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Drudkh – Eternal Turn of the Wheel

Either Drudkh suffer from a serious case of stylistic ADD, or they’re in the midst of the most elaborate meta-joke in black metal history. Since the Ukrainian quartet don’t grant press photos or interviews, we’re gonna go with the former. Still, the fact remains that with each record, the mystery men have wavered between atmospheric black metal, dreamy post-rock, and even traditional folk. And so it goes, another year, another comment by Rush Limbaugh that will force a collective facepalm from conservatives nationwide, another NCAA men’s basketball tournament that begins with everyone rooting for the Cinderella teams but inevitably ends with either North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, or Connecticut cutting down the nets, and another Drudkh album that varies wildly from its predecessor. It’s an event you can practically set your calendar to, like the changing of the seasons the band so passionately champions.

This time, the joke’s on us, as Eternal Turn of the Wheel not only directly references the seasonal ebb and flow through its four main songs’ subtexts labeled as different months, but it also grabs a title from the band’s debut, Forgotten Legends. It’s an appropriate bit of self-reference given the shift back from the dreamy Alcest-isms of A Handful of Stars to straight black metal. Which means blast beats, and a lot of ’em. Weird ones, too. Vlad’s time-shifting stick work on “When Gods Leave Their Golden Halls” fulfills the quiet evolution his drumming has been undergoing since early discography highlight’s The Swan Road. It’s the kind of slow burn to full blossom not seen since Aaron Harris’ commanding role on Isis’ In the Absence of Truth, subtle double bass fills, muscular cymbal battery and all.

Which isn’t to say the rest of the band isn’t in fine form, either. If critical opinion dictates Drudkh have been in a slump the past few years (they have), Turn sees them bring back the passion, the intensity, the metal we (read: I) have missed since 2007’s excellent Estrangement. While there aren’t any flashy guitar solos to air-shred along to, this thing’s about 90% out-and-out viciousness, as the nine solid minutes of continuous riffage on the first song proper, “Breath of Black Cold Soil”, so emphatically proves. If you’re of the camp who thinks Drudkh’s elongated take on the genre has been boring from the get-go, Turn won’t do much to change your mind. But if you were a fan and lost your way somewhere along the trail, you’re liable to be nudged back on track after “Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-haired Stars” ends its undulating bass dirge (its audible again!) with alternating gnashing/pretty riffing that’ll make you bypass wishing for the good ol’ days to feeling like they never left.

— Greg Majewski

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