Thursday, 11 July 2013

ANCIENT REMEMBRANCES

Bands:  URUK HAI / HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Ancient Remembrances
Format: A CDr disc with full colour covers housed in DVD-sized box, released on 30 May 2013 by the Depressive Illusions label (Ukraine), cat ref cut 1113.  The release is a three-way split release, featuring two of Hugin's projects along with French band Avenir Funebre.
Edition: Limited to 33 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

Avenir Funebre
01. Den Bordreune Regnbuen (Mortiis cover)
02. Over ødemark (Wongraven cover)
03. Across the World of Wonders (Mortiis cover)
 
Uruk Hai
04. The Crying Ork (Burzum cover)
05. Hermoðr á Helfelfd (Burzum cover)
 
Hrossharsgrani
06. Countess Bathory (Venom cover)
07. Down There (Beherit cover)

This recent release from the Depressive Illusions label brings together a slew of cover versions in what might broadly be called a 'Dark Ambient' style, featuring two of Hugin's projects (the clearly ambient Uruk Hai and the somewhat schizophrenic Hrossharsgrani) together with French project Avenir Funebre (literally translated, 'Future Funeral')

The album features interpretations of songs by some heavyweights in the field: Mortiis, Burzum, Wongraven, Beherit and Venom.  All of these bands have had a rich and successful history of releases, although their relative backgrounds are interesting in the context of the 'dark ambient' genre: Wongraven have been firmly positioned in the genre for the duration of their existence, whilst Beherit moved into it in the late 90's from black metal roots.  Mortiis started out as the quintessential dark ambient project before moving into quasi-electronica music , whilst Burzum have flitted around the ethos of dark ambient like a troubled spirit in a graveyard.  

Only Venom give us a tough job in tracing their ambient roots - the words 'tranquil' or 'ambient' don't naturally spring to mind with Cronos' horde - but the odd instrumental in their back catalogue does at least allow for such an interpretation to be made by a suitably intrepid band!

Some of the publicity refers to the idea of the release as being a "tribute dedicated to the medieval spirit in metal and ambient music", and with that basic ambition in mind it's a fairly safe conclusion to say that the objective has been met after listening to just a couple of spins of the disc.  The text on the inlay of the release further states, "The main concept of this tribute is to make a dedication to all black and medieval bands we admire."

Given that most of the music on this release is not new, however, the wider question for fans of Uruk Hai and/or Hrossharsgrani is whether you should rush out and actually purchase a copy.  Of course, the hardcore collectors will already have done so - you can't beat having a new physical release from one of Hugin's projects in your hands, after all - but we should be mindful of those less inclined to shell out their hard-earned cash on a compilation containing previously released material, and it's worth noting that the 4 songs from Hugin's projects have been available elsewhere for some time.

The pair of Uruk Hai songs are probably the less common to find, being part of the recent 3CD compilation "Forsvunnet Filosofem" and - originally - on the split "-2-" CD with Vinterriket respectively.  Similarly, the pair of Hrossharsgrani songs featured on the split CDr "Dead:Meat" as well as the compilation tape "The Song Never Remains The Same" (the latter of which also featured Uruk Hai's take on 'Hermoðr á Helfelfd').  Even fans of Avenir Funebre aren't immune from this, as the cover of the Mortiis song 'Across the World of Wonders' was actually part of their debut "Chorea Machabaeorum", which was released earlier this year!

So does the world really need another release with these same 4 songs on it, albeit one that's beautifully presented with some really striking artwork?  Well the jury's out on that one, but as with all things forewarned is forearmed and, whilst we're in cliche mode, you pays your money and takes your choice!  It's a thorny issue, one Nazgul has touched on before, and not likely to be definitively answered here and now.  

Of course, you can always lob in the grenade that says as most of Hugin's music can seemingly be illegally downloaded for free from the internet then why would anyone be bothered to pay for any sort of physical release, but that's another thorn for another day.

But you know what: putting all of that to one side, what matters the most is whether the experience of playing this music is an enjoyable and uplifting one.  And yes, it is!   The weakest songs on the release are, strangely enough, the pair of Uruk Hai ones, principally because they are so short (particularly 'The Crying Ork') that they've no sooner started than they've finished and allow little time for an appreciation of a medieval spirit of any sort.  But we can blame Varg Vikernes for this - he composed the originals!   The defiantly toe-tapping nature of the two Hrossharsgrani covers provides some great moments, however, and it would be a strange individual indeed who didn't find themselves whistling or humming along to the keyboard riff to 'Countess Bathory'.

Avenir Fenubre offer - for the majority of us, at least - the opportunity to hear a new band strut it's stuff, and their covers are well worth a listen.  Nazgul was particularly taken with the Wongraven cover, although he's always been a sucker for the amazing recording that is "Fjelltronen".

Nazgul is more than happy to welcome this particular release into the bosom of his collection, and given the issues about prior distribution one might reasonably suppose that the edition of 33 copies is probably sufficient for most customers who must own a copy!

An additional fact, and not one that seems to be well publicised from what Nazgul has seen, is that you can actually buy a download of the entire album from the Bandcamp site, courtesy of Obscure Dungeons Records, should you be so inclined.  Allowing for shipping costs, this would actually be cheaper than ordering a physical copy via Depressive Illusions.

Great artwork gives the whole thing a professional and attractive finish, and at the end of the day you'll be paying well under £10 for a quality product - you can't really go far wrong.

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