Another retreat into the rural idyll of deepest Austrian mountain folklore could be the tag-line to this latest release from Hrefnesholt, developing the band's focus further into the traditional melodies and native music surrounding the pagan history of the Alpine region.
This wouldn't be without precedent - for example, Uruk Hai's "Black Blood, White Hand" originally was released in advance in an unmastered tape version on the Wulfrune Worxx label in 2009 as part of the Honour & Darkness series, prior to the formal CD and cassette pressings in 2010.
Incidentally, the Percht label (www.myspace.com/perchtlabel) is a sub-label of Steinklang Industries, who we know for their recent Uruk Hai and Hrossharsgrani releases, and features as one of their more recognised luminaries the band Sturmpercht, an Austrian experimental, traditional folk and neofolk group inspired partially by indigenous alpine tradition. Steinklang's own website describes the release as follows:
"Hrefnesholt is the sound of rotten roots in darkest forests, the spirit of alpine myths and legends, as well as extreme Perchten-music from the deepest Austrian valleys. The title "Uraungst" means "primal fear" in Austrian dialect and so is the music - the tape is nearly 60 minutes long and includes a 29 minute psycho-coverversion from the Sturmpercht/Allerseelen hit "i bin da Woid". In summer/early autumn Percht will finally release the first album of Hrefnesholt, 9 years after the band had started!"
Some of the origins of the Percht mythology were discussed in the Blog piece on Hrefnesholt's "Woid Und Geist" demo, on the 8 May 2010. The Perchten are still a traditional part of Austrian holidays and festivals, with the wooden animal masks made for the festivals (the 'Perchten') being worn in parades and festivals in the mountainous regions of Austria. In the 16th century, the Perchten took two forms: Some were beautiful and bright, known as the Schönperchten ("beautiful Perchten") - these come during the Twelve Nights and festivals to "bring luck and wealth to the people." The other form is the Schiachperchten ("ugly Perchten") who have fangs, tusks and horse tails which are used to drive out demons and ghosts. Men dressed as the ugly Perchten during the 16th century and went from house to house driving out bad spirits. These sorts of masks can be seen in the images on the cassette inlay, and they are the sort of face that you really wouldn't want to have surprise you on a dark and stormy night!
The tracks on offer here are occasionally familiar, by dint of having appeared on other recent releases: Side A, for instance, is taken up with the epic 'Furchtelmandln' saga, originally released as a self-titled 2009 demo in a tiny pressing of 6 copies. No one apart from Hugin, Nazgul and 4 others presumably ever saw or heard it! Consequently, not to be lost to history, it appeared a further three-times in 2010 - once on this release, once on the aforementioned "Woid Und Geist" demo on Depressive Illusions, and also as part of a split tape release with Uruk Hai on Wulfrune Worxx, alongside that band's equally epic 'Quenta Silmarillion (Part 1)' track. More of that split on another day...
'Ich bin da Woid' also appears on the "Woid Und Geist" tape, whilst 'Dunkelmoos' has made a brace of other appearances, on the split tape with Uruk Hai 'Quenta Silmarillion (Part 2)' and also on the soon-to-be-released "From The Ancient Forest" split tape with Malaysian band Omen. It's the usual merry-go-round of multiple demos and songs popping up unexpectedly here and there, no doubt designed as a fiendish device to keep fans and collectors alert at all times....!
And so onto Side B. Here, the smaller song structures work well as an alternative to the vastness of 'Furchtelmandln'. Listening to the side as a whole gives the pleasant sensation of being deep in forested mountains, surrounded by vegetation and with a fire crackling merrily in the background, listening to a native shaman recite mysterious and ritualistic incantations to an accompaniment of natural sounds and traditional instrumentation. It really can't be called as 'metal' in the rigid definitions of the genre, because what you have here is a far mellower and ambient experience, in the tradition of neo-folk and pure folk music.
For a contemplative evening in around a roaring fire, snow gently falling on the ground outside, you'd be hard pressed to beat this for genuine atmosphere and enjoyment. Not ideally suited to the humid summer conditions currently afflicting Castle Nazgul therefore, but one to rediscover on those cold, dark winter evenings ahead....