Wednesday, 20 April 2016

h.e.a.v.e.n. & h.e.l.l.

Band: ILL
Title: h.e.a.v.e.n. & h.e.l.l.
Format: A professionally produced CDr in larger DVD size case, with full colour covers, released on the Winterwolf label (Germany) in 2015, no catalogue reference.  The music was recorded by Hugin at W.A.R. Studio in December 2014.
Edition: 100 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Heaven 11:21
02. Desert 9:19
03. Aries 41:38
04. Hell 9:52

It's sounding more and more like a broken record I'm afraid: a poor excuse for ongoing disruption, and a litany of disasters one after the other.  No, not this ILL album, which is actually rather good.  No, Nazgul is referring to the sporadic nature of posting to Honour and Darkness this month.  

There have been endless and complicated reasons why the last few weeks have been so quiet: the recent spread of plague that ran virulently through Castle Nazgul, the pressure of work at the end of the financial year, the complexities of family life (gardens are all well and good, but take a lot of upkeep and the orcs can't be trusted to know one end of a rake from the other, frankly).  

Oh it's endless - the next excuse to be trotted out will be that I'd written a piece last night, honest guv'nor, but the dog ate it.  Well, actually, the next excuse in fact is that the family Nazgul will be off to the Caribbean for a holiday, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it!


Anyway, mini rant over and back to the topic at hand, ILL's 2015 release "h.e.a.v.e.n. & h.e.l.l." on Winterwolf.  And do you know what?  It's a classic ILL album, fully instrumental but bringing in elements of sound that we've encountered with this project before (yes, the 'Rush' guitar sound is back - yippee!) but blending them with new experiences, such as the distinctly Egyptian vibe in 'Desert'.  

In fact, whilst we're on the subject of that song, the middle eastern rhythms and sound that are overlaid by a crisp guitar sound do put me mind of what it would be like in Nintendo's Mario Kart were Waluigi to be zipping around the Dry Dry Ruins course with Rush blasting out of the kart speakers.  Great stuff, and currently my go-to track on this release.

'Aries' is a long bugger through.  41 minutes plus for a song is probably pushing it a bit, even by Hugin's standards, good as it is.  It's one of those songs that is so long you sort of tune out occasionally and are surprised, when your focus returns, to find that the same track is playing.  For me the moment came in the long commute home from work, where concentrating on the traffic meant that I 'lost' a bit of time when the song was playing (dodging psychotic cyclists, errant dogs and Audi drivers is a much overrated pass-time).  Imagine my surprise, about 20 minutes later, in realising that track 3 was still playing and that the riffs and melodies were looping around and around.  Make no mistake - it's a loooong song!  

At times, 'Aries' comes across as a little bit like an unscheduled jam between Deep Purple and our Canadian friends Rush (again), but has a load of other stuff going on at the beginning and end to give it a bit of variation too.

The album is topped and tailed with the 'Heaven' and 'Hell' songs.  Speaking of Heaven & Hell, 'Heaven' itself has a few riffs that Tony Iommi would be happy to use, and whacks along at a fair old pace in inimitable ILL style.  Some choral interludes gives it an angelic sort of feel, and balances out the synth and guitar nicely.  

Closing track 'Hell' - on first listen at least - sounds peculiarly discordant, with a nice guitar riff paired with what seems to be a deliberately off-kilter keyboard counterpart.  Hellish indeed!  But over the course of the track it all comes together, and either Hugin has subliminally brainwashed us into submission or something quite clever has happened.

Like all odd combinations (Christmas cake and cheddar cheese, for example) it's worth persevering with, and rewards will follow.

Overall you'd be a mean old sod not to find something to enjoy on this release, even if 'Aries' is a tad draining due to its sheer length.  As is the norm for side projects such as this one, the number of copies is pretty small but then demand is probably pretty low too, so you'll doubtless be able to track a copy down through the usual online haunts or from the label directly.  

And, frankly, you should!

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