Drudkh’s recent wave of splits feels like they have been a liberating experience for the band. Free from the relative confines of producing a full crop’s worth of Ukrainian grief and solitude, the Drudkh frontman Roman Sayenko et al have been spending time cultivating and distilling some vintage quality tunes at their own leisure. It feels like they have been right at home with the format while using the opportunity to bring in other bands that both remind us just how refined and unique Drudkh take on black metal is, but also introduce something new to the musical palate with a few fellow collaborators in tow. I particularly enjoyed the last split, right down to the excellent cover and the stricken folk melodies of Grift on the flip side. But this one is something of an event in itself bringing to us the first Paysage d’Hiver release for more than four years. Clearly something of a collectable for a band that doesn’t normally trouble itself with vinyl releases (the last time Paysage d’Hiver span on wax was in 2004 on a split with Lunar Aurora) and a chance to hear something new from the band for the first time since Das Tor.

Drudkh’s usual mix of black metal punch and smooth melody kicks of the release at pace with a couple of scything riffs that more than prove my above point. A four minute, dark Floydian break adds a nice touch before cracking on to the end of the 13 minute track that, which whilst not the best I’ve heard this year, is life affirming pleasurable in a very black metal way. The second track is a little sharper and a little colder – almost as if we’re moving from autumn (the cover of the split is an arterial close up of an autumn-browned leaf) into the onset of winter. Despite its shorter run time it’s also the more complex and intriguing of the two tracks and rounds the Drudkh side off nicely with a rousing choral-backed riff designed to bring a well of emotion to anyone who can’t resist a bit of folk-laden black metal whatever the day of the week.

As exhilarating as the two Drudkh tracks are, the undoubted star of the piece is the extended Paysage d’Hiver appearance and the track simply titled Schnee (‘Snow’ – what else would it be around these parts?). Intriguingly listed as ‘part four’ (I can only see one previous part on 2003’s split with Vinterriket) the track is quite simply a blast. It begins with the comforting sound of the shrill, icy wind whistling over the landscape and an acoustic riff that would be well placed as a gloomy intro to a Danzig track. What comes next is enough to knock you sideways after the relatively cultured tones of Drudkh. The onset of freezing medieval winter, pure and simple, in its most violent and archaic form. The contrast is startling, as, preferably, it should be on these collaborations – initially at least. Soon Schnee begins to open up easing into a mournful wave of melody and then once more climbing the heights of the dagger sharp winter winds once more. Such is the hypnotic grip of Wintherr’s snow white wall of static sound and searing tremolo that, despite its 20 minute length, all too soon the flattened acoustic riff comes back to keep us company as the track drifts off onto the tail end of the winter blast. A great package from two great bands. You’ll get no complaints from me about this one.

(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)