Ukrainian pagan/black metal band Drudkh is well-known and respected within the global extreme metal scene. Now their productivity isn’t so prolific, four years have passed, and finally we deserved their newest opus All Belong to the Night (or “Всі належать ночі” in their native language), twelfth full-length album in their discography. Released on 11th November by unchanging Season of Mist (this label collaborates with Drudkh for fourteen years), this album offers an incredible emotional maturity and natural flawlessness amidst prolonged russian aggression against Ukraine.
Drudkh was founded twenty years ago, uniting two black metal enthusiasts – Roman Saenko and Thurios (before in Hate Forest) are in the band from the first days, but Krechet and Vlad joined them four years after. So without any further ado we just can admit, this line-up is really stable and cohesive, united by the same artistic ideas – love of nature, fondness for poetry and local folklore. Through disastrous and desperate perspectives there’s always some kind of hope, some bright spark of light in the thickset of dense forest; something promising and reassuring, even in the darkest of times. And it doesn’t matter how raw they play in their devastating fury or how painfully beautiful they present their creativity, even during the most aggressive and bestial parts this epitome of melancholy still lingers.
Drudkh were always on friendly terms with long and minimalistic songs, from the first days the love for meditative patterns and atmospheric background have seized their minds. There was a period when these Ukrainian blacksters veered into post-rock/shoegaze direction (that they fully implemented with the side project Old Silver Key with French singer Neige from Alcest). Drudkh also tried to experiment with ambient and dungeon synth, as well as refined their sound with progressive elements. It seems like now they found themselves in atmospheric black metal’s domain, slightly touched by pagan magic and epic serenity. All Belong to the Night is pretty self-focused and independent record; it is mesmerizingly soothing and reflectively languid, and despite all that, it’s absolutely impossible to listen to it in the background. This album steals your attention, enticing you in the spiritual depths with tranquil passion and devilish sangfroid. Strange cathartic feeling, when the opposite emotions transform into absolute harmony.
Four songs with similar mood and tempo lazily flow through 45 minutes, exposing frailty of black metal’s toughness, once again showing the energy of ambivalent duality. When dark and light can coexist at the same moment and in a perfect alliance. The music itself is raw and primitive – one or a couple of simple riffs during the entire composition, but this crudeness doesn’t show their simplistic mind or boring obsolescence, on the contrary, it’s like smart primitivism, predictably elusive. Sometimes the repetitive monotonousness and minimalistic mood nearly leads into trancelike state, carrying away all the extraneous noise. And even if you are not capable to catch the Ukrainian lyrics (written by Ukrainian poets Yakiv Savchenko and Antin Pavluk in the first half of the 20th century), it still hits you with dramatic and expressive sense of beauty. But the ragged roughness of this Slavonic language darkens the mood.
Even on the latest Drudkh’s album we can still hear the echoes of their post-rock’s experiments, especially traceable during the last composition “Till we become the Haze”. The aura of this song is excruciatingly melancholic, making it the most melodic on this record. “Windmills” is close to depressive black metal’s conception, absolutely lacking improvisational mood. And the chant-like singing of their vocalist Thurios imbues with significant occult or religious vibes. The opening track “The Nocturnal One” surprises with faint dark jazz elements, filling the droning monochromatic sound with sublime elegance. “November” screams with subdued aggression, coloring atmospheric drabness with emotional blast. And the folk side is just everywhere and nowhere, the pagan atmosphere is obscurely seductive; it is so deeply ingrained into Drudkh’s music that became the mirrored part of it. But generally All Belong to the Night is very holistic; the songs are connected through similar invisible patterns, slowly and confidently streaming their dark and mysterious messages. And it’s not about politics; there were times, when too many rumors about their connection with NS made a mess of things for them. Their reputation is now relatively clean, but when the russian aggression against Ukraine has bloomed in 2022, Drudkh didn’t change their musical concept. But still, we can feel their struggles through their dismal music, their defiance and their support for the bleeding heart of their country.
The linear artwork in gloomy tones also symbolically emphasizes the desperation vs. distant hope principle, reminiscent of domestic warmth and deprivation at the same time. Drudkh have managed to display a lot of controversial emotions on their latest album, proving that aesthetic brittleness can easily complement the stark brutality. And despite all the drab rigidness and unvaried fluidity, All Belong to the Night doesn’t lack catchiness and is consonant with the images of the political and social world of the 21st century.
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