For its split with fellow folk-metallers Winterfylleth, Drudkh leans on one of the punkest conceits for a release of this kind: the cover album. Only instead of covering each other’s songs, the two choose from a pantheon of extreme metal’s greatest, a process simultaneously freeing and constricting, with results that show it.
For its half, Drudkh chooses hits by Sacrilegium, Hefeystos and Unclean. Releases of this kind are always interesting, because they demonstrate both a band’s influences and how those touchstones become warped into a new, and hopefully unique, aesthetic. This is a classic idea in punk, where allegiance to the forefathers of specific musical styles can be incredibly important. Drudkh follow this concept to a point. “Recidivus” and “W Krainie Drzew” feel like standard-issue atmospheric black metal, with a bit of hardcore punch and stomp thrown into the former. However, Drudkh being masters in that style, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and the keyboards on each cut help to elevate this material into something a bit more ethereal. It just feels less distinctive than it should. Winterfylleth’s version of “The Gates”, an old Hate Forest song, follows this pattern as well.
“Ten Ktery Se Vyhyba Svetlu” proves to be the exception. Originally by Unclean, Drudkh add booming timpani rolls and a plodding tempo to operatic effect. Acoustic guitars pick out the melody under frontman Thurios’s screeches, and the chug of distortion is offset but droning synths. For the slowest song of the bunch, it’s probably the most exciting.
The three Drudkh tracks on the split are included on a compilation EP, Eastern Frontier in Flames, which also collects tracks from earlier, out-of-print releases. Among these are covers of (once again) Sacrilegium and Master’s Hammer, as well as two originals. Of the bunch, “Tam Gdzie Gasnie Dzien” is probably the best, with see-sawing riffs, guttural shrieks and a seriously rocking pan-flute duet. It feels like the clearest approximation of what makes Drudkh, as a band, work: melody, tradition and noise intertwined. If only the rest of the songs, so bent on just one part of that equation, could be so clearly thrilling.