In Drudkh terms three years is a long time to wait between albums (though maybe we can forgive them, having released a split with Winterfylleth last year.) And for the Ukrainian nationalists, a lot has happened in their country in the intervening years between Eternal Turn of the Wheel and A Furrow Cut Short with the Crimean crisis and the ongoing civil unrest. It’s not out of the realms of possibility then to see their slight change in style as being influenced by current events – their tenth album in addition to being their longest at almost an hour is their most aggressive to date – aggressive but as always atmospheric and beautiful.
After the post-rock experiments of Microcosmos and A Handful of Stars the aforementioned Eternal Turn of the Wheel saw Drudkh go back to their roots, their atmospheric black metal driven by powerful melodies, while still retaining the folky interludes. A Furrow Cut Short definitely continues in the same way from the moment it kicks off with Cursed Sons I, diving straight into their typical melodic wall of guitar sound with blistering melodies and tinny lo-fi drums while Thurios’ screams and growls are more aggressive than they’ve ever been, giving it all with the sound of anger pent up too long. The array of riffs on this song alone make the album one of the better I’ve heard all year, from beautiful tremolo picked melodies to chugged power chords and beautiful whirlwinds of sound, it’s nine minutes of what can only be described as devastating beauty. Yes, Drudkh have never been the heaviest or the darkest band in the world and they aren’t here either, but some of those lower chugged sections are denser, darker and more moody than they’ve ever been before – it’s devesating not in being crushing but in the power and emotion behind the music.
The best track here by far is To the Epoch of Unbowed Poets, the gorgeous guitar melody running throughout the track is so grandiose and beautiful it’s hard not to fall in love with the track, the way it evolves and twists between blistering pace and slower chuggier sections, yet keeps running back to the same memorable riff makes it one of the best pieces in their whole discography. Embers is a more moody, brooding piece with subtle keyboards along the slow barrelling riffage accentuating their new sound, yet still letting sweeping grandiose melodies wash through at points. Dishonour II is one of the more sombre tracks in their catalogue with slow, mournful riffs, while the closer Till Foreign Ground Shall Cover Eyes is perhaps the most typical Drudkh song here with the wistful atmosphere generated by the lush wall of guitars.
It doesn’t take long to realise that they’ve all but completely done away with certain aspects of the sound – there are no folky acoustic interludes to break up the album and no sweeping solos as particularly pronounced on Estrangement. No, this one is almost a full hour of black metal, but so well crafted one doesn’t miss these idiosyncrasies. With the subtle keyboard layers on Cursed Sons II, the aforementioned tinny blastbeats, the gorgeous guitar melodies of To the Epoch of Unbowed Poets and the snarling vocals, this is the Drudkh we all know and love – just with darker tendencies and as much of a point to prove as they’ve ever had at any point in their career. It doesn’t completely revolutionise Drudkh’s sound, but the changes they have made keep their music fresh, and when it’s as grandiose and captivating as this it’s as vital as anything they’ve released yet – and my personal album of the year so far.