16th February 2016 – Self-released
Indiana’s Drude marry stoner rock with heavy progressive elements; well-trodden ground for sure, but there’s plenty of envelopes still left to push and plenty of acts with the means and will to push them. Drude are among their number.
There’s a particular breed of stoner-doom fan who goes nuts for anything where Sleep‘s stoner framework crosses paths with Isis‘ version of prog as something more urgent and atmospheric. This record is very much for them, sidestepping Isis and Neurosis‘ heavy intellectualism and Sleep’s disdain for songwriting norms but picking their tropes wisely.
Their self-titled record presents plenty of complex ideas without being convoluted or messing with their stoner spirit. Satisfyingly heavy and engaging, opening track “Drude” starts light and expansive, sticking to familiar stoner textures. The sudden rhythmic deviation and some angular moments come as a pleasant surprise without ruining the groove. Later tracks “Oasu” and “Eidolon” continue this theme, and by the end of the run time, the record’s progressive leanings come to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the sludge/stoner vibe. The material is forward thinking and enjoys its own indulgence.
Throughout, the tracks work their quirks in well and the moments of deviation work as cornerstones in otherwise long, expansive stoner rock songs. The sonic territory is established pretty early on and there are no jarring deviations; everything is balanced neatly and arranged with care and craftsmanship. Moreso, the record is fun; just odd enough to be really engaging but rooted in solid, familiar stoner/ sludge tropes.
Having said that, whilst the standout moments are the odd flourishes, it feels like we are being presented with these as an aside; Drude’s formula would work a little better if these were brought into their songwriting more. The atmospheres always lean towards being expansive which fits the stoner-prog vibe, but the logic of the songs tends to get lost in the sprawl. Whilst breaking these up with occasional odd moments do act as markers, they could be used more effectively to structure songs. I feel like this is a minor complaint given how well the their sonic elements work, but even a minor adjustment to songwriting philosophy could propel them from solid stoner/sludge merchants to a more successful, digestible progressive outfit.
Nevertheless, Drude is stellar: cerebral, hearty stoner rock to melt the grouchy winter sads. Though I’d be interested in hearing them use their nuances a little more effectively, the crucial point is that I’m excited to hear more from Drude. That’s because this record is real swell.
What is a Drude, anyway? Some kind of dude-druid? We may never know.