Review: Drudkh – Eternal Turn of the Wheel

Another year, another Drudkh album. It’s something we’ve come to expect from a band that’s pumped out 9 full length albums in the past decade. Their last release, Handful of Stars, was pretty universally denounced as their weakest album to date, and perhaps there is something to be said for the fact that they skipped over 2011 without a new one. Eternal Turn of the Wheel makes a clear shift away from the direction they had been heading in, returning to a style more in keeping with their earlier releases.

Breath of Cold Black Soil

The question is what they gained from that transition. The sound is certainly in touch atmospherically with the old vibe fans have been clamoring for a return to. If you’ve been following Drudkh from the get-go, there is definitely something refreshing about this one. I am instinctively inclined to engage it, whereas Handful of Stars kind of lost me and I never gave it the proper listening time a Drudkh album deserves.

But that’s not to say they’ve gotten better, nor that they were getting progressively worse before. Drudkh have always had their ups and downs. When you come close to releasing an album every year for a decade, it’s bound to happen. It’s difficult as a fan to even keep up with them. If the music doesn’t strike me pretty readily I put it off for a bit, and by the time I do get around to it the next release is already in the mail.

Eternal Turn of the Wheel will gain some attention because it presents at the surface what people have been looking for for a while now. I think if Drudkh had, alternatively, stuck to the same general sound all along, this one would be pretty readily forgotten.

Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-Haired Stars

Beneath the surface, it’s just a little lacking in creative song writing. It’s quite nice by the standard of average atmospheric black metal, but from Drudkh I tend to expect a little bit more. On Swan Road and Blood in Our Wells especially they managed to merge this sound with absolutely superb song writing, and the latter was the selling point that really projected them from just another Ukrainian black metal band to legends of the genre.

I think the Microcosmos haters heard a stylistic watershed and immediately cashed in their opinions. The shift didn’t phase me at the time, because I think the song writing that really propels them was present in full form. The further changes on Handful of Stars were a bit more of an immediate turn-off, but I’ll venture to make the potentially bogus claim that the song-writing, not the style, ultimately accounts for my having never given it a good and thorough listen.

I’d argue that the song-writing on Eternal Turn of the Wheel is really not appreciably better, but in returning to an old school Drudkh sound they at least compelled me to leave it on repeat for a day. Don’t expect any of the tracks to overwhelm you the way Eternity or Solitude do, or Ars Poetica for that matter. It’s pretty cut-and-dry, generic Drudkh, and it’s crucially lacking any sort of subtle Ukrainian folk undertone. I would be lying if I pretended to not appreciate their return to black metal, but all in all this album is nothing special… at least by Drudkh standards. It will still rightfully go down as one of the better releases of 2012.