A few years ago, nobody had heard of these now undisputed masters of atmospheric Black Metal. With ties to bands holding shady political platforms, they spun their art mainly for the underground. Earlier this year, DRUDKH's shot at glory was finally to come, when they were picked up by the French label Season Of Mist. Soon the previously very mysterious group had an official MySpace-page, and disclaimers were released denying all connections to the right-wing scene. For any other underground Black Metal band this might have been a death-sentence, but with the brilliant "Microcosmos" ranking as one of 2009's best releases, DRUDKH proved that they are alive and well. The first of their earlier classics to get the re-release-treatment is 2004's iconic "Autumn Aurora", which still stands as their finest hour.
Aside from some beautifully updated cover art, Season Of Mist haven't changed anything from the original release. One could chalk this down to a effortless way to make money from old work, but as anyone who's ever heard "Autumn Aurora" before will know, any changes could only detract from the experience. From the mellow acoustic opener "Fading", we are brought to the timeless vast Ukrainian forests, where nature can be both enchanting and unforgiving. The nostalgic and mournful epics have become a trademark of the band, and rarely have they reached such power as in "Wind Of The Night Forests". Like a wall of sound washing over you, DRUDKH stirs at something primal, an untouched longing for a connection with nature that's long lost in today's modern world.
Even though they are far removed from a "hippie"-band, DRUDKH has influenced countless of such groups, including enviromentalist poster-boys WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM. Almost singlehandedly, Roman Saenko and his lads have brought the blood and soil-aesthetic into Black Metal, without the dubious stance that often accompanies such endeavors. Acoustic guitars add a certain tenderness, while the production is perfect in its earthy primitive, yet carefully tailored mix. Audiophiles might shake their heads at the fuzzy sound, but in the context of such a back to the roots blend of music, it provides the perfect canvas. Their art is subtle and grandiose at the same time, with every song serving as an anthem to their motherland and to the spectacles of nature.
The raw emotion woven into every chord makes "Autumn Aurora" one of the finest Black Metal releases of the decade, breaking out of the genre limitations and straying on its own path. DRUDKH presents the primal sound of nature in such a majestic way that it's difficult not to be moved, and this remains one of their greatest achievements so far. If you're new to the band, this makes an excellent starting point, and if not you should already be familiar its resonating greatness. Either way, the album is essential listening, and today it's still the crowning achievement of eastern-European Black Metal.
(Online February 13, 2010)