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Drudkh - Forgotten Legends CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.15 | 17 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Forgotten Legends' - Drudkh (69/100)

Drudkh have achieved the ultimate feat of being distinctive in a landscape of soundalikes. I take no issue in saying they're infinitely better at conjuring a nature-based atmosphere than most of their contemporaries, but what really sells me on the band is the fact that they have a unique, independent voice in a genre that seldom encourages such things. Comparisons could be yielded - Burzum and Walknut come first to mind - but the fact remains that you can certainly tell whenever it's a Drudkh album you're listening to. All of this, despite the fact they've been bold enough to let their art evolve over the years.

While their true sound wouldn't fully emerge until Autumn Aurora the following year, Forgotten Legends still lends the impression that Drudkh came to their debut pre-equipped with a distinct character. The longwinded, minimalistic chord formations, the soft acoustic layers, even the mandatory forested cover; all of these are tamed aspects of atmospheric black metal since the peak era of Burzum, and still, Drudkh imprint their unique mark on the album's atmosphere.

All of that should lead to the natural assumption that Drudkh opened their career with a masterpiece. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I guess I might agree, but there's always been something about Forgotten Legends that made me feel like the overwhelming praise towards it was somehow overblown. Autumn Aurora is possibly the most enthralling purveyor of nature-bound atmosphere I've ever heard in black metal. The voice and talent for atmosphere are here, but the band's desire to stretch minimalism even past Burzum limits makes this album less captivating than it really should be.

Taking a look at the tracklisting alone should give a vague indicator as to the album's experience. Three long slabs of atmospheric black metal, with an ambient denouement to cap it off. Already, Drudkh are brandishing the obvious influence Burzum has had on their art. While I couldn't understand why that comparison was so often made when I first heard this album years ago, it's an effective way of tying the band in with the legacy that preceded them. The long, soaring riffs on Forgotten Legends are long, simple, and endlessly repeated. They carve sad melodies from the harmonies in their chord patterns. Hvis lyset tar oss was forged on a very similar structural basis, but Drudkh have a much cleaner, warmer tone to the guitar. The best way I could describe the difference is to imagine the difference between Forgotten Legends cover, and a similar version that was purely black and white, as per black metal custom. To me, Forgotten Legends is an Autumn alternative to the usual frostbitten atmosphere in black metal; there is decay and coldness, sure, but still enough warmth to remind you that the coldest days are still ahead.

The riffs, plain as they are, are effective at conjuring a hypnotic feel. Especially when they're paired with mild acoustic picking hidden behind the distorted fuzz, Forgotten Legends really sounds like something that was created far removed from the doldrums of urban life. "False Dawn" has a few immortal riffs, each of them stretching over several minutes. My big issue with the album aren't the parts themselves, but how long they're used. Of course, atmospheric black metal encourages this kind of minimalism; repetition is the technique you use when you're trying to lull a listener into a specific trance-mood. Forgotten Legends builds itself around that hypnosis, and it's why I can see so many people claiming it to be one of the best of its kind.

For me, it's not even so much that Drudkh are deadset on playing each drawn-out chord progression ten times beyond its expected shelf life. The bigger issue is that there's very little continual activity once a riff has changed. On my favourite atmospheric albums, the riffs themselves may remain static, but the undercurrents are always in flux. It could be a shift in harmony, a changing drum tempo, anything to keep the sound fresh. One of the best examples I can think of is actually Drudkh's own "When the Flame Turns to Ashes" from Blood in Our Wells. The changing drum patterns in the song's second half made a single riff feel more intense and powerful as long as it went on. There's very little of that motion on Forgotten Legends, and a lot of the riffs feel less entreating by the time they're finally switched out for something new. By the end, the warmth of the tone seems a lot less bright, even monotonous. I love Forgotten Legends' atmosphere in theory, but while I'm actually listening to it, I have tendency to feel bored. This has been my experience virtually every time I've heard it. When I was first getting into Drudkh five or so years ago, it was enough to have me dismiss the album in spite of enjoying its aesthetic. Now, I'm probably warmer towards the idea of droning minimalism, but I've no doubt I vastly prefer hearing Drudkh when they're consistently letting their compositions breathe and grow.

Forgotten Legends is good, but I think Drudkh have subsequently outdone themselves many times over. As an album clearly born in the image of Burzum however, I've got to say how impressed I am that the band were able to find a unique voice in such an overdone template. The droning repetition makes its parts less interesting than it should be, but Forgotten Legends was nonetheless a promising introduction for a band that would soon become one of the very best at what they do.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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