Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hallstatt - Battles for the Ancestral Lands

Hallstatt - Battles for the Ancestral Lands
2001, Self-Produced Demo CD

Belonging to an organization in Spain called the Celtiberian Heathen Front, which is dedicated to summoning the spirit of ancient pre-christian Spain (Celtiberia as in 'celtic', ante-Christian and Roman Northeastern Gaul, the northern territories of what is now France and Spain, the source for the Celtic tribes), this one-man black metal band is a project that, in the musician's own words, was devised in order to 'concentrate on him the fury and the feeling of authentic black metal'. Sure, you've heard that before...coming from many different locations, throughout the world, right? From Poland, perhaps, first of all, spreading to Russia and Ukraine - a grassroots 'pagan revival' of anti-christian mores, which is all fine and good, and you know from their 'mission statments' these loosely-allied groups at least have their hearts in the right place. So now the fire has spread to Spain, which - as everyone knows - has always been the locale of cultural dissension and antipathy, going back hundreds (or even thousands) of years, tension between Northern and Southern Spaniards, between the 'white' natives and the Moors (essentially Africans), between Gauls and Romans, Gothic tribes and Latins, Jews and Muslims (the hordes of the Turk eventually made it all the way to Vienna before being stopped, which is why we English-speaking people, descended from Europeans, are actually able to enjoy coffee today - if it wasn't for the Austrians quaffing their invader's choice beverage we'd still all be drinking tea), etc. Into this ancient tradition of intolerance and separatism steps this organization and its allied musical groups, taking the means and voice of black metal in order to call on an archaic race, and hopefully use the energy of that summoning to cast aspersion on the forces of bourgeois christ-insanity. Good. Any group that attacks the established order/hypocrisy of christianity (especially Catholicism) are friends of mine.

As for the name, the term 'Hallstatt' itself refers to an iron-age civilization, contiguous and blending, at times, into the history of the Celts. The 'Hallstatt' people themselves occupied parts of what is now known as Poland, Austria, and Northern Spain (among other places), and were mainly active from 1200 to 500 B.C. By the way, these tribes are called collectively the 'Hallstatt culture' because many of the burial cerements or everyday articles still resident from their pre-historical existence were found near Hallstatt, Austria - a small village which can be seen in this picture here. This village was the site of a salt mine, this white gold being a highly valued commodity both in this age (before Christ) and after, prized by the Romans (in Latin: 'sal', from which the word 'salary' is derived) especially for its gustatory and destructive properties, the conscript Legions being paid with it and also using the compound for many reasons, not the least impressive of which was a form of desecration, as Carthage, Rome's bitter nemesis, was said to have been razed to the ground and its fields 'salted' so that nothing could grow there. Enough about that, then...what about the music?

Halstatt, as I said above, is essentially one person, Cosus, who handles all the instruments on this demo recording himself, and acquits himself nicely of any pretension towards post-Darkthrone symphonic 'orchestration'. No, this is black metal as it was meant to be played: raw, basic, angry, violent, stripped-down, aggressive, caustic, venemous, depressing music. Not as 'simple' as early Graveland, not as psychotic as Burzum, but sharing elements from both, and also carrying tints or traces of later bands - I actually hear Judas Iscariot in here, but that's probably just me. Revolving through descending trebly riffs, cycled interminably in order to summon trance states and evoke dreams of distant lands, and pacing through slow and fast tempos in order to change the mood from that of a wistful melancholy to a mordant outlashing of Christ-inspired bile. There are four songs here, a short intro and three selections proper, the third, 'Eternal Heathen War', being, for me, the most affecting, and that mainly because of the eerie riff that appears about halfway through - a strange tremelo-picked melody that makes the entire demo (for me), echoing throughout the other two songs, and lending an aura of mystical ethereality to the proceedings. The latter part of this song actually makes me think of Rotting Christ's demo, as it uses choral themes to greatly expand the power of the material...

The next song, 'The Dawn of the Fullmoon Hordes' is what essentially made me point to Judas Iscariot above, as it sounds like it could have come off of 'Heaven in Flames', but that may just be a coincidence, Cosus and Akhenaten perhaps sharing a few influences. These comparisons, however, should tell you what style this music is in, and whether or not you want to hear it...

Overall, I think this demo is a success, mostly for/because of 'Eternal Heathen War', but I can't help but wonder what Hallstatt will sound like in the future if Cosus continues to progress in the direction hinted at here - away from early Darkthrone, towards later Graveland - and I wonder, also, how (in what form) this musician will expand upon his own talents in order to create something that is more 'original' than this first series of material...only time will tell, I guess...in the meantime this is a good recording, excellent for what it is trying to be, and if you are an enthusiast/admirer of underground black metal you should seek out this band and the other groups allied with it in the Celtiberian Front. I look forward to Hallstatt continuing in the future...