Drudkh’s eighth full length album “A Handful of Stars” was easily the most dividing metal album of 2010. The album sees Drudkh substitute their dense, earthy black metal riffs for crisp, clean post metal riffs. Some considered it to be an obvious sign that band had sold out and was merely jumping on the post black metal bandwagon. Others thought the change in sound was a quantum leap forward, marking a significant and beautiful epoch in Drudkh’s career. I stand somewhere in between. The change in guitar tone is not significant to me either way—since I like both black and post metal riffs. The problem I have is that “A Handful of Stars” is not as original as it initially seems. Once one gets past the change in guitar tone, it is clear Drudkh has followed the same tired formula they have used repeatedly since “Blood in Our Wells”.
Like almost every Drudkh album, “A Handful of Stars” contains six tracks: forgettable intro and outro tracks plus four long, somewhat slow metal songs. As usual Thurios provides full throated, gnarling vocals. As usual, Drudkh load the album with very good melodies. As usual, the songs travel through long, heavy passages contrasted by shorter, clean passages. As usual, all the musicians contribute sharp, clean performances. As usual, there are some nice solos. In sum, Drudkh has released another quality album.
But that’s just the problem. We’ve all heard this album before, just with a different guitar tone. The members of Drudkh really aren’t challenging themselves. It’s easy to consistently do what you know you’re good at. Like one of those mystery writers who pumps out the same story over and over with just the subtlest of twists, Drudkh albums are becoming all too predictable. Drudkh are selling themselves and their fans short. This band has proven they can reach great heights. “Autumn Aurora” proved that black metal could be far more beautiful than anyone had ever imagined. “Blood in Our Wells” proves that nationalist metal can have depth, powerfully depicting of the resilient Ukrainian spirit, which has survived foreign invaders, genocide and famine.
What does “A Handful of Stars” prove? That if a band changes their guitar tone everyone will think (for better or worse) you’ve done something radical and new? It’s like eating spaghetti with pesto sauce for diner after eating spaghetti with tomato sauce five nights in a row. At first bite it tastes different, but after a few more bites you realize you’re eating the same damn thing again.
So Drudkh are stuck in a rut. Yes they write good music, and “A Handful of Stars” is no exception. The four metal tracks are all quality. But envision that the riffs are a little fuzzier and you will realize that you’re listening to the same old thing. You’ve heard these song structures before, you’ve heard these melodies before. It’s the same old Drudkh, and honestly that is becoming a problem.