Sound — 8
This album was one of the releases I looked forward to most this year, ever since Season of Mist made the announcement several months ago that it will be releasing Drudkh's latest opus. Ever since the mediocre Estrangement, the band has been through quite a tumultuous ride; a failed venture of purchasing a music studio and the resulting loss of funds saw them part ways with long-time label Supernal Music, and the future of the entire project was shrouded by a large question mark. Estrangement left many fans questioning the overall musical direction Drudkh were taking, greatest criticism centering on the choice of the new drummer and loss of atmosphere that made them so special in the first place. Microcosmos, therefore, was a very important album for a few reasons. From the onset it was apparent this was going to be a new and special chapter in the band's career. The beautiful cover art posted on SoM's website is bathed in rich blue overtones, contrasting sharply with earthly, autumnal colours of practically all their past efforts. While the song titles echoed those of their prior work, it seemed like the themes were taking a step back from heritage and history to focus more on mysticism and spirituality. Musically, the change reflected itself not only in revitalised energy and production, but a revamped approach to song structure and refined musicianship, apparent with every moment of Microcosmos' playing time. One of the biggest developments here is the bass sound. On the vast majority of the band's work it plays a more traditional rhythm support role, so common to a lot of black metal bands, and makes only a fraction of the impact that it has the potential for. On Microcosmos bass is not only more prominent in the mix, but plays a major part in filling out the harmonic space, providing extra melodies and counterpoints to the main guitar parts. The lead guitar work returns to its former strength, with neat tasteful solos that aren't over- or under-played. The drum work is greatly improved, and it seems that Vlad has integrated his playing into the band's sound, compared with the misplaced and out-of-time work on Estrangement. Taking a cue from the former drummer Yuri Sinitsin, he has incorporated some of the fills into the new songs, giving them an air of amalgamation of the Old and the New.
Lyrics — 7
Lyrics are difficult to comment on, as for a long time they have been sourced from various Ukrainian poets; secondly, as far as Drudkh are concerned, I focus mainly on the music and consider the vocals to play a more instrumental role rather than a storytelling one. However the poems they use happen to complement the music in mood and atmosphere, and add a touch of sophistication and elegance to an already competent work. The vocals are a bit more up-front than you'd usually expect in an atmospheric black metal release; not as insolently so however as in the Swan Road album, and mixed in at more or less the right levels. I prefer their early material, where the harsh screams were mixed with lots of distance in mind and sounded ethereal and spirit-like; in that setting you felt like you were experiencing an episode of the spiritually rich Slavonic past. Subsequently the vocal delivery became a lot more straight forward, - at the same time I hardly see the old vocals working in this setting, on the contrary, it's exactly what was required and it was delivered.
Overall Impression — 8
For a band that's gone through a loss of label, money and a re-consideration of their entire career, maintaining of the musical focus is an impressive feat in itself. To find themselves on a reputable, established label and to create an album that rivals the glories of their early career is commendable and praise-worthy. A fresh stroke of inspiration has opened a new door for Drudkh, adding an introverted and contemplative mood to the palette. Hopefully this inspiration will continue so that they can gift the musical world for a long time.