Saturday, 12 March 2016

HÖLLENKREIS (Des Bruders Böser Garten)

Band: ALEXANDER WIESER with Fra Diavolo (aka Bruder Cle)
Title: Höllenkreis (Des Bruders Böser Garten)  
Format: A professionally formatted CD on Alex's own W.A.R. Productions label (Austria), cat ref WAR 098, released on 12 March 2015.  The artwork is in full colour, and this is in a multi-panel digipak format.
Edition: 500 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01.  Die Maschine  4:48  
02.  Himmel & Hölle  4:18  
03.  Berserker  5:25  
04.  Shanghai  3:49  
05.  Höllenkreis  3:56  
06.  Trollsturm  4:11  
07.  Das Hungergespenst  2:46  
08.  Unten  5:12  
09.  Josef Sichelgruber  3:21  
10.  Mutter  4:18  
11.  Erstkontakt  3:24  

"Are you strong enough? Then enter Bruder's evil garden and taste the foul fruits of torture, death and blood and experience the harmful strike of letters, words and paragraphs. You will definitely need 'guts' to meet characters like Josef Sichelgruber or Herbert Uhlendorf, whose perverse deeds would even challenge the twisted mind of a Marquis de Sade. On your walk you will also meet aliens, even more bizarre and cruel than H.P. Lovecraft's Elder Ones. 

Find out about the rotten, stinking and bloodstained world of the underground in Vienna and witness nameless cruelties in the bowels of Slovenian cave systems. Experience a zombie apocalypse in Berlin, meet ghouls in the slums of Shanghai that deal with organs and find yourself in the midst of the horror of blood and steel in ancient battlefields. Even Churches will be destroyed - by raging trolls in Scandinavian woods and black metal fans in the alps in an orgy of blood and fire.  Finally you will feel the hunger and painful isolation of a teenager trapped in a cesspit. "Höllenkreis" is not a collection of chilling ghost stories, but a tornado of cruelty and perversion, that leaves you confused and shocked.

Do you still want to read this book?  We congratulate you on your courage, the doors to 'brother's wicked garden' push open.  But remember - you might not be the same when you leave it again ... If you ever leave it again.... 

Under the influence of these morbid tales, Alex Wieser of Uruk Hai, Eismond and Bonemachine-fame, wrote a frantic soundtrack: dark and epic, sinister and haunting. A perfect score for the enhanced experience of the horror of "Höllenkreis – Des Bruders böser Garten". Imagine a mix between Goblin, Hans Zimmer and Ennio Morricone and you know what this score sounds like. Get yourself a copy of this dark ambient masterpiece and enter a Gothic world of unspeakable horror!"

Goodness!  Clearly not a stroll down the country lanes into the Enchanted Forest for a gentle climb up the Faraway Tree, then...

In respect of everything but the artwork, which you will have surmised is based upon the book cover, this is pretty much an Uruk Hai style album in feel and construction.  And this is no bad thing, of course, as we love Uruk Hai releases with a passion bordering on mania in Castle Nazgul. It is a bit strange, through, to read the song titles and try to interpret the musical passages in context.  Normally these expansive songs are named after the sweeping and majestic plains of Middle Earth, or pay tribute to the grandiose battles or epic weaponry of Tolkien's realm.  Trying to interpret such music against a title such as 'The Hungry Ghost' (Das Hungergespenst) or 'First Contact' (Erstkontakt) feels a bit odd, somehow.  

I confess that I'd been saving this one for review, putting it into a little corner of the library until I was ready for a trip to somewhere new and frightening, assuming that what I would be listening to would somehow be markedly different from the 'normal' releases that Hugin has recently put out.  Given that it isn't markedly different, however, it does seem a little deflating initially, with the music being very familiar to recent Uruk Hai demos, percussive and ambient. 

You'd almost expect Hugin to have employed the Elisabetha approach of yore to this project, in melding disorientating and discordant passages of music to narrative and effect-filled sections, thus recreating the much-touted gruesomeness of Bruder Cle's book.  Or perhaps that was a route that was seen as too obvious and cliched?  In any event, other than the very occasional deviation away from the business as usual pattern of Uruk Hai keyboardery, there's not an immediate connection that - to my mind at least - makes you think how the song might be connected to the book.

That said, the book is solely available in German so my understanding of specific stories within it is about as complete as my understanding of the rings of Saturn (and not the Californian deathcore band of that name, either).  Bruder Cle was obviously very happy with how the project turned out, which we can ascertain from his thanks-to section in the liner notes, so who am I to cast doubt on the artistic integrity of the concept?

But let's not be ungenerous. Played in its own right there's much to savour on this album, and if you can step away from any expectations you might entertain about how this release would be different from Hugin's normal work, you will find much to enjoy in the very familiarity of the material on offer.  And do my ears deceive me, or does our man pinch the melody line from the Game of Thrones theme and shoehorn it into 'Trollsturm' as it goes galloping past....?!      

Ultimately the contents of the book may well represent a trip to the Circle of Hell, and the gist of the few online reviews (in German, of course) that don't simply parrot the promotional blurb do rather back up the assertion that this is a collection of splatter horror stories that will genuinely gross you out.  The accompanying album does not succeed in paralleling that experience, but does once again shown that Hugin knows his way round this instruments and can knock out a good set of tunes in his curiously unique and engaging style.

A quick plug for the book, by the way: it's available quite easily on Amazon and online book retailers, and can be bought for a reasonably good price given it must be a fairly low volume publication.  

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