The first thing to strike you about this release is the excellent - yet totally incongruous - cover illustration. In terms of invoking awe and wonder you can't really go wrong with an image like this one - a beautiful ship in full sail set in a Tolkien-esque oceanic landscape. What it has to do with the concept of a 'long grey road', however, is baffling unclear, but then who is Nazgul to pick holes in such things? A good cover is a good cover, that's what I say. The original tape cover from Wulfrune Worxx (see post of 19 April 2010) came with a suitably relevant cover image, so perhaps this is merely a way to inject a little alternate vitality into what proves to be a short but thoroughly enjoyable CDr release.
Over recent years Australian label Smell The Stench (STS) has released a seemingly ad hoc number of discs in this 3"CDr format, which is just fine by Nazgul as he's always had something of a fondness for this size of disc. It must be something to do with the heady days of the early compact disc releases, and all of those enticing small 3" CD singles with adaptor rings that used to be found in the village beneath the Castle. Anyway, Nazgul digresses.
This occasional series of numbered 3" discs from STS has been running for some years and has already included the odd release from Hugin's other bands, as previously reviewed in Honour and Darkness. These include no less than three releases from Bonemachine/B-Machina - the "Prophecy Pt. I" and "...Pt. II' discs along with the splendidly entitled "Burn Down Psychosis" - and a very recent title, Uruk Hai's "Elves & Men", which has yet to be covered on these hallowed pages. The numbering of the editions in the series appear endearingly random too, with the "Prophecy" titles both being limited to 24 copies, and "Burn Down Psychosis" limited to only 15. This Hrossharsgrani release is in an edition of just 20 copies, of which Nazgul's is #9. In addition, it has kindly been signed on the reverse of the wallet by Hugin. This is the only official Hrossharsgrani release so far to be found in the 3"CD format.
Given such a small edition, and given the fact that STS is reporting via their website that all the copies are now sold-out, the release is already destined to be a hard-to-find collectable of the future. This fact serves to remind Nazgul that virtually all of his 'Top Ten rarities' posts from 2010 for Alex's bands are now out of date and will require updating at some point in the future...
Back to this little gem. Two of the Hrossharsgrani tracks from the tape release are featured, the third - a version of 'Fimbulwinter' - being excluded here. Some elements sound slightly different in unmastered format - the spoken word part at the outset of 'The Long Grey Road' sounds more pronounced here, for example, whilst the introduction seems to have more of a martial feel to it than on the tape version - but to all intents and purposes it is the same pair of songs. This is not a bad thing, as the title track in particular is an excellent piece of music having been previously described in Honour and Darkness as being "...underpinned by a eerie piano/synth melody, the songs opens out and 'blooms' over its nine minute plus duration like a fantastical rose coming into flower. The song builds, slowly and ominously, and really sinks into your consciousness, augmented by a weaving and wailing electric guitar and funky percussion as it progresses to its climax. Well worth the price of admission alone, and a must-listen for any fan of Alex's output".
And now, assuming you were sufficiently quick off the mark to get a copy, you can enjoy all of this in digital format too!