Drudkh’s anthology of time

Smierc Polarstern

Time appears as the fundamental subject in the creative work of the Black Metal project "Drudkh", being expressed explicitly – in poetic lyrics, used by the band, as well as implicitly – in the prospect of its whole artwork, the general key of its musical message. The appeal to the problem of time, cycles, transformation of nature, of man and history under pagan view on being may be already traced on the first "Drudkh" album "Forgotten Legends", dedicated to the descending line of time, symbolized by autumn season, seen not as much literally, as metaphorically. The relation of autumn as the season of death and fading, in traditional metaphysics correlated with the geographic Occident, and in the daily cyclism – with the time of sunset – is reflected in the release artwork itself (various re-releases preserve the main concept, visually expressed in the use of photographs and paintings of autumnal nature, highlighted by sunset rays). The cover of the vinyl reprints of "Forgotten Legends" are marked by the use of black-and-white picture of the sky with flock of birds flying south. Here we should mention the ancient Greek idea of the mythical Hyperborea, the North land, reigned by Apollo, the god of Light, for which birds, according to legend, fly in winter time. Idea of the North as of the paradisiacal land of warmth in this context appears to be the deep reflection of equation of the North and Midnight with the spiritual summit, zenith of spiritual transformation, and also, in the temporal cyclic projection – is the point of the invisible birth of time, the source, to which the old time goes and from which the new time arises, where the time is identical with the new face of Being itself and the Universes, replacing one another. The compact disc stylization under yearly wheel merely proves the above mentioned intuition. We need to point out separately the characteristic title of the first composition – "False Dawn", which we may understand exactly as the indication of sunset, appearing as the false sunrise in the twilight epoch of inverted values and fallen ideals. While the lyrics of the third chapter of the album entitled "Eternal Turn Of The Wheel" unambiguously resembles the famous "Burzum" composition "Erblicket Die Töchter Des Firmaments", sharing a similar pessimistic mood of "questioning of being", arousing a strange presentiment for the End approaching.

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Themes of time are extended on the second opus of "Drudkh" "Autumn Aurora", as the numerous variants of its artwork also turn around the autumn aesthetics, frailty and fall of the transient epoch. Like on the previous release, the direct use of autumnal connotation in the composition titles is underlined by the repeated use of the swastika-wheel image as a compact disc picture. Commonly understood as a solar symbol (reflected in the very title of "Sunwheel" composition), Hakenkreuz has a deeper polar meaning in traditional symbolism, revealed in the works of René Guénon. It allows to interpret the wheel and swastika symbols not only on the level of polar cyclism, but of the metaphysical cycle of manifestation and concealment of the Primary Principle as well, where four edges of swastika reflect four vectors of manifestation, in total tracing to the unity of potency of the Pure Being. Evolving the symbol's semantics, one may assert, that in this prospect the Sun itself obtains a more profound, than a merely naturalistic interpretation. In the same context one should emphasize the name "Aurora" (Greek "Eos") in the title of the album, i.e. a recurring indication of symbolism of the Dawn, forestalling through the night dusk the birth of a new Day, the new Aeon. Previously we have marked out the partial parallelism, inherent in the symbols of the Black Sun (midnight and the North in a daily and a yearly cycles accordingly), and the Morning star (sunrise and the Orient accordingly), their interaugmentability and, to some extent, their synonymy. In the aspect of the "Autumn Aurora" album its own title may appear as the evolution of subject of the "Forgotten Legends" composition, wherein the reverse side of the Dawn – the Sunset (Vesper) means not only the false reflection of Lucifer, its negative side, but also the advance of the end of the cycle, positive in a certain sense. In the historical context sunset correlates with the Occident, understood in the broader sense in the plane of sacred time and sacral geography, as well as in its most accessible meaning indicating the profane Western civilization, which, being the nadir of manifested world, at the same time fulfills the providential logic of manifestation, corresponding with the negative side of Being, and therefore paradoxically advances a positive delivery at the Midnight point and a self-revelation of the renovated Pure Spirit. The last composition – "The First Snow", accomplishing the album, sensibly introduces a listener into the atmosphere of concealing winter, "the Darkness at the approaches to the Pole".

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The third release by "Drudkh" marks a certain retreat from the topics of nature to historic manifestations, that nevertheless constitutes the actual and appropriate development of the primary theme on the immanent human level. History, understood in the light of metaphysical time, in this context gains tangibility and deep-laid symbolic significance, expressing the overall concealment of spiritual principles. The appeal to the themes of the haidamakas rebellion of 1768 on the ground of Taras Shevchenko's poem draws one's sight to the sphere of immanent reflection of common nihilistic intuitions, expressed on the earliest albums of "Drudkh". The subject of people's uprising against oppression of the degenerated aristocracy in the prospect of the Conservative Revolutionary philosophy may achieve equivocal interpretations, yet here one can hardly omit indication of the deformation of the caste and class structure of human Cosmos in the end times, defined by the fourth varna uprising and final consolidation of the egalitarian model on the ruins of the degenerated aristocratic system. Taking into consideration the populist views of the Ukrainian poet, none the less there are no and basically there could not be such implications in the poem text by Taras Shevchenko, in the context of the creative work of "Drudkh" such standpoint gains a certain reason, in the prospect of the sacred time's integrity allowing a more distracted evaluation of a specific historic event. Yet its general glorification, the criticism against social oppression and moral corruption of szlachta more likely draw the listener's perception to the ambiguous paradigm of the Conservative Revolution, rather than to the ordinary national liberation themes, having become a common triteness of some part of Ukrainian Black Metal scene.

Under detailed analysis of titles and compositional lyrics the above mentioned interpretation line gains more solid foundation. Not dwelling on the historic epoch of the Ruin as a prototype of the general esprit of Kali Yuga and the end times, it is worth to underline separately the year, serving as a name for the introduction – "1648", initiating not only the civil war in Rzeczpospolita and marking the entry of the latter into destructive phase of social disorders and strengthening of the third caste power, but also becoming decisive for the bourgeois revolution under leadership of Oliver Cromwell in England, ended with the execution of monarchy and the victory of incipient capitalism. All these moments indicated are bursting in the deterrent apocalyptic signs of the end of days, the speeding-up of the wheel and the time running out into the abyss of the Iron Age. Horrifying pictures of decay and bloodsheds, running through the Taras Shevchenko poem, by their spirits echo the best examples of mythological epos, portraying the end times – both in Vedic and in European tradition. Here one should pay attention to the album title – "The Swan Road", which once again appears as a covert indication on the polar symbolism, the Axis, correlated with the unshakable Logos, the spiritual Centre of the wheel of being. Due to its specific meaning the swans both in Slavonic and in All-European religious complexes emphasize the archetypal parallels with the idea of the Pole as the essential source, on the one hand, correlating with spiritual purity – and death, and on the other hand – being totem animals of Apollo of Hyperborea as a divine incarnation of the transcendental light principle. At the same time the analysis of the lyrics by Taras Shevchenko in the prospect of "Drudkh" artwork allows to underline some moments important for our review.

In Kobzar's poetry we for the first time come clearly across the idea of implacable Fate, the Doom, which embody the eternal turn of the wheel of time. A bitter destiny in the lyrics of Taras Shevchenko looks like an inescapable and irresistible force, pulling into its infernal gyre all the living and all being, wherein a human life appears nothing but a Heideggerian "being-towards-death", the embodiment of total nihilism of the end times, approaching the reality to the absolute outcome. Similar mood of inner weariness can be discovered in the lyrics of the second composition, entitled "Eternal Sun" – a feeling of "throwness" into the infinite world, and clash of human existence with the insuperable laws of ruin and fading are seen in the author's words:

Everything flows and everything passes without end,
Yet where did it vanish? wherefrom did it come?
The fool and the wise know nothing.
It lives... it dies... when one is in blossom,
Another fades away, fades forever...

However the last poetic lines smooth the pessimistic mood of the text, comparing the mysterious infinity of the world with the infinity of human soul, the mystic unity of micro- and macrocosmos, and evoking in the lyrics some pantheistic tendencies, characteristic for the romanticist poetry in general:

As the blue sky is endless,
The soul has no beginning and no end too.

The compositions "Glare of 1768", "The Price of Freedom" and "Fate", interpreted not only literally and historically, but also as an embodiment of the general spirit of "revolt against the modern world", attempts of the lonely heroes for tragic overthrow of injustice and low pseudo-order of degenerated aristocracy – continue the overall nihilistic line of the album, poetically illustrating Kshatriya concept of a "man against time" according to Savitri Devi. Stressed by Geydar Jemal, the impossibility of a pagan hero's victory in his encounter with Fate, the defeat of any attempt to stop and turn time back, the ought of Death as the only price of spiritual freedom in the concentrating Old Being is established in the music of "Drudkh" by Taras Shevchenko verses. Of a special symbolic interest are the addresses to the imagery of the Wild Field – and the of a field in general – as the embodiment of Cartesian extension, i.e. maternal substance of materia secunda, giving birth to a formal world. Here a certain contradiction between the archetypes of a free nomadic warrior and a settled farmer, peculiar for Ukrainian culture, under special reading acquires metaphysical dimension as a confrontation of two natures, oppositely oriented for the essential, masculine, subjective – and the substantial, feminine, objective poles accordingly. Finishing "The Swan Road", a folk "Song of Sich Destruction" about siege and seizure of Zaporizhian Sich in 1775 underscores the tragedy of collapse of the initial spiritual values, as if corresponding with the Nordic myths about divine battle and fall of celestial Asgard, crowning the sacred Axis of worlds. In the Dark Age the solar heroes are overtaken by death and enslavement of Hell, that a traditional story depicts as the spiritual Sun being swallowed by jaws of the Abyss, in gnostic legends personified by the ring-shaped chthonic Serpent, i.e. Doom itself:

...You will be no longer
Set free,
You will till
Me and quietly,
Curse your fate.

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The fourth full-length album by "Drudkh" "Blood In Our Wells" opens with the prelude "Nav'", appealing to the archetypes of the Wild Field and using a fragment of a sound-track from the poetic film "Mamay" by Oles Sanin, a screened synthesis of Slavonic and Turkic versions of epic narration of the Great Steppe. The character and the title of the introduction definitely indicate the metaphysical Nav – a concealed world of the dead in the Old Slavonic mythology, and also, on a deeper level – the unformed substance, meon, world's root nature, like a subconscious, preserving rudiments of a created universe, sprouting from dark depths of the night side of Being. This opus has a more lofty and life-asserting mood, related with a cyclic idea of the new world creation, the resurrection of Cosmos after the fall of the old one. Composition "Furrows of Gods", based on the poem by Lina Kostenko, presents images of the universal spring and a new cultivation of soil on the historic Great Meadow in a cosmogonical act of making a furrow by young gods, that means measurement, i.e. formalization of proto-reality, as well as a birth of the new time and the new mankind in a renovated cycle. In the same poem the world is likened to mist, in Old Slavonic languages also denoted as "haze" ("marevo"), "mirage" ("mara"), i.e. Sanskrit "Maya" (in the lyrics of "Eternity" appearing in similar imagery of a dream, darkness and chimera):

Am I indeed in a mist – and as a mist –
following time like a plough?..

The image of a militant confrontation between the Light and the Dark as a struggle with time, proceeding with the subject of "The Swan Road" album, is revealed in the poetic lyrics by Oleksandr Oles, set to music in the third composition "When the Flame Turns to Ashes". Like Phoenix, the eagle, in the Indo-European mythologies personifying the virtue of a celestial god-creator, here appears fallen, yet spiritually not subdued, with its eyes fastened on the firmament, and tragically withstanding creeping snake, signifying both passive terrestrial, feminine principle, and a spiral of time itself. In Ancient Greek tradition this is also known as a legendary struggle at the dawn of the world between Olympic demiurge Zeus and senior god Chronos, being resumed at the end of a cycle as the eternally recurring death Doom of all being. The negative images of evil Fate, like a serpent winding round heart – container of Spirit and subjectivity, follow in composition "Solitude," based on Taras Shevchenko's poem. The most distinctive expression the question of time receives in track "Eternity": in the poem by Yuriy Klen the eternity itself appears as a golden stream of Light, weaving on the wheels of time a variegated canvas of Being. The author identifies it with mechanism, portraying it as a force dreadful and blind to human miseries – images in the text have a clearly metaphysical character, and among them the symbol of lightning, "from time to time" (sic), and from cycle to cycle illumining the Dark of Non-Being:

The darkness surrounds us and fights,
and only a lightning in a twinkling
snatches out from the dark a piece of pattern,
and, awoken from non-existence, we
see a fragment...

Yet none the less the poet admits human weakness in front of hard times, the final thesis of the album, present in the compact disc artwork, with words of Vasyl Symonenko in a heroic conservative-revolutionary sprit declares fearlessness and strength of human will in its establishing of life and sense even where any life and any sense are condemned from the beginning. In the face of all-devouring time blood in in the wells, consecrated by will to power and overcoming, transfigures into Dionysian wine of life eternal, like a fabulous aqua vita reanimating fallen solar heroes, that makes the album on the whole pulsatory and contradictory as life itself.

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The next release – "Estrangement", despite its ambiguous title and melancholic autumnal artwork, is remarkable with even stronger and more vital motives – yet suffused with a Nitzschean feeling of severity and ascetic rigour. The title itself in the context of cosmogonical interpretation gives the album especially deep sense, representing manifestation as an "out-strangement" of the essential Source from itself, the exodus of the Parmenidian One to "the Other", reflected in Hegelian logic of self-knowledge by the Absolute Spirit in the prospect of lasting historic time. The lyrics for the album was taken from the texts of the nationalist poet Oleh Olzhych of the 1930s, which indirectly reflect not only a Spartan spirit of the armed anti-systemic struggle in Western Ukraine, but also the whole dynamics of "storm and drive" of the time of rise of right-wing Europe. The composition "Skies at Our Feet" most distinctly expresses the mood of the album, combining two poems by Oleh Olzhych, like a military song of praise glorifying audacious challenge, thrown down by an Aryan hero. Identified by Geydar Jemal with polar orientation, the militant Indo-European anthropocentrism here unveils in all its power and unambiguity in the figure of a man-conqueror, a subject, centring and subdueing reality with sword stab – that in its turn sends us back to the myths on the Universe creation, the affirmation of world Axis among the virgin primordial Ocean, its divison into Upper and Lower Waters, the Abyss Above and Abyss Below, in other way depictured as a subjugation of the Earth by Heaven. The allegory of time birth and the beginning of history after leaving the polar Paradise, interpreted meta-historically, is depicted in the texts through incessant nomadic strive for the symbolic South, i.e. through the unfolding of a time spiral, structuring of a sacred space by the metaphysical man Purusha and elevation of the Sun at the point of universal Noon, crowning creation of Cosmos from the waves of transformed Prakriti:

They have darted off. They set out and went.
Everywhere they found lands southernmore.

Yet yearning for the opposite substantial side after a lapse of time (sic) results in unavoidable descent of the Sun to the underground abode of the dead, to the outermost West ("Where Horizons End"), where blinded solar hero embraced by his dark spouse and having lost his vital force, is put to ritual death:

Relieved and serene to lie with chest pierced
In the grasses confused, in dew on humid ground.

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The final "Drudkh" album "Microcosmos" closes hexalogy of time, representing project's work from a somewhat more philosophic, self-reflexing perspective, that is reflected in the title, indicating inward direction, to the sense of "being-in-the-world" of the man himself. Like on the previous releases, lyrics for compositions is selected from the poetic heritage of classic Ukrainian authors. Proceeding with a broached plot of cyclic seasons' change, the elevated and optimistic introduction "Days That Passed", playing in a march tempo moments of the glorious past, is followed by a composition based on the poem by Ivan Franko "Distant Cries of Cranes", which focuses on a wounded hero in front of impending winter yearning to overtake a flock of cranes leaving for south lands. In the metaphysical aspect it indicates the symbolism of the sacred northern Source, grief over the lost Principle and a tragic attempt of return – as a "search of lost time". In the most evident form the idea of time as the unceasing centrifugal process was revealed in the text by Oleh Olzhych, which served as lyrics for "Decadence" composition. Talking about four Hesiodian ages – the Golden, the Silver, the Brazen and the Iron – the author places them in order of day's cycle (yet somewhat deposing metaphysical reference points):

There is an immutable land, and everything on it is a permanent change.
Golden – at dawn, silver on a windy day,
Fluxed copper is the same lake at evening hours,
And hardened iron – at night, in cold mist.

Poet's meditations lead him to conclusion about the inevitable end in the flow of days of all being, be it people or gods, about mortality of a subject and the transiency of life, which nevertheless, like a Prometheus bound, is condemned for the reiterating rebirth in the "bad infinity", and for the "eternal recurrence of the same" in a Dionysian dance of life and death:

Deeply scarred is the restless and eager human heart,
And it is doomed to everlasting quaternary gyre.

The tragic role of a human being, the microcosmos, crucified on the World Tree, is somewhat reflected in the alternative artwolk of the vinyl edition of "Microcosmos", picturing a human figure on the broken bark at the border of two abysses – the marine and celestial. However in the fourth chapter of the album "Drudkh" opposes to the challenge of entropy and yawning inanity with blank verses by Bohdan Rubchak about the arts of philosophy and poetry – "Ars Poetica", self-knowledge and search of proper "authentic being" as the eternal overcoming of the horizons, preceding "Everything Unsaid Before":

To seek the essence only, to seek the horizon of being – the essence of being.
To sense space: remote flight of black birds,
to sense time: clear-cut drawings in black caves,
and to understand your day as the absolute wind, o poet.


Polarstern S. Drudkh’s anthology of time / Smierc Polarstern // Black Metal: European roots & musical extremities. — London: Black Front, 2012. — P. 64—77.


Polarstern S. Антология времени Drudkh.

© 2010

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