download only you will never know the feeling of holding a CD, or better still a vinyl if you're cool like me, in which you can almost wring the sweat of devotion and passion out of it. You're missing out. "Autumn Aurora"'s cover is no different, setting the scene for a free-spirited ride through Drudkh's interpretation of nature, paganism/heathenism and Ukranian/Slavonic history, often told through the lyrics of Ukranian poets past and present. Stark, moribund and simple, it is infinitely better than any recent garish CGI nightmare so many bands insist on using.

If this cover had a sound, surely it would be opening track "Fading". The sound of birds and nature sit peacefully against an acoustic guitar, making you the listener feel miles from anywhere even when amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday city life. Drudkh may ultimately be labelled a 'black metal' band for wont of a better description but the likes of "Summoning The Rain", "Glare Of Autumn" and "Wind Of The Night Forests" are too graceful to be tagged alongside the hordes of corpse-painted faux-Satanic worshippers. The classic rock solo midway through "Wind Of The Night Forests" contrasts with the thin and distant rhythm guitars strumming diligently throughout it's 10 minutes, thus serving as a great metaphor for the size of what Drudkh do; without seemingly trying they have become a band that convey feelings about a life almost their entire fanbase would not know of, and in some respects could only dream of. This is done through a fairly simple song structure, high on reverb and patient in approach but with such overwhelming charm the boundless fields of Ukraine seem but a mile from me here in concrete north London.

Though quietly evident throughout, the use of keyboard-led atmosphere comes to the fore in 9-minute closer "The First Snow". Recalling the fantastic dark ambient influence in early- and mid-era Burzum, the grainy production invites you to forget everything you previously knew about black metal - it is, and can be, this beautiful. Coming from someone who has never caught the bug of 'symphonic black metal', I personally feel this is the level at which keys/synth work best in the genre. Despite being 'softer' sounding than what you might get in Dimmu Borgir, the comparative atmospheres generated need no comparison; useful when about the only thing anyone can agree on with regards to how BM 'should' sound is that atmosphere of one description or another is absolutely vital.

"The First Snow" finishes with the sound of cold winds, closing this chapter that started at the end of summer and has taken us through the dwindling sunshine of the autumn to the onset of Eastern European's horrendous winters. Drudkh and their stylistically similar bands are not for the attention deficit generation who need their music to spill it's load within 30 seconds of pressing play (or clicking 'download album'). Have some patience and expand your mind to accept an album like this because as much as anything else, it will tell of your attitude towards music in general, not just extreme metal at it's finest.

Originally written for Rockfreaks.net.