Tuesday, 5 January 2016

RABEN NACHT - update

Title: Raben Nacht - Demo 1
Format: This is a CDr pressing of the original 2000 demo tape, released on the Smell The Stench label (Australia) in 2014, no catalogue reference.  The release comes in a slimline case with a plain white-faced CDr disc and a colour cover.
Edition: 20 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Trees Of Kortirion 10.57
02. Eternal Fire 4.26
03. Fleischeslust 2.40
04. Regungslose Erotik 1.53

Nazgul has been time-travelling today, back to the Millennium and to the days of Raben Nacht's pounding assault on the eardrums of the huddled masses.  So here we are, fresh and eager in the first week of 2016 but listening to music penned over 16 years ago - never let it be said that Castle Nazgul doesn't have its finger on the pulse of current events!

The back story to this most obscure of Hugin's projects is an interesting one and was detailed in the review of the original tape release (limited to only 66 copies, but far in excess of the meagre 20 copies that this STS CDr release has been released in).  In short, the story goes that sometime around 2009 Skogen (he of Canteloup Creations fame) unearthed a single copy of the Raben Nacht tape whilst on a rescue mission to salvage old Heimatleid demo tapes for Nazgul, and thus takes sole credit for rescuing this release for posterity.  The tape was a joint release/distribution between Chanteloup Creations and Irrlichter Distro, hence an old copy being in Skogen's possession, and thank goodness it was otherwise this artifact would most likely have been lost to history.

Wind the clock forward 6 years and Smell The Stench have done the decent thing and given this rare demo a new breath of life.  Well, more of a light puff of life perhaps, as with only 20 copies being released one has to presume that either Leigh felt it had a very limited audience, or he was a little light on blank CDr's that week?!  I would imagine a significant number of Honour and Darkness readers would have jumped at the chance to own this collectable release, horders as we are...?

The music within is exactly as on the tape version, namely 4 songs hammering out primitive and distinctly Hugin-esque songs!  Nazgul's original review of the tape version noted:

"It may not come as a great surprise to learn that the four songs on this demo - which are unique to this tape - are both structured and performed very much in the style of Hrossharsgrani of old, say circa the "Krieg" era. In actual fact, if you were to study the inside of the 'Raben Nacht' inlay you would spot in the background behind the trees on the credits listing some rather familiar stone towers, which Nazgul believes to be the same towers that adorn the front of the earlier 'Krieg' demo tape cover. To that end, musically these are familiar in sound and have that 'dry' buzzing guitar tone set above the pounding battle-drums beloved of many Hross' songs, whilst synthesiser and keyboard riffs contribute the melodic element of the tracks. Vocals are in the harsh style, sung in English."

It's hard to truthfully say that putting the songs on a digital format has massively enhanced them, and if anything it brings out further the rawness of the music.  This does lead to the odd humorous moment - the opening vocals on 'Eternal Fire' sound like a precursor to the Dalek invasion of Earth - whilst the wall-of-sound drumming can get a little wearing over four songs.  That said, it's historically of interest and shows again the development that Hugin has made in his music since those heady early years.

Revisiting the 2009 tape review, Nazgul noticed that the song references had remained unexplained, so let's address that.  Opening track 'Trees Of Kortirion' was a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien from 1937, which rewrote an earlier 1915 one called 'Kortirion among the Trees' and is found most notably in The Book of Lost Tales Part One.  It references the inspiration that Tolkien drew from the English medieval town of Warwick, and in his mythology is portrayed as the Elvish island of Tol Eressea.  Kortirion's beauty lay in its trees - ash, yew, beech, willow and poplar - and the poem's quality is that of an elegy that captures the passage of time, the approach of ruin, and the fading of something extraordinarily beautiful.  Mighty Austrian band Summoning have a song by the earlier name of 'Kortirion among the Trees' on their "Nightshade Forests" EP, should the title have rung some distant bell in your memory...

'Eternal Flame' may or may not be a veiled reference to Tolkien's "Flame Imperishable" (or, indeed, a tribute to the hit song by The Bangles for all I know), whilst 'Fleischeslust' is almost certainly not the online dog food brand that advertises that it 'Consists of 80% fresh meat & 100% human grade ingredients' (whatever they may be - the mind boggles!) ' Regungslose Erotik' (literally: Motionless Erotic), on the other hand, brings up so many dubious looking links online that Nazgul dare not click through on any of them, for fear of incurring the wrath of the erotic and most definitely mobile Lady Nazgul....

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