The time certainly seems ripe for a new Drudkh album. The band’s homeland of Ukraine is engulfed in civil war. Vladimir Putin is sending gangs of wild-eyed Russian ultra-nationalists to win back Eastern Ukrainian territories for Mother Russia while claiming, through fits of giggling and smirking, no official responsibility. The government in Kiev wants to strengthen ties with the West, while Russia wants a do-over on the Cold War. What’s a gang of secretive Ukrainian nationalist black metalers to do? Drop another slab of droning, hypnotic black metal that screeches the praises of ancient Slavic culture and the glory of the Ukrainian countryside, that’s what. Indeed, maybe that’s exactly what old Putin needs. Imagine the look on his strange, blank, oddly waxy face when he sees footage of corpse painted black metalers wearing Renaissance faire costumes and riding horses, charging into the front lines of Eastern Ukraine. If that does not scare the piss out of him then he really is a hard-ass. Of course, Putin has no shortage of his own demented ultra-nationalist back metal hordes lurking around the streets of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, just waiting for their own horses and capes to be issued. Imagine Fareed Zakaria or Wolf Blitzer trying to explain that type of international incident on CNN.
Hopefully it will not come to that. For now, Drudkh seem content to offer another predicable yet satisfying slab of black metal. Those who have been following Drudkh for many years raised a few appreciative eyebrows when they released A Handful of Stars back in 2010. It added a bit more melody and texture to the droning, thumping wall of sound that Drudkh had been recording for years. With A Furrow Cut Short Drudkh seems to have mostly rid the nuance from their system and returned to what they do best: straight-forward, Burzum inspired black metal. Drudkh’s songs are fairly long and they like to lock into a particular grove and pummel the listener into submission. Just as the listener’s eyes are starting to glaze over and a drool is starting to accumulate at the corners of his or her mouth, Drudkh will make a subtle shift in tempo or bring in some just barely audible backing vocals, causing a well-earned sense of emotional release. It is a simple trick, one that they have been practicing for years, but it is an effective one. Other than slightly cleaner production than past work, it is difficult to distinguish the tracks on A Furrow Cut Short from many of their earlier records. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends upon how into early-’90s black metal you are. Drudkh lack the texture and beauty of Panopticon, or the Lovecraftian lunacy of Deathspell Omega, but they do work a particular vein of the subgenre, and they do it well.
Drudkh are famous for their reclusiveness, refusing to tour and give interviews. We do know that they retain several members of the rather notorious, now defunct, neo-Nazi black metal band Hate Forest. Drudkh have, in a casual and ambivalent way, tried to distance themselves from their National Socialist Black Metal past, but this association still leaves some feeling a little uncomfortable. Ever since the Ukrainian mess and the annexation of Crimea began, Putin has been accusing the government in Kiev of being Nazis. Could it be that Putin is pointing out the associations between the Ukrainian black metal scene and neo-Nazism? Is this entire affair really a proxy war between the left wing and right wing factions of the Slavic black metal scene? I can’t say for sure, but A Furrow Cut Short is a reminder that while many things change, others stay more ornless the same.