Sunday, 16 June 2013

URD

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Urd
Format: Promotional CDr with colour sleeve and housed in plastic wallet, with a standard CDr disc.
Edition: 1 copy only

Track Listing:
01. Urd  7.00

Pulling this unique Hrossharsgrani promotional CD off the library shelf one grey afternoon caused Nazgul to pause for thought: 'what does "Urd" actually mean', he pondered?

More to the point, why has it taken so long to review the blessed thing, as it's been lying around in the Castle for years now?

Well, one thing at a time.  Let's kick off with "Urd" the word, if you pardon the rhyme.  And it transpires that there are a myriad of meanings for this innocuous three letter word - who would have guessed!  Depending where you are in the world at the time, it could refer to a female character in the manga and anime series Oh My Goddess;  a sub-race of winged Kobolds in Dungeons& Dragons; a type of bean (Vigna mungo) usually sold as black or white lentils; the mountain and highest point on Bear Island, Svalbard, Norway; a Norwegian women's magazine which ran until 1958; or as the acronyms for various political parties in Mali, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Chad and Venezuela!  

It's also the name of Borknagar's ninth album, and yet another reference to a Norwegian provenance will probably have tipped you off by now that there is in fact a link to Norse mythology here too: Urðr, one of a group of three Norns in Norse mythology, usually attributed in Old Norse as meaning 'Fate'.  Along with Verðandi (possibly 'happening' or 'present') and Skuld (possibly 'debt' or 'future'), Urðr makes up a trio that are described as deciding the fates of people.

So there we have it: a promotional CD with some element of Fate ingrained in its digital grooves - rather apt really, given that the likely origin of this piece was forged in the fires of W.A.R. for Hugin to send off to the Irrlichter Records label either to seek a potential record deal, following their release of some of the  Hrossharsgrani demo "Lieder Aus Mittelerde" from 1999.  The history of the CD is a little murky as it was all so long ago, but Hugin recalls it would all have been about 1999 or so.   He also recalls that he sent the song to Cedric for inclusion on a proposed double-tape compilation to be released on Irrlichter, although it seems that a copy of this tape never found its way back to Austria leading to some confusion about whether it was ever actually released at all.  Aggghhh - something else for Nazgul to have to track down!

If the cover artwork seems familiar to you, this is doubtless because it utilises the dragon motif drawn by Heidi and used in slightly different format on the limited edition Ancient Tales t-shirt (see post for 26 April 2011).  The last photo in this post shows the credit to Heidi on the inlay itself.

This particular item came into Nazgul's possession courtesy of an alert Honour and Darkness reader (Micha, of Runenstein Records) who drew Nazgul's attention to the auction on eBay in which this demo and other Hross' items were being sold.  Nazgul - impulsive and obsessed Ring-Wraith that he is - quickly jumped all over the auction and agreed a price with the seller to buy the lot there and then, taking "Urd" for the Castle collection and sending the rest of the items free of charge to Micha by way of a 'thank you'.  The seller turned out to be none other than Cedric Hommel of Irrlichter Records himself, so the promo came straight from its original recipient all those years later - Fate, indeed.

As to the delay in reviewing the disc, well quite honestly there's no real story there!  No exciting dramas of the disc falling behind the back of a cupboard, no lurid story of the Castle Monkey hiding the thing down the back of his voluminous trousers.  No, plainly and simply Nazgul just hadn't got around to it until now, despite its existence having been referenced in past Honour and Darkness posts.  Well, good things are worth the wait after all, and as this world premiere unfolds just be grateful the bloody thing has finally broken cover!

Back to the music for a minute though: when Nazgul received "Urd" originally and gave it a spin, the song within was familiar.  The original presumption was it must be from the "Lieder Aus Mittelerde" tape given the Irrlichter connection, but in fact this wasn't the case.  Further research into other Hrossharsgrani demos also drew a blank.  A quick consultation with the all-seeing eye (aka Hugin) drew the conclusion that the 'Urd' track had been re-sampled at some point since 1999 and used again on an Uruk Hai demo ... although short of replaying every tape and CDr in the Castle library neither Hugin nor Nazgul can recall which song or demo it is!  That's what you read this Blog for - insightful, accurate reporting...!  

The track itself is strictly keyboards-only, and features a simple melody with a counter melody playing in the background as the song develops.  It is clearly from the 'early' days of what one might unkindly term 'one-fingered keyboard wizardry' as opposed to the more complex compositions that Hugin's recent albums and demos feature.  It really sounds nothing like a Hrossharsgrani track of the period, which was far more immersed in a Viking-fuelled blackened metal attack than ambient instrumental noodling.  There is certainly a whiff of "Elbentanz" around it, albeit that demo came later in time.

Over the years you have to wonder just how many of these unique items might have been created by Hugin for friends, fans and record labels.  Just when you think no more could possibly come to light, something else will appear out of the blue and take you by surprise.  Nazgul has another example just waiting to be reviewed on Honour and Darkness, which is a very unusual one-off piece made for another fan in the UK some years ago.  More of that little gem anon....

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