Drudkh - They Often See Dreams About the Spring - (9/10)
Published on March 9, 2018
The warmth of the vernal equinox.
Out today is the 11th full-length release from the Ukraine’s own, Drudkh with an album titled They Often See Dreams About the Spring in English. Anyone unfamiliar with the band should note that they compose and perform a style that could be labelled as intelligent atmospheric black metal. Admittedly, I threw in the intelligent label because theirs is a style that is mature, one that will please their die-hard fans but also garner interest from any forward-thinking, open-minded fan of extreme music. Let it be known that any current Drudkh fan will not be disappointed for there is no wandering off into left field present. Drudkh have crafted an album that fits neatly into their discography but still blazes a trail all its own.
Upon pressing play, one is greeted by a melodic fast struming riff, desolate yet hopeful in feel. Like the album cover, the listener is standing in the door awaiting to depart upon the upcoming journey. After a few repetitions some heavily accented palm-muted chords ring out inviting a forward, driving drum pattern. Fans of their previous albums will note that the atmosphere is created more throughout the compositions instead of a linear, starting soft and ending harsh path. Also, the opening is more aggressive as is the entire album. The music is built carefully with simple passages stacked on each other, creating a large kaleidoscope of sound with varied colors. The listener can tune in and tune out the world getting lost in the melodies that each wind along different paths.
A unique aspect to this album is the function of rhythm. In some areas there are faster tempos with some blasting toward the end of the album; however, the pace is close to that of classic Bathory or Celtic Frost. The rhythm is the constant practically throughout instead of the typical, blast, double bass, breakdown, and repeat formula for many other bands. It’s as if the rhythm is the canvas upon which the melodies are painted in their myriad colors and atmospheres.
Instrumentally, the sound is nothing short of gargantuan. Drudkh is like the black metal version of Isis. The guitar has a warm, earthy, organic sound as chords ring through clearly yet the dirt, the soil of the chord is rooted in heaviness. When employing the tremolo picking typical of most black metal, the sound is never thin for Drudkh employ so many layers of guitar tracks. It is challenging yet rewarding to try and analyze their different paths while listening. The guitars use much more syncopation and palm muting for emphasis in parts. The drums maintain the natural feel throughout as they employ an analog classic sound. Thankfully, Drudkh avoid the horrendous, clicking, popcorn-in-the-microwave drum sound of many other black and death metal bands. The bass guitar is a constant audible companion during the recording, and it manages to peak through between the layers of instrumentation regularly with its edgy punch. There are some keyboards here and there for added atmosphere, but they are not relied upon to the extent other black metal bands use them. Vocally, things are standard fare with the singer providing steady vocal passages and not taking control of the song or overpowering parts with shrieks or screams.
They Often See Dreams About the Spring is a much more straight-forward album than some of the band’s back catalog. While they do not touch on the folk elements on this particular album, the band still manages to etch its own “Slavonic” mark upon their brand of black metal. There are no acoustic guitars, nor are there any elements of prog aside from the atmosphere created. The key word to this album is unequivocally feeling. Approaching the songs from a more traditional perspective allows the music ample space to breathe and develop the feelings the band want conveyed. Arpeggios are used with less diminished tones compared to standard black metal which gives a unique twist upon the chord structures built throughout. Thematically, the album is based upon the works of different Ukrainian poets, one of which, Maik Yohansen, was murdered in 1937 by the Soviets. Drudkh convey themes of aggression and even inspiration throughout the album, but ultimately, I found the themes of going on a journey and catharsis to champion the recording. The cathartic journey is one that is spiritually shared between the band and the listener. This is already one of the best albums so far this year.