Despite my love for all things Drudkh flavoured, I must confess to not initially being overly enamoured with Windswepts debut album in 2017. The project was conceived by Roman Saenko and his Drudkh/ex-Hate Forest companions as a way of re-capturing the raw essence of black metal, by writing and recording each release in a short timeframe. Indeed, I’m informed that this second album was carved out in just three days.

“The Onlooker” blends the organic bleakness favoured by the now disbanded Hate Forest, with the introspective sense of atmosphere and melody captured on mid-era Drudkh releases such as “Microcosmos” and “Handful Of Stars”. Windswept eschews the folky dynamics of the latter project in order to maintain a more traditional black metal aesthetic.

It’s conceivable that Roman regards these particular sounds from his oeuvre as treasured mementos, as this album is symbolically bookended with the melody from a childs music box. The deft quirky intro “I’m Oldness and Oblivion” soon gives way to the furious “Stargazer”, showcasing a similar rawness to that witnessed on early Drudkh recordings as well as the aforementioned Hate Forest catalogue.

The tempo maintained in certain passages is impressive, bordering on frantic at times. It is most notable on “Gustav Meyrinks Prague”, energetic percussion underpinning aggressive yet progressive tremelo-picked melodies, lending an urgent atmosphere to the whole affair.

Album closer “Bookworm, Loser, Pauper” (fantastic title!) boasts a Gaelic sounding main riff that you’d be forgiven for thinking belongs more at home with Primordial or Crom Dubh. Again though, the frenetic drumming and sense of melodic progression maintain this particular compositions identity amongst this collection of songs, before the delicate music box melody returns to close the lid on proceedings.

In summary, this is a much more focussed effort than the debut and last year’s EP, aided no doubt by the band becoming more attuned through experience to their self imposed “flash-to-bang” production deadline.

(7.5/10 Doogz)