Ukrainian black metal masters Drudkh have never been a band resistant to experimentation, and 2010's Handful of Stars showed the band adding more post-rock influences into their sound than ever before. Rather than signaling a change of direction for their future releases, Eternal Turn of the Wheel shows that this was more of a brief detour than a radical turnaround. The music here is dark, gloomy, and progressive black metal that signals a slight return to form for Drudkh while still remaining unique from the rest of the band's output. Eternal Turn of the Wheel is a good way to usher in 2012 for black metal fans; its ice-cold atmospheres and unique stylistic traits make it a highly worthwhile listen for fans of the forward-thinking variant of the style. Although I need to brush up on the rest of Drudkh's discography before I can claim that Eternal Turn of the Wheel is one of their finest works, there's not a doubt in my mind that this is one of the more impressive black metal records from the last few years.
While I've heard Eternal Turn of the Wheel described as Drudkh's return to their black metal roots, that shouldn't at all imply that this album is your standard-fare black metal effort. Drudkh still inject their raw sound with plenty of atmospheric soundscapes and progressive overtones, and the entire album is laden with a thick layer of gloom. In addition to plenty of somber chord progressions matched by miserable sounding vocal shrieks, an obscure fog of synthesizer melodies can be found throughout a majority of the album. The depressive and somewhat epic approach of Eternal Turn of the Wheel can make comparisons to acts like Burzum inevitable, but there's also a progressive edge that sets Drudkh apart from your average act in this increasingly stagnant genre. The beautiful acoustic break in "When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls" is a section that always jumps out at me, and the generally long compositions all have an epic sensibility. This is the sort of album that's absolutely perfect for appreciating with a pair of headphones on a pitch-black evening - the nature-based imagery that Drudkh's music portrays, while often dark and frightening, can take me to the emotional highs that I look for when we're talking about this style of atmospheric black metal.
Though most experts will argue that black metal is past its peak, albums like Eternal Turn of the Wheel prove that the genre is still alive and well in 2012. This atmospheric, mature, and intense journey shows Drudkh at a definite creative peak, and while it lacks that extra 'something' for me to call it a masterpiece, there are a number of times where I'm inclined to do so. Eternal Turn of the Wheel is an excellent listen for fans of Drudkh and atmospheric black metal in general; though 2012 is still young, this should stand the test of time as one of the year's strongest extreme metal releases. 4 stars are very well-deserved.
1. Eternal Circle
2. Breath of Cold Black Soil
3. When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls
4. Farewell to Autumn's Sorrowful Birds
5. Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-Haired Star