Monday, 17 March 2014

FOLIAGE OF GLASIR [V/A]

Band: URUK HAI
Title:  Foliage Of Glasir [Various Artists]
Format: CD release on the Valgriind label (Russia) in 2013, cat ref VG55.  Comes with colour covers and picture disc.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
01.  Corvuz Son  *  Trava  6:35  
02.  Bolverkstorm  *  No Eyes - Alone In The Fog  5:01  
03.  Dasein  *  Grain  4:47  
04.  Orchid  *  Выпал Снег  2:48  
05.  Norma Reaktsii and Sva Battalion  *  Blood-Red Snow  7:09  
06.  Parchim  *  Aion  4:27  
07.  Yav'  *  Night  4:10  
08.  YAO 91404 D  *  Arktische Erde, Dezember 2012  7:48  
09.  Transistorwald  *  Der Romantische Krieg  4:15  
10.  Uruk-Hai  *  The Door To The Paths Of The Dead  7:08  
11.  Shepot Run  *  Пусть Всходит Солнце  3:16  
12.  Astarium  *  Moranas Lands  5:00  
13.  Lebensessenz  *  Dostojewski  6:04  
14.  TemnoJar'  *  Sator Venit  5:39  

Described online as a "long-awaited CD compilation of residents and friends of the great Russian label Valgriind", this compilation album bucks the recent trend of compilations reviewed recently in Honour and Darkness by being (i) very listenable, and (ii) mercifully short!  


Valgriind, of course, have issued some of Hugin's work in recent years, notably the Uruk Hai double-CD release "Upon the Elysian Fields" and the single-disc reissue of "Northern Lights", so it's no great surprise to see Hugin featuring on this collection of songs.  That said though, had Nazgul had to put money on which of Hugin's projects would have been chosen the more likely choice would have been B-Machina, who have also had material released on this label and who on the face of it are a more straightforward 'fit' with some of the other bands featured on this style of album.  Just goes to show what I know: 'The Doors To The Paths Of The Dead' is a track drawn from the latest Uruk Hai opus "...And All The Magic & Might He Brought".

There's a variety of musical styles on this CD, ranging from neo-folk through ambient-experimentalist-noise-electronica to some good old metal: Uruk Hai's contribution comes across as one of the 'harder' songs on the album, which must be a first as normally Nazgul is left ruminating that the Uruk Hai song is the soft and gentle part in a maelstrom of black-metal.  This particular song features Bart Piette (Dead Mans Hill) on vocals and Trevor Sewell doing the virtuoso guitar solo parts.  

Like many Valgriind releases it's well thought out, well conceived, and attractively priced.  It gives you a good opportunity of venturing into the realms of a number of bands that you surely won't have come across before.  A shrewd marketing tactic once the CD is in your sticky hands. but given the number of unknown bands on the release it may not be the album you'd immediately go out and buy on the off-chance of finding your next favourite band.  Nazgul's advice would be to track down an affordable copy post-haste as there is much to enjoy here.

The first three tracks of electronic ambient drone will have you believing you've entered some form of intergalactic portal towards the mysterious enigmatic world of Saturn Form Essence, but this is quickly turned around with a song far more akin to New Wave on Orchid's 'Выпал Снег' ('snow fell'), which sports a synthesiser sound very reminiscent of Visage's 'Fade To Grey'.

The following two tracks are - to be brutal - a bit of a drag, but things perk up immeasurably on track 7 with Yav' and 'Night', which has the most elegant and beautiful keyboard parts to it and is a pleasure to let wash over you.  This is then followed by what I suppose you'd call an experimental noise 'song', which is not unlike listening to a radio being tuned inside an oil barrel, before a neo-folk song breaks out from Transistorwald complete with samples of what sounds like Hitler speeches.  What you might term 'die militarmusik', then.  Following Uruk Hai's contribution the remaining tracks are again something of a mixture: the wonderful Shepot Run with female vocals very reminiscent of neo-folk band Hekate; the somewhat odd-sounding piece by Astarium (Wongraven-esque humming mixed with Aboriginal instruments); a radio-play style song with nice piano from Lebensessenz; and then finally the album comes to a close with the strident 'Sator Venit' from Russian folk-ambient performer Temnojar'.

To understand the album's title one has to venture into old Nordic legend.  In chapter 32 of the 13th Century Prose Edda book 'Skáldskaparmál' numerous poetic references to gold are provided, including "Glasir's foliage". Glasir, it turns out, is a is a tree or grove, described as "the most beautiful among gods and men", bearing golden leaves and located in the realm of Asgard, outside the doors of Valhalla.  In a surviving fragment of chapter 45 of the skaldic poem "Bjarkamál", Glasir is again listed as a meaning for gold ("Glasir's glowing foliage").

Overall, a good value release with some tracks standing out amongst the throng like the Faraway Tree emerging above the Enchanted Wood.  Nordic legends?  Pah!  Enid Blyton ever time at Castle Nazgul!  Leaving aside any Uruk Hai bias for the moment, Nazgul's favourites on this compilation would undoubtedly be the tracks by Yav' and Shepot Run, and they are worth some further investigation.  Indeed, Nazgul noticed that Shepot Run had done a cover of the Burzum song 'The Crying Orc', which by odd coincidence was also recently covered by Uruk Hai, so clearly fate is at work here!

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