Friday, 24 July 2009

HROSSHARSGRANI > original artwork


Nazgul has mentioned in past Blogs that occasionally Alex will send me some very interesting pieces of artwork for his projects, either in relation to specific albums (as with the Bonemachine covers reviewed a while ago) or just relating to one of his projects or another.

As Nazgul has just posted a piece on the S.P.Q.R. release from Hrossharsgrani, and as we've not delved into the 'art' file for a week or so, it seemed timely to grab a couple of pieces of art from the archive to have a look at this evening! There's plenty more in there for future postings, rest assured...!

Starting with the second photo first (and why not) you'll see here the final art proof for the CDr cover of the original 'Blut' demo. Readers with longer memories (specifically back to the 8th May) will recall my review of the tape release of that demo - which later became re-worked as the 'Sanguis' album, also covered recently - and mention was made of the fact that a CDr version with different artwork was prepared in 1998 but not actually released.

Well, the werewolf cover shown here was that very artwork, and it appears in the Metal Archive site listing for this particular demo (mainly I suspect as it's been grabbed from the Hrossharsgrani MySpace site and no one has a photo of the tape cover that was actually issued!) Nazgul confesses that he likes this CDr motif - it's both striking and artfully dark in its nature.

The top picture - and no, it wasn't me that tore off the top right corner, honest guv'nor - is one of Alex's hand-drawn designs for a possible Hross cover. You'll notice the familiar logo design (now redesigned for the latest era of Hross releases - check back over the S.P.Q.R. cover for the latest version) and fantasy-battle character sketch dominating the picture.

Again, it's an interesting insight into the development of the band and - Nazgul hopes -of some interest to the legions of fans out there......well, to the few of you that I know read these pages regularly at any rate (and thanks for filling in the poll, guys!) And once more, Nazgul gives his thanks to Alex for entrusting him with these little nuggets of history from distant times....pagan war hails to you, my brother!

S.P.Q.R.


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: S.P.Q.R
Format: Internet-only split release with Phalanx (featuring the White Rabbit), available online (or direct from the artist!), released 2008. Artwork uploads in .jpeg format also provided.
Edition: unlimited internet download

Track Listing:

01. Nehmt Ihnen Alles * Phalanx

02. Enemy * Hrossharsgrani 8.47

A single track on this internet-only CD release seems to signify another new era for Hrossharsgrani, this time with Roman Empire connotations artistically and a change in musical emphasis too.

The artwork for the main cover is battle-orientated, in an echo to the past theme of the band, but this time featuring armoured combat rather than fantasy based battle scenes. Equally, the inlay sheet for this release shows a phalanx of Roman Centurions marching with their battle standards held high.

Musically this is rather different from the pounding drums and snarled vocals of Hross' demos of old, and different again to the more commercial 'folk-'n'-metal' approach of the 'Schattenkrieger' release. Here, the track in question is predominantly piano based, with various parts of the song being very familiar to more recent Uruk Hai keyboard compositions (less the female chanted vocals). Overlaying the piano is a percussion accompaniment, and towards the end of the song a smattering of guitar, but taken as a whole this is a rather calmer and more measured piece of music than much of the sample-heavy and bludgeoning work that we've become accustomed to.

This in itself is not a bad thing if you have an ear for melody and a decent tune, but even as Nazgul types these words he has a premonition of various members of certain internet forums using his words as ammunition to try to declare Hrossharsgrani not suitably 'metal' any more. Oh dear.

Interestingly there is a element of the background 'static' noise that Nazgul commented on during his review of the 'Sanguis' release, although it is far less intrusive here and actually benefits the music rather than detracting from it.

Credit to Alex for making this available as a free download though - complete with some rather nice artwork that's worth the time and trouble to have professionally printed as it makes a good-looking package overall.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

GUTS FOR DINNER DEMO 1


Band: GUTS FOR DINNER (G.F.D.)
Title: Demo 1
Format: CDr-only self-released demo pressing (no label identified), possibly released circa 2000, no catalogue reference.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 13 only

Track Listing:

01. Butcher XTC 2.43
02. Let's Kill 2.26
03. Ballad Of A Gore Angel 2.05
04. Torture 1.38
05. Holyday in Frostland 2.25

The great thing about collecting anything is that no matter how long you do it for, or how much you think you know about the subject, there's always something that will come out of the blue to fox you!

Take this, for example. Some while ago this demo CDr - number #12 of the 13 - popped through my door in the midst of a parcel of items from Alex that I'd bought. "Hmmmm, never heard of Guts For Dinner" thought Nazgul, and an internet search proved to draw an absolute blank too. Other than finding one other demo being similarly titled but relating to a completely different band, it was a project seemingly with no history whatever.

However, pressing on Nazgul did stumble across one singular line on a website I cannot now find, which suggested that G.F.D. was none other than a grindcore band of our very own Alex Wieser. As it turns out, Alex recorded the demo as a surprise for a friend of his who is a grindcore nut, and as such it was a one-off sort of a project that virtually no one has ever heard about. Until now!

So, adding to the list of Alex's many bands/projects with all of their many and various styles we have another one, folks - Guts For Dinner, with their grindcore approach to life, the universe and everything.

Now, Nazgul does not pretend to be an expert on grindcore and indeed bands in the genre that Nazgul has heard did not exactly set his pulses racing. Not to say they're bad bands, just not Nazgul's cup of Jack Daniels. Indeed, for those (as I) unsure of the definition of the genre, the Wikipedia entry for grindcore reads as follows:

"Grindcore, often shortened to grind, is an extreme music genre that emerged during the mid–1980s. It draws inspiration from some of the most abrasive music genres – including death metal, industrial music, noise and the more extreme varieties of hardcore punk.

Grindcore is characterized by heavily distorted, down-tuned guitars, high speed tempo, blast beats, and vocals which consist of growls and high-pitched screams. Early groups like Siege and Napalm Death are accredited for laying the groundwork for the style. It is most prevalent today in North America and Europe, with popular contributors such as Brutal Truth and Nasum. Lyrical themes range from a primary focus on social and political concerns, to gorey subject matter and black humour."

Judging by the screams, blast-beats, short song lengths and vocals which sound like a man drowning in a bucket of his own vomit, I'd say Alex had nailed the genre pretty well with this demo!

A second pressing of this demo was recently released on the Smell The Stench label including one additional bonus track, in a split release with Bonemachine called "Gore vs. War" I'll be covering that in a future Blog, but for all Bonemachine fans who'd bought this latter release and were wondering about the origins of Guts For Dinner....now you know!

Almost certain never to be seen at a distro near you, this rare piece may prove to be one of the hardest of Alex's project demos to find in years to come.

MONOLOG & RYTHMUS

Band: BONEMACHINE
Title:
Monolog & Rythmus
Format: CDr-only pressing through Smell The Stench (Australia), 2006, no catalogue number. Artwork on this release drawn by Alex.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
01. Faust (ein Monolog) 21.08
02. Dunkler Rythmus 46.24

Two lengthy tracks make up this 2006 release from industrial project Bonemachine, and a release stated on the Discogs website as a 'limited edition' (although no quantity is identified) housed in a DVD case with artwork done by the man A.W. himself.

Virtually nothing exists about this release online save a few download sites and the Discogs entry, plus reference at the STS website too. A shame really, as it's a decent piece of industrial music, with both tracks being unique and composed of more than one section without being overwrought and suffering from "everything but the kitchen sink" syndrome.

'Faust (ein Monolog)' does contain, as the title suggests, a spoken word monologue (in German) behind some dark industrial effects and soundscapes. Whether it is based on the Dr Faustus play, or is a more personal commentary about self, Nazgul cannot say as there is no translation to the lyrics and Nazgul's rudimentary German will identify the odd word here and there, but not much else.

The second track - clocking in a monster 46 minutes plus - is the more enjoyable of the two in my mind. Plenty of variety in the music and the samples (including a Winston Churchill excerpt following the invasion of Russia by Hitler's forces) and great incidental music for a play held deep in your own imagination.

Smell The Stench deemed this release to be "industrial hell", whilst the only other website offering a comment on it that Nazgul could unearth was the GutsOfDarkness site, which proclaimed the release to be "repetitive ambient industrial."

If this sort of thing is your bag, then I could certainly think of far worse ways of spending an hour of your life...

LOST SONGS FROM MIDDLE-EARTH


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Lost Songs From Middle-Earth
Format: CD pressing through Aphelion Productions (England), catalogue reference AP034, whilst the cassette version was released via Winter Solace Productions (USA), catalogue reference Solace021. CD release was in 2008, cassette release somewhat later but in the 2008/09 period. The CD version has a nice picture disc, which mirrors the artwork from the Ancient Battles t-shirt.
Edition: CD version limited to 1000 un-numbered pieces. Tape limited to 300 numbered copies

Track Listing:

1. Ecthelion 5.54
2. The Last of the Dragons 8.56
3. When Daylight Is Gone 4.46
4. The Last March of the Orcs 16.49
5. The Shire 7.38
6. The Nazgul 3.47

CD bonus track is 'Die Legende...' from the "Honour" (orignal 2004 demo)
7a) ...von Elbenwald
7b) Khazad-dum
7c) Ein Licht geboren ward
7d) Nordhimmel
7e) Die Berge
77) Der Ring

Tape bonus tracks from the 'In Durins Halls' (original 1999 demo):
7. Luthien
8. Kortirion
9. Durins Halls
10. Uruk-hai
11. Moria
12. Nordhimmel
13. The Unknown

By happy chance Nazgul had planned to review the CD version of this 2008 release a month or two ago - but for a variety of reasons postponed the posting - and in the interim the long-awaited tape version of the album arrived so a double-Blog seemed far more sensible.

In the long tradition that Hugin has for supporting the cassette tape format - the mainstay of the underground for so many years - it's really nice to see different bonus tracks on the tape and the CD pressings of this album. For listeners glued to the digital age, the CD offers you the original demo tracks from Side B of the "Honour" demo of 2004, which is all but impossible to find as the original tape was only issued in a edition of 40 pieces. This is an excellent track, and one that really benefits from being transferred to CD so that more people will be able to experience it. Battle magic indeed.

For the tape bonus tracks, you are privileged to hear the original 1999 demo "In Durin's Halls" - see previous Blog posts for this one - that again came initially in a release of only 33 tapes, meaning few had a chance to hear the original versions. Incidentally, the tape was apparently originally supposed to be released by long-time Uruk-Hai promoter A.M.F. in Bulgaria, but as Alexander has ceased to release albums it was eventually passed to Winter Solace in the USA to release. For reference, Nazgul's tape is #3 of the 300.

Nazgul detects something of a reissues programme afoot at W.A.R. HQ at the moment, what with limited edition Bonemachine tracks seeing the light on a recent CD release, long-lost Hrossharsgrani demos being reworked into new material, and these Uruk Hai tracks being presented for a wider audience. One can't criticise Hugin for this mind you: the material still stands the test of time and frankly making it available to a wider audience can only be a good thing. Those precious collectors amongst us who might cry "foul" that their limited edition is suddenly accessible to the masses have rather missed the point (and anyway, you'll still have the original in your collection after all, won't you?)

So onto the meat and potatoes of this particular release - tracks 1 to 6 , originally recorded back in 2005 (for reference, the time in the band's history of the "War Poems", "Northern Lights", "Dragons of War" and "The Battle" full-length releases, plus a smattering of demos). Heard here for the first time, they are truly cinematic in quality and surpass virtually anything else from this project for sheer technical brilliance and sound quality. You really could be watching an epic Lord of the Rings blockbuster here, as this music transports you straight into Middle-Earth, whether it be to the homely nature of 'The Shire' or to atmospheric height previously uncharted in the other tracks. Simply outstanding.

Being a more recent release, there is more Internet critique of this album than of many of Uruk Hai's previous output. Here are a few typical comments from the online community:


"New Austrian top ambient project inspired by by Tolkien's "The Lord of the Ring". Calm dreamy ambient which brings you slowly inside a world of Elfs and Orcs. A real sound movie, cinematic sounds very close to Raison D’Etre and Nordic style. Comes with 16 page coloured booklet full of Nordic wood magic"
Old Europa Cafe

"Uruk-Hai is one of my favorite Tolkien-related bands as the man's output is 90% Middle-Earth and the only real sad thing is that his stuff is nigh-impossible to find. Anyhow as I state in the tags this stuff sounds exactly like Summoning would if they never had guitars or vocals. And to drive the point home even further, all the liner notes on this album are written in Dwarvish; YES"

Lucid Media blog-site

"Amazing never before released 2005 album from Austria's No. 1 ambient project. Epic soundtrack of Tolkien inspired Medieval, Battle Ambient / Dark Ambient to take you on a journey to forgotten worlds. Comes with beautiful 16 page booklet and has the 2002 demo "Die Legende..." as an added bonus. For fans of Za Frumi, Vinterriket and Summoning"
Cold Spring Records

A tour-de-force from Uruk Hai, and one release that you can get your hands on fairly easily if you hunt around a bit online. The CD pressing is readily available on eBay, at Discogs.com and also via the label directly at www.aphelionproductions.co.uk (although Nazgul would note that the latter site caused his virus software to chew it up and spit it out, so be careful). The tape, in more limited numbers, is probably the harder to find but Winter Solace are still advertising it as available so have a look.

Vogelfrei coffee mugs....!

Band: BONEMACHINE
Design: Ceramic coffee mugs, part of the promotion for the 'Vogelfrei' release on the Israeli label The Eastern Front.
Edition: limited to only 5

As Nazgul sits in his high tower, surveying the world rushing about its business below him, he often reaches for a restorative cup of coffee to ward off the chill and sustain his flagging soul.

What better way could there be, therefore, to enjoy said beverage than in a promotional Bonemachine mug? Well, probably a variety in truth, but the point is that Nazgul is the proud owner of a pair of these collectables and apropos of nothing much decided to illuminate his Blog with them for your edification.

Only 5 were made. The first one I bought directly from Alex a year or more ago, and then only a few weeks ago The Eastern Front listed one for sale on eBay so I've now got a pair. I wonder if I put them in a dark corner together whether they might reproduce, and bring forth a line of Vogelfrei espresso cups...? Hmmmm - never actually opened and still in their wrapping should put paid to such mischief.

Nice items though, and typical of the lavish care that The Eastern Front puts into their product, as you'll recall from this Blog's coverage of the 'Another Time' wooden box-set. Indeed, wait until the wooden box-set for the 'Vogelfrei' release is covered....

Saturday, 18 July 2009

WE WORSHIP...Volume 3 [V/A]

Band: HREFNESHOLT
Title: Compilation CD "We Worship...Underground Black Metal Compilation Volume 3"
Format: Double CDr set issued through the A.M.F. Productions (Bulgaria) label (year unknown), catalogue reference AMF030, featuring 35 tracks over 2 discs.
Edition: presumed unlimited

Track Listing:
The relevant track of the album is on CD1:
06. Feuertaufe 4.56

It's infrequently that Nazgul has a chance to review any Hrefnesholt output, as of all Alex's current projects this is perhaps the most sporadic of all to record/release material. It's always a pleasure therefore to come across something from this band, and on this compilation CD from deepest Bulgaria a rare nugget is to be unearthed!

Of the 35 bands on offer here - many from Eastern Europe (Russia, Bulgaria, Slovakia and the Ukraine) there is, on disc 1, a rather splendid piece from Hrefnesholt that is, as far as Nazgul is aware, unique to this particular compilation.

Sandwiched between some pretty primitive black metal is an acoustic number from Alex's project, which starts (and indeed ends) with the warm crackle of an open fire merrily burning before the gentle acoustic strumming of a guitar takes us to distant vistas of Viking ancestry and mythology.

It might sound somewhat improbable for a simple (though melodic and decidedly catchy) acoustic refrain to be able to render visions of a Nordic past, but prod me with a sharp stick if our hero hasn't done it again. You really get the feel of a campfire session of misty-eyed Vikings playing songs of their heritage, conjuring spirits of the night to reward them with victory in battle on the dawn of the following morning....

Of course, there will always be the nay-sayers who'll claim this isn't metal, isn't 'true' and shouldn't be allowed. For these small-minded types I would direct you towards the vast majority of the rest of this 2CDr release, where the noise volume increases in direct proportion to the lack of imagination and flair contained within.

What is of interest, however, are the odd exceptions to the rule and through this release the intrepid listener will come across some connections to past releases of other of Alex's work. We have Abandoned at the tail end of disc 1, for instance, who featured in a split tape with Uruk Hai and Moloch, who also have done spilt work with Uruk Hai, at the start of disc 2. And a special mention must go to Nargothrond from (of all places) Portugal who managed to record a song by the name of 'Uruk Hai', although you'll not be getting Hugin-quality work out of them to be fair....

I imagine you might still find some of these for sale here and there, and for one track - which is in essence what this review is all about - you might not want to pay a whole heap of beans for it. But then again.....it's a damn fine song, and one that in the mind of Nazgul keeps the Hrefnesholt flag flying high over the battlefield once again.

Friday, 17 July 2009

SANGUIS





Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title:
Sanguis
Format: Digipak CD release on the Beverina & W.A.R. label (Latvia/Austria), 2008, catalogue reference BW010. Limited edition including a badge and 2 postcards, and ultra-limited edition including the same plus a poster and t-shirt.
Edition: Total pressing of 500 copies, of which the ultra-limited edition are hand-numbered 1-5.

Track Listing:
1. Pax Vobiscum 17:31
2. Libera Me 10:19
3. Silentium 10:46
4. Nosferat 09:09 *

5. Carpe Noctem (bonus video clip)

* bonus rehearsal recording from 1998

This is rather a clever idea. It's been 10 years since the release of the original 'Blut' demo by Hrossharsgrani, and allowing for the limited edition tape reissue of 2003 (previously covered in this Blog) the demo has effectively been 'lost' for a decade.

So given the current market trend of dusted-off and re-mastered reissues you might expect to see this demo re-released with a new cover and - hopefully - a new target audience, right? Wrong!

Taking a different tack, Alex has taken the original multi-song demo (there were 15 songs on the 2003 cassette) and re-worked the music into 3 long composite pieces, thereby re-energising them and giving them a new lease of life. For added value you also have a bonus track from a 1998 rehearsal session added in, plus a video track to boot, all pressed in a collectible quantity of only 500 pieces.

To add some more grist to the mill, there is an ultra-limited fan edition of 5 hand-numbered pieces (and yes, Nazgul was fortunate enough to grab one) of which mine is #4 which came with a t-shirt of the album artwork, plus a poster of the 'bloody hand' design shown on one of the accompanying postcards.

What you also see above, in the final photo, is the design on the front of an alternative t-shirt that was piloted by Alex for the finished product and which is, I'm proud to say, the only one in this design that was ever made. A hardcore limited edition of 1, you might say, which Alex was kind enough to let me have some while ago.

So, as ever, great care and attention has been paid to the packaging for this item, and kudos must be given also to partners in crime Juris Silders at Beverina, and Chris Huber for the revamped Hross' logo design. But what of the music, you might reasonably ask.....?

Well, stitching together composite tracks from an original base of 15 short tracks is not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to achieve I would imagine, especially given that the originals would have been recorded 10 years ago and were probably not digitally crystal-clear in the way that more modern recordings would be. In order to facilitate the exercise there is a certain amount of what I can only call 'noise' over the top of the recording, analogous to the 'glue' that ties the separate pieces of music together and gives the recording some consistency.

The only detriment really is that this overlying effect gives a rather unsettling resonance to the recording, and in many ways is similar to the noise of that strange tube that dentists pop into your mouth to withdraw saliva - a sort of 'sucking sand-through-a-straw' effect that sits on top of the music underneath. Sometimes it's hardly noticeable, particularly where the tracks are more fulsome in volume, as (ironically) on 'Silentium.' But you certainly can pick up on it, and my initial listen to the CD made me wonder if I had a faulty pressing as it's so prevalent in places it detracts from the music struggling to get out from underneath.

So overall does it work? Well, as a concept I think this is really rather innovative and well worth the investment of time that it must have taken to prepare it. Equally, the quality of the presentation and the accompanying items that come with the set (in either version) show that a great deal of care and thought has gone into this release. Musically I enjoyed the 2003 tape pressing of 'Blut' so it's fun to be able to hear revised versions of the same music in different arrangements and compositions, so a thumbs up there too. Just not sure about the overall sound quality underpinning the album at the end of the day as it's ultimately distracting at times, which is a shame.

Still available for sale - you'll see copies on eBay and direct from the Beverina label - it's worth investigation for sure, but personally I'd probably be more inclined to pull the original tape from the collection for purity's sake. Of course, if you insist on digital audio and CD is your only option then this is the only way to appreciate the original 1999 release....

Of trades, spares and collectable items...



Nazgul has been rather busy of late, so apologies to all for the lack of Blog updates in this past week. The situation will be remedied soon, I hope, as there's no shortage of things to review and comment upon....just a lack of precious time to get it done, alas.

However, two items of good news worth a post today whilst I have a minute.

Firstly, the number of followers of my Blog has increased by a whopping 50% to, errrr 3 (!), with the arrival of Zombocom Wizardry, so welcome fellow fan and Nazgul hopes you enjoy the ride.

Secondly, I do get asked the occasional question (a-ha, there must be more than the 3 of you out there!) about where some of these releases can be found. Well, Nazgul has recently made an investment in a number of back-up tapes of some of Alex's releases just in case my death-deck does the nasty and chews up the old album here and there. As such, the haul in the photo above (listed below) now represents duplicates as far as my collection is concerned, but also includes some quite hard to find items.

One day I'll manage to sort out all of the duplicates I have and list them, but until such point (don't hold your breath) the tapes in the photo above are listed below. If you - as a serious Hugin fan - are struggling to find any of these albums and would like to see if old Nazgul can help you out - then feel free to drop me an email to tall_dai@ntlworld.com and I'll see what I can do.

The list is:

Uruk-Hai – The Battle & A Vikings Journey tape (limited to 500)
Uruk-Hai – Tawantinsuyu chapter 1-12 tape (limited to 200)
Uruk-Hai – Tawantinsuyu chapter 13-19 tape (limited to 200)
Uruk-Hai – Dragons Of War tape
Uruk-Hai / Symbiosis – split tape
Uruk-Hai / Valar – Split tape
Uruk-Hai / Vinterriket – Split tape (limited to 400)
Uruk-Hai – Valkyrian Romance tape (limited to 30)
Uruk-Hai – A Vikings journey tape
Uruk-Hai / Abandoned – split tape
Uruk-Hai – Songs From The Woods tape (limited to 88)
Uruk-Hai – Northern Lights tape (limited to 188)
Uruk-Hai – A Night In the Forest tape
Uruk-Hai – Barbarians tape (limited to 222)
Uruk-Hai – Across the Misty Mountains tape
Uruk-Hai – Battle Yells tape (limited to 66)
Uruk-Hai – In Durin's Halls tape (limited to 300)
Uruk-Hai – Arkillery - split tape (limited to 250)

Bonemachine – Rehearsal 2002/2004 tape
Bonemachine – Blutgrund tape

Elisabetha – Durst Nach Unsterblichkeit tape (limited to 100)
Elisabetha – Demeter tape (limited to 500)
Elisabetha – Nosferatu tape
Elisabetha – Sterbegesange tape (limited to 1000)
Elisabetha – Untodt tape (limited to 155)

Hrossharsgrani – Rehearsal 1999 tape

Public service announcement over!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

UNTODT


Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Untodt
Format: Tape only release on the Eclipse Of Live Promulgation label (Germany) from 2004, catalogue reference EOLP014, with full colour inlays. Based on rehearsal recordings from 2002/03.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of only 155 copies

Track Listing:

Side A
1. Ave Satani 01:09
2. Oratorium (Version 2003) 09:52
3. Verloren Im Licht Sakraler Lust und Agonie 07:09
4. Ein Sommernachtstraum 17:24
5. Elisabetha - Part III 07:33

Side B
6. Wenn Doch Der Morgen( Version 2003) 09:03
7. Untodt Im Wechselbad Der Sinnlichkeit 27:43
8. Werwolf 09:40

This Elisabetha demo tape was released in 2004 by EoLP in a typically limited number (mine is #149 of the 155 made), but is an atypical Elisabetha release in some ways.

For a start, there are some notably un-Elisabetha influences at work in some of the tracks. This is apparent, for example, in the electro-dance qualities displayed in 'Untodt Im Wechselbad Der Sinnlichkeit' on Side B, which sound to Nazgul like the very early seeds of a Ceremony of Innocence project trying to burst forth from Alex's creative fingertips. Equally, only a cursory listen to Side A will have you spotting some industrial beats that wouldn't go astray on a Bonemachine release.

Of course, wrapped around all of this is the more expected Gregorian chanting / atmospheric vampyric ambiance and downright moody music that you would expect from an Elisabetha demo. Gone are the long spoken word passages from the earlier 'radio play' days of 2001, and in their place are either short pieces of 'horror ambiance' a la track 1 'Ave Satanis' with it's choral majesty, or keyboard pieces such as 'Elisabetha Part III'.

There are a number of long tracks on this demo too, which are pretty difficult to describe in words yet effective on the ears if you are in the mood to absorb a chilling rendition of dark, gloomy and disturbing music. Nazgul particularly likes 'Oratorium' in this revised version (the original being on the yet-to-be-reviewed vinyl-only release 'Bluthochzeit'), which is the sort of music you might find popping unbidden into your mind on a lengthy walk towards a creepy, foreboding place you have to visit but would rather not go anywhere near....

Overall a mixture of styles combine to make this a varied and enjoyable listen - it's different from the preceding Elisabetha releases but no worse for that, as long as you listen with an open mind and aren't expecting another heavily Dracula-based play.

Kudos to EoLP too for a nicely presented tape release, with a splendid colour inlay and full lyrics to 'Wenn Doch Der Morgen' printed on the reverse.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

DIEU DU TONNERE


Band: B-MACHINA featuring Flo (Herz Tod) on vocals
Title: Dieu Du Tonnere
Format: Ultra limited edition box-set CDr (on blue, credit-card style disc with Beverina & W.A.R. logo stamped on the non-playing side), complete with poster and A4 lyric sheet. This was released by Beverina & W.A.R. in 2008
Edition: In a minuscule edition of only 5 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Dieu Du Tonnere 3.08

Nazgul had to smile the other day - a catalogue from Nuclear Blast in Germany had come through the post and within the glossy pages were many albums for sale being pushed as extreme limited editions in numbered quantities of 1,000 or more (in one case, limited meant 10,000 copies only). Now take this release from the Beverina & WAR label - only 5 of these were ever produced, each with it's own hand-numbered cardboard box housing the credit-card style disc, cover, lyric sheet and poster.

Even for a project (and artist) that regularly dazzles with super-limited runs of items, just 5 is a tad boggling to the mind. Assuming both Alex and Max of B-Machina have one, and guest performer Flo has another, that would mean only 2 others probably ever made it out onto the open market. Take into account Juris at Beverina maybe having an interest in one, that brings down the numbers around to, well, just 1 perhaps. And given that Nazgul's edition is #5/5 then I rather suspect there may be more to the speculation preceding than mere hot air...!

So what does one find on this most scarce of releases? The first thing to strike you is the music, with a much more dominant strumming acoustic guitar in the mix (this would be Max, of course) which overlays the more ritual drumming present from the start and helps to lend the whole song an atmosphere of neo-folk elementalism. Then you'll come across the vocals - contributed by Flo (and yes, that's Flo in the second photo above, which Nazgul has appropriated from her MySpace pages) of experimental band Herz Tod, based out of Lorraine in France.

The vocals are startling, to say the least - not for Flo the operatic delivery of, say, a Nightwish nor the ethereal whispers of an Enya. No, this is effect-heavy (at least, I assume they are, otherwise it's a voice tempered by a steady daily diet of 100 cigarettes and a bottle or two of Jack) sometimes croaky, sometimes gargley (is that a word?), almost impossible to define in nature. It works well though, although the French lyric sheet accompanying the box-set is a handy reference point.

One wonders about the economics of producing such a set given the cost of material and time of the artists involved, as up until recently there would have been scant chance of many people having any chance at all to hear this track. However, Nazgul notices that a recent B-Machina release "Rotation Zwei" compiles many tracks from previously impossible-to-find CDr releases into one handy release and includes this one in its ranks thus making the music more accessible whilst not detracting from the scarcity of the original release.

It's a 'grower' this song - put it on repeat play and you'll soon be humming along and have it fixed in your mind. Perhaps more collaborations in the future will feature a guest vocalist - Kenjo Siratori, the massed ranks within the 'Little Boy' release, and Flo....who next?!

ATLANTIDA Volume 15 [V/A]

Band: RAVENCLAW and others
Title: Atlantida Vol. 15
Format: Compilation CDr on the Atlantida Productions label (Lithuania) released circa 2002/03. Bringing together a variety of black, pagan and metal bands this features a previously unreleased Ravenclaw track.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:

19 tracks in total, of which the relevant tracks for Ravenclaw are:
01. Weltenbrand (from the "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" mCD)
10. Battlemarch (unreleased track)
16. Ravenclaw (from the "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" mCD)

Well, it's not everyday that you come across an unreleased Ravenclaw track so when Alex mentioned that this particular compilation CD had one on it the decision to purchase became no-brainer!

The Atlantida compilations are the work of former Ravenclaw member R******s, and as you might imagine with this being volume 15 of the range a fair number of bands have appeared over the years, including other projects of Alex's (and Nazgul will cover those in future posts, so far as I've managed to track them down!)

There are in fact no less than 3 Ravenclaw songs on this release, 2 of which were from the "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" mini-CD covered in a past Blog post. The unreleased track 'Battlemarch' (actually misspelled as 'Battelmarch' on the inlay) is a very short piece - 1:07 to be precise - and sounds like an outtake from the same recording sessions. It kicks of with a drum beat very reminiscent of that of a marching army, before a synthesiser refrain meanders its way over the ongoing pounding beat before all fades out just after the minute has passed.

Not necessarily the sort of track that would have you reaching for the repeat button over and over again, but certainly nice to have should you be an avid collector.

Nazgul wonders how many more unreleased tracks from this project might be out there....?

Friday, 3 July 2009

A NIGHT IN THE FOREST




Band: URUK HAI
Title: A Night In The Forest
Format: CD released in 2004 by the Drama Company (Spain) from re-mastered recordings originating in 2003, catalogue reference DAS017. A cassette version was released a year later in 2005 via A.M.F. Productions (Bulgaria), cat ref AMF020, featuring a bonus track recorded in that year.
Edition: CD version believed to be limited to 300 unnumbered copies, tape version unknown

Track Listing:

1. Chapter I: Enter Fangorn 17:27
2. Chapter II: The Spirit Of The Wind 15:00
3. Chapter III: Elevenpath 23:57
4. Chapter IV: A Light Into The Darkness 15:32
Tape-only bonus track
5. Chapter V: Fire

If ever you are troubled, need some time to relax and mull over the complications of life, or just appreciate some quality quiet time in the midst of a hectic day, then Dr Nazgul unhesitatingly prescribes a course of "A Night In The Forest" to you, gentle reader, as a sure-fire cure!

A most excellent and soothing ambient album, taking us - amazingly enough - through a forest-based soundscape enhanced with minimalist passages and rain/wind samples, all interwoven with the most delicate and ethereal keyboard play. You can almost smell the lush greenery of the vegetation underfoot or the bark of enormous trees stretching toward the heavens, and all is tranquil and still.

Such ambiance polarises opinion, of course, and there will be some more attuned to Uruk Hai's heavier output who will find this mellow to the point of torpor. But if that's the case, there's plenty of more raucous music to put on instead, for this album is not for that sort of a mood.

The middle photo above shows a promotional flyer released for this album, on the rear of which is a very cogent piece of prose that Nazgul shall repeat here for your appreciation as (for once) the record company has done justice to the mood:

"Mystic choirs invite the listener on a journey through long forgotten times full of myths and legends.

A concept which allows [you] to flee from the grey everyday life to a better, glorious world full of magic and wonders. Classical melodies combined with the iron rough edges of a stormy night marched on a crusade through the forest of Fangorn. Hugin (Hrossharsgrani / Elisabetha) was there to tell of mystical enchanted forests, of glorious elves whose shades conquer the woods, of gleaming swords in the kingdoms of the north and of the power that finds its true strength within dark battles.

Flowing by the streams of the last two Burzum albums, or Elend, Vinterriket, Dark Sanctuary and Raison D'Etre, Uruk Hai rise up high in the sky and chase the dark creatures through enchanted woods. Mighty soundscapes of harps, cymbals, and fanfares build a symphony like your darkest journey.

'A Night In The Forest' was created to honour the ancient gods, the four winds and the mighty spirit of wood!"

Gosh - Nazgul wishes he'd written that. Well, he just did, but you see what I mean.....

An album that has split opinion dramatically on some websites (one buffoon who shall remain nameless even contrived to give it a 0% score on Metal Archives, which is perhaps the most ridiculous critique ever received for this album), but generally is recognised as a triumph of dark beauty.

Here are some snippets of others opinions on the piece:


"Long, open streams of chords and widely expanded notes upon a carpet of special effects similar to little bells ringing; here’s all you can expect from this work from a ‘technical’ point of view. Although, the atmosphere is really convincing and captivating; you’ll find yourself in the middle of a misty, spiritual forest with the rays of the Sun that penetrate slowly between the deepwood and the tall, secular trees, infinity and loneliness. Very enjoyable, but only for ambient music long-experienced listeners"
_ImNachtUndNebel_

and


"Enter Fangorn in particular is an absolute triumph, and one of the most mystically haunting dark ambient songs I've ever heard. Dark is probably a misnomer in this case, as it sounds wordlessly tragic and serene rather than a frightening night. More like a twilight. Elvenpath is pretty much the same, less tranquil, but more shimmering and mysterious, while The Sprit Of The Wind is even more minimalistic, exchanging rain for wind samples, howling indefinitely while a single note desperately tries to keep its voice from being swallowed by the gale. Some Tibetan sounding bells work their way in, but the wind just keeps coming, which can get tedious at over 23 minutes, yet at the same time can be transcendent beyond words, especially as it segues into A Light Into The Darkness, which returns to the emotionally charged ambiance of the beginning, as a triumph after long desperation and darkness - like Fangorn's victory over Isengard"
Durandal1717

The bonus song on the tape is quite reverb heavy compared to the rest of the music and 'feels' as if it were recorded at a different stage to the rest of the album, but hey - it's a bonus track and again keeps the old school tape scene alive, so who am I to find fault.

I think it's still possible to pick up the CD version of this album with a bit of diligent research online, and should you need a quality auditory experience of this nature then frankly you're wasting your time finishing reading here....go forth and purchase!

ANCIENT BATTLES t-shirt

Band: URUK HAI
Design: 'Ancient Battles' t-shirt, single sided white cotton.
Edition: limited to only 10

The image you see here is the front of the Uruk Hai t-shirt 'Ancient Battles' that Hugin brought out in a tiny run of only 10 copies back in early 2008. Immediate kudos should go to anyone you see sporting one of these splendid t-shirts!

Indeed, Nazgul proudly sported his at the Iron Maiden gig at Twickenham Stadium last year, and out of a crowd of 100,000 had a few knowing nods passed in his direction. The word is slowly geting out there: the Uruk Hai are coming for you...!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

FROM THE DARK AGES


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: From The Dark Ages
Format: Cassette-tape only format, split release between Ered Gorgoroth Productions (Italy) & Nox Infandus Records (Denmark) [EG006 / NIR009] in 1999. Professionally printed double-sided inlay.
Edition: Limited to only 150 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
Side A
1. Einleitung [Hrossharsgrani] 03:35 *
2. Von Blinkenden Schwertern 11:29 **
3. Fimbulwinter 04:55 ***
4. The Gates of Mordor (Edit) 10:18 *
5. Mordor 06:43 ****
6. Totale Vernichtung 04:24 *****
7. Fauertanz 03:53 *
Side B
8. Wotans Ehre 06:08 *
9. Felagund [Part II] 03:43 *
10. Trollsturm 88 04:14 *
11. My Mourning Soul (Absurd cover track) 08:11 *
12. Aufstieg Verlorener Seelen 03:13 *****
13. Rot Fiel Der Tau In Ramas Edor 02:37 *
14. The Eternal Fire 07:46 *
15. Wyrd 04:44 *
16. Ausklang [Wotansheil] 05:07 *

* Unreleased track
** taken from "Die Rukkehr Zum Pfade" rehearsal demo
*** taken from "Ewig Winter" rehearsal demo
**** taken from "In The Mystic Forest" rehearsal demo
***** taken from "Sagen & Gedichte" rehearsal CD
***** taken from "Blut" rehearsal demo

Ah yes, this is more like it! A classic Hrossharsgrani tape-only release from 1999 that celebrates the primordial soup of blasting drums, slightly fuzzy guitars and vicious vocals that crystallized the bands approach at the time.

Often misclassified as a 'best of' compilation - there are some tracks from previous demos on this release, but the majority of music is unique and new to this full-length - there are precious few of these around any more and it will doubtless be a thankless task to try to find one now.

I prefer to think of this as Alex's "thank you" to fans who had supported his band in the preceding years but who had not always been able to get their hands on some of the very limited edition releases compiled within. As such, there's some old and rare stuff that you might not have heard before (and yes, our old friend 'Fimbulwinter' returns, in an edited version!) and some new stuff to tempt you just in case you'd collected all the releases before this one.

And it all works out jolly well for all concerned: the older tracks are a good representative mix of the Hross' style, whilst the newer tracks (including an excellent Absurd cover) are right up there in the quality stakes too. Plenty of battle samples - the inside of the cover does proclaim this to be "Barbarian War Black Metal" after all - and a heady mix of film/weather/spoken word samples augment the final mix: just add drums, keyboards, vocals and guitar to taste!

Most of the music is an all-out assault on your senses but with sufficient finesse and variation not to become repetitive and dull. There are some epics too, with 'Wotan's Ehre' and 'Von Blinkenden Schwertern' taking the honours in that department, and both being excellent songs speaking of ominous wind-swept places and heroic deeds in times long ago.

My only complaint about this release is that the songs in places have evidently been recorded onto tape from a CD that is prone to skipping in a few places! More than once does the sound dip into a juddering mess as the CD sorts itself out, and it's a shame that the two labels concerned released the tape in this manner without sorting it out (I presume the others all sound the same: this is one release that I have only the one of so can't compare!!)

Good Hrossharsgrani magic though, and despite the occasional aural flaw a release Nazgul immensely enjoys and would encourage you all to hear at least once before you make your way to Valhalla.