Monday, 31 October 2011

Nazgul's Top 10 Hrossharsgrani cover art

As it's the end of yet another month here on Honour and Darkness, Nazgul thought he would celebrate the passing of October with another one of his infamous Top 10 lists. These always provide Nazgul with yet another feeble excuse to have a rummage through his collection, but hopefully entertain at the same time.

Todays list is based around Nazgul's favourite Hrossharsgrani album and demo covers. Now, in saying that they are my favourite does not necessarily mean that they are the best covers in purely artistic terms. If the list included the definitive range of technically expert covers, then we might be looking at inclusions from releases which were professionally done. However, Nazgul being the 'square peg in round hole' sort of chap that he is often prefers the more abstract, unusual or not-so-obvious cover illustration and as such this list is a personal compilation of the pictures that I find most entertaining.
You will doubtless disagree, and may indeed end up fuming that your favourite cover was omitted ("how could Nazgul have not included %$&^....!!!") or consider that the top ten choices are just plain crazy ("why has Nazgul included ^£"%....??!"). Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles, of course, and if you'd like to send Nazgul your personal list of favourites then perhaps that could lead to an updated post in a few months time....

Anyway, enough of the rambling and onto the list, presented here in traditional reverse order:

10. Ea
Almost certainly adapted/adopted from something else, this is nonetheless a splendid piece of Celtic-tinged battle artwork for this one-off demo CDr that Hugin put together for a friend many moons ago. The reverse artwork is also strikingly effective.
9. The Secret Fire
Taking us straight into the hidden volcanic depths of Mount Doom, the stricking cover of "The Secret Fire" shows the forging of the One Ring amidst a suitable array of sparks, molten metal and Tolkien imagery. Dark and menacing, yet laden with symbolism for any fan of Middle-Earth to pick up on.
8. Blut (tape re-issue)

This was one of the earlier Hross' tape demos that Nazgul came across, and whilst its cover is best described as weird it does have a certain striking nature that's difficult to forget. What fate awaits the unfortunate damson in distress? Is she, in fact, in distress or merely biding her time before losing off a salvo of magical fire to burn her supposed captors into ash...?
7. Urd

Aah, "Urd". When Nazgul finally gets around to doing the post on this one-off promotional item the story of what Urd actually means will doubtless emerge. Until then, let's revel in the hand-drawn design of a rampaging dragon on the loose across the spiny mountains of your deepest imagination. Colourful, memorable and in the classic design-school of early Hrossharsgrani work...

6. Der Pfad Tor Der Toten (original CDr pressing)

...which leads us rather cunningly to number 6 on our list, and the original 1999 CDr cover for another epic demo outing. There's something enticing yet ominous about this particular mountain range, the freakishly elongated spires and cavernous valleys combining to produce an almost surreal landscape.

5. The Secret Fire (vinyl)

The sole vinyl release bearing the Hrossharsgrani name also happens to have one of the most dramatic images in the band's back catalogue. The split 12" with Mittwinter is a particularly fine picture disc, and whilst the Mittwinter side is a rather drab affair (a photograph of a cowled figure looking down past some ancient stoneworks), the Hrossharsgrani side is a vividly painted display based on the John Howe painting, 'The Death of Smaug'. It has to be said that at this stage Smaug seems to be very much in the ascendency rather than in his death-throes, but what the heck.

4. Of Battles, Ravens and Fire (CD 1st pressing)
Two versions of the CD art for this release exist, and a few more grace the tape reissues on Depressive Illusions and Wulfrune Worxx. For Nazgul, however, the original is the one of choice, featuring as it does a mighty scene of Norse splendour akin to Peter Nicolai Arbo's 'Åsgårdsreien' painting of 1872 that was used by Quorthon on the Bathory release "Blood, Fire, Death".

3. The Long Grey Road (3" CDr pressing)

The original tape release of "The Long Grey Road" used as its cover image, well, a long grey road. Quite subtle, I think you'd have to agree. The CDr reissue - on a natty 3" disc - is an entirely diffferent kettle of fish, however, and bears the epic sight of a tri-masted Elven ship sailing off into the distance. The colours, the image, the rare sight of the sea on Hugin's covers, all combine to make this a most memorable image.

2. Blut/Sanguis tape

Yes, it's the wolf! An absolutely belting cover image, dripping blood at every turn and ranking amongst the most effective of all Hugin's artwork, and used on the cover of the one-off tape Blut/Sanguis in its unique red case. This image was so good that it was also turned into a numbered in blood t-shirt as you may remember, and over the years the striking nature of the image increases in my estimation. Definitely a good 'un!

1. Fimbulwinter

I know what you were thinking: well, it must be a clear walkover for the cover of "Rising Sun" featuring Hugin and The Animals in glorious (dis)harmony. Of perhaps the favourite cover is the blacker than a coal-black black thing release that was "Ewig Winter". Well no, here we are at the top of the tree and Nazgul's favourite piece of Hrossharsgrani cover art turns out to be the one-off cover for the 3"CDr release of "Fimbulwinter". The crisp white snow, the blood red river, the imagery stands out like a barbarian at a bar mitzvah and makes this another no brainer for a future t-shirt design.

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