Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The W.A.R. Armoury, Part 1: Of Haubergeon & Coif

Haubergeon, front view
Coif, side view

The W.A.R. Armoury, Part 1
Items: Hugin's chainmail shirt (haubergeon) and hood (coif)
What's this all about then, Nazgul? These items were worn by Hugin in many a photo shoot and now reside in the Castle vaults

You know when the mania for collecting has reached new heights (or should that be plumbed new depths...?) when you literally take the clothes off your hero's back!

A while ago Hugin advertised for sale a number of his items of armour as seen in the artwork for various albums/demos and promotional photo-shoots. Having waited a decent time to see if anyone would snap up the items, Nazgul decided that these items were just the thing to add ambience to the Castle library and a deal was struck with Hugin to import a job-lot over to the UK. As a result, a veritable cornucopia of weapons and armour arrived in boxes at the Castle over the ensuing weeks, some heavy enough to cause grave consternation amongst the postal carriers who had to lug the boxes around. A burst of the 'black breath' and threats of flagellation served to quell the mini uprising, but in truth the sheer weight of some of the items did rather take the breath away.  The mail shirt alone weighs around 10kg...

Take these two pieces of chainmail, for example. Whilst they look relatively innocent they weigh an absolute ton, particularly the mail shirt which is incredibly heavy. The thought of donning plate armour over something like this is - quite frankly - eye-watering. And let's be accurate about nomenclature for a second before proceeding further. Civilizations that used mail used different terms for each garment made from it. The standard terms for European mail armour derive from French: leggings are called 'chausses', a hood is a 'coif' and mittens, 'mitons'. A mail collar hanging from a helmet is a 'camail' or 'aventail'; a shirt made from mail is a 'hauberk' if knee-length and a 'haubergeon' if mid-thigh length. 

 For the record, a mail shirt interwoven between two layers of fabric is called a 'jazerant' and a waist-length coat in medieval Europe was called a 'byrnie'. So what we have here is a haubergeon surmounted with a coif.

The earliest finds of European pattern mail are from the 3rd century BC from Horný Jatov, Slovakia, and a Celtic chieftain's burial located in Ciumeşti, Romania. It wasn't a million miles from here that Hugin procured the original items - to be precise, it was from a forge in the southern Czech city of Český Krumlov, just over the border from Austria. It transpires that to Hugin's impressive resume we must also add 'international arms smuggler', as for various reasons the items were covertly brought back across the border hidden in the boot of his car!

The use of mail as battlefield armour was common during the Iron Age and the Middle Ages, becoming less common over the course of the 16th and 17th centuries. It is believed that the Roman Republic first came into contact with mail fighting the Gauls in Cisalpine Gaul, now Northern Italy. Mail armour provides an effective defence against slashing blows by an edged weapon and penetration by thrusting and piercing weapons, and a study conducted at the Royal Armouries at Leeds concluded that "it is almost impossible to penetrate using any conventional medieval weapon". Nazgul plans to re-test this research to afford it additional credibility, using prisoners from the Castle oubliettes and a range of edged blades. 

 Generally speaking, mail's resistance to weapons is determined by four factors: linkage type (riveted, butted, or welded), material used (iron versus bronze or steel), weave density (a tighter weave needs a thinner weapon to surpass), and ring thickness (generally ranging from 18 to 14 gauge in most examples). Mail, if a warrior could afford it, provided a significant advantage to a warrior when combined with competent fighting techniques.

Such is the weight of chainmail it's not uncommon in films to use knitted string spray-painted with a metallic paint instead of actual mail in order to cut down on cost (an example being Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was filmed on a very small budget). Films more dedicated to costume accuracy often use ABS plastic rings, for the lower cost and weight. Such ABS mail coats were made for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, in addition to many metal coats. The metal coats were used rarely because - surprise, surprise - of their weight, except in close-up filming where the appearance of ABS rings is distinguishable. 

However, in the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Tina Turner is said to have been wearing an actual mail and she complained how heavy this was. So there you are - who would have thought Hugin and Tina Turner had something in common?

Mail continues to be used in the 21st century as a component of stab-resistant body armour (the British Police use mail gloves for dealing with knife-wielding assailants), cut-resistant gloves for butchers and woodworkers, and almost unbelievably as shark-resistant wetsuits for defence against shark bites! I'd like to meet the diver who can still swim whilst decked out in mail - one has to assume the modern stuff is either more lightweight, or that the divers are of Olympian proportions, otherwise you'd surely sink like a stone...?!

All of which brings us full circle back to the actual mail shirt and hood featured. Hugin reports that whilst putting the shirt on proved relatively simple, its removal was a different kettle of fish entirely. In the spirit of research Nazgul has tried on the shirt and encouraged others to do likewise, and this confirms Hugin's conclusion. Trying to remove it is a little like trying to push a baby elephant up a slope - slow progress at best, and best done with someone present to assist you. Plus, you enjoy the added fun of the mail rings getting entangled in your hair as the shirts comes over your head, which adds a whole new level of excitement and pain to the process. Wearing the thing is also somewhat discomforting, as you might expect with thousands of metal rings pressing up against you. Still, better that than being sliced in two on the battlefield I suppose....

You've got mail

Thursday, 21 February 2013


Title: Power Of The Ring
Format: This release comes with two elements: a cassette tape "Power Of The Ring" with the title track in 2 parts, plus an accompanying DVDr called "The One Ring" with .WAV files of this song and other ring-themed songs. The tape was released by W.A.R. Productions in 2011. The DVDr disc comes with a black and white inlay inside a plastic wallet.
Edition: Limited to 7 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
Side A
01. Power of the Ring (part 1)
Side B
02. Power of the Ring (part 2)

01. Lord Of The Rings
02. Wrath Of The Ring
03. Power Of The Ring (part 1)
04. Power Of The Ring (part 2)

Leaving the Castle library by the doors in the west wing, one finds oneself in a dimly lit, wood panelled corridor flanked by portraits of Nazgul's antecedents and various ephemera that includes ad hoc marble busts and dusty suits of armour. The corridor splits in twain after a minute's walk, the left fork heading ultimately to the western ramparts (home of siege canon and boiling pitch), the right fork leading to a stout oak door closed securely with formidable bolts and locks. The brave of heart who would venture inside this room will find but a single wooden table in the middle of the floor, fixed upon which are oiled leather straps and other fastenings. Above the table is positioned an array of speakers, from which music/sound emanates on demand. 

This, dear readers, is the Advance Listening Room, where the works of Hugin are previewed to select 'volunteers', who are plucked from outlying villages by the resident Castle monkey. Visitors to this room are rarely found in a entirely sane mental state again, particularly following prolonged exposure to Bonemachine releases, hence the presence of a small metal chute in the corner of the room through which victims .... errr, sorry, volunteers that is .... can be speedily dispatched to the blessed mercy offered by the soundless depths of the inky-black moat below.

The reason for this brief foray into the internal architecture of the Castle comes as a result of Nazgul's casual stroll down the west corridor only the other day, when it became apparent the monkey was entertaining a guest in this most foreboding of rooms. Pausing briefly at the door to listen to the events unfolding within, Nazgul was interested to discern sprawling, epic ambient sounds reverberating around the chamber, similar in feel and scope to releases such as "Lebensende: Winter" and "Cirith Ungol". Admittedly the screams of the incumbent made it hard to hear some of the quieter passages, or to form a clear opinion whether the music was being fully appreciated, but the sense of shadowy evil and growing malevolence was almost palpable, with wave after wave of unease and dread wafting through the corridor like expensive perfume. After but a moments pause, it became clear that one of Nazgul's recent acquisitions - "Power Of The Ring" - was being aired in all of its glory, and fittingly Middle-Earth it sounded too as it echoed within this ancient stone bastion.

"Power Of The Ring" is a lengthy piece to say the least, spanning both sides of the cassette tape, so the Castle monkey had plenty of time to test out the new sonic system that has been recently installed. And Lo! the sound was good, and fans of Uruk-Hai will surely feast their ears (if such a mixed metaphor is possible) on this offering. Nazgul certainly heard no complaints from the guest of honour, but given the long drawn out scream that faded out to a distant faint splash, the effective airing of complaints was always going to be difficult during a one-way trip to the moat. Recently Nazgul has observed the monkey experimenting with the sound system, in part to find the optimum range at which to broadcast Hugin's music but in part (Nazgul suspects) in pursuit of his ongoing and covert experiments to identify and deploy the hypothetical 'Brown Note') on the unwary. May the Dark Lord protect us all should that experiment come to fruition.

In terms of presentation the artwork on both elements of this release is excellent: the tape portrays the One Ring atop hallowed halls of Tolkien grandeur, whilst the DVDr artwork is similarly atmospheric with its illustration of an Elven warrior. Once again, Hugin's execution when it comes to musical product remains unsurpassed. Wagner's Ring Cycle is deemed to be a milestone in the classical music canon, so perhaps Hugin's ring-themed equivalent as contained on these mp3 files may prove to the the ambient blackened counterpart?! Wagner's effort spanned 16 hours of music across 4 different operas, and whilst requiring significant stamina to get through it's not so different in duration to some of the Uruk Hai multi-disc box-sets that have come our way recently. Hmmmm, Alexander "Wagner" Wieser it is, then.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Nazgul will have to go and make sure that the maintenance orcs are taking care of the business of fishing the body out of the moat - suitably prepared, it should prove to be a most tasty morsel for dinner tonight...

...and for those who've noticed a slight difference in the background to photograph of the tape, a quick explanation: Nazgul's own copy has gone missing!  Last seen on a desk in the library, it has now vanished without trace.  Junior Nazgul is one immediate candidate behind this misdeed, with the rogue monkey the second obvious suspect.  Interrogations will follow shortly...

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Inside of booklet lists each band's contribution - here is the Uruk Hai page
Title: Forsvunnet Filosofem - A Tribute to Burzum [V/A]
Reason for update: A physical 3CD release for the previously free digital download tribute compilation on the Wodfreca Soncræftas label (England), cat ref WOD004.
Edition: Believed to be 300 copies

Casting your memories back to 6 July 2012, you will recall that Uruk Hai appeared on the "Forsvunnet Filosofem" tribute album to Burzum that was made available on the Bandcamp site from Mirkwood Productions. It was suggested at the time that should there be sufficient interest a physical copy of this compilation might also be released, and indeed that has been the case.

Wodfreca Soncræftas are the label who have stepped into the breach to release this limited edition triple-disc set and a tidy job they've made of it too, with some nice new artwork and a thoroughly cold and frosty appeal pervading throughout. Actually on sale since late 2012 copies may be fairly hard to come by now, although the usual online sources will be worth a look if you are tighter than a duck's proverbial and would prefer the box-set in your hand to the download on your MP3 player. Indeed, in typing this Nazgul has just read on the Black Raven Design web-page the following snippet of news:

"Forsvunnet Filosofem - A Tribute To Burzum was due to be released by Wodfreca Soncræftas today (06 August 2012). However, since being made available to pre-order last Tuesday (31 July 2012), the limited edition 3-disc jewel case version of this 27-track compilation paying tribute to the work of Varg Vikernes has (incredibly) sold out - in just six days! For those who have missed out on this highly sought-after release, fear not… Forsvunnet Filosofem is still free to download from Mirkwood Productions…"

A veritable host of bands appear on this compilation alongside Uruk Hai, who cover the short song 'The Crying Ork'. Let's have a few shout-outs to bands who have appeared on these pages in various guises over the past years, as part of a reviewed split release and/or interview segment: we have Italian ambient legends Symbiosis, Forgotten Land, and the enigmatic but nevertheless excellent Dysonsphere.

And if you can't face flicking back in time to see what the line-up of the original download was, here it is again:

Disc 1
01. Symbiosis * Dauði Baldrs
02. Æþelruna * Ðæt þe Hwilum Wæs (Det Som Engang Var)
03. Uruk-Hai * The Crying Ork
04. Waldschrat * Black Spell of Destruction
05. Tamerlan * Die Liebe Nerþus
06. Hrafnblóð * War
07. Hoyland * Jesus Tod
08. Vørgum * I Heimr Heljar
09. Forgotten Land * Moti Ragnorokum

Disc 2
01. Melankolia * Det Tod Wuotans
02. Frostwork * Dunkelheit
03. Almófar * Han Som Reiste
04. Werther * Erblicket Die Töchter Des Firmaments
05. Soufferance * Hermoðr á Helferð
06. Garden of Grief * Glemselens Elv
07. Walden * Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
08. Nordfolc * Stemmen Fra Taarnet
09. Gorthorn * Illa Tithandi

Disc 3
01. Winternight * Balferd Baldrs
02. Alvheim * Et Hvitt Lys Over Skogen
03. Arboretus * A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit
04. Skygge * Lost Wisdom
05. Dysonsphere * Channelling the Power of Soul into a New God
06. Antecantamentum * My Journey to the Stars
07. Kzag Bhat * Feeble Screams from Forests Unknown
08. Wrapped in a Sheet * Ea, Lord of the Depths
09. Plaguewielder * Tomhet

Now, it has to be said that there have been no shortages of tribute albums to Burzum over the years, which even a hermit such as Nazgul in his isolated castle has heard about: by way of example, the following spring to mind - Visions: A Tribute to Burzum (2002); A Man, a Band, a Symbol (2003); Wotan mit uns! (2003); The Tribute (2005); Burzum Tribute Attakk (2005); Triumph und Wille (2006); Lost Freedom (2007); A Hungarian Tribute to Burzum: Life Has New Meaning (2008); Tribute to Burzum: When the Night Falls - Bethlehem Struluckt (2009); and A Tribute to Varg Vikernes: Born to Be White (2010). And there will doubtless be a slew of others, of varying degrees of legitimacy and legality, knocking around the darker reachers of the Internet.

What sets one tribute compilation apart from another is the quality of bands on offer, the choice of songs covered (the 'obvious' ones not always being the best), and the packaging in which it comes. Wodfreca have clearly given this some thought on every level and whilst Nazgul can't claim familiarity with all of the previously mentioned compilations, it seems unlikely that any fan picking up this particular 3CD set will feel shortchanged.

Over the years Burzum musically progressed from primitive, raw black metal to classically influenced ambient music characterised by minimalist tendencies and dark atmospheres. The music is characterised by hypnotic repetition and simple yet profound song structures; this trademark sound has been present on Burzum's black metal and electronic albums alike. Similar themes are heard on Uruk Hai tracks, of course, which makes an inclusion from Hugin's band a logical shoe-in on this set. 

 Varg Vikernes has described Burzum as a kind of "spell" or recreation of an imaginary world tied in with Pagan history. Each album, he claimed, was designed as a kind of "spell" in itself, with each beginning song intending to make the listener more susceptible to "magic", the following songs to inspire a "trance-like state of mind", and the last song to carry the listener into a "world of fantasy" (dreams, for the listener would fall asleep - Burzum was supposed to have been evening music). 

Nazgul's ailing memory fails him again, as the edition number for this release eludes both his recollection and any immediate internet search.  I think there were but 300 copies produced, but should that prove to be incorrect a retrospective update will follow!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

~2~ update

Title: ~2~
Reason for update: Coverage of this split release with Vinterriket on the Intermediate Realm blog...

Here's a blast from the past - the split release "~2~" between Uruk Hai and Vinterriket, which we last reviewed on 10 December 2009.

The reason it makes an appearance again is the result of a chance conversation held with a reader of Honour and Darkness, who found his way to Nazgul's email to discuss matters relating to the Uruk Hai / Forgotten Lands split on Dungeons Deep Records.  One conversation led to another, and over the course of the week Nazgul offered to send him a free copy of the "~2~" CD to expand his knowledge of Uruk Hai releases.  And so a copy was duly dispatched to deepest Pennsylvania.

Now, it so happens that this interested party also has his own blog, Intermediate Realm, and a review of the "~2~" album appeared there on 16 January 2013.  So for those who won't have had a chance to read it, here it is: the link to the original article can he found here

Vinterriket / Uruk-Hai: -2-

"Gather around the fire, kids, and listen to the tale that Imperial Kodnarok has for you today. It is a tale of seeking life's answers, and of the places where these searches can take you.

It began one night, when a young man began wandering through the woods, seeking answers to questions he had about life. By a certain point, he noticed that he'd come a fair bit away from his home, as the town's candlelit streets vanished completely, and the northern lights became more apparent. It wasn't long after that that he noticed a figure in the clearing (that he could see by the light of a campfire): a man, donning a long, hooded robe, holding a longsword in his hand. However, caring more about answers than safety, the traveler slowly approached the man anyway, and it was a lucky thing that he did so, for this proved to be an overall good exchange.

This man introduced himself as Nazgul, a fan of music and ruler of a distant castle named after him. It so turned out that the traveler had a soft spot for music also. It also turned out that, in addition to some of life's answers, Nazgul also had an extensive library at his castle; not of books, but of music, and promised the traveler a sample from his library.

And so the traveler returned to his home, waiting for the delivery to come from this faraway castle while he fed the chickens and churned the butter. Surely enough, it came, and immediately our poor citizen of a medieval town who was churning butter minutes ago ran into his bedroom and popped in the CD. And it just so happens that I hold this CD in my hands now. I will wait for you to wrap your minds around this and "ooh" and "aah".

Wonderful, now that we've gotten that out of our systems, let's talk about this artifact for a bit, shall we? The CD is called "-2-", making searches for this very annoying. But is it worth it? The artwork shows a fairly even split between the two bands, all gray and low contrast for Vinterriket, the cold-themed ambient black metal band, and neon red-orange and heroic (if not a bit pixelated at points) for Uruk-Hai, an ambient project with which I am not too familiar. The same could be said for Vinterriket, myself having only heard a few black metal songs, and an ambient track or two from "Gebirgshoehenstille", another album with an asdfsdgkasgghfg name. Those ambient tracks were pretty slow, formless, and basic. Not bad, but a misleading idea of what's on -2-.

The split already starts on a higher note than expected. Synth strings, pianos, and other instruments coming together to make more of a symphony based on winter, and the result is beautiful. Melody changes, livelier moments and a few touches of that same slow, immersing atmosphere, making a soundtrack for a lonely, yet charming walk through the woods, not too much unlike the one described in the tale above. And that's just the first song.

The second song is a bit more on the melancholic side, presenting the question I often ask of what inspires the music that people make. Why such a lugubrious take on winter in this song, and not something happier, about the sleighbells ring-ding-dingaling? It continues, some light wind samples played underneath a lonely, soft symphony, until the song ends. The third starts on a darker note, but soon becomes a dreamy, atmospheric little song with a couple of changes throughout. Each of these songs seem fairly similar in style, but each with enough differences to have their own identity, same going for the fourth song. The fifth song rolls AROUND AND EVERYTHING CHANGES. The orchestra gets a lot louder, slow, booming percussion moves along behind, and then it relaxes. I'm not sure how good this is compared to the original Burzum song (as this is a cover) since I've never bothered with Burzum, but this sounds good enough by itself.

Our winter journey ends here, and suddenly the air fills with the scent of sea water, as something that should probably be a boat, but ends up sounding like a squeaky wooden door, rolls through. This is the smaller group of Uruk-Hai songs beginning. Various noises play by, creating atmosphere, but not meaning a whole lot to me. The squeaking noises come back in, and more noises follow. After a period of nothing, we get into the good stuff. Relaxing, yet uplifting and energizing (if that and "relaxing" can go together) ambient music comes in, conjuring images of distant mountains and forests as we rock back and forth on the water, leading to who knows what.

The next song begins with a sample of people talking, and I can't quite make out what all they're saying. It's something about praying and God, I think. This leads into a stranger kind of symphonic music, louder in nature, that quickly leads back to the relaxing, windy ambient music from before. There is usually something that gives away that an ambient song is from a metal band; the vibes, some instrument, some clue, but you get little to none here; this completely transcends the metal scene (to which Hugin seems very connected, despite Uruk-Hai being essentially all ambient), and goes straight into atmospheric OST territory, which is very welcome, especially when the atmosphere is done so well. There's some sort of woodwind instrument playing throughout, and it sounds nice. 

The song gets a bit darker partway through, and then relaxes again. This song continues on about as long as this post is, which is great if you like it, but I can guarantee this split album will try on some people's patience. You could probably play two (-2-, get it?) full mainstream rock albums in the time it takes this one album to spin, but if you're into ambient like I am, that's hardly a complaint. A speech about strength wraps up this brief, 19-minute track. The last track on the album is another Burzum cover that starts off dark and loud, but soon relaxes again. If you ask me, Vinterriket and Uruk-Hai seem much better in this style than Burzum is, based on these two songs. There are more complexities and turns in their music; not to mention their music is just more colorful, more atmospheric, whereas the Burzum covers aren't doing a lot for me, even if they're not necessarily bad. I guess that's what happens when you make ambient music just because it doesn't involve instruments made by black people. Some thunder samples end the album.

I can't see if anybody is still listening, since this blog is dark, and the campfire went out some time around the second half of "Stahlzeit", but if any of you are still here, YOU can see that there's a lot on offer here, several symphonic musical reflections by Vinterriket, two massive Uruk-Hai songs with a very short cover, and the peculiarly agreeable flow between the two highly contrasted ideas. If you can find any copies of this, you should get it, and enjoy it in your own little medieval towns, whilst churning the butter, or dusting your front porch, or however kids pass the time these days. To this day, there is a Castle Nazgul, and some say that it's the same one that shipped out this CD, so many centuries ago. Why don't you venture there, and see what else is in this mysterious character's library? Some of it is even, as I've heard, available for trade or sale.

I can't hear any of you breathing anymore, so I suppose you've all left. Buy this album; you won't regret it."

Saturday, 2 February 2013


Title: Trostlos
Format: 6CD box-set housed in a DVD-style box, released in 2012 as a joint presentation on the Ancient Ceremonies/Tryby label, no catalogue reference. The set compiles most of the Hrefnesholt discography, and is completed with three colour photo inlay cards.
Edition: 19 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
CD1. Hrefnesvinter
01. Hrefnesholt (part 1)
02. Glorie Draconis
03. Hrefnesvinter
04. Marsch zu neuen Zeitaltern
05. Hrefnesholt (part 2)

CD2. Heidensturm
01. Heidensturm
02. Zwei Raben
03. Nordlandschlacht

CD3. Wolf
01. Hrefnesholt (part 3)
02. Wolfsnacht
03. Metamophose
04. Das Tier
05. Hrefnesholt (part 4)

CD4. Flüsterwald
01. Asaland
02. Wald
03. Uralt

CD5. Uraungst
01. Percht (da Einbringa)
02. I bin da Woid
03. Hexnfeia
04. Hoamat
05. Wurzlmann
06. Unruahnocht
07. Fuchtelmandln
08. Dunklmoos
09. Stoana (da Aussischmeissa)

CD6. A Haund voi Dreck
01. S' Perchtenzeit
03. Die Glockn von Dahoam
04. Aufi Zua
05. A Haund voi Dreck (1)
06. Schworzeichn
07. Berg
08. A Haund voi Dreck (2)
09. Kuah
10. Nocht
11. Kum mit mit uns
12. Wurzlmann Intro
13. Wurzlmann (extended Uraungst version)
14. Wurzlmann (Wurzelwelt Version)

Now, regulars readers will know that the recent influx of box-sets associated with Hugin's projects have predominantly been focused upon Uruk Hai releases, with the odd foray into Hrossharsgrani territory. Whilst there is no sign of the sure-fire Guts For Dinner expanded edition deluxe fan-pack box-set, there is some news to celebrate as "Trostlos" has now hits the streets, compiling the vast majority of the early and recent releases from everyone's favourite Alpine band, Hrefnesholt.

The 6 CD's included here cover the band's output between 2001 and 2011 inclusive, although not strictly in chronological order: the "Wolf" CDr pre-dated the "Heidensturm" demo tape by a few years, despite appearing here as discs three and two respectively. Not exactly a show-stopper, but worth noting if you planned to listen to all the discs sequentially to trace the development of the project over time. 

What you don't get on this compilation are odd songs from other releases in the same period: 'Trollsturm' and 'Erinnerung' from the "Rabentanz" compilation for example. 'Ravnagund' from another Smell The Stench compilation CD "The First Evil Spell" is also omitted, although interestingly the other Hrefnesholt song on that release - 'Nordlandschlacht'- does appear as the final song on disc 2 "Heidensturm", which in turn means that the last song from that original 2004 demo - 'Hermodr A Helferd' - has been expunged. Keeping up, I trust?

Carrying on with this diligent (read: anal) reconciliation of past releases to the current box-set, Nazgul also notes that the song 'Eine Ode an Midgard (Heil dir Midgard Krieger)' from the split tape "United By Heathen Blood' is also missing, although 'Asaland' from the same tape does appear. The one-track "Furchtelmandl" demo does appear though, as it was compiled on the "Uraungst" release, and the same goes for the songs off the "Woid Und Geist" demo of 2010. 

The single track demo tape "Wolfsnacht" from 2006 is, of course, a song already on the "Wolf" CDr and finally, you'll be pleased to read, let's just note that the track "Schworzeichn II" from the 2012 split with Joe Matera is also not featured, by dint of having been released after "Trostlos" was issued!

There, that gets us up to speed with what isn't on here, but enough of that: let's look at the good stuff that is present!

And what you'll soon come to notice is that this is very much a game of two halves. The early years of Hrefnesholt were pretty hard to distinguish from early Uruk Hai demos with the same keyboard driven atmospherics, although perhaps more in the spirit of being at one with the Earth amid howling winds and dense forests rather than through Middle-Earth themes and imagery. As such, demos up until "Heidensturm" all carry the hallmark - and unintentionally primitive- sounds of Hugin's early synthesiser noodlings and flourishes. 

 The omission of the Burzum cover 'Hermodr A Helferd' helps keep this continuity actually, so seems like a shrewd move in retrospect. One major boon for fans is the inclusion of the tracks from "Wolf", as this demo has long been impossible to lay hands on and hasn't (yet) featured on any reissue from W.A.R. Productions (well, save for the offshoot "Wolfsnacht" tape referred to above which dragged the 20 minute epic song kicking and screaming onto a self-titled demo of its own). This alone creates a unique selling point for "Trostlos" that makes it hard to ignore as a good value package.

There was a gap in the Hrefnesholt story between this first chapter (broadly speaking, 2001-2004) and chapter two (2007-present), caused in the main by Hugin's attention being focused on the increasingly popular Uruk Hai project. When the Hrefnesholt project was eventually resurrected it became apparent through the likes of "Uraungst" that this was a very different beast indeed. 

 Gone was the project skulking in the shadows of Uruk Hai, here was a nascent Percht-folk project using intentionally primitive (read: authentic) instrumentation to create something very different and very interesting. Past reviews on Honour and Darkness will fill in the details regarding the recorded content, and there's plenty to enjoy when dipping into the body of recorded material that Hrefnesholt has put together.

It's no secret that Nazgul always had a soft spot for the Hrefnesholt of old - it always came across like Uruk-Hai's slightly geeky sister, the one with funny glasses but nicer legs. The new direction, however, is genuinely quite exciting and one has to feel that given enough time to develop and grow the geeky sibling could blossom into something surprisingly attractive. On the theme of image, an old friend of the Blog made the passing comment to Nazgul that perhaps the new style of Hrefnesholt music should be officially recognised by giving the project a new logo, as the old battle-axe theme no longer seems appropriate. Food for thought, perhaps....?

A quick word on the packaging for this release: the cover artwork is unusual but works well enough, whilst the photo card inserts are rather good images in fact, particularly the one of the fungi on the tree trunk. The one criticism worth levelling is at the actual case itself, which despite being used to house 6 discs only actually has space to properly house 4, with the remaining 2 being slotted inside plastic wallets and left loose inside. Frankly, a bit of a nonsense (note to record labels: if you intend to release a box-set, make sure the inner trays can accommodate all of the discs properly!) and potentially damaging to the loose photo cards that also float around unsecured in the box.

Ironically the English translation of Trostlos means something on the lines of 'without pleasure or happiness', or 'wretchedly', which is far from the case in terms of listening pleasure. As a compendium of all things Hrefnesholt it really is the business, and copies are still out there to be bought (a quick Google search today reveals one at the SkullLine website)