Wednesday, 5 January 2011

DIE RÜCKKEHR ZUM PFADE - update

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Die Rückkehr Zum Pfade
Format: Second re-issue of this demo through the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) in 2010, cat ref WW111/AWE84-2, in cassette format. The tape comes with a colour cover, is hand-numbered in silver pen, and has a different track listing from both the original 5 song release of 2000 and the subsequent 7 song Chanteloup Creations re-issue in 2001.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 111 copies

Track Listing:

Side A
1. Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten
2. Aufmarsch Der Todes Krieger
3. Von Blinkenden Schwertern
4. Asgard
Side B
5. In Der Nacht Des Todesscheins
6. So Finster Wie Es Niemals War
7. Heimfahrt Nach Hördaland
8. Schönheit Gibt Es Nur Im Kampf

First demo self-released in a very limited run of 5 copies, containing:

1. Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten
2. Von Blinkenden Schwertern
3. In Der Nacht Des Todesscheins
4. Aufmarsch Der Todeskrieger
5. So Finster Wie Es Niemals War

First re-release on Chanteloup Creations, limited to 300 copies with different tracklist:

1. Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten
2. Wenn Es Nacht Wird
3. Von Blinkenden Schwertern
4. Drachenerzahlungen
5. In Der Nacht Des Todesscheins
6. Elfentraum
7. So Finster Wie Es Niemals War

Amongst the plethora of recent Uruk Hai reissues has been a slow but steady trickle of old Hrossharsgrani demo material appearing in re-mastered format, with new artwork and with alternate and/or bonus tracks. This process has been overseen by the irrepressible French label Wulfrune Worxx, formerly Chanteloup Creations, who released the majority of the band's original demos back at the start of the Millennium.

The series in respect of Hrossharsgrani releases has generally seen the nomenclature "version 2010" used after the original title. In the case of this particular demo, no such designation is applied.

So then, let us consider one example of this new 'series' - namely "Die Rückkehr Zum Pfade". This literally translates as 'The Return To The Path', although as this tape is now in its third version perhaps it should be known as the Return to the Return to the Return to the Path. Or maybe Nazgul's just having a funny five minutes and you should ignore him. In any event, this demo was always one of Hugin's self-professed favourites, so it should be interesting to see what has been done with it in this iteration.

First things first - the cover illustration. Now, as a general note all of the 'version 2010' releases seem to have alternative artwork from their original releases. What's intriguing about the cover of "Die Rückkehr Zum Pfade", however, is that whilst it is indeed different to the 2000 cover it is in fact the same artwork previously used on the cover of the band's "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten" demo CDr from 1999 (see blog post for 23 April 2009). Why this should be the case when other 'version 2010' releases use entirely new illustrations is uncertain (other than the possible link to an influx of some songs from that demo onto this version - more of which below), but one benefit is that this release comes with a colour cover as opposed to the standard black and white copies that Wulfrune are usually known for.

Second things second - the track listing. As you'll have seen from the track details, the original demo (reviewed on 6 February 2010) existed in two different versions. The first was a self-released version of only 5 copies, the second a Chanteloup Creations release adding three new songs but deleting one of the others. The track listing on this pressing is different again, giving us something of interest right away in that none of the copies contain exactly the same tracklisting. This mitigates any immediate complaint about using the same material over and over again, as effectively what you have here is a wholly updated and unique release and - to be fair - you'd be pretty hard pressed to find a copy of either of the 2000 releases in any event.

The link between songs and the "Der Pfad Zum..." artwork becomes a little clearer now too, as the two new songs at the end of this tape - 'Heimfahrt Nach Hördaland' and 'Schönheit Gibt Es Nur Im Kampf' - were tracks 4 and 2 respectively on "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten", and the title track of that demo remains as the first track on "Die Rückkehr...". There is a 'version 2010' release of the "Der Pfad Zum..." tape, by the way, but you'll have to wait in anticipation to see what Hugin has done with that particular reworked demo until Honour and Darkness gets around to reviewing it (unless you go forth and buy it yourself, which is strongly recommended). The last song on Side A of "Die Rückkehr Zum Pfade" is another old favourite, 'Asgard', previously recorded as the tenth song on the 1998 Hrossharsgrani demo "Feuer & Eis".

Thirdly, we have the sound to consider. Given we are now in 2011 you won't be surprised to hear that things have moved on a little in the W.A.R. Studios, and as a result those songs carried forward onto this newer version have benefitted from a re-mastering process since their recording back in the mists of time. As a result the audio experience is appreciably better, even allowing for the less than digital qualities of the cassette medium. The drums sound cleaner and more powerful, the guitar less fuzzy and more distinct, and the vocals now reach down your throat and tear your lungs out rather than darting in to tickle your tonsils. Unsurprisingly, this is considered to be a good thing!

This reissue differs in feel from the earlier Chanteloup pressing, due in part to the change in song content. On the Chanteloup tape the three short instrumental songs - 'Wenn Es Nacht Wird', 'Drachenerzahlungen' and 'Elfentraum' - gave the listener something of a brief interlude between the flesh-flaying assault that comprised the remainder of the album. On this Wulfrune Worxx version such niceties are gone, to be replaced by further savagery in the form of the three transplanted songs discussed above. The overall effect is as bracing as an ice-bath, especially in its remastered glory, and sets this reissue apart.

What all of this achieves is to bring a demo now over a decade old to a new generation of fans with a format and approach that is proudly 'old school', yet which sounds relatively fresh and delivers a substantial and enhanced kick to the seat of your pants. With only 111 copies available (Nazgul is proud to say that his copy is #1 of this edition) it won't be a release around for sale for ever, but certainly any reader of this Blog who has wondered about the barbaric Hrossharsgrani of yore but has been unable to track much material down should take this opportunity to plunder the 'version 2010' series to see what they've been missing. It's the only decent thing to do...

How nice too to see the resurrection - on the inside of the inlay - of the much missed Chanteloup Creations logo, together with a catalogue number that references both an old-style Chanteloup prefixture (AWE) alongside the current Wulfrune Worxx one (WW). An appropriate nod to history during this revitalisation of the past.

Speaking of things historical, here's a photo of the original 2000 Chanteloup demo tape (right) next to the 2010 reissue:

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