Saturday, 23 October 2010

FEUER & EIS


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title:
Feuer & Eis
Format: Cassette-only demo self-released by Hugin in 1999 through W.A.R. Productions (Austria), no catalogue number. The inlay is hand-typed, with a rare colour cover and photo of Hugin. The recordings are shown as having been made between 25 May - 12 June 1999. The edition number is shown both on the tape sticker and on the reverse of the cassette case.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of only 10 copies

Track Listing:
Side A
1. Heimatleid (Intro)
2. Hundingsbani
3. Ulvin
4. Bußfertigkeit
5. Leithan-Lied
6. Der Drachentöter
7. Wintertod
Side B
8. Nosferat
9. 1000 Years
10. Asgard
11. Feuer & Eis
12. Starkad
13. Asgard (Part 2)
14. Langsam zerfallen wir zu Staub (Outro)

Would it be a dreadful pun if Nazgul observed that Hrossharsgrani's "Feuer & Eis" demo was, in truth, something of a hot and cold affair? It probably would be, no let us not entertain such mischevious thoughts any longer!

Taking a step back in time to before the new Millennium, this highly limited edition demo was brought out by Hugin as one of the very earliest releases by the band, following on from the "Blut" release and being contemporary with the "Kampf" and "Krieg" releases. This was a time before the Hross' project branched out into what later became Uruk Hai, and reflects Hugin's own relative newness to this musical malarky! Indeed, "Feuer & Eis" must be one of the oldest of his demo tapes actually released unto the world...

The 14 tracks contained on this release all bear the hallmark signatures of early Hrossharsgrani recordings: the guttural, snarling bite-your-hand-off vocals from Hugin (sometimes spoken, sometimes almost chant-like), the ever-present keyboard and synth touches that create the melody and atmosphere, and the stabbing guitar that crates a melee from time to time. On this particular demo - more so than others of the time - the drum machine seems to have been turned up to 11 in terms of tempo: some of the tracks, notably 'Ulvin' and 'Leithan-Lied', positively speed by in a flurry of aggression. Nazgul can't remember any other Hross' demo having such a tempo underpinning it, and it creates a rather diffferent and more upbeat listening experience as a result compared to some of the more dirge like tunes from later recordings.

The sharp eyed amongst you may have already spotted some familiar looking track titles from the listing above, and you would be quite right in thinking that over the subsequent years since this demo was released a few of them have reappeared again in various revitalised versions. 'Wintertod', for example, appears on the die-hard bonus disc of the "Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est" CD release (and on the Part II tape in the tape release of that album), although the manner of re-mastering on that later version gives it the granular hiss that was commented upon at the time. This version - the original - is a much purer listening experience. In a similar vein (pun intended) 'Nosferat' appears as a re-worked bonus track on the CD release of "Sanguis", covered elsewhere in the Honour and Darkness canon.

To round off this discography analysis, 'Bußfertigkeit' ('Contrition') appears on the 'Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten' CDr of 1999 and on the 'Demo Compilation Volume 1" tape release of 2001, whilst the 'Asgard' and 'Hundingsbani' songs are earmarked for the yet to be released "Runen:Klang" CD (any thereby hangs a tale, more of which another time!)

Although the majority of tracks here are pieces in the Hross' tradition, there is some interesting variety on offer. 'Nosferat' does sound rather like an Elisabetha track at times with a most haunting melody at its begining and end. 'Langsam zerfallen wir zu Staub' ['Slowly We Decompose To Dust'] is quite a slow, gloomy affair - given the title of the song, perhaps not surprising - whilst the sampled battle sounds often associated with older Hrossharsgrani songs appear on the intro 'Heimatleid' (the title of another of Alex's projects, of course) but then nowhere else on the demo.

Issued in such a small pressing - Nazgul's being number 3 of the 10 copies - you've got a snowball in hells chance of finding one of these now. Looking at the inlay credits you could probably accurately identify the majority of people who received one of the 10 tapes as friends of Hugin! Also of interest are the bands credited here, which shows Hugin's musical leanings at the time: Burzum, Mortiis, Angry Angels, Summoning, Enid, Odhinn, Gernoth, Ilgairech and the intriguingly named "Wild Dogs from the Farmer Clan".

As one of the few remaining early demos left uncovered by Honour and Darkness until now, it was a pleasure to have replayed this tape on the Castle death-deck on this misty autumnal afternoon. It is amazing to consider that from such modest little acorns as this demo, vast oaks grew in terms of Hugin's later work and projects. But grow they did, and thanks should be given to all of those who were present in those halycon early years and who supported Hugin's projects to the extent that they did, for without them the current successes may not have been possible...

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