Review Summary: Metal is meant to be an encompassing experience. And if it weren't for a few formulaic asides, "Eternal Turn of the Wheel" is as encompassing as any metal album this year is going to get.
If there’s anything more mysterious than the desolate, pencil-drawn cover of Drudkh’s new album, Eternal Turn of the Wheel
, it’s the band itself. The Ukranian folk black metal quartet has been around since 2003, and in nine years they have kept generally in the shadows by refusing press photography, not releasing lyrics for a majority of their albums, and---until forced by their label---not creating any sort of online presence for themselves. All of that added on top of the naturally estranging feel of the black metal genre itself, Drudkh is something of a conundrum.
Drudkh have dabbled in other genres as well, such as the droning atmospheres of post-rock on the previous Handful of Stars
album, via the likes of Alcest. And since that wasn’t consistent with their typical folk-y Burzum-inspired version of black metal, it acted as a sort of polarizing trip. Eternal Turn of the Wheel
, though, is something like a return to form as coarse black metal plays a strong role throughout, while the clean, sweeping gestures of post-rock find their way into the album now and again, to some fans dismay or delight.
Eternal Turn of the Wheel
feels like a very powerful album, even when compared to the popular Blood in Our Wells
release. Thurious’ vocals are thundering and full of endurance. As he belts out lines of poetry from nineteenth- and twentieth-century Ukranian poets there’s such command in the way he releases them, as if he takes a deep breath before each line to give it everything he’s got. In all reality, it’s beastly. And although some fans may miss it, the lack of static noise mixed with clean double bass and tremolo guitars only add to that power. It may not feel as gritty and unrefined as Wells
, but it’s no less potent.
The structure of this album feels well laid out. Even in the moments when the wall of noise reels back and becomes a plucking, steady beat, it only serves as a foil to the monstrous wave of force that the band returns with only shortly after. Even the short moody opener, “Eternal Circle,” plays its own crucial role in the makeup of the album. Not much feels thrown into the mix happenstance, rather, all of the elements come together as a necessary byproduct of a band doing what they feel they needed to do. On “Farewell to Autumn’s Sorrowful Birds,” there’s a place where the music suddenly stops and you hear nothing but a distant wind until it cascades back into a wave of roaring guitars, and moments like these are where you realize that the band’s focus is very much appreciated. It gives listeners a reason to nod their heads to the music, to tap their feet on the ground, and maybe even bang their heads until their long hair swirls around like a shaggy windmill. It's just that sort of album that envelops you.
Metal music---whether black, death, heavy, or otherwise---was always meant to pull listeners in to an overall experience. But some bands and artists are content with playing formulas. Especially with black metal, where every band is just trying to be more evil and gruesome than the last, formulas get old and tired. And while Eternal Turn of the Wheel
actually does fall into some formulaic reactions, the overall experience is an absorbing one. On the last song, "Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-Haired Stars," when a quick crow call leads directly into a boorish yell and a Marduk-level of deep riffage, Drudkh doesn't sound willing to ease their grip. That is---until the distant guitars begin to fade out to nothing but wintry winds and a bleak, cold atmosphere that sends chills down your spine.