Review Summary: An anomaly in Drudkh's discography that had the potential to be memorable, but instead falls far short due to inconsistent songwriting and a tiresome atmosphere.
While not a complete departure into the unknown, Handful Of Stars
is an album that precariously straddles the line between the Drudkh that has released such albums as Autumn Aurora
and Blood In Our Wells
and another entity that demands progression in the band’s sound. What adds to the confusion is a lack of proficiency in writing the kind of easy-going riffs that carry the brunt of the album’s weight, bearing the prevalence of the throaty howls and the subtle plucking of the bass. The laid-back approach to Handful Of Stars
is dominant, however; resonant tremolo-picked riffs are the norm, sliding up and down the fret board with little care or cause, yet they seem humbly restrained from going anywhere too technical, an aspect reserved to the handful of guitar solos that litter the album. It’s an interesting piece of musicianship that screams mediocrity, all the while securing the focus of your mind with startling efficiency.
The complete abandonment of the Eastern-European folk aspects to Drudkh’s music, interesting due to both its bluntness and impact on Drudkh’s sound, is a bold move; those familiar with the Ukrainian song titles and heavy incorporations of folk music will undoubtedly be surprised by the change. It could be that the band is maturing, looking elsewhere for inspiration away from their core sound that has served them well since Forgotten Legends
. When it all comes down to it, though, the concept of Handful Of Stars
seems too thin to be able to cover the forty-minute run of the album, and even after repeated listens this remains true. The riffs have the tendency to wallow around far longer than they should, and the relatively simplistic drumming adds to the plodding boredom that is only broken by the occasional rolling fill or atmospheric guitar solo. While Roman Blagih’s vocals are indeed strong, with his unique delivery breaking numerous moments of monotony, they can’t save a completely uninspired instrumental performance from dragging the album down farther than it ought to.
Even if the plodding riffs were meant to be recycled over and over through a song, and assuming the intention was to create a hypnotizing atmosphere that combines repeated simple melodies with a strong atmosphere, everything still adds up to an album that could be summed up in one or two songs, not six. The enjoyable qualities of “The Day Will Come” are overshadowed by the oppressive stagnation contained in “Downfall Of The Epoch” and “Towards The Light”. The acoustic breaks that are scattered about do serve well in adding a small sense of variance to the album, but after the first few tracks everything becomes a blur; riffs meld together into a cycle of repeated notes slowly strumming away as the disappointingly hidden bass guitar wallows around in riffs that barely resemble the prominent qualities it enjoyed in past releases.
It’s frustrating that Drudkh let such potential wash away. Handful Of Stars
could have been an amazingly refreshing album that proves that the band can draw from whatever influences they wish and still write a good record. Instead, the nods at post-metal fall short of greatness, leaving a broken and confused album in its wake. Some people may relish its simplicity and uncaring nature, but the lost potential is something that simply cannot be ignored. The sorrowful guitar solo of “The Day Will Come” shows what has been lost; as the few short notes that comprise its body wail along, it makes you think that if the entire album had been like this, Drudkh would have struck gold. Instead, the solo fades away into the same brand of riff that has dominated the soundscapes of Handful Of Stars
for what seems like an eternity.