You know, this is a startling release for so many reasons. If you were to go back into the annals of reviews and online critiques of Hugin's work on the Internet - notably his early keyboard work (particularly with the fledgling Uruk Hai project) - you would come across repeated instances of people commenting on the simplicity of material, the repetitiveness of the riffs and melodies, and the general lack of finesse and polish of the finished project.
"...while Elbentanz was so ridiculously simple and underdeveloped, it was easy to see it as pointless. But then, they were never really finished. I guess this [Elbenwald] is indicative of what it might've been like had they been fully finished, and I'm glad he never got around to it. The only difference is that the samples are looped until latter-day Burzum seems less repetitive, and the EXACT SAME keyboard progression is used on just about every song. Some gay little 5-second medieval flute jingle is repeated ad infinitum on top of the various loops in every other song, and that's really what makes this truly pointless."
Now, it gives me no pleasure to repeat comments of this nature in my Blog, but the point of the exercise is to illustrate just how far the work of Hugin has developed in the 7 or so years between that release, and this one from Elisabetha.
The Elisabetha project had moved from the triumvirate of Bram Stoker-worshipping fans per the original radio play demos into this, a neo-classical project producing some fabulous music that quite simply is far and away some of the best you could hope to hear. The depth and emotion in the music, the sheer class and refinement of the finished product, is light years beyond what I'm sure even Alex might have envisioned back in the early days, and it's a testament to the sheer effort and musical development that this style of release could be released by the same artist.
It's rather hard to describe in a meaningful way nearly half an hour of neo-classical music: it would be tantamount to poor old Nazgul trying to set down a cogent summary of Beethoven or Mozart really. However, that said, I'm game if you are so there are my impressions of this particular piece:
Following a sampled wind/tolling bell introduction we're into a period organ flourish backed with chanting choirs (versed in the "breathless" school of choristers), before segueing into a piano piece at 4:17 into the track which is chilling in the manner that the simple piano score of John Carprenter's 'Halloween' was hide-behind-the-sofa scary! And here's one of the great things about this track - there are some distinct moments and segments during its progress - all nicely woven together - that make it a compelling listen despite its length.
So at 6:17 the mood changes to an almost burlesque, circus style riff (quite unsettling in that way that clowns visually can be...see any Lacrimosa abum cover for reference!) before the vocal part commences at 8:40 in. Now, I have to confess (again) to not speaking German so whether this is an Edgar Allen Poe narrative or another script is unknown to me, but I shall endeavour to find out....
At 11:23 the track develops into a fine pseudo-ecclesiastical style, before turning on itself again at 14:46 to be almost film-noir in nature, with keyboards simulating the sounds of an accordion. We then move into a film score style moment of highly emotive music at 16:12 before the 'mad scientist' moment on the organ arrives at 19:37! More church-like music (very processional march in nature) kicks in on 21:41 before a magical part of swirling, trilling keyboards comes in at 22:26 which is as fine a piece of Baroque style modern neo-classical music as you're likely to hear. The piece fades out on 28:57 with the prevalent wind motif, which has been present throughout the composition.
My edition of this limited promo only release is #20 of the 66 (and as the cover is rather dark in the novel triangular inlay I've treated you to no less that 2 photos of this release!!) I've been trying to find out via Keegan at SFM (Canada) a little bit more about the origins of this release, which as it stands is the final official output of the Elisabetha project to date.
Keegan has just responded with the following:
"I remember he [Alex] mailed me the master artwork and the Morella track, and I believe there was around at least a year delay on this relase. maybe even two. I later contacted Alex too see if he still wanted me to release it and he said absllutley so that we did. Within a few weeks the release was already almost sold out! Alex decided to pick the # 66 for its run. Alex thought up the triangular inlay design. I used the actual art work he sent me and xeroxed them and then taped them all together, which was alot of work cutting them properly haha. I'm pretty sure this promo track was intended for SFM but not too sure, Alex would be able to answer this question. I'm really excited to do another release with Alex in the near future as hes defintally one of the most creative and rad dudes in the underground whom stays true to those whom support him"
Overall, a glorious slap in the face for all those who thought that Hugin would never progress beyond the early "bedroom days" of self-produced DIY demos.....this is a fabulous song from a fabulous album, and for all nay-sayers out there who thought it could never have come to pass I encourage you to seek this out and digest it with a healthy portion of humble pie.