Wednesday, 27 May 2009

WACH > promotional material

Band: WACH
Item description: promotional material
Items displayed: A range of flyers for the "Firedance on a Dead Mans Grave" release, plus a WACH badge (top left) and signed cover art print for the forthcoming "Nordwand" release.

In building up a collection of items associated with A.W.'s many bands and projects it was inevitable that Nazgul should also have build up a collection of promotional material and merchandise for the many outlets of Alex's imagination.

As such, I've a pretty substantial collection of t-shirts, record label flyers, privately photocopied publicity material, badges, mugs, business-cards, hats (!) and magnets publicising a variety of Alex's bands. Some are particularly associated with specific releases, and may in the main be included on future postings for those albums, where space allows. Alternatively, Nazgul may just pop in the odd post once in a while of alternative items to spruce up the Blog and break up the CD/CDr/cassette cycle before it becomes too stale!

These promo items (click on the photo to expand to a decent size) were printed for the most-part by the Beverina & WAR label to advertise the "Firedance on a Dead Man's Grave" release by WACH (see past Blog for commentary) and reflect the album art and chilling nature of the release in a number of different size formats. Also present in this group - and rather nice too, I really ought to have this framed - is an art print for the yet-to-be released "Nordwand" release, which has been signed by erstwhile graphic designer Chris Huber, who should be familiar to regular readers of this Blog for his artwork on Alex releases over the years.

Nazgul is always interested in purchasing your items of memorabilia for any of Alex's projects, whether you are a private individual such as I am or a record company swamped with material destined for the recycling bin. After all, HonourAndDarkness is practically becoming a virtual online museum for the works of Hugin and as such history needs you, intrepid reader, to play your part....

VALHALL

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Valhall
Format: Split cassette tape release with Bulgarian ambient band Abandoned (their side being titled "Assuage My Tristful Soul") released on the AMF Productions label (Bulgaria) in 2005, catalogue reference AMF017.
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:

Uruk Hai
1. Return To The Great Halls 17:32

Abandoned
2. Beznadezhnost 01:37
3. Krvavi Ogledala 06:38
4. Smrtta E Zanimanie Samotno 04:29
5. Zaguben Ishod 04:22
6. Po Techenieto Na Svoite Slzi 03:17


Evidently something of a personal release for Hugin this one, being dedicated as it is "to my eternal friend Geri (R.I.P.) I see you in Valhall"

The Uruk Hai side of this split tape contains but the one, long track "Return To The Great Halls" and without much required in the way of pondering it's clear that the passage to Valhalla for Alex's friend is the theme of this release.

As such it's probably not the most suitable release to dwell on in terms of critique and analysis, as the sentiment behind it overrides the nature of the music on offer in many respects. It is, however, an official Uruk Hai release via the respected AMF label, so it would be remiss of Nazgul not to pass some commentary on the music at hand, so here goes.

Following a clap and subsequent rolling peal of thunder the music commences, and there are two distinct 'movements' at work here in two halves of the piece: the first developing an atmosphere of a vast, grandiose nature which really does bring to mind a peaceful journey of unimaginable length to the echo-haunted halls on high. A second phase, more keyboard oriented, takes one on a more uplifting journey before the vast space of the former refrains come to bear once again, before a distant rumble of thunder once again takes us into the silence....

It's a sombre piece, both a cause for uplifting celebration and quiet reflection too (in the way that you might find the vastness of a cathedral interior subdues the noise and bustle of the outside world) and as a piece of ambient art is very pleasant to listen to indeed.

The photo above shows the full inlay plus the hand-dedicated cassette case that Alex was kind enough to take the time to make out for me. This release is still fairly readily available across distros in Europe (at an affordable €4.00 or so, on average) so I'd suggest it might be a good starting place to building up your own collection.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

MYSTIFIED versus BONEMACHINE


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Mystified Versus Bonemchaine
Format: CDr release on W.A.R. (Austria) from 2007. Copies came in a handmade felt bag (wired closed) with a hand-painted CDr inside a round metal tin. The piece also included a triangular-shaped inlay with the edition number and track details, plus a red tag (wired to the bag) with album name and edition number.
Edition: only 19 hand-numbered copies were produced

Track Listing:

Mystified:
1. Continuous 2.54
2. Incedental 2 4.19
3. DTrail 4.51
4. The Smallest Sea 5.00
5. Thumpalogue 5.08
6. Milkfield 4.56
7. Incidental 5b 4.36
Bonemachine:
8. Iron Age (recorded live in the W.A.R. studio) 2.16
9. Nuke 'Em 12.47
10. After The War 6.49

An intriguing split CDr release between our industrial favourites Bonemachine and prolific outfit Mystified, described at http://www.mystifiedmusic.com/ as follows:

"Mystified is an experienced multi-genre band that is more precisely the brainchild of Thomas Park. Mystified has been actively recording since 2003. The truth about the music of Mystified is that it is very diverse, and has spanned musics such as ambient, industrial, phonography, drone, and noise, among others. Mystified is for listeners with an ear for the experimental, and often dark or minimal"

Once again Nazgul is turning his ear solely to the Bonemachine tracks, although the entertainment factor within the Mystified music is not to be overlooked, and if you have a liking for this genre you will surely have come across the band's output elsewhere before.

The three compositions in question are, without doubt, falling strongly into the industrial/machine noise area of Bonemachine output and, as usual with that side of things, is rather difficult to put into words in any meaningful way. Track 8 'Iron Age' is, however, a surprisingly subdued song and more in keeping with the exploratory nature of early man's fascination with metal-working than the loud, raucous noise-fest you might have imagined it to be.

'Nuke 'Em' is, on the other hand, a classic post-apocalyptic barrage of sound an will give any half-fertile imagination plenty to ponder as you take yourself on imaginary forays into a barren nuclear winter where your once green and pleasant land stood. Some disturbing sounds and noises punctuate the piece, making it the least likely song for easy listening you could imagine.

Final track 'After The War' is again on similar lines, varied and dynamic, and a fitting end to the album.

This was a limited edition of only 19 copies (this is #12) and from what I see online at Club Debil (the German review site) the hand-painted nature of the CDr is the same between sets, as their copy (#4) and mine bear the same design. It's a well thought out bit of packaging though - the wire-framed 'bag' to house the items is unusual, and the triangular inlay is novel too, although prone to bend on the corners!

I'm not sure whether this release is sold-out or not yet: one might suppose so given the low edition, but it might be worth dropping Thomas a line via his Mystified site (which is well worth a visit anyway) as it's not shown as unavailable on his text discography. Who knows, you might snare the last copy....

HEIDENSTURM

Band: HREFNESHOLT
Title: Heidensturm
Format: Cassette tape-only release on the Werwolf Productions label (Italy), cat ref WP015, released in 2004.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of only 50 pieces

Track Listing:

01. Heidensturm
02. Zwei Raben
03. Hermodr A Helferd

In a recent Elisabetha blog I mentioned that the "Renfield" CDr had so little internet presence it was practically the lost cousin of the rest of that band's output. On that note, welcome to "Heidensturm" which, on a comparative basis, must be the long-lost distant cousin three-times removed, believed dead and long forgotten about. In all honesty, take a look online and see how many other references to this release you can find. Practically nothing, and even http://www.metalarchives.com/ fails to list it in the Hrefnesholt discography.

What we have on offer here are three tracks in the ambient pagan style that defines the Hrefnesholt style - dreamy synths, no vocals, some almost hypnotic repetitive rhythms and a general sense of unworldliness. There is the long (very long at over 25 minutes) title track 'Heidensturm' (literally 'Heathen Storm'), a short piece called 'Zwei Raben' ('Two Ravens') and then a cover version of the Burzum track 'Hermodr a Helferd', also a short piece.

Limited to only 50 copies (mine being #15), this release bears a dedication to 'Abibial 666', one of the founders of the Werwolf label I think. It's always a slightly strange feeling to be in possession of what has to count as a pretty rare release such as this - consider, only another 49 copies exist (some of which presumably lie with Alex and his close friends, plus the odd one with Werwolf themselves), meaning that around the globe there are probably only 30-odd other tapes in collections elsewhere (not allowing for any lost, damaged or - god forbid - thrown away in years past).

Should you ever come across one, then I'd advise you to break out the wallet and part with the money to lay your hands on such a collectible piece as this.


Thursday, 21 May 2009

FIMBULWINTER

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Fimbulwinter
Format: Credit-card style blue CDr self-released by Alex in unique art with lyrics to the reverse side.
Edition: 1 only

Track Listing:
01. Fimbulwinter (edit) 7.14

Now it's not in Nazgul's nature to be smug, but I have to confess I do sometimes lapse into smugness when I peruse my collection and some of the choice morsels which lie within it.

This particular one is something very special, not least because I think I may well be the only person outside of Alex who has this particular track on CDr, let alone with bespoke artwork (and damn fine art too) plus a personal dedication signed on the back!

You may recall that back on 5 March 2009 I posted a Blog concerning the Hrossharsgrani re-released and extended EP "Of Battles, Ravens and Fire..." and noted in that posting that Alex had mentioned that an edited version of the 15 minute plus track 'Fimbulwinter' existed, which originally had been intended to be a 7" vinyl release through CCP Records.

Now, this track had never been released formally despite the plans with CCP. Learning of Nazgul's interest in the project Alex took the time and trouble to burn a copy of this edited version (clocking in at about half the length) onto a nice blue-coloured CDr and design some unique artwork to accompany it in a tidy 3" package. What a gesture - I keep saying this (and some will doubtless accuse me of merely being a mouthpiece and propagandist for Alex, but let me assure you this is not true) but what an incredibly thoughtful and kind thing to do for a humble fan. I can't think of many artists who would take such time and care to produce a one-off piece like this, and I thank him once again for it.

It's a belter too - the edited version trips along in a more spirited way than the epic original and what it loses in depth of samples and length of music it gains in pace and vitality. There is certainly a reworking within some of the spoken parts and samples, giving them better clarity, whilst the epic nature of the original track is not lost.

I learn from Wikipedia that in Norse mythology Fimbulvetr (or fimbulvinter/fimbulwinter) is the immediate prelude to the events of Ragnarok. Fimbulvetr is three successive winters where snow comes in from all directions, without any intervening summer. During this time, there will be innumerable wars and brothers will kill brothers The prefix 'fimbul' means "the great/big" so the correct interpretation of the word is "the great winter".

If the end is nigh, and all things are coming to an end, the bonds of friendship between England and Austria will endure....

P.S. Nazgul is happy if the image from this post is used elsewhere online, particularly for updating discographies at webpages such as www.metal-Archives.com. However, if you do copy my images (as has already been the case from images on this Blog - 'Elbennacht' and 'In Durins Halls' have appeared on the Metal Archives site in the Uruk Hai discography) then a credit would be appreciated :o)

RENFIELD

Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Renfield
Format: CD pressing on the Schwarzdorn Label (Germany), catalogue reference SD20C, recorded in 2001 and released in 2002.
Edition: Limited to 100 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
1. Besessenheit in Agonie - Renfield ein Panoptikum des Grauens 23:30
2. Renfield – Hedoniker in Demut das Ethische Prinzip der Sinnenlust 22:04

Continuing Elisabetha's early quest to delve into the stories within the Dracula legend, the "Renfield" release is seemingly the 'lost' cousin of much of the project's other output, almost without reference on the internet in terms of review or even recognition.

Admittedly it's not the easiest album to listen to in the world, although that particular thought could equally be labelled at a million other demos and CD's from a similar time and earlier that still receive media attention to this day.

The title is somewhat enigmatic until you understand who Renfield actually is. Bram Stoker writes of him (in Dr John Seward's journal):

"R. M. Renfield, 59. Sanguine temperament, great physical strength, morbidly excitable, periods of gloom, ending in some fixed idea which I cannot make out. I presume that the sanguine temperament itself and the disturbing influence end in a mentally-accomplished finish, a possibly dangerous man, probably dangerous if unselfish. In selfish men, caution is as secure an armour for their foes as for themselves. What I think of on this point is, when self is the fixed point the centripetal force is balanced with the centrifugal. When duty, a cause, etc., is the fixed point, the latter force is paramount, and only accident or a series of accidents can balance it."

Renfield, the character is an inmate at the lunatic asylum overseen by Dr. John Seward. He suffers from delusions that lead him to eat living creatures in the hope of obtaining their life-force for himself. Being confined to the asylum, and aware of the foolishness of taking on a full-sized hospital orderly, he starts by consuming flies, then develops a scheme of feeding the flies to spiders, and the spiders to birds, in order to accumulate more and more life. When denied a cat to accommodate the birds, he eats the birds himself.

During the course of the novel it is discovered that he is under the influence of Count Dracula - the vampire, whose abilities include control over animals such as rats, bats and spiders, comes to Renfield with an offer: if Renfield worships him, he will provide Renfield with an endless supply of food.

The music is a perpetual 'wall of sound' in as far as there is a constant discordant synthesizer overlying the background ambiance that can seem rather off-putting at first, as it seems to be too 'in your face' and seemingly obscures much of the narrative (spoken in German, for the most-part) and other instrumentation. But it's important to reflect on the nature of the beast here - this album is not so much a musical expression as it is a trip inside the mind of Renfield himself, a trip into a dark and despairing void of nightmare, confusion and fear. Once this is understood, the bleak tone of the Elisabetha music becomes more evocative and understandable, and makes sense of the tortured moaning, despairing laughter and desolation that is experienced and voiced by Renfield throughout the album.

Indeed, one particularly chilling moment comes at 12:12 into the first song, when a clearly heard whisper is plaintively heard to say, to a backdrop of disturbing keyboard discordance, "he's out there, he's out there...."

There are some clever touches to the music too - in track 2 there is a distinct 'buzzing' effect in the background at times, quite probably symbolising the flies referred to earlier in this narrative. Track 2 is also notable for having a memorable and spiritually uplifting female choral melody pervading which pervades it throughout, again mirroring events in the novel - when confronted by Mina Harker, the object of Dracula's obsession, Renfield suffers an attack of conscience and begs her to flee from his master's grasp. Enraged by this treachery, Dracula infiltrates Renfield's cell (in the form of fog..."he's out there..."), and when Renfield lures the Count by assisting his entrance into the asylum, the base of Seward and his fellow vampire-hunters, Dracula breaks his neck.

Not an easy album to absorb, and two long tracks make this a challenge to the uninitiated. When Nazgul first sat down and listened to this some years ago it took a while to make sense of what was going on. Even now, having owned this for some time, I still notice new elements to it and bits that I would have sworn I've never heard before. Frankly, it's one of those release that must have taken a considerable amount of time and effort to construct, that was released in a minuscule quantity, that has subsequently received scant attention from anyone, and which might well have been easily dismissed by those who did hear it as unadulterated noise at times and confused at best.

Well, now you know differently. Nazgul has spoken, and the word is this: "Renfield" is more than a worthy inclusion to the Elisabetha discography and should occasion arise that you have a chance to lay your talons on a copy then grab it, and digest it slowly.

ICH TAUCHE TIEFER

Band: CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE
Title: Ich Tauche Tiefer (literally "I Dive Deep")
Format: Internet-only CD single, available as a free download from the band's MySpace website since 2007, and also as free download #211 from http://www.smellthestench.net/
Edition: Unlimited - free download

Track Listing:
01. Ich Tauche Tiefer 04.13

It takes courage to be an artist in the public eye - putting on show your innermost thoughts and feelings to the all too often critical gaze of media and general scrutiny. It also takes balls the size of coconuts to front up your debut free download single for your new neo-classical dance project clad in a pair of leather shorts on the equally free-to-download inlay! Alex, however, shirks from no challenge and in a fitting (and rather tight fitting too it has been noted) homage to 80's club fashion so Ceremony of Innocence came into the glare of the spotlight for the first time.

And what of the track in question? Well, a great deal of the informed internet chatter refers to this single as "a song in the classical NDW style of early eighties." In this context, NDW refers to the Neue Deutsche Welle ('New German Wave') which was mostly an underground movement with roots in British punk and New Wave music; it quickly developed into an original and distinct style, influenced in no small part by the different sound and rhythm of the German language.

Now, not being an expert of this period of music Nazgul is not in much of a position to comment, but even I can notice similarities in some of the keyboard 'washes' to those employed in early Ultravox albums, and the drum machine beat is typically 80s club style in nature.

It's a single song, and at the time must have been a bold departure for a man known predominately for metal in the black/viking/ambient style. But then, creativity comes in many forms and if the muse strikes you, why not indulge it? I'm sure there's nothing worse than being pigeon-holed as an artist after all. And after all, anyone who willingly wears those shorts for a photo session has to earn your respect for audacity, if nothing else!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

SILENT FEARS [V/A]

Band: Compilation featuring both BONEMACHINE and URUK HAI
Title: Silent Fears
Format: Two limited edition triple-CDr formats, released on the Theremin Noise Club label (Austria) in 2006, catalogue reference TNC040. Track listing on both versions is the same (photo shows 'Ultra Limited Collectors Edition' at the bottom).
Edition: 3 disc set with poster-booklet in 'fat-box' format limited to 111 hand-numbered copies. Ultra Limited Collectors Edition comes in a handmade 3-disc 'Digifile' with extras including poster-booklet, a logo badge and unique film strip, limited to 33 hand-numbered pieces only.

Track Listing:
Disc 1
01 Aetherfront – Ginnungagap

02 The Sounds of Earth – Struggle For Control
03 Persona – Dolor Irreversible
04 Moon – The Snow Is Falling On A Distant Planet
05 Rauschform – Reality Torn Apart
06 Radiator Blues – Momentary (the wind, worms, the wood)
Disc 2
01 Tardive Dyskinesia – Murdering Spirits

02 Kadaver – The Moon Bares Teeth (Part 3)
03 Matamore – Senior Bartel
04 Flutwacht/Vronthor – LSD Soldier
05 N. Strahl N. - Krebsnebel
06 Bonemachine – Heimkehrer
Disc 3
01 Uruk-Hai – Keeper of Nenya
02 Angel’s Flesh – Sous-sol
03 Chaoticum – Thelemachus Unveiled
04 Hexathurz – Breed of a Ritual
05 Souls of Nephilims – Forbidden
06 Life’s Decay – Sphere
07 H5N1 – Organic Spread Defiance-DC2
08 Likantropika – Quatermass
09 A Quiet Womb – For Those Who Cannot Relax

One of the drawbacks in collecting Alex's work is that the number of different projects he is involved with leads to a shocking proliferation of tracks that only appear on certain compilations or limited edition release, to the point that even the most ardent collector can have trouble keeping up!

This well presented release - courtesy of the Theremin Noise Club, with all photos and artwork from our old friend Chris H (who, you will recall, designed the W.A.R. Productions logo as detailed in a recent Blog entry) - is one such collection. It features 2 tracks of particular interest to Huginophiles everywhere: the Uruk Hai song 'Keeper Of Nenya' which appeared here in advance of its full release as part of the band's 'Lothlorien' album, and 'Heimkehrer' from Bonemachine, unique to this compilation.

Chance dictated that Nazgul had an opportunity to purchase both of the limited edition formats for this release (even though the track listings are identical), so I am the proud owner of #4 of 33 in the ultra-limited hand-made edition and #56 of 111 in the slightly-more-common-but-still-limited-edition fat-box set!

A particularly good review of the whole of this set appears at the Heathen Harvest web-pages, from which I've pinched the section quoted below as it gives a pretty good flavour of the 2 principal tracks of interest:

"N. Strahl N. and Bonemachine do a lot to rescue the [second] disc though. N. Strahl N.’s 'Krebsnebel' is a really affecting slow rumbler of a track. Lots of shifting sound that strikes a balance between being too over-stimulating for an ambient track and being a repetitive listen. Bonemachine’s piece really stands out at the close of this disc. It’s has rhythm and ambiance and reminds me of one of the Deutsch Nepal tracks but the title slips my mind. Being a shorter track it carries more punch and keeps me engaged all the way through.

The final disc really picks up, right from the start. Uruk-Hai present the shortest piece on this compilation but it is one of the best. 'Keeper of Nenya' creates dreamlike mental images of dashing through Northern forests in enchanted kingdoms."

Well, Nazgul himself couldn't express it any better than that.

A very interesting compilation throughout, in fact. Many of the bands are known to me either through split releases with Bonemachine (step forward N. Strahl N. and Flutwacht) or as bands that I have an interest in anyway (The Sounds Of Earth) and there is much to enjoy listening to this collection. As you might expect the ultra-limited edition is long sold-out, but Theremin Noise Club are still advertising the other set for sale (http://www.thereminnoiseclub.net.te/) so there is hope yet should you wish to own another unique Bonemachine compilation track!

One day there will surely have to be a CDr collection of all such compilation tracks issued, for the poor old collectors like Nazgul who can't keep up with the pace of such limited edition.....!

SCHATTENKRIEGER

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Schattenkrieger
Format: CD release on CCP Records (Austria) in 2003 in both first pressing digipak format and regular jewel case edition. Track listing on both versions is the same (photo shows digipak at the top). Recorded with Austrian symphonic metal band Estatic Fear, and a host of guest musicians.
Edition: Digipak limited to 1000 unnumbered copies, jewel case pressing unlimited

Track Listing:
1. Einleitung (Erster Schattenzyklus) 01:17
2. Das Flammende Auge 03:27
3. Zweiter Schattenzyklus 01:04
4. Im Feuer der Rache 04:16
5. Dritter Schattenzyklus 02:04
6. Ein Gar stolzes Heer 01:16
7. Vierter Schattenzyklus 00:37
8. Schattenkrieger 02:52
9. Strahlend Schwarz 02:19
10. Fünfter Schattenzyklus 01:35
11. Donnerschlag 02:43
12. Gar schemenhaft Die Schatten Trügen 03:28
13. Sechster Schattenzyklus 00:39
14. Wenn Winters Sang und Klang Verstummt 03:56
15. Oh´ Schatz 03:42
16. Siebenter Schattenzyklus 00:42
17. ...Krieg Entbrannte (Nacht der Helden) 04:47


There are (Nazgul imagines) two fundamentally different schools of thought about this release.

On the face of it - and on the first couple of spins - it's a very catchy, commercially adept sound (rather like Elvenking jamming with Folkearth in Tarja's' kitchen) with plenty of melody, 'hummable' songs, short bursts of female narrative, choruses galore, and more instrumentation and musicians than you could shake a stick at.

On the other hand, what - you might reasonably ask - has all of the above got to do with a Hrossharsgrani release? Commercial sound? Varied vocalists and instrumentation (including a bass, of all things)? Songs you can actually hum? Bah - Humbug!!

The sad fact is that this album is the equivalent of the debacle that was 'New' Coca-Cola, or any other modern commercial marketing exercise that you might care to name. It might look the same in name, it may even come from the same respected company as past releases (and yes, CCP Records, Nazgul is looking hard in your direction at this juncture) but at the end of the day there is precious little of the essence of the original product left.

In the case of this album the reasons for this mysterious departure from plan are difficult to fathom. Did CCP Records decide it try and capitalise on it's investment in the Hross' project by shoe-horning in a bunch of guest musicians (no less than 19, according to the inlay booklet!) to bolster a part-recorded product? Were local symphonic metal band Estatic Fear also in the CCP studio by coincidence, leading to an unplanned and unholy alliance of sorts? Was there a mutiny by sometime Hross' members Fylgja (female vocals) and Munin (instruments) leading to a capture of the master tapes in the dead of night after Hugin had thrown his hands up in despair at all of the goings-on?

Nazgul doesn't know. But then, Nazgul doesn't need to know. If you want to listen to a perfectly respectable folk-metal album with nice songs you can whistle along with and which won't offend granny, then you could do far worse than this. But a plague of boils on CCP Records for releasing said album as a Hrossharsgrani product, as it certainly lost that right long before the final masters were recorded.

Ironically it's one of the more available Hrossharsgrani releases, and as such it's received a share of good reviews. Fair enough for the music, but most misleading if you are/were a long-time fan and picked this up expecting to get a dose of the good stuff. The words below (courtesy of Durandal1717 on Metal Archive) are not untypical of online commentary:

"The third release by the reformed (good) version of Hrossharsgrani, and the second full-length, this amends some of the problems that plagued the old releases, but in the process, loses some of the charm of the previous albums. I don’t know if charm is the right word, but it certainly sounds different as a whole as well as the individual songs"

Nazgul will instead opt to pop Ancient Tales back on the death-deck and leave this disc well alone....

Saturday, 16 May 2009

ORCHISH BATTLE HYMNS

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Orchish Battle Hymns
Format: Cassette-only release on the Chanteloup Creations label (France), catalogue reference AWE65, released in 2000.
Edition: Limited to 200 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
1. Thangorodrim 3.20
2. Shadow Of The Orcs 5.20
3. Ea – The Secret Fire 16.36
4. The Dragonslayer 12.21
5. Battle March (Outro) 1.34

Firstly you'll notice that I've kept the original title of the tape for this entry with the spelling as "Orchish" rather than "orcish" as it usually seems to be attributed/corrected elsewhere online. Frankly, I think it could probably be spelled either way but I'm not going to assume like most others that the title must be a typo. This Chanteloup Creations release from 2000 is one of the early Uruk Hai demos (the third, to be precise) and is a real swine to find now. This one - hand-numbered #31 - is the only copy I've ever seen for sale in years of looking for one, so you might reasonably conclude that this tape is a pretty rare collectable now.

Great cover art on this release too by the way (try expanding the photo by clicking on it for a better look), with the main cover panel showing a storming of the walls of a stronghold with scaling ladders, collapsed brickwork and breached walls.

Musically this is less in the ambient vein of later Uruk Hai releases, for reasons previously covered in this Blog - this was still a time when the battle-music of Hrossharsgrani (from which Uruk Hai sprang) still was a mighty influence on the direction of the band. As such, it's a pretty raw and primeval recording in some respects (although well produced, I would add) and features much in the way of black-metal influences on the vocals and guitars, and some militaristic pounding drumming a la contemporary Hross' demos.

A brief review of this demo appeared in the online postings of http://www.arcananoctis.com/ and read as follows:

"On this demo from Uruk-Hai is presented some kind of Tolkien influenced ambient which from time to time is evolving into a soft kind of black metal. There are five songs here including two epics "Ea-The secret fire “and "The dragon slayer". There are also some samples here that make you feel you are near a river somewhere in a forest..."

Less an analysis and more of a description to be fair, but still - good to see some other press about one of Alex's releases! I've also seen this release described as "Mystic pagan ambient with battle atmosphere and black metal touches" which I suppose is a good summary overall too.

If you do enjoy this genre of music there is much to enjoy here - from the thunder and cawing of ravens that opens "Thangorodrin" (in the works of Tolkien, 'Thangorodrim' was said to have been the piles of slag from Morgoth's furnaces and rubble from the delving of Angband, or three volcanic peaks in the Iron Mountains, depending what you read) to the subsequent (and rather good) medley of frenetic drumming and bell-like synth 'chimes' finale ends that ends the second song "Shadow of the Orcs" it's a bright start to the demo.

Third track "Ea - The Secret Fire' is a bit of an epic, but well constructed and keeps your interest throughout. "The Dragonslayer" is a mesmerizing mix of samples and music, with a guttural spoken chorus that lends the piece some real atmosphere right the way through to the sampled finale where medieval fighting scenes will spring into your mind's eye. You may also be interested to know, by the way, that according to the cosmology of Middle-Earth 'Eä' is the Quenya name for the universe, as a realization of the vision of the Ainur. The word comes from the Quenya word for to be. Thus, Eä is the World that Is, as distinguished from the World that Is Not. Both an educational Blog as well as fun, Nazgul is delighted.

Closing outro "Battle March" is a straightforward rhythmic march led by 'parping' keyboards (think of those large trumpets that announce royalty) underpinned by a steady drumbeat, overlain with a light melody on keyboards.

As a final thought, the inlay notes from Alex record the tribute "The songs are dedicated to SKOGEN" and without going into any specific detail I'd like to take this chance to echo this tribute too, and hail the hard work and dedication behind the scenes (and, indeed, behind the UG 'scene') of this mysterious, shadowy form....

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

POST-NUKE POP

Band: B-MACHINA
Title: Post-Nuke Pop
Format: Stickered 1 track CDr release in 'credit card' style format, with 2 picture magnets (the one of Alex called 'Back From Chaos' according to the band's MySpace pages), all in plastic wallet 'triptych' design. A release on the W.A.R. label (no catalogue reference) from 2008 [tbc]
Edition: Limited to only 25 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Post-Nuke Pop

Falling into the 'new' B-Machina' era that followed the re-naming of Bonemachine (designated by the 'new' style logo red sticker on the disc), this 5 minute plus track has some typically individualistic packaging from the W.A.R. label - Nazgul certainly has not seen a 'triptych' style release very often before, the last being the superb creation of Sombre Presage, but I digress - and I'm honoured to say that my copy has been signed and dedicated on the middle panel by Alex.

Only 25 of these were made, and although for a while a few cropped up on eBay (and also http://www.discogs.com/, another good source of obscure A.W. product!) I've not seen one for sale for quite some time, so given the limited numbers produced I suspect they've all found good homes in collections around the globe now.

So, what do you get musically on this effort? Well, it's a release very much in the industrial-style from B-Machina (and, indeed the new era band describes itself on MySpace in the context of "Max became a new member of B-MACHINA, [so] expect great mediaeval folk guitar songs mixed with cold Post Nuke Industrial from now") and somewhat hard to put into words. There are two distinct sections to the piece - the first lasting perhaps the first 3:18 minutes or so, and bringing to mind the inner workings of a vast machine, buzzing and crackling with electricity (or perhaps light irradiated following nuclear attack...), whilst the second part is less harsh and discordant, being more reminiscent of an office in which anonymous equipment is plagued by static in the post-holocaust environment.....

Let the nuclear winter begin....

Saturday, 9 May 2009

W.A.R. Productions

What's this logo of, Nazgul (the masses cry)? It's of W.A.R. Productions
Why should I care? Because W.A.R. Productions, based out of W.A.R. Studios, is the entity through which Alex brings us much of his music
It's a rather cool design, Nazgul - who did it? Chris H. from Kunstgalerie did this splendid work (see www.Kunstgalerie.net.tc for more)

And lo, Nazgul had the bright idea of shedding some light on the source of much of Alex's music - the fabled W.A.R. Studios - to enliven his Blog with some previously unknown information about this mythical location. Is it true, as dark rumours persist, that the walls at W.A.R. are lined with the heads of cute furry animals, and that a life-size effigy of Hugh Grant stands waiting to be regularly speared and axed with medieval weaponry as eternal penance for his atrocious films? Can there be any foundation to the myth that only Vikings and white-handed Uruk Hai may enter these hallowed portals of the damned?

Well, errrr, frankly who knows? Such rumours could yet have a basis of truth after all. But what Nazgul does know is shared with you below, in a revealing and unique-to-this-Blog exclusive interview with Alex himself:

Q1: Can you tell us how the W.A.R. came to exist - why did you decide to build your own studio?
A1: It was back in 1998 when I founded HROSSHARSGRANI, I decided to do some home recordings - that was the birth of W.A.R. Productions - in the beginning it was very, VERY simple: I only used a YAMAHA keyboard, and later I bought a FOSTEX 4 track recorder and a guitar (I still use both). In 2003 I started to use my computer for recordings too, now I wouldn't be without it :-)


Q2: How did W.A.R get its name, and where the studios?
A2: Wieser. Alex. Records. (W.A.R.) - no stranger than all of my other project names:-) The studio is in Linz, Austria.


Q3: How were you recording your material prior to W.A.R. existing?
A3: Originally, over the past 11 years, I liked to get my inspiration in nature - first a walk through a forest or something in that vein, trying to get the power to create some music. Back home in my flat, in my music room, I would start to transfer the inspiration I got from nature into melodies - in the beginning mostly a simple hypnotic keyboard melody. I have a small music room in my flat, which is essentially the "WAR Studio", but I wish to get a bigger one in a separate flat someday in the future too

If I was recording some Industrial stuff I wouldn't need nature for inspiration, just some strange ideas which would come to me mostly at night after I woke up from sleep. I'd write it down and the morning after I would try to do something with this idea - or maybe not, depending on my mood.

Q4: Where else did you record in back in the early days?
A4: Some HROSSHARSGRANI and BONEMACHINE recordings where recorded at the CCP Studio, also in Linz.

Q5. What equipment did your studio originally have?
A5: I had a FOSTEX Recorder, KORG F/X board, Hohner Guitar, BC Rich Bass Guitar, YAMAHA Keyboard, Kambal Djembes, Teak Didgeridoo, Bamboo Didgeridoo, some different ethnic instruments, and a "no name" acoustic guitar. For the PC: Cubase, Musicmaker, Fruitloops, Evolution, Pure Mayhem, amongst others.

Q6. How has it changed now (to 2009) - what equipment have you added, and what now do you use to record & produce your music?
A6: I still use all the stuff I have owned since the beginning, but mostly I work on PC only nowadays - especially for Ambient music where it works brilliantly in my opinion! The newest addition to the Studio is my new Teak Didgeridoo, but I´m just start to learn it. You can listen to short soundscapes in some recent WACH tracks:-)

Q7. If money was no object, how would you change W.A.R. Studios now?
A7: I would buy the CCP Studio, its really awesome - take a look at www.ccprecords.com (Link: Studio) hehehe. But honestly I don't know, I like the way I do music, maybe if I had the money for it I would buy a bigger room for my studio, some good wires, speakers, etc.

Q8. What other bands have used the Studios over the years?
A8: Only my own projects, and a young Heavy band called OUT OF EXPERIENCE. I have done the master for a SVARROGH track here too, and I have created tons of CD's, tapes, artwork and design for lots of different bands here at W.A.R. too...

Q9. Finally, Alex, what three words would you use to sum up the atmosphere or ethos of recording at W.A.R.?
A9: Volksmusik aus Österreich :-))


So there we are, readers of these periodical tribute pages. The origins and present day nature of W.A.R. Studios for your edification. Should any old and secret photographs of the inside of this domain ever come into Nazgul's possession, be sure that a sequel will follow....

MELANCHOLIE EINES HERBSTES IN DREI AKTEN

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Melancholie eines Herbstes in drei Akten ('Melancholy of Autumn in three acts')
Format: CDr release (label unspecified, no catalogue reference) and a split album between Svarrogh, Rubixx Project and Uruk Hai. Released in 2004.
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:
Svarrogh:
1. Samota
2. Slunce Moe, Kum Tebe E Moyata Molitva
Uruk Hai
3. Nebelland 3.33
4. Barbarians 4.15
5. Hügel der Tränen 3.16
6. Mit dem Schwerte 4.01
7. Sagenreich 3.00
8. Tyrannentod 10.34
Rubixx Project:
9. So Many Tears (instrumental)
10. Angel & Demons
11. Archetypal (instrumental)
12. Perceiving Subject
13. D.I.V. (dem Irdischen Verfallen)
14. Flowing Tears (instrumental Outro)
Uruk Hai / Arkillery:
15. Minas Morgul (bonus track) 4.50

Something of an anonymous CDr release this one - very little to be found out about it via the Internet (and just who are/were the Rubixx Project anyway??), but from the style of inlay presentation and the addition of the bonus track from the Uruk Hai/Arkillery split release I have more than a suspicion that this might be an uncredited W.A.R. Studios release from the hand of AW himself.....doubtless all will become clear in the fullness of time!

And once again it's one of those releases that proves virtually impossible to find anywhere. I have a vague recollection of finding this online some years ago, and like many such releases in Hugin's vast canon of work I've never seen one for sale anywhere since. Which indeed is a shame for those of you who have not heard the 6 unique Uruk Hai tracks contained within, as there are some really good pieces of music on offer here. One day, when Nazgul compiles the official 'best-of' Uruk Hai 2-disc compilation, there may well be the odd offering from this highly unknown release put forward for consideration!

Opening Uruk Hai track 'Nebelland' (The Land of Mist) is an interesting start - a gust of wind is followed by an industrial rhythm that smacks strongly of a B-Machina introduction. Just when you're reaching for the inlay to make sure you've got the right song playing a trademark synthesizer moment kicks in and by two minutes in you're back in the clutches of some classic haunting melodies, very reminiscent of being alone in a wild and barren place with background wind and ambient chords echoing peacefully in your ears.

'Barbarians' is wholly keyboard driven, but to me comes across as not so much a musical piece but the eerie sound of a lost soul lamenting in the moonlight, a zephyr of air that sounds as much like a spirit as a force of nature. If you've ever been around a burial mound at night, and interpreted the sounds of nature as the souls of the dead trying to communicate with you then you'll know what I mean....

With a gossamer-thin curtain of strumming and the trill of birdsong, we're into the third Uruk Hai track (song 5 on the disc), being 'Hugel der Tranen.' It's a trip into the deep woods on a bright summers day, but the encroaching sound of marching warriors (or, more possibly, running Uruk Hai) seems to dominate the mid-section of the piece, literally breaking the tranquility with militaristic war-drums and 'big' dramatic keyboard flourishes. The track ends with a reversion to the peaceful silence of the trees: the uninvited visitors are gone ... for now....

We are then 'Mit Dem Schwerte' (literally 'With The Sword') which has all the ingredients - steady drum beats, snarled vocals and unobtrusive background keyboards - to suggest the incantation of some (un)holy ritual within a cave or enclosed space: perhaps some powerful spell is being cast to further enhance the weapon of a fearsome creature of war...? Or perhaps Nazgul has been on the strong cheese again - it's a close call....

Two tracks to finish off the Uruk Hai offerings - firstly the short and splendidly ephemeral 'Saganreich' which, with its majestic and positively regal piano and keyboard melodies invokes a romantic lament for a fallen lover or friend. A really beautiful short piece of music, very reminiscent of an Enya song (and I mean that in a good way, folks!) We finish with 'Tyrannentod' - a burst of hand-to-hand combat gets this one going (and we're in there to the death, with all the muffled thumps of weaponry on leather shields and grunts and cries of battling warriors) and before you can cry "Hrossharsgrani sampled battles rule" sombre and melancholic keyboards and slow, measured drumbeats take over, and lead you slowly throughout the rest of the song, punctuated at 8 minutes by a heavy downpour and later an ominous rumble of thunder.

Really, really good stuff this - and such a shame it's tucked away on a pretty obscure compilation. Final track 'Minas Morgul' will be familiar to you if you've read my previous review of the split demo with Arkillery, although the ending to this song (with spoken English narrative) is a new addition I believe.

Friday, 8 May 2009

STERBEGESANGE

Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Sterbegesänge
Format: Cassette only release by Hallucination Zine (Portugal) in 2001, catalogue reference HZ017
Edition: Limited to 1000 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Intro Elisabetha 05:31
02. Brief Dracula's an Jonathan Harker 05:17
03. Tanz der Vampire 05:42
04. Karpathen - Isten Szek! (Denn die Toten reiten schnell...) 13:14
05. Outro Ankunft Harkers auf Schlo§ Dracula 07:19
06. Elisabetha Pt. II 01:11
07. Blut 03:11
08. Hure 02:43
09. Im Mahlstrom der Zeit 12:50
10. Villa Carfax 03:54
11. hidden track 00:53

A cunning release, this one. Take the tracks from the highly praised (including a post in this Blog) Elisabetha debut "Durst Nach Unsterblichkeit", limited to only 100 copies and thus pretty rare, and combine with additional new tracks for a superior re-release with added bite!

Once more the Hallucination Zine (of Portuguese origin, although I confess I can't find out much about them from the Web) release a quality product with nicely produced inlay and informative sleeve notes. Where are they / Roberto Fernando now, you may ask - a good question, to which Nazgul can only shrug his shoulders and wonder too....

On the basis of past Blogs you will know that tracks 1,2,3,5, and 6 come from the aforementioned "Durst Nach Unsterblichkeit" demo, and consequently all other tracks are unique to this release. And yes, the new tracks fit into the Elisabetha canon of sound readily enough: jagged guitar riffs, spoken-word passages (quite possibly from the Bram Stoker novel itself) and disturbing keyboards make this a compulsive yet unsettling listen.

The inlay helpfully notes that track 3 'Tanz der Vampire' is part of the Atlantida Volume 11 compilation (not one that I currently possess), whilst tracks 7 through 11 "will continue the bloody adventures of Jonathan Harker in the weird castle of Count Dracula..."

Good, atmospheric ambient horror music - just the thing with a heavy red wine and strong cheese!!

SCHALL UND RAUCH

Band: URUK HAI ... or is it...?!
Title: Schall Und Rauch / Infernal Winter 666
Format: Split 7" vinyl single with Grimthorn (Austria) on CCP Records (Austria), 2001, catalogue reference 100225-1
Edition: Limited to 333 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

Uruk Hai
1. Schall Und Rauch 07:21
Grimthorn
2. Infernal Winter 666 06:03


You may recall Nazgul's earlier Blog on the 7th April in respect of the Bonemachine release "Schwarzes Jerusalem" in which an analysis of the track "Schall Und Rauch" was given. If not, the pearls of wisdom on that particular occasion read:

"For me the highlight of the whole album are the three remaining tracks, which - with the right record company support - could lead to a couple of cracking single releases. "Schall und Rauch" kicks off with a short piece of big-band radio show music before morphing into a time-based motif (lots of ticking clocks, pseudo Floyd stuff) and orchestral build-up before...BLAAM! We're in the midst of a Bonemachine track with lyrics! And not just any old track, but a well-constructed and downright catchy one, with deep spoken word German vocals adding a sense of drama and menace to the overall song. Some really clever complementary samples in this one too, including haunting synths and female vocals that emphasise the chorus very nicely."

And lo, Nazgul remains of this opinion as - so it would seem - did CCP Records in Austria who decided this track merited release as a 7" vinyl single in 2001. Good for them - just a shame that the logos on the vinyl and the sleeve clearly credit this to Uruk Hai !

Confused, Nazgul asked Alex for his view, to which the short explanation was pretty succinct - "yes - it was a mistake - it's BONEMACHINE not URUK-HAI"

Well, printing cock-up or not, this is still a bloody good song and to be honest, were Nazgul to sweep the 100m+ Euro Millions lottery this weekend, a free copy on CDr would be posted through the letterbox of everyone in Europe just to hammer the point home. Given a wider distribution than 333 copies, this surely would gain some commercial success and media acclaim.....but then, when has life ever been fair and just?

A hard single to track down now with such a limited run having been made, I wish you good luck should you be trying to find it for your own collection. Of course, you could take a short cut and email Leigh at Smell The Stench records to purchase a copy of "Schwarzes Jerusalem" CDr instead and save yourself a lot of hard work - although where's the fun in that.....?!

BLUT (Version 2003)

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Blut
Format: Original CDr pressed but not formally issued by W.A.R. Studios in 1998. Cassette version remastered in 2003 for Werwolf Productions (Italy), cat ref WP0011, including one unreleased bonus track not on the original recording. Artwork for the CDr version can be seen at the Hrossharsgrani MySpace pages.
Edition: Cassette version limited to just 66 hand-numbered copies.

Track Listing:
01. Ozeane Der Zeit
02. Kalte Night
03. Die Karpathen
04. Mitternacht
05. Der Pfahler
06. Sehe Deinen Tod
07. Ein Meer Aus Schmerzen
08. Herr Uber Die Winde
09. Aufstieg Verforener Seelen
10. Blut (Part I)
11. Blut (Part II)
12. Apokalypse
13. Ewigkeit
14. Leben, Tod, Untodt (bonus track for this release only)
15. Zu Ende

Somewhat of a complicated history to this release. As I understand it, the original "Blut" recordings were made in winter 1998/99 at the W.A.R. Studios in Linz, but although committed to disc with a rather nice 'werewolf' cover design the CDr was not officially released at the time. Jump forward to 2008 and the "Sanguis" digipak was released by Hrossharsgrani with the accompanying spiel:

"In the cold winter of 1998 a.d. the Austrian battle machine Hrossharsgrani formed for their first release in shape of the demo “Blut”. In the beginning Hrossharsgrani (feat Hugin of Uruk-Hai) wandered the worlds of dark ambient music to tell stories of creatures that walked by night, the undead, the vampyres. He paid tribute to the bloody heritage of Lord Byron and Bram Stoker. On the 10 year anniversary of "Blut", this gem, which was lost for a decade, is now digitally remastered and released once again."

However, in between these phases the 'Blut' album did receive a formal release, albeit a very limited one, courtesy of Werwolf Productions in Italy, in a hand-numbered tape format of just 66 pieces (my copy is #8) complete with an 'unreleased bonus track'. The tape itself is also autographed by Hugin towards the right middle side, as you can see if you click on the photo to expand it.

I managed to track my copy down on eBay some years ago, and it was the first - and last - time I've actually seen one for sale. So it's not quite the 'lost for a decade' release that the 'Sanguis' release would have you believe, but it's close! Incidentally, I'll be covering the 'Sanguis' digipak in detail on a separate Blog entry, as it reworks the many songs from the original demo into fewer, revised compositions and thus can largely be seen as a release in its own right.

So - back to 'Blut (Version 2003)' then. Well, with 15 tracks on offer you may be thinking "I know exactly what to expect from this Hross' release - epic drumming, extensive sampled battle-scenes, deep Germanic vocals over galloping Viking-esque synths, and so forth." In fact, leave your preconceived notions by the door on the way in, as this release is far more ephemeral than later releases proved to be, possibly a function of the Hrossharsgrani identity developing over time from this early beginning.

The tracks run into one another, and without the benefit of clear track demarcations offered in the digital world it proves difficult to attempt a review of this tape on a song by song basis. That said, to undertake such a task would be somewhat futile as the demo taken as a whole is the best way to approach what is on offer here. And what a mixed bag that proves to be, to be sure: we have orchestral parts, choral parts (female and male), ominous and eerie keyboard passages that would suit an Elisabetha horror-play, brooding atmospheric segues (spoken and musical) that lead into slower, more measured drum-led songs or synth pieces that nod quietly to old-school OMD at times.

It's a real cornucopia of atmospheric ambiance, and whilst it may not be entirely what you might have expected the original demo of this project to sound like it's certainly a winner with me!

Friday, 1 May 2009

REI REA / BONEMACHINE split

Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Rei Rea / Bonemachine (untitled split CDr)
Format: CDr release in card-sleeve format with inner wallet (different image on reverse side for Rei Rea tracks), released in 2007 on the Crater Records label (Canada), catalogue reference CTR02.
Edition: Believed to be limited to only 70 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
1 Rei Rea Ulcer Vile
2 Rei Rea Degrees Of Guilt
3 Rei Rea Onward
4 Rei Rea Silent Hunters
5 Rei Rea Sunken Part.1
6 Bonemachine Feindschlag 3:01
7 Bonemachine Military Desaster 10:55
8 Bonemachine Coldashell 3:00
9 Bonemachine Hölle:Modern 3:25

April was a rather busy month for poor old Nazgul, with little time to bring this Blog up to date with any regularity. May also could prove to be hectic, but as I've a little time this afternoon to get my house in order this is the third post today, and already accounts for one third of the total volume of postings achieved in the whole of the preceding month!

Falling very much into the 'industrial noise' category of Bonemachine work, this split CDr with Canadian band Rei Rea is yet again a very limited release targetted at hardcore fans rather than aspiring to break into commericial territories. I'd not heard of Rei Rea before this release, but I understand from their web page that the band

"...was born from city landscapes and the morning and the evening public transport need[ing] a gray repetitive soundtrack to move along with his weekly travels. REI REA is based on a wordless passive observation."
So now you know as much as Nazgul.

The label itself describes this release as a "split-CDR of Canadian dark industrial and Austrian dark ambient/industrial projects" and that's a pretty fair summary.

It's very hard to attempt a description of industrial ambient music - you'll end up with some ridiculous analogies if you're not careful, comparing tracks such as 'Feindschlag' being akin to someone whistling in the back office of an angle-grinding business, or 'Coldashell' being acoustically reminiscent to the sound of a few stormtroopers from Star Wars incessantly firing off their lasers inside a vast oil drum.

Doesn't really inspire you to go out and purchase this, does it?! And therein is the problem - you either understand the nature of this genre, or you recoil at any logical attempt to describe it. Interestingly, the 'Military Desaster' track - previously reviewed in an early Blog Nazgul posted on Bonemachine's "Bombardements" release - is a much more rounded and lengthy track than the counterparts on this split release.

I imagine a timely email to the Crater Records web page might well identify whether there are remaining stocks of this CDr for sale, and for fans of the genre it might well prove to be a worthy addition to your collection.

UNITED BY HEATHEN BLOOD

Band: HREFNESHOLT
Title:
United By Heathen Blood
Format: Cassette tape-only release on the AMF Productions label (Bulgaria), cat ref AMF 033, released in 2007. A three-way split between Hrefnesholt, Symbiosis of Italy and Bagatur of Bulgaria (the band of AMF Production label owner Alexander)
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:

1. The Dying Satyr - Symbiosis
2. Asaland - Hrefnesholt
3. Ñêàçàíèå çà Äðåâíîáúëãàðñêîòî Âåëè÷èå - part 1 - Bagatur
4. Eine Ode an Midgard (Heil dir Midgard Krieger) - Hrefnesholt
5. Dance of the Falling Leaves - Symbiosis
6. Ñêàçàíèå çà Äðåâíîáúëãàðñêîòî Âåëè÷èå - part 2 - Bagatur
7. Ravnagund - Hrefnesholt
8. Desolazione al Chiaro di Luna - Symbiosis

Firstly, let me clarify that the Bagatur tracks above are probably not entirely accurate (!!) in spelling terms - as a band that has virtually no web presence, and being in Bulgarian, only the Metal Archive website attempted to list their song details and I've copied them from there. Apologies to any offended Bulgarians out there!

Now then, back to business. This 2007 release is the last official Hrefnesholt output, and with such a small discography of work Nazgul has to space out reviews in Honour And Darkness in order not to deplete their items too soon!

A short release all round (the snazzy green-coloured tape is only 30 minutes on each side, with all 8 tracks being encompassed within that time), these are therefore 3 relatively restrained releases but what they lack in length they certainly don't lack for in quality.

We kick off with 'Asaland', which is a very short acoustic guitar piece (vaguely reminiscent at the outset of the beginning of Radiohead's 'Paranoid Android') which leads into around 2 minutes of mature and stately music that would grace any full length album.

'Eine Ode an Midgard (Heil dir Midgard Krieger)' - loosely, 'An Ode to Midgard (hail Midgard warrior) - has a great electronic synth opening, which I have to say reminded me strongly of the electronica approach that latter day Paradise Lost took around their "Host" album. A sombre, melancholy piece this one, yet there is a very good pervasive rhythm throughout the track that lifts it from the humdrum to being a worthy tribute to the warriors being celebrated (as does the small - and classically Hugin - battle scene at the end of the song).

Final track 'Ravnagund' commences (and indeed ends) with the crowing and cawing of ravens, and the music is a combination of martial-style drumming with dramatic synthesiser. Croaking vocals - imagine a Viking elder around a camp fire, educating the younger warriors - recite verses from The Edda. The term Edda applies to the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, both of which were written down in Iceland during the 13th century. They are recognised as the main sources of medieval Norse mythology and skaldic tradition in Iceland. Some of the older poems included may predate the date of their recording by several centuries, establishing continuity with the Viking Age.

This release is still available at the AMF Productions website at a very modest 3 Euro all in, which represents fantastic value as the contributions from Symbiosis and Bagatur are equally good work. And properly spelt on the inlay.

ZALGIRIO MUSIS

Band: RAVENCLAW
Title: Zalgirio Musis / Baxas Xebesheth 1883
Format: split CDr with Svarrogh on the Atlantida Productions label (Lithuania), no catalogue reference, released 2003.
Edition: Unnumbered edition, possibly of 1000?

Track Listing:

Ravenclaw tracks:
1. Kovos Su Kryziuocials 1.39
2. Nuolatinial Karo Zygial 8.28
3. Lietuvial Nepasiduoda 5.37
4. Zutbutinis Musis 3.17
5. Pergale 4.00
6. Pabaiga 8.48

Svarrogh tracks:
7. Baxas Xebesheth 1883
8. Welkes Schwarz
9. Breathing Kathaarian Dust
10. Die Hämische Pein
11. Potoceta Nemirni (Part 1)
12. Am Nebelhain
13. Sa Lebedi I Vrani
14. Tyzhen Dyzhd


You may recall back on 10 May of this year Nazgul wrote up an entry for the first full length Ravenclaw album, and...well.....not to put too fine a point on it, was not overly enthused. This split CDr was released in the following year and featured a Ravenclaw duo of AW and R******s, with sometime third member Dimo Dimov's alternative project Svarrogh making up the second half of the release.

And so, you ask, is this more of the same 'epic Viking' tales from Ravenclaw as we heard on "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" CD? Are Nazgul's criticisms still valid? Does anyone else read this Blog and care? Well, just in case there is life out there....read on!

And the good news is this - I rate this release a lot more highly than its predecessor. But there is a snag: musically, this is exceptional. Puts me in mind of the sort of 'classic' folk release that French Pyrenees band Stille Volk were doing, with tons of indigenous instrumentation along the lines of flutes, balalaika-style plucked guitars and other folk-tinged elements together with subtle use of samples of natural sounds. It strongly gives the impression of green fields, dark cloistered woods and clouds scudding across the sky in a mountainous-yet-green landscape. Pretty much what you might imagine a musical evening in the Carpathians might be like!

Vocally, however, the effect jars a little for me although to be fair the more you listen to the Ravenclaw tracks as a whole the more you do get used to it. Whilst the music weaves an expansiveness and airy tapestry, the deep echo-y vocal performance is rather out of keeping and sounds too much like it is overdubbed as opposed to integral to the soundscape.

You know, far be it from me to be a creative/critical guru, but I'd be very interested to hear what these tracks would sound like re-recorded either (i) as a purely instrumental release, and/or (ii) with the vocals redone in a less guttural style and more ethereal and sympathetic way to the sound.

However, a definite step up from the debut release but of course, as we know, Ravenclaw were no longer around to release music after this second effort. That said, a few odd tracks were released on the Atlantida label compilation CDr's that Rusianas released on a periodic basis, so fear not intrepid Blogger - more Ravenclaw coverage to come in due course!