Wednesday, 16 September 2015

b.l.e.a.k.


Band: ILL
Title: b.l.e.a.k.
Format: A 5" burgundy coloured CDr disc with colour covers on photographic paper, self released on the W.A.R. Productions label (no catalogue reference), with songs recorded in December 2014.  For the record, the photo card inlays are dated 4 December 2014. 
Edition: Limited to 5 unnumbered copies only

Track Listing:
01. b.l.e.a.k. I   13.21
02. b.l.e.a.k. II  11.22

I'LL be the first to admit that a resurgence from Hugin's long-dormant project ILL seemed one of the less likely events to have occurred in the last 12 months.  Previously only known for the single tape demo "s.t.r.a.n.g.e." from many moons ago, the band was reincarnated just before Christmas 2014 with the seasonally appropriate "j.o.y." release, a slice of what Hugin called 'doom ambient metal' and which proved to be very enjoyable and yet another vent for Hugin's creative vision.

ILLuminating the virtual pages of Honour and Darkness this week is the chronological successor release to "j.o.y", which comes under the more apt title (for a doom themed project) of "b.l.e.a.k."  Ever a popular word in the bastions of all things depressive and maudlin, it's been variously employed in song titles (Opeth's track by the same name on Blackwater Park immediately springs to mind), Christmas carols (In The Bleak Midwinter), and of course literary classics (Charles Dickens' Bleak Arse).

ILL-fated this release is not: in fact, elements of pure good fortune can even be seen in the cover picture.  As previously used as a location for the Uruk Hai "Elbenstahl" cover, Hugin revisited gro├čer Weikerlsee, where the cover photo pictures the larger of the two lakes, surrounded by forest.  You see the ripples at the front of the water?  That's not contrived through our hero tossing pebbles into the lake, nor is it photoshopped; it's just a happy coincidence that a fish was catching its lunch on the surface of the water at that moment.  Presumably that well known member of the turbot family, the brILL...

ILL-prepared as Nazgul clearly is for a career in stand-up comedy, let's return to the music on offer here.  Citing as their influences bands such as Candlemass, Doomsword, Melvins, Sun O))) and Pink Floyd one can't help but feel that a progressive element should be found here, alongside the requisite crushing and pulverising tunes.  Part I of 'b.l.e.a.k.' is a testimony to how much a good riff contributes to a song: catchy yet positively aching with despair, this impacts into your cerebral cortex faster than if it had been delivered by nail gun and remains with you permanently thereafter.  In this case, both a crushing guitar riff and catchy keyboard riff combine to make this the more immediately memorable of the two songs as it positively bounds along with swaggering verve.  Part II is more complex, and takes a bit more listening to get into, but is possibly the cleverer of the two pieces. Sounding odd reminiscent of "Organisation" period O.M.D. (three lettered band titles are clearly the theme here!) it holds your interest by being less obvious and - yes - more 'proggy' than Part I.  Overall the release is small but perfectly formed.

ILLogical as it may sound, given this release is limited to a paltry 5 physical copies and the project has a lower profile than the ILLuminati, there's every potential that over time it could rapidly catch up with Hugin's other bands in terms of popularity.  It has it's own distinct branding through the way song titles are presented and the project balances melody and down-tempo melancholy in a way that sounds different to his other work.  It's always amazing to Nazgul's tiny mind how Hugin can use the same basic instruments for all of this projects and yet create very distinct bodies of work under each banner - there's no way, for example, you'd confuse a modern Hrefnesholt song with one from Bonemachine, or get Eismond mixed up with Elisabetha.

ILLegal downloads of even a release this obscure are doubtless circulating on the internet somewhere, such is the sad reality of the world, but to keep in touch with all things ILL you could do worse than follow the band's Facebook page and see what's brewing.  The Bandcamp page has disappeared though, as Hugin has moved away from that platform at this present time.  Since this release other ILL recordings have found their way out of the labyrinthine halls of W.A.R. and it will be interesting to see how they sound in comparison to this and earlier demos.  And that means you can go and purchase some for yourself too, putting some much appreciated custom Hugin's way and spreading the word (ILL-tidings...?) to the world at large.

IL(L) pleut?  Well of course it's raining, it's autumn at Castle Nazgul and it's pretty bloody b.l.e.a.k. out there....

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