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Rating:
8.3
Drudkh - Пригорща Зірок (Handful Of Stars)
20 September 2010


01. Cold Landscapes
02. Downfall Of The Epoch
03. Towards The Light
04. Twilight Aureole
05. The Day Will Come
06. Listening To The Silence


How much are we, fans, willing to forgive our favourite bands? Or, in other words, how much change do we allow our favourite bands before we say "no"? Do we accept that some bands need or want to develop their sound, push forward their musical boundaries, or do we stand fast and demand that our beloved bands stick to the style we loved them for in the first place? Do we have the "right" to criticise albums because the band changed their style and it's not to our liking? Or should we muster our objectivity and listen without prejudice?

All those questions came to my mind while I was treating myself to Handful of Stars. The vintage sound of Drudkh is basically dead and gone. That irreplaceable, overwhelming, unique atmosphere that puts the listener deep within a forest somewhere towards the end of autumn, just when the first licks of winter slowly steal colour from the trees and the last rays of sun from the sky. That's how Drudkh's music always felt to me. Alas, not anymore. The new sound is completely mellowed out, the guitars are basically undistorted, and what they play can hardly be called riffs. The bass guitar has detached itself from the guitars and is now a separate entity. Even the drumming seems oddly delicate, as if the drummer stopped hitting the skins and started caressing them. Atmospheric black metal has turned into some form of post-black (but only due to vocals), post-rock, dulcet, sorrowful droning. Simply put, one of the most surprising 180-degree turns this year.

I guess I managed to trick some of the readers into thinking that I regard Handful of Stars as a bad album. This is as far from the truth as possible. The songs still manage to keep my attention despite being (as usual) repetitive and simplistic. The new atmosphere of Drudkh's music, however distant from what fans are used to, is engaging, convincing and plain cool to listen to. The first song, "Downfall Of The Epoch" ranks easily among the absolute best songs that Drudkh have ever recorded. I'm sure that if it was given the production of Autumn Aurora, it would easily fit into that classic release. The recurring guitar motif is so wonderful, that the listener can't help humming it. The aforementioned standalone bass guitar beautifully highlights the motif, making it even more memorable. The quirky drumming does not lag behind, it complements the song. It is long, simple and based on repeating patterns, but it never becomes monotonous. It sucks the listener in and leaves him craving more. The same can be said about the remaining songs when it comes to the general idea behind them. They're not as great, as the opener, but they stand on their own and don't disappoint. Guitar chords ebb and flow, the drumming soothes instead of disturbing, the bass lulls and seduces. Even the vocals, while still quite extreme, somehow manage to fit in and underline the music.

If this review seems a bit torn in two to you, dear reader, it's good, because it reflects the mind of the reviewer. I'm disappointed that Drudkh have turned away from what I loved them the most for, because deep inside I probably wanted to hear another Forgotten Legends. But, simultaneously, I'm amazed by this band's ability to create truly enchanting music, be it in the spirit of black metal or not, hell, be it metal or not even. Depending on the answers you gave to the questions I asked in the first paragraph, you will or will not agree with me.

Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8


Band profile: Drudkh
Album: Пригорща Зірок (Handful Of Stars)


 


written by Daniell | 31.10.2010



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!J.O.O.E.! - 31.10.2010 at 21:02  
Though I can't speak for all the issue for me is not that they changed their sound but the sound they changed into is a very poor, very dull rendition of a number of bands who've been doing it for many years, most of which are doing it way better (the shoegazing post-punkiness of A Place To Bury Strangers any one?). As I said before they've tried to infiltrate the popular post-punk wave (not post-rock, not an ounce of that on this tbh Daniel as far as I can detect) that's so en vogue at the moment, which was more or less made popular by Alcest who've been doing the post-punk/black metal hybrid for a while now.

Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade, and this is unfortunately a very average spade; a very "nice" and "pleasant" record but a million miles from the unprecedented wonder of the first two albums. Seems to be quite popular with a number of people though but I'm guessing they haven't heard an awful lot of music of this type really, not to sound patronising or anything. And the vocals REALLY do not fit the tone of the style they play now. It's weird, and not in a good way, and belongs in an industrial band or something coarser. I could throw ketchup on my cornflakes; it would be original but it wouldn't taste nice

I should probably add I had absolutely no expectations with this record, in fact I haven't really been into Drudkh since they released Swan Road so my feelings on this are as objective as one can reasonably be.

Anyway, that's my couple of pennies on a very divisive record.
vezzy - 31.10.2010 at 21:17  
Exactly. In my mind, this album isn't pushing forward the boundaries, but rather quite the opposite, a devolution, if you will.
S.K.Ø.M - 31.10.2010 at 21:31  
I still cant get into it, I try to lsn more to it but its not catchy as their previous ones. I keep hearing critics praise it and try to give it a second chance and not that much changed.

but as you said, still good record though, but not to be released under Drudkh legacy. And its really nice review.
Mikyz - 01.11.2010 at 08:38  
Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 31.10.2010 at 21:02

Though I can't speak for all the issue for me is not that they changed their sound but the sound they changed into is a very poor, very dull rendition of a number of bands who've been doing it for many years, most of which are doing it way better (the shoegazing post-punkiness of A Place To Bury Strangers any one?). As I said before they've tried to infiltrate the popular post-punk wave (not post-rock, not an ounce of that on this tbh Daniel as far as I can detect) that's so en vogue at the moment, which was more or less made popular by Alcest who've been doing the post-punk/black metal hybrid for a while now.

Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade, and this is unfortunately a very average spade; a very "nice" and "pleasant" record but a million miles from the unprecedented wonder of the first two albums. Seems to be quite popular with a number of people though but I'm guessing they haven't heard an awful lot of music of this type really, not to sound patronising or anything. And the vocals REALLY do not fit the tone of the style they play now. It's weird, and not in a good way, and belongs in an industrial band or something coarser. I could throw ketchup on my cornflakes; it would be original but it wouldn't taste nice

I should probably add I had absolutely no expectations with this record, in fact I haven't really been into Drudkh since they released Swan Road so my feelings on this are as objective as one can reasonably be.

Anyway, that's my couple of pennies on a very divisive record.


I second that. The album is not only weak, but Drudkh try to much to completely merge black metal and post-rock/punk resulting in an album lacking emotional qualities, with the production not helping at all. I'd rather listen to Alcest or Les Discrets who successfully convene their feelings over this any day.
Daniell - 01.11.2010 at 10:11  
Judging by what you guys say, I think it'd be best if this album was released under a different name. The weight of expectations is just too immense. Now I know your answers to questions asked in the first paragraph
Collin - 01.11.2010 at 10:19  
Having never listened to Drudkh before, I enjoy this album qui te a bit, especially the contemplative mood that flows throughout. In terms of post-black stuff, I like this much more than Alcest for instance. The only thing is, I seem to enjoy it slightly less with every listen as if the album was a bit shallower than it appears at first. Maybe I just overplayed it. I'll see what I really think of it in a few months.
Daniell - 01.11.2010 at 10:37  
Written by Collin on 01.11.2010 at 10:19

The only thing is, I seem to enjoy it slightly less with every listen as if the album was a bit shallower than it appears at first.


I have the same thing. I was thinking about a higher mark a few weeks ago. Who knows, maybe I will regret my ranking in a few months
vezzy - 01.11.2010 at 10:46  
Written by Daniell on 01.11.2010 at 10:11

Judging by what you guys say, I think it'd be best if this album was released under a different name. The weight of expectations is just too immense. Now I know your answers to questions asked in the first paragraph


Yep, as always, every problem related to the quality of an album can easily be solved by switching the band name.
Daniell - 01.11.2010 at 11:50  
Haha, it actually makes sense.
vezzy - 01.11.2010 at 12:01  
Written by Daniell on 01.11.2010 at 11:50

Haha, it actually makes sense.


No it doesn't. Radical shift in style, but also mediocre by itself. If you assigned it by a different name, it'd only fit the latter.

Point is if an album is below average but by a group praised for this previous efforts, a simple name change won't help how people view it. It'd most likely be ignored.
!J.O.O.E.! - 01.11.2010 at 12:49  
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The inverse is also a true: crap retagged as something else would still be crap It has nothing to do with the nature of your opening paragraph, in fact quite the opposite in my opinion: the only thing giving this record any push or notoriety is the name. Take that away and a record such as this would be swept away by the stream of such artists into obscurity because there are innumerable better artists of this sound. It's a common argument, usually employed in Metallica reviews and threads but it's definitely the case here.
vezzy - 01.11.2010 at 12:52  
To be honest, the opening paragraph sounds like it'd be perfect as the beginning of some elitist awareness PSA, or something of the sort.
Daniell - 01.11.2010 at 13:02  
Written by vezzy on 01.11.2010 at 12:52

To be honest, the opening paragraph sounds like it'd be perfect as the beginning of some elitist awareness PSA, or something of the sort.


Which I noticed while writing, hence all sentences are questions to avoid them being statements with an attitude.
Mikyz - 01.11.2010 at 15:17  
The only reason we're even arguing is because it's a Drudkh album. I think your aim in the first paragraph is to convince us that tackling an album with crazy expectations encourages biased opinions. In fact, your probably right, but this doesn't apply to this album because after all A Handful of Stars is a feeble attempt at a pseudo-black metal album. It's disappointing really, which is a feeling that can only be expressed through the means of previous experiences with the band.

I think that they had to at least try to change their sound, but now that they did (and failed) I sincerely hope that they'll be going back to their old ways.
!J.O.O.E.! - 01.11.2010 at 18:23  
Written by Mikyz on 01.11.2010 at 15:17

I think your aim in the first paragraph is to convince us that tackling an album with crazy expectations encourages biased opinions. In fact, your probably right,

The fatal flaw with that argument though with a band like Drudkh is that it also applies to the reverse, to a fair extent at least. Drudkh are often seen as an infallible entity who can do no wrong so naturally there's going to be an amount of blind fanboyism, even despite the average quality of the record. People love their bands, even when they do get it wrong; the kind of "if Drudkh does it, it must be good" mentality, as if it's an excuse for lazy songwriting and lack of originality. I suspect that, eventually, this record will be lost to the annals of time.
BitterCOld - 01.11.2010 at 18:31  
I'll still check it out - at the very least the reviews and comments make it out to be a radical shift, which is more appealing to me than the bad continuing to put out albums which are pale comparisons to the band's earlier work.
Daniell - 01.11.2010 at 19:17  
Written by BitterCOld on 01.11.2010 at 18:31

I'll still check it out - at the very least the reviews and comments make it out to be a radical shift, which is more appealing to me than the bad continuing to put out albums which are pale comparisons to the band's earlier work.


This is probably why I welcome radical shifts from bands I like, as opposed to dismissing them out of hand.
Merchant of Doom - 03.11.2010 at 13:47  
"Songs" are too long and sound the same (jangly guitars are awful) and I hate the f*cking vocals! Apart from that , average, i.e. disappointing...
Mindheist - 15.11.2010 at 18:57  
They say, if you really love something , once it vanishes, you escape into daydreams of masterly insights that constantly hurl you back to your proudest moments that link you with that something you love. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's extremely hard for us to criticise albums coming from our favorites bands and it takes a hell of courage to do that. For instance, take Drudkh's Autumn Aurora, it's a flawless record that continues to "dulcify" whatever comes out from this legendary band. That is to say, no matter what Ukraine's black metal giants produce, no matter how crappy it is, Autumn Aurora will be always there for the rescue. But not in Handful Of Stars' case, because, just like Daniell, I think that 2003 and 2004 masterpieces are casting a shadow over this record. I completely agree with the reviewer, I couldn't have written it any better. This album is good, and despite what some members say, I don't think it's anywhere near averageness, I think it's decent and I would've given it the same rating as Daniell did. What's the point of worshipping a band that delivers the same plain wave of sound in every single album? Yeah I agree, it's not a masterpiece but it's worth listening to. Nice review.
Yugosaki - 07.02.2011 at 18:18  
This album is for me awsome....... i really enyoy it !!!! perfect!!!!!
Slayer666 - 07.02.2011 at 22:07  
Well, shit, I think it's pretty good. It's not Autumn Aurora or Blood In Our Wells, but a very solid effort nonetheless. Towards The Light has one of Drudkh's very best riffs, I could listen to that riff alone for 10 minutes.
This album leaves me wondering about what will they do next... Maybe another Songs of Grief and Solitude?
Marcus - 02.03.2011 at 11:07  
I dunno what the problem is, I really dig it. Plus it seems like the post-whatever plus black metal comparison has been taken a little too far.
Troy Killjoy - 02.03.2011 at 16:43  
Ya I have no qualms with the "new style". It's definitely less boundary-pushing, but at the end of the day, every band that progresses in nature has to "stagnate" eventually.

As much as I love Amon Amarth, not many people rag on them for re-making the same album for 10 years. But if Drudkh just remade variations of Autumn Aurora, surely people would call them out for not pushing the envelope.

Maybe it's a black metal stigma: once you separate yourself from the generic crap, your fans instantly expect you to push the envelope for the rest of time. There's only so much creativity a mind has in my opinion.
!J.O.O.E.! - 03.03.2011 at 14:46  
Written by Troy Killjoy on 02.03.2011 at 16:43

Ya I have no qualms with the "new style". It's definitely less boundary-pushing, but at the end of the day, every band that progresses in nature has to "stagnate" eventually.

As much as I love Amon Amarth, not many people rag on them for re-making the same album for 10 years. But if Drudkh just remade variations of Autumn Aurora, surely people would call them out for not pushing the envelope.

Maybe it's a black metal stigma: once you separate yourself from the generic crap, your fans instantly expect you to push the envelope for the rest of time. There's only so much creativity a mind has in my opinion.

My issue with this album is that black metallers don't seem to realise how generic it is, to them it's a new twist to the black metal style, to me it's pandering to a very old, uninteresting style that's been squeezed of its relevant artistic value and become a process of sticking as closely as possible to an established style that, for once, is not their own.

There's always a large amount of verisimilitude when it comes to black metal, fans know what they want and what to expect, and for me this record is like making a serious World War II documentary where the solidiers frequently break out into song and dance. It's trying to appeal to its black metal fanbase but in all reality it belongs in the pages of the NME / generic indie music magazine listener. When they released this record they should have changed their name to The Drudkhs in my Hopinion.

It's still not a bad record though, but not one I will ever listen to again in all likelihood. If they want to build on this sound and inject it with something new then I'm all up for that.
Troy Killjoy - 25.05.2012 at 00:01  
Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 03.03.2011 at 14:46

My issue with this album is that black metallers don't seem to realise how generic it is, to them it's a new twist to the black metal style, to me it's pandering to a very old, uninteresting style that's been squeezed of its relevant artistic value and become a process of sticking as closely as possible to an established style that, for once, is not their own.

There's always a large amount of verisimilitude when it comes to black metal, fans know what they want and what to expect, and for me this record is like making a serious World War II documentary where the solidiers frequently break out into song and dance. It's trying to appeal to its black metal fanbase but in all reality it belongs in the pages of the NME / generic indie music magazine listener. When they released this record they should have changed their name to The Drudkhs in my Hopinion.

It's still not a bad record though, but not one I will ever listen to again in all likelihood. If they want to build on this sound and inject it with something new then I'm all up for that.

I stumbled upon this now and realized I never responded, but just wanted you to know that I agree with everything you said here.
Melilac - 09.03.2013 at 12:34  
I can't really understand all this change of style talk. And the reason is I started to listen Drudkh from that albom. First Drudkh. And then went on back in time. Not like most of the drudkhian folk. Then came back to post a comment. There was NO change of style at all. Drudkh had slowly developed towards that one during their many previous alboms. And that means using their old riffs, old sound, with minor variations. And that seems unimaginative and untalented even when you start from this albom. But no great change, just another "Turn of Wheel" style abuse of old tunes.

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