Wednesday, 20 January 2016

ATLANTIDA VOL. 20 [V/A]


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI

Title: Atlantida Vol. 20 [V/A]
Format: A silver CDr disc in black and white professionally printed covers, once again courtesy of Mike at Dragon Design.  Yet another entry in Ruslanas' Atlantida series, this one sporting 18 different international artists.  Released circa 2003.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
01. HROSSHARSGRANI  *  March And Fight (different version)
02. ASTRAY  *  Bleeding Here
03. HATRED DIVINE  *  Clay And Crystal
04. FRAIL ENTITY  *  All Alone
05. KEY OF MYTHRAS  *  Hecate's Chamber
06. DEADLOCK  *  Converted Warmachine
07. YGGDRASIL  *  Frid
08. INGURGITATING OBLIVION  *  Descent To The Temple
09. VALHALLA  *  Devil's Rock
10. EVOLUTION  *  Just On Nothing
11. DEATHFROST  *  Idle Brain
12. DETONATION  *  An Epic Defiance
13. MALEVOLENT SNEAKER TOOTH  *  Mouth Babies
14. SPELLCRAFT  *  Kiss Me From The Darkness
15. MORRIGU  *  From The Paths Of The Gods
16. ELYMAS  *  I Wear The Crown Of Malkuth
17. DARK CLOUDS  *  Diamond Gutter
18. SPECTRE DRAGON  *  Psychopath

The prospect of reviewing a new Atlantida compilation is one that never fails to raise a wry smile on Nazgul's face.  There's simply so much to enjoy, on so many levels.

Take the names of some of the bands, for example, which are often ludicrous to the point of imbecility (you explain to me how Malevolent Sneaker Tooth can be anything other?) or try to sound evil and fail miserably (Ingurgitating Oblivion, I'm looking at you!)  Others come from the 'Japanese translation' school of mashing two promising words together in the forlorn hope that they form something more than a sum of their parts (Spectre Dragon?  Frail Eternity??)  However you slice it, there's much to snort at from even a cursory read though an Atlantida rear inlay, and that's before you get onto the even thornier subject of song titles....

...and don't get me wrong, Nazgul's not just filling up column inches by dissing bands willy-nilly, but what exactly are 'Mouth Babies' when they're at home?  And is it just me, or does a song called 'Converted Warmachine' bring to mind a secondhand VW Transporter van where the windows have simply been covered in metal sheeting?  It must be said that Volume 20 is relatively light on truly crazy song titles, thankfully, so we're spared the normal excesses of enthusiasm over common sense.

Which, of course, brings us to the greatest joy of all - playing the music!  As usual, it's a mixed bag of styles and something of a random assortment of nationalities too.  There's more than one band here who clearly were submitting their song as entries in the 2003 'Singer Sounding Most Like A Bullfrog' awards (as sponsored by Strepsils antiseptic throat lozenges), whilst Deathfrost seem to have forgotten to submit a song at all, preferring to entertain us with noises that could well have been their singer on the bog reading a newspaper for all the sense it made.  

Based on the cacophony they create, I can only deduce that Spellcraft have chosen the unusual approach to record themselves playing live whilst simultaneously pushing their singer through the drum kit.  At least one band - I'll spare their blushes and not name them - appear to have only met that morning, possibly at morning coffee break in the sanitarium, and decided to attempt a spontaneous song based on whatever they could lay their hands on at the time.  An interesting experiment - though sadly not interesting for any musical merit - but not one that I'd be included to sit through again.

Amidst all of this chaos lurks Hrossharsgrani, a shining beacon on the front of a mighty Viking longboat.  This different version of 'March and Fight' has an initial passage that sounds rather like an out take from a Sisters Of Mercy song, with Hugin even doing a passable version of Andrew Eldritch for good measure.  This is no bad thing actually, not least because Nazgul is partial to a bit of the Sisters once in a while, but also because it is done very well.  A Gothic tinged introduction before the (Thor's) hammer blow of Hugin's booming first line, "The final battle - and the final fight"!

Worth noting for a creditable entry on this CD are Valhalla, known to Honour and Darkness from aeons ago when their split 7" EP with Elisabetha - "Erszebet Bathori (Eine Ode in Blut)/Defenders of Midgard" was reviewed.  Their song here is hugely reminiscent of some of the older English punk bands, both in terms of how the vocalist sounds and in some of the guitar riffs used.  It works surprisingly well, though I'm sure that they hadn't intentionally gone down that particular musical path and away from their epic power/speed metal roots.

One lingering thought that always plays on my mind when looking through an Atlantida release is that old chestnut of a question: where are they now?  So many of these bands seem to have disappeared without trace; or, to be more accurate, have never crossed the Castle Nazgul radar again at least.  Is it because the trajectory of their musical careers plummeted downwards more steeply than Lee Dorrian's hairline?  Or did they achieve (in)famy and glory in their chosen path?  Or does Nazgul simply not listen to the right sorts of compilations and demos any more?  To test out a sample of cases, 4 bands were chosen randomly from the contributors to this compilation above to see what fate befell them...

DETONATION
A Dutch death metal band from Utrecht: Founded under the name Infernal Dream in 1997 but changed name to Detonation in 1998. In early 2011 the band announced that 3 founding members Danny, Otto and Michiel had left the band, whereupon they've been in hiatus.  4 full length releases since their appearance on Atlantida Volume 20 suggests a modestly fruitful existence, so well done them!

INGURGITATING OBLIVION
Well, we couldn't not find out what had happened to these guys could we - hang the random sample methodology!  It turns out they've been going since 1997 (originally called Of Trees and Orchids, which is marginally less nonsensical) and god help us all, they are still active as of 2015!  With 7 releases in that period, including a mixture of splits, demos and full-length albums, they've soldiered on manfully from their Berlin base - who knew?!  Two thumbs up on the finger-o-meter.

KEY OF MYTHRAS
Another Austrian band, no less!  They are listed online as 'active' though seem to have been very quiet since 2008.  Amusingly, pictures of their sole member - strikingly corpse-painted and positively reeking evil - identify him by the name of Duncan.  Satan lives, and his name is Duncan... .  God, however, appears not be be alive any longer, if the bizarrely titled song from their 2008 opus is to be believed: 'God is dead (I ate him)'....  By odd coincidence, our man Duncan also was a member of a band called Sanguis, which you will recall was the title of a Hrossharsgrani album too!

DARK CLOUDS
A Hungarian outfit, they soldiered on under this name until 2004 with 1 EP and 2 albums behind them before re-branding themselves as Nadir: despite the hope that I could make some joke about them plunging from sight as a result, they have in fact surged ahead with 6 albums and a handful of EP's and split releases since, the most recent release coming just last year.

So that's actually quite reassuring: whilst you might imagine that many of these bands are one-hit wonders (and I uses the term 'hit' as loosely as it could ever possibly be used) the evidence is - on the basis of this entirely unscientific test - that metal bands have cockroach-like powers of resilience when it comes to survival.  Even those appearing on Atlantida compilations.  Sort of explains how it is that when a band hits a good formula - think Iron Maiden, Judas Priest et al - they tend to stand the test of time and be around forever.

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