Review: Drune ‘Drune’

What started as a solo project for former Portland Native James Cook after relocating to Denver, Colorado became the fledgling ideas of a band after a chance meeting with bassist Austin Pacharez around 2016. Sharing a love of Pallbearer, Red Fang, and blues, the pair wasted little time in recruiting drummer Patrick Haga and embarking on a journey that encompassed unsettling doom, experimentation, and the influence of Nordic culture.

Drune ‘Drune’

Having toiled away since 2018 releasing two singles (including a cover of The Velvet Underground’s Venus In Furs) and the well-received Seer EP, the band have sought to reimagine alternative music and defy genre expectations to produce multi-faceted metal that showcases their abilities as artists.

As with most bands, the frustration of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the loss of touring, performing, and given the geographical distance between band members, presented a challenge for even the hardiest independent artist. Yet out of this has been birthed Drune’s Self-Titled debut full-length album. Four tracks of crushingly heavy doom that dallies with sludge, blackened, shoegaze, and progressive elements to create an album that clocks in just over the forty-five-minute mark and tackles weighty subjects like isolation, frustration and disharmony wrapped in layers of mythology and ancient folklore.

The appropriately title Trudge drags itself into your consciousness, fourteen minutes of oppressive doom that starts off with whispered menace as the music moves at a snail’s pace, and Cook unleashes a vocal that has crawled its way back from hell. Drune build tension and there are moments that feel melodic and almost warm sounding as if they should provide comfort, but the stark, grim nature of the track snatches it away with icy fingers.

Over this heady mix, there are delicate touches like the ringing guitar, or the choral vocal effects, echoing like they’re lost in some cavernous wilderness, while the growing double bass that gains in power as the track grows provides an extra edge. Throughout this epic-length dirge, Drune always feel like they’re moving, despite the glacial pace. The middle of the track develops a shoegaze feel, yet without it sounding like shoegaze, as it pulses with half speed Sabbath-esque riffs. Towards the end, Trudge breaks into more double bass in an attempt to vary the pace again, and elements of harder, blackened style picking jolt the listener as it transitions into the shortest track on the album, the catchy Giant’s Blood.

crushingly heavy doom that dallies with sludge, blackened, shoegaze, and progressive elements…

This pounding number evokes a Saint Vitus take on the heavy blues riff, but also imbibes it with a modern stoner rock feel and Patrick Haga’s drums dominate. sounding gigantic. The echo effect vocals are gruff, not gargled, and it feels like a great direction for the band, propelled on the dirty, grinding bass rumble of Pacharz. Sadly, as I was getting into this style, the band forsakes this loud/quiet dynamic and brings back the blackened sludge side of the first track, derailing the momentum and it feels like they need a moment to get back on track.

If the first two tracks did heavy and loud, then the third track, Fate’s, returns to the longer format but is a surprisingly melody heavy track that forsake a lot of the power of the first two, for a more insight, complex and progressive side. Rather than the heavy sludge/doom of the opener, Fate’s is a slow burning, Pallbearer time epic that mixes in light touches with the heaviness of previous offerings, helping to set up the ending of the album.

The final track, I Watched The Woods March To War, is a total departure from the first track and is another fifteen-minute epic, but this time it’s full on expansive, psych influenced doom. Evoking the Nordic influences that Cook has talked about in interviews, I Watched… turns up the Pallbearer style triumphant doom to the max, with clean vocals under pinned in parts by the harsh blackened sound, flavoured by an almost The Doors like feel, as if the band channelled The End whilst sailing on a Viking Longboat. It is a strange departure as the album’s beginning and ending are literally like night and day.

If it wasn’t for Fate’s providing a bridge in styles, it feels like two distinctly separate bands which leaves me a little conflicted. Neither incarnation of Drune is likely to change your world and yet both have their merits. The suffocating, molasses thick sludge of the first half has some undeniable high points, making them worth checking out – Giant’s Blood in particular could be described as a banger of a tune and as someone who’s a sucker for epic, progressive psych, the final track could possibly be the best thing the band have to offer.

I’m just not sure how they effectively marry the two halves of their fractured psyche. If they can, then Drune have the chops to be more than worthy of your attention.

Label: Independent
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden