sua071So many black metal split releases from frontline bands have emerged over the past 12 months that frantic collectors must be having to take out new mortgages to keep up. But if it’s a nicely balanced EP – including the excellent cover very much in the Drudkh style – you’re looking for then this one should be high on the list. Drudkh seem to have reached a point where they are producing new material purely for their own entertainment rather than to attract new fans, outdo themselves or prove anything to anyone. This EP is no exception.

The band kicks off the EP with unhurried intensity and the finely pitched and evocatively named His Twenty Fourth Spring. It’s vintage quality Ukrainian black metal fare that will be familiar to even fleeting fans of the band and its 9 minutes which passes in the mesmerising blink of an eye. Putting your finger on the grainy beauty of it – and much of Drudkh’s output for that matter – is slightly elusive. Layered and constantly shifting shape. It’s a great way to start the release and I’m tempted to say they could have left it right there and I’d have been happy enough.

But second track Autumn in Sepia turns things up a familiar notch or two flicking dark, mesmerising switches and sinking into the consciousness without feeling the need to perform backward somersaults to get your attention. It all makes you want to unpack your Drudkh back catalogue and maybe pick up the one or two releases you missed along the way. Two solid tracks that would serve both as an hors d’oeuvre for anyone new to the band or else a worthy addition for the rest of the band’s output.

But there’s still everything to play for with lesser known black metal stalwarts Grift taking the flip side – a distinctly different experience clashing some tortured vocals with some sorrowful pagan riffs and acoustics. Grift is slightly jarring at first after the finely blended and refined tones of Drudkh but the positioning of the anguished cries against the swing of the heart-rending melodies brings its own atmosphere that very quickly makes you wonder what the possibilities might be with a full album at their disposal (I’ve not yet got round to hearing Grift’s debut full-length which was released last year).

In the final analysis the second Grift track swung it for me more solidly than the first, rounding this collection of heathen dirges off nicely in a standout EP that made me feel like both bands had managed to make a connection – although with Drudkh hitting their stride early on and taking the upper hand if that’s how you like to measure these things. Thoroughly enjoyable if not entirely essential for non-fans.

(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)