Sunday, 18 December 2016

WHERE MIGHTY RAVENS FLY - update

Band: RAVENCLAW
Title: Where Mighty Ravens Fly
Format: What is presumed to be an unused design for the cover of this album, that was eventually released on the Atlantida Productions label (Lithuania) in 2002.

#26 From The Vaults Of W.A.R.

Now here's an album we've not had occasion to dust off for many a moon.  Aaah yes, the relatively obscure Ravenclaw release, "Where Mighty Ravens Fly", 14 years old this year and thus entering puberty with a wobble in its voice and a downy coat of stubble on its chin.

And, as always, a rummage through the vast and uncatalogued vaults of W.A.R. Productions in deepest Austria has unearthed something previously unseen about this particular release.  For it is alternate album artwork, and something quite different that the final design that was used (courtesy of an illustration courtesy of Mike Schindler of Dragon Design).

Most likely carved from tusk or horn, the Viking figure with cape swirling around him is a fittingly manly figure for this robust of musical ventures, bringing together Hugin with the late Ruslanas Danisevskis for a few demos and albums of bludgeoning music.


Whilst the exact origin of this figure is yet to be established from online sleuthing, those forays into the dark parts of the Internet did at least identify some previously unrecorded critiques of this album from various sources, so a timely moment perhaps to see what the world's underground metal fans made of this release back in the day. 

We start in Italy, with a 2003 review by Hellvis in the online Shapeless Zine:

"Ravenclaw was born in 2002 with the aim of creating a kind of Viking music, totally innovative for the underground.  Not always does the ambition correspond to actual capabilities.  In fact the style of Ravenclaw is not totally subjective but it is a set of various influences.  But one feels that the band at least tries to do something non-trivial. 

The duo consists of the label's Lithuanian owner Atlantida Productions, Ruslanas Danisevskis, and Austrian Alex Wieser, already a force in Hrossharsgrani and Uruk Hai.  "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" is their debut album.  It was recorded on four tracks.  The cover, professional, shows a crow [Nazgul's note: a raven, surely?!] with its snow capped mountains in the background.

Including wind, thunder and the cries of a crow, here resonates a relaxed introduction.  It is titled 'In Battles' and is one of the first songs composed by Ravenclaw.  In fact, it has already appeared on the compilation Atlantida Vol. 13, together with another track on "Where Mighty Ravens Fly": the bonus track 'Atlantida (Fighting for Atlantis)'.  'In Battles' is a short instrumental, with repetitive and soft tones.  The melody is played only by synthesizers.  The battle noises in the background create an alienating effect, opposing their violence to the melancholy notes.

The following 'Fenriswolf' is not an unreleased track as stated: it also appeared previously on a compilation of Atlantida, the fourteenth to be exact.  After the first graceful arpeggios and the narration, Ravenclaw try to be violent with a barrage of drum machines and a high-pitched voice.  Maybe 'Fenriswolf' should have been a strong song, but in fact it seems rambling and disappointing.  The recording quality is really tinny.  Better to leave.

"Shores Of Heaven" is nothing more than a basic piano tune with the sound of the sea in the background.  As with the introduction, again the theme is repeated in an obsessive manner.  This way of composing I think was inspired by the last two works of Burzum ( "Daudi Baldrs" and "Hliðskjálf") and the first albums by Mortiis ( "Til Fodt Herske A" or "Andes Som Gjorde Oppror").

The same atmosphere of the preceding instrumental introduces the next song 'Valhall (Der Rabenwinter)'.  In short, the drum machine intervenes to support the shrieks of the singer.  The pace is slow, the atmosphere is tense and disturbing.  The song is certainly a thousand times better 'Fenriswolf'.  It is strange, black, and extremely primitive, but able to create a certain charm.  Shame about the frequent fast sections, which proves that the duo are at its best in the mid-tempo and ambient situations.

The gurgle of a fountain introduces 'Ravenclaw'.  It is another minimalist track, which adds nothing to what previously heard.  It's still listenable.

'A Vikings Jouney' has a medieval melody of exquisite workmanship.  The ubiquitous sounds of battle are the background to the cold and epic sounds of yesteryear.  The long final section is repeated in agony.  The major influences are those already mentioned above, and in fact, we are bestowed with the cover of 'A hermóðr Helferd' whose original version is on "Daudi Baldrs".

"Power & Might" is another essential track, intimate, with narration.  Too bad that at one point the colder, irritating drum machine that should instead create a climate of violence.  If the song were accompanied by a dot matrix printer the result would be the same!  These parts are not at all satisfactory and dilute the mysterious tension, and the darkness and cold crafted from parts of the synthesizer.

A fight with bayonets announces the next 'Sword Of Honour'.  We give credit where credit is due:  When Ravenclaw create certain atmospheres, as in this instrumental, their compositions are all strong.  Of course, towards the end we again have the drum machine and singing but, oddly, things seem to work a little better.  Moreover, the part played by the piano is very evocative.

'Set Sail (A Vikings Journey Pt.II)' takes us back between sea and melancholy.  Feelings of nostalgia are communicated to the soul of the listener.  The track is long and monotonous as it could be a long sea voyage, eager for land that never seems to be in sight.  Too bad the final part, with its battle and the 'outbursts', both detract from what is heard in the previous ten minutes.

'Weltenbrand' is a short outro with strangely cheerful tones, and is relaxed.  

"Where Mighty Ravens Fly" ends here.  However, 'Atlantida (Fighting For Atlantis)'  was added as the previously mentioned bonus track.  This song is considered to be, chronologically, the first song ever composed by Ravenclaw.  The elements are all here, for better or for worse - mysterious voices, narration, laughable drum machine (though in this case it is better than usual) and redundant synthesizer steps.

What to say in conclusion?  Ravenclaw have yet to mature.  The ideas are there but the implementation is not yet up to par.  I think the band should focus on ambience, a genre in which it seems fairly creative.  If the black metal parts are just essential then it is necessary to improve the recording quality.

 Overall, a debut with some talent"

Also on t'Internet was a much shorter review in the Brutalism zine, which reads as follows:

"Ravenclaw is a project between Ruslanas from Lithuania and Alex from Austria.  What do they play?  Hard to say but it has all to do sith the old Vikings.  The songs are more like an extended intro with sound effects of water, lightning, raven cries etc.  Sometimes there is a part with instruments.  The lyrics are like spoken words sometimes.  Or black metal parts.  Or the use of medieval instruments.  After listening to the 12 tracks I still don't know what to make of it."

The tough life of a reviewer: you can almost feel his pain!


Now largely remembered for having provided the inspiration to J.K. Rowling in naming one of the four school houses at Hogwarts*, the Ravenclaw legacy is sometimes forgotten about in the overall scheme of all things Hugin.  How nice, therefore, to still be able to dredge up something new about the project after all these years....

* ok, not entirely true...

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