When Metallica released their 1991 opus "Metallica", aka "The Black Album", the album cover was a simple affair, with the band's faint logo on the upper left hand corner and a snake on the bottom right hand corner. The reason for this style of cover was apparently to allow listeners to get into the music without examining what the symbolism behind the cover represented, to appreciate the music and not the CD contents.
Fast forward nine years to 2000 to find Hrossharsgrani issuing this tasty morsel, their "Ewig Winter" ("Eternal Winter") demo, and to bastardise a Metallica song title from their album, it's decidedly "blacker than thou". So black, in fact, that you need eyes like a hawk to pick out the title, logo and track details on the artwork. Nazgul is certain that other bands have issued albums in a similar way, but this is the only one in his collection of Hugin's material that invokes a strain on the eyes just to read it! The problems taking a sensible photograph of this release you wouldn't believe!
Four songs make up the demo, two of which are familiar epics: 'Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten' ('The Path To The Gate Of The Dead') rumbles on in extended length here over the version on the 1999 demo of the same name, and is a foray into blasting black metal territory (albeit it with subtleties on the way) that is punishing enough to cause your house to subside and collapse around your ears. 'Fimbulwinter' is another raw stab at blackened ambiance, and in a longer version that the edit present on 1999's "From The Dark Ages" compilation tape. Another great track, as past Blog posts attest, and the subject of a very cool personalised mini-CDr from Alex a year or two ago. Both of these songs are also available as the bonus tracks to the 2005 "...Of Battles, Ravens and Fire" reissue on CCP Records, incidentally.
The principal new interest in this demo is, therefore, the two additional songs not available elsewhere. 'Wald' ('Forest') is a very short instrumental track, and not to be confused with the Hfrenesholt song of the same name on "Flüsterwald". It's surprisingly light in mood and instrumentation compared to the dense blasting that precedes and follows it. Another timely reminder not to pigeon-hole any band based on one or two songs, and early indications of the more subtle ambient directions that Uruk Hai would go one to explore in years to come.
'Engel', on the other hand, is an entirely different beast. Following a lengthy spoken word introduction in German, this song sounds convincingly like an Elisabetha outtake from the early years of that band. The debut Elisabetha demo was also unleashed upon the world in 2000, so perhaps some artistic cross-pollination was in evidence during the first year of our new Millennium? It's a really interesting song, though, and Nazgul is certain that musical elements of it recur in later Elisabetha work, as is the way of evolving demo material.
The only internet comment that Nazgul could find in relation to this release came on an online metal forum post from a mysterious entity who called him/herself 'the_cleanser', and who noted of Ewig Winter, "this album is much different from newer Hrossharsgrani. It has more of a black metal atmosphere than their newer viking battle metal", and who could argue with those words of wisdom!
Very few copies of this demo were pressed, and consequently they are now impossible to find. This particular one was obtained directly from Hugin himself after many years of fruitless searching (which explains how Nazgul got hold of copy #1), so if you have an original yourself then hang onto it for dear life as it's a rarity. Which reminds me - the post for 'Nazgul's top ten Hrossharsgrani collectibles' is rather overdue, so more of that anon....