Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: Phalanx feat. The White Rabbit vs. Hrossharsgrani - S.P.Q.R.


The final week of October, I hope everyone is having a wonderful autumnal season.

This hopefully should be my last week of the short reviews, since my Italian Eurospy chapter is due at the end of the week. But a lot of other stuff is going on, big changes at work, Comikaze comic book con at the end of the week, etc. I may have to ask for a day extension. The hardest part (middle and end) is written, just need the introduction!

This week I’ll be reviewing the two track S.P.Q.R. split release between Phalanx feat. The White Rabbit and Hrossharsgrani. I am actually cheating a bit on this review since I’ve written a review for this release last year for the Metal Archives. However, it’s been a year and a revisit to the material might be beneficial for its re-appraisal. I will not copy my original review at all, but use it as a foundation to help me crank this review out. Also, I am leery about the Metal Archives’ system of expelling bands not metal enough, and I fear someday this review will be expelled from their collection since I doubt either band is “metal enough” for their criteria.

Biasness

A small amount – I’ve been friends with Alex, the man behind Hrossharsgrani for many years, and even collaborate with him on his Ceremony of Innocence project, but I doubt that relationship will get in the way of doing this review without bias. 

General Overview and Packaging

S.P.Q.R. is a net release put out by the Bulgarian label Abandonment back in 2009. The two tracks and artwork are available for free download under a Creative Commons License (see link below). In fact, the vast majority of Phalanx feat. The White Rabbit releases were done via the Abandonment label via this method.

I went ahead and went the extra mile and burned the tracks to a CDr and had the artwork printed at a Staples. The results turned out rather nice, if a little D.I.Y.:

The split CD printed out (personal collection)

According to the download’s website, Alex of Hrossharsgrani did the artwork and layout for the sleeve, and it looks good. When printed out it looks rather professional, with the cover image of Roman soldiers in a skirmish fitting the subject matter of this release. I actually really like releases like this that have a specific theme, it provides context as to take the songs in (and helps with me writing the analysis too!). S.P.Q.R. stands for Senātus Populusque Rōmānus, and this release is about the military might of ancient Rome.

Phalanx feat. The White Rabbit is actually a defunct project, being active solely in the year 2009 (with one compilation appearance in 2010). The project has been superceded by the much more superior Schattenspiel project, helmed by Sven. Hrossharsgrani is one of the many projects of Alex Wieser who is most famous for Uruk-Hai, but for this blog he is of more importance for his ur-folk Hrefnesholt project.

Track Analysis

Nehmt Ihnen Alles

“Nehmt Ihnen Alles” is what I could call a “martial-minimal” type of song. The music proper isn’t too complex, it’s a singular industrial-rumbling-bombastic-noise: “chug-chug-chug / chug-chug-chug / chug-chug-chug” – looped for the entire song save for the last few moments. What breaks up the droning industrial riff are inserted samples culled from the German dub of the movie 300, specifically lines of the Spartans yelling in unison. At a high level, the configuration of samples from a martial source (in this case the movie 300) and the droning industrial element recalls the style that Dernière Volonté had with their Obéir Et Mourir album, only less ambient and more harsh. Specifically, this song is a lot like “Blood, Tears” by Langemarch that appears on the Georg Kolbe Bildwerke compilation. “Blood, Tears” is also a martial song with samples of a call-and-response from a commander and his troops, much like the call-and-response from the Spartans in the 300 samples.

Verdict – Decent Track

Enemy

“Enemy” is a lengthy piano driven track peppered with samples from a source I cannot identify. There are some muted war-esque drums in the background in sparse parts, which adds a slight martial element to the song giving it a good flavour. However what works against this song is this static/rumbling effect that carries the majority of the song. It sounds like a cross between slowed down radio static and airline noises from an old Microprose flight simulator. It’s more noise than harmony and obfuscates the good piano work and underlying martial temperaments. Near the 6 minute mark the song picks up and it the under layer sounds particularly good, with this martial-clapping effect. I really want to appreciate the song more, but the static noise is too much of a hindrance.

Verdict – Below average track

Final Thoughts

As a free download, you can’t go wrong with trying both tracks risk free. If you do, I would suggest spending the extra dollar or so printing out the jacket and making yourself a nice physical copy. Over all, the two tracks are not the greatest entrants for either band. In regards to Phalanx feat. The White Rabbit, I would skip them all together and go straight to Schattenspiel, a far superior project in almost all regards. However, most of Phalanx feat. The White Rabbit tracks are free to download, so maybe it is worth the risk, but it’s a bit of a gamble, with tracks like “Dark Whore in High Heels” which is ambient noise with samples of a woman having intercourse and “Mitten In Dein Herz” which sounds like a bouncy techno song. And whatever you do, stay away from their cover of “Crimson and Clover”.

In regards for Hrossharsgrani, they tackle the subject matter of ancient Rome and its military might with the album Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est and they do it in a way better fashion. In fact, that album came out in 2009, the same as S.P.Q.R. which would be fitting to label “Enemies” as an unused track for that album. Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est is a way better foray into Horssharsgrani than “Enemies”, so I highly recommend going that route instead.

But again, in the end, the price tag of nothing really mitigates the risk of exploring. So take the plunge anways!

Cultural References

300, Rome, S.P.Q.R.

Official Links

https://www.facebook.com/Schattenspiel.Music - official Facebook for Schattenspiel, the successor to Phalanx feat. The White Rabbit
https://myspace.com/hrossharsgrani - official MySpace for Hrossharsgrani

Other Resources


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