Thursday, 31 July 2014

HROSSHARSGRANI > Metal Message interview 2003

Item: An interview with Hugin on 25th March 2003 by Markus Eck for German online 'zine Metal Message

Over the years a number of interviews with Hugin have come to light, either lurking in shadowy corners of the online universe or written in obscure underground zines.  Surprisingly, at least to Nazgul, this 2003 Hrossharsgrani interview in Metal Message had managed to slip under the Honour and Darkness radar.  

Accompanied by some classic photos of the time, the content is a mixture of things commonly reported in such interviews together with other, more unique and interesting snippets.  Well worth a look through, as it dates from the brief period where Hrossharsgrani were a trio which including the 2 additional members from CCP Records members.  Not a period often subject to close examination nowadays!  As always, Nazgul takes limited responsibility for oddly translated passages from the original German....!

Brought to life in unholy fashion and ravageded by blizzards and ice storms in the Wolf Winter 1998 Anno Bastardi were some demo recordings from these ambient Austrian Middle-earth musicians. In the dark fate in 2000 they finally released their official debut album, the EP "... Of Battles, Ravens And Fire".

A year later the successor "The Secret Fire" established Hrossharsgrani's Tolkien-based anthems further into the dark ambient and fantasy scene, which gratefully took the superficial radio play and monumental soundtrack-like productions of these three Austrians into a previously unheard sound phenomenon. This extraordinary debut was an atmospheric tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien and his famous Ring trilogy. Now their new sound spectacular "Schattenkrieger" (Shadow Warrior) is released.

When Hugin learned (in a roundabout way) that I am a follower of the dark trio, he made an exception for me and sat down with me for many hours around the crackling campfire to do this interview.

"Hrossharsgrani was founded by me. The first age and glorious stories of the following eras started at this point: In 1998, the battle-machine Hrossharsgrani formed for the first strike.  After a few first rehearsals the first real demo (CDR/200 pieces + MC/33 pieces) "The Path to the Gate of the Dead" was published, and celebrated rough, primitive Barbarian Black Metal .  The front cover was painted by Nick Resch especially for these recordings. In the coloured jewel-case a rusty nail was included as a gimmick!  The cassette version included three bonus tracks. It was followed by the tape `From The Dark Ages'. This limited edition of 250 pieces is a compilation from various rehearsals around 1999, released as a split release between Ered Gorgoroth Productions and Nox Infandus Records.

After a few moments of silence, his haggard lips spoke again: "Between December 1999 and January 2000, I went back into the studio to the successor demo`Ancient Tales' (on CDr + tape). This time it was a concept album about Norse mythology, and over 74 minutes of raw Viking Black Metal was presented. Accompanied by many acoustic effects and battle/nature sounds it told of the glory days of the Vikings. The CD layout explored medieval images on which the Valkyries were shown, and an A4 poster was included in the booklet, in a limited edition on CDr of 300 pieces. 

The tape version also contained the four bonus tracks. The poster from the CD release graced the cover of the limited edition tape (100 copies). The CDr was released in March 2000, the tape in May 2000. There was also a limited edition (20 copies) CDr version with the bonus outro `Weltenbrand` (a different version to the tape release) including a specially signed inlay card. Between the demos were `Blut` (CDR; 9 copies), `Sagen & Gedichte ` (CDR; 10 pieces), and `In The Mystic Forest '(MC; 300 pieces). 

In the first age of our musical work, the worlds of dark ambient music told of beings who wandered through the night, the undead vampires. It was a tribute to the bloody heritage of Lord Byron and Bram Stoker. `The Path to the Gate of the Dead 'and' Ancient Tales' simultaneously formed the conclusion of the first age." 

Very release-happy then, this guy Hugin!  At the start of 2000, another major step in Hugin's story:

"So the halls of the CCP studios spawned the debut mCD/LP '... Of Battles, Ravens And Fire' with battles and choirs, leading the listener through a bygone era full of myths and legends. The cover of the mCD depicts the 'Ride of the Valkyries'. The cover of the limited edition (300 pieces) picture-disc vinyl version (split with Mittvinter) is decorated with a dragon breathing fire. Both motifs depict the music of the debut. The 2001 successor 'The Secret Fire' established Hrossharsgrani's hymns on the scene. Fylgja, Munin and I put this work the foundation for a new era. A musical journey so far from the well-trodden and widely beaten paths of heavy-metal formed the basis for a deal with the CCP label."

Listening patiently, I could also elicit below that Hugin's taste in music is broad. Hugin spoke: "Anything from Black Metal to industrial electronic sounds can inspire my music actually. Currently my soul is in the Pagan Black Metal described, which you bring back to life for me with this glorious time of the sword. My passion actually began in 1988 when Bathory's "Blood Fire Death" appeared on Under One Flag Records. When I held this gatefold LP in my hands for the first time and listened to the powerful pagan hymns, I knew that sound would accompany me to - and beyond - my grave. This album was the cornerstone of the Pagan Black Metal, and influenced an army of other bands, which paid tribute to this legend. 

Making an important connection to Pagan Black Metal is, of course, why the music has a proportion of folk passages. I am a great admirer of medieval or war-like folk music as it creates a terrific sound. But as mentioned, I'm not adverse to experimental soundscapes too: however, these must be very threatening and gloomy! Older albums from Ljubljana or Melek Tha and Eupraxia are my favourites. 

I also identify with 'True Metal' like the Austrians Angry Angels (who celebrate it perfectly) through to dark ambient art of Mortiis.  Otherwise: check out Bathory "Twilight Of The Gods", the Conan soundtrack, Venom "Welcome To Hell",  Saxon "Power And The Glory", Running Wild "Gates To Purgatory", Judas Iscariot "Distant In Solitary Night", Summoning "Dol Guldur", Vinterriket , Ozzy Osbourne "Blizzard Of Oz", Manowar "Battle Hymns", Juvenes "Riddle Of Steel", Pink Floyd "Dark Side Of The Moon" and a few hundred such acts. But soundtrack albums can make my dark heart beat faster. 

This digression into his listening habits led Hugin into discussing his passion for the cinema:

"We have the first two parts of the [Lord of the Rings] trilogy and I like them very much. Every detail has been taken into account, so that the entire work accurately reflects the world of Middle Earth. That fictional characters like Tom Bombardil have not been drawn in the film is, as I understand it, because they do not necessarily contribute to the overall sense of the story. Furthermore, I found the landscapes of Middle-earth New Zealand suitably grandiose, and this alone justifies every second of the film. I look from time to time into Tolkien's books and the Tolkien illustrators such as John Hove and Allen Howard draw me in.  The soundtrack by Howard Shore is inspiring, by those same soundtrack I got into the music of Enya, whichis very spiritual and has become indispensable for certain times in my life. "

Hugin equally can to identify with several fictional characters from the trilogy: "The lust for flesh probably makes me the same as the orcs!  In the desire to fight, I'm possibly a Uruk-Hai. In honour I would actually be an elf - but at the end of the day I am a human being in all I do."

The creative musical cohesion Hrossharsgrani has made over the years has also established cohesive fighters for their own cause: "Two of my closest allies are Fylgja and Munin, who came to Hrossharsgrani in 2000 and strengthened our combat readiness!  It was not necessarily looking for people to join the project and it was more a natural course of events, which welded us together after years of close friendship. Each of us has long been active in the field of Metal; only the type of metal that we indulged in was different. 

And it is precisely this mix of different genres and also the use of foreign elements which ​​ultimately made the sound of Hrossharsgrani. We had never before spent so much time together, and due to the long time in the CCP studio and rehearsal room together to record the new album "Shadow Warrior" our friendship became even stronger.  We meet two to three times a week to discuss new ideas or just to hang out."

I chatted to Hugin about his current artistic view of the debut album. Interestingly, he said to me: 

" '... Of Battles, Ravens And Fire' was first intended as a demo, it was recorded in a single day in the CCP Studio. Still, I find it quite successful from an artistic point of view, as it entered new musical territory and thus paved the way for our kind of sound. Just half a year after the recordings I came to make a deal with CCP Records. As I have previously never thought of a full label release - I wanted to release this EP as a split CD with the German Viking Black Metal band Nachtfalke initially. But, of course, as soon as I got offered the deal of CCP was it for me as a springboard into another dimension, a world of which I had not dared to dream. And because it has always been very original music, it brought Hrossharsgrani good attention."

And Hrossharsgrani will also finally give us - even if being planned for the distant future - a live gig: "We have one (epic) song writing specially for this concert, which just this once will be performed live. There will be a true battle on stage. Blood, swords and axes will put the hall in ruins! There will be no prisoners!"

Then we came to speak of the Hrossharsgrani logo:

"The band logo came from my then-girlfriend Heidi Bagar, which also designed the logo or cover for a few other bands. Our logo has remained the same all these years, only a shadow was added to give more emphasis to the logo following the release of the latest album."

Hugin records many musical influences: "In the first place there are soundtracks รก la 'Gladiator' or the mighty sound of Rammstein, and also the use of classical elements. Otherwise, there really are no special effects, since we're always trying to make our own way, far from the cliched and beaten path of 'Metal'.  One thing is certain: the new album is a typical Hrossharsgrani album.  We added sounds from various sample CD's together, laid traces of a variety of sound over each other and even added a sounds of our own devision. Thus, was the atmospheric background to "Shadow Warrior" made. Anyone who can lead you to another world full of myths, battles, courage, honour, and power, and not want to do without the epic of Metals is advised to delve into the world Hrossharsgrani"

Then Linz's premier Tolkien admirer gave me notice about the importance of the new album title:

"As you've already noticed right at the beginning of our dialogue, "Shadow Warrior" relates in principle to Tolkien's 'The Lord Of The Rings'. However, one difference to other Tolkien bands is that the story is loosely based on the master's work - sure, it's the world of Middle-earth with all its creatures and lands, but told from the perspective of an outsider - specifically, from my perspective. The 'Shadow Warrior' represents the Nazgul [Editors note: Yaay!!], sad beings from the dark ruler with only one purpose left in their shadow lives to hunt for the One Ring. The text of the title song is written ambiguously, so it makes good sense outside of Middle-earth too. For me the image means exactly what it says for our music -  shadows, darkness, mysticism, horror, warriors, battles, glory and honour."

The current album cover is typically Hugin: a photo collage of various relics of Nordic antiquity.

"The idea and the photos were mine, put together by Munin. The cover of the limited edition digipak version is a little different than that of the jewel case version and is limited to 1,000 pieces; the procedure for the design was the same. As both shield and helmet are listed on the cover, this clarifies the martial aspect of the music on the album!"

The work on the new album lasted from October 2001 to November 2002, the whole creative process only ending with the completion of the work. It was therefore the longest time so far creating a Hrossharsgrani recording.  Hugin looks back:

"The largest share of the music on the current album came from Munin, who sat night after night while composing. He devoted almost all his free time to the creation of new Hrossharsgrani songs. As it extended over such a long period, the compositions spanned nearly every state of mind. Most of the new tracks were written after midnight. Where everywhere else this is a time of calm, for Munin this was the time of the fight!  It was mostly positive, there was a tense atmosphere in which you could often hear a pin drop. The lyrics for "Shadow Warrior" all come from my pen, but I took the ideas of my companions too, which is also why the overall concept works very well. I usually tried to think of lyrics whilst running through the wonderful forests near my home, before sitting down and hammering away at my computer. After a few days later I decided whether the text is best used with the samples or alone."

As already mentioned in my album review of the new album, I'm unfortunately not satisfied with the implementation of the spoken passages on this album. To get it perfect would have required a lot more vocal charisma and linguistic devotion. However, Hugin promised me: "Unfortunately, we have spent such a long time with the entire recording, but only a single afternoon with the radio play passages. This defect we will not make again on the next album as we will make the radio plays separately and not as part of the music recording. "

However, I am also very excited. Because in my opinion Hrossharsgrani is something unique that does not exist anywhere else in the Metal world. Hugin agrees with me here conclusively: "Thank you for this statement. As already mentioned, we always try to enter new territories and yet remain faithful to our belief.  Beauty exists only in struggle!"

Thursday, 10 July 2014


Title: The Great Unknown
Format: Previously unseen cover artwork for a proposed Uruk Hai album that was never released.
Edition: None - unreleased

Proposed Track Listing:
01. Into The Great Unknown
02. Lay Of Leithian
03. May It Be
04. Gates Of Summer
05. Enter Mordor
06. Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun
07. Einsam In Dunklen Waeldern
08. Morgoth

#13 From the Vaults of W.A.R.

Another one of those 'nearly' releases from the ever fruitful mind of Hugin, hidden away for aeons but now released from its bondage and being shared with you - honoured Blog reader.

So the back story is fairly straightforward on this one: a demo of songs circa 2006 was being compiled by Hugin for release under the Uruk Hai banner.  The songs selected - shown above - were duly sifted and sorted for final release until, with a characteristic last minute change of plan, the proposed release "The Great Unknown" morphed into the well received "Lothlorien" release instead.  As such, "The Great Unknown" concept was shelved and the draft artwork filed away in the voluminous vaults of W.A.R. Productions.  Until now....!

Most of the proposed track listing from "The Great Unknown" did make it onto the Lothlorien release but there are some differences and changes to the running order on the final version.  Let's quickly run through them for the sake of completeness:

  • Into The Great Unknown - didn't appear on the final Lothlerien album but did get utilised as track 4 on the split release "United"
  • Lay Of Leithian - retained, and became track 4 on the Lothlorien CD release
  • May It Be - retained, and became track 8 on the Lothlorien release (and track 10 on the tape version!)
  • Gates Of Summer - retained, and became track 9 on the Lothlorien CD release
  • Enter Mordor - retained, becoming track 2 on the Lothlorien CD release
  • Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun - whilst not appearing on the CD version, this was the final track 9 on the original cassette release of the album
  • Einsam In Dunklen Waeldern - not used on the final Lothlorien release, but appeared instead on the "Valkyrian Romance" demo
  • Morgoth - not used on the final Lothlorien release.  May or may not have been the same lengthy epic that became part of the "Orkstahl" and "Morgoth" releases

The "Lothlorien" CD pressing also added the introductory track 'The White Trees Of Minas Ithil' and, on the tape version, added three additional bonus songs in 'Precious', 'Umbar', and 'Blood Of Stone'.  More tracks again were added on the 4 x 3" CDr reissue of 2012 on the Tryby label, but we digress.

The artwork for the release will look familiar as it was reused on subsequent Uruk Hai demos - well, why would you waste the effort you've made in creating it?! 

Proposed CD artwork

Saturday, 5 July 2014

EMYN MUIL - update

Title: Emyn Muil
Format: C90 style tape in pro-printed colour cover, released on the Tryby label (Poland) in 2012, catalogue reference 19/2012.
Edition: 25 hand-numbered copies
Reason for update: Cassette version of the previously CD-only release

Just a quick one today (as the actress infamously said to the bishop), as Nazgul features the cassette tape version of Uruk Hai's "Emyn Muil" release.

The original CD of this demo was released by the Steel Blazes label in November 2011 and garnered a positive review here on the blog.

This - the tape version - bears the same striking artwork but was released by the Tryby label the following year.  The track listing is the same, with 'Emyn Muil' [37.05] on side 1, and 'At the End of the First Age' [29.03] on the reverse.

Neither song is unique to this particular demo so the chances are you've acquired one or the other over the years anyway, and given the limitation on this tape release is a fleeting 25 copies only you've probably missed the boat by now if you wanted to put this specific format into your collection.

That said, it's tidily produced by Tryby and certainly looks a quality product so would be worth a little effort to track one down.  You could always drop them a note at and tell them Nazgul sent you....

The Emyn Muil family