Side B: Hrefnesholt "Dunklmoos"
For those of you having a sense of deja vu, "Dunklmoos" has briefly appeared in Honour and Darkness before during the assessment of the top ten Hrefnesholt rarities (20 February 2010) and was praised there as possibly one of the best Hrefnesholt releases to date. Subsequent months of enjoyment has taken nothing away from that conclusion, and it can be officially proclaimed that for any fan of dark folk music done the Hrefnesholt way this is an essential purchase. The particular pressing here is in the Split Series on Wulfrune Worxx, which as tradition dictates comes in tape format in a very limited run of 66 copies (Nazgul's being #3). As such, it isn't the most widely available of releases, but the good news is that a number of these tracks are available elsewhere - including some on CD for those readers with a phobia of tapes!
As a swift summary:
'Percht (da Einibringa)' is scheduled on the forthcoming split release with Omen, to be called 'From The Ancient Forest'
'Dunklmoos' is also a track on 'From The Ancient Forest' release, and on the recently released
'Trollsturm' is something of an old classic, originally on the 'Rabentanz' compilation CDr back in 2001. Interestingly, there is also a version on the Hrossharsgrani's 'From The Dark Ages' compilation tape from 1999.
'Menhir' = a song with similar title is scheduled for the forthcoming 'From The Ancient Forest' release ['Menhir (da Aussischmeissa)'], and we shall have to see whether this is the same one!
And for completeness, let us not forget that 'Der Berg' appears on the special version of "Rabentanz" currently residing with one lucky chap in California (see post of 30/10/2010 for more detail)
And who knows, perhaps a fully fledged '"Dunklmoos" CD pressing will emerge shortly in its own right..?
So what are we to make of this offering from Hugin's Alpine-folk project? Well, for starters any new Hrefnesholt material is always welcome news in my book, as the evolving project has long been a favourite in Castle Nazgul. There's a 'rootsy' and primitive feel to these songs (primitive in the sense of 'of the forest' rather than simplistic), whilst the natural elements - for example, eerie howling wind effects, combined with traditional instrumentation - that regularly occur on Hrefnesholt demos are here in force once again. It could be argued that the presence of wind effects on a song is one of the biggest cliches since Black Sabbath pioneered tolling bells in the 1970's, but what the hell - if it's well done and fits the mood then Nazgul is all for it!
The Steinklang label describes the band 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", which is such a good description Nazgul shall appropriate it and use it as his own. The vocals on this demo are also extremely good, ranging from the deep, sonorous voiced approach on the title track to the clipped and eccentric heard on 'Der Berg', more of which in a moment.
Following the enjoyable-if-too-brief instrumental opener that is 'Percht (da Einibringa)' we get right down to the meat and potatoes of this demo with the 'Dunklmoos' track. This is simply a wonderful song - certainly one of Nazgul's favourites of any that Hugin has recorded with any of his projects. The atmosphere created through the varied musical nuances are reminiscent of the better moments of bands like Aphotic and (speak the name in reverent, hushed terms) the mighty Agalloch, and the song benefits hugely from the introduction of an evil and positively spiteful guitar alongside the lush synthesiser and those resonant and almost hypnotic vocals unique to recent Hrefnesholt songs. There are some superb transitions, from the laid-back opening passages at the outset of the song, where the music conjures images of sloping Alpine fields on sunny afternoons, to full-on guitar and snarling vocal-fests that take you to an entirely different place. The demo is worth the price of admission for this song alone, and anyone wanting a taster should check out the track on YouTube which is played over an image of the album artwork for the upcoming "Uraungst" album.
Sandwiched between this epic and the equally magnificant 'Trollsturm' is a short, odd track called 'De Berg' ('The Mountain'). This is certainly unusual - at times, the oddly clipped vocals and 'bouncy' orchestration gives the impression of an ancient faery denizen of the forest getting drunk on moondew and having a sing-song on the mountainside! It's a catchy little piece though, to its credit, and grows on you with repeated listens.
The remastered 'Trollsturm', meanwhile, echoes the early sound of Hrefnesholt, with no vocals and a largely keyboard-driven melody. This is unsurprising, considering it's been around since 2001 and appeared on the Smell The Stench compilation "Rabentanz". The grandiose swellings (ooh err!) of the keyboards combine with the haunting sounds of mounting gales and mountain-top zephyrs to produce a very evocative and highly enjoyable listen. A welcome return for this particular song, methinks.
So far, so good - in all honesty, if those four songs had been the extent of the demo then Nazgul would still have been a happy camper. Fact is, though, that there's more to come! In fact, here's the next song right now: 'Menhir'. Now, as a reader of Honour and Darkness you'll clearly be blessed with intelligence and full of wisdom so won't need Nazgul to tell you that a menhir is a large upright standing stone, found singly as monoliths, or as part of a group of similar stones, generally of uneven size and shape, and originate from many different periods across pre-history being erected as part of a larger Megalithic culture that flourished in Europe and beyond. So rather than tell you that, let's consider that the song sounds mournful and funereal, and is every bit as impassive and brooding as the stone obelisks themselves.
The last two songs, whilst not having the immediacy of some of the earlier tracks, continue to utilise folk-instrumentation to create glorious music that you could really believe was from the "...deepest Austrian valleys". An occasional burst of guitar in the composition again adds a sprinkle of fairy-dust into the mix, and rounds of this demo in the same vein as we bagan - all Percht'd up!
Oh - and for those of us who often wonder what the black and white covers of these Wulfrune Worxx releases might look like in glorious technicolour, Nazgul refers you to the post of 25 May 2010 that looked at the Uraungst promotional card - recognise any of those knarled trees...?
A final thought then - for fans of what you might term 'doom-folk' this is a must-have purchase, and in Nazgul's opinion this is the single best Hrefnesholt album yet released.