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Anabasis and Gargrim the Liar - Two Worlds

Waerloga are clearly the prime movers in both in the establishment and the defining of the 'Dark Fantasy' soundtrack. With Two Worlds the potential for variations on this theme are explored and realized with a subtle degree of flair and passion. Anabasis begins proceedings with the first of the two full-length CDs, 'The Challenge' which appropriately follows in the spirit of Xenophon's eponymous journey-tale by drawing it's narrative inspiration from the last six stanzas of Browning's Childe Roland... (which also inspired Stephen King's Dark Tower stories). As 'The Challenge' is structured as a soundtrack, of sorts, it naturally lacks a visual narrative from which to act as a common denominator between conductor and audience. Hence, the music itself is called upon to supply both drama and mood within the context of the chosen narrative. Anabasis has competently approached this difficulty and the opening tracks establish the work through string and wind arrangements that create an expanse of swelling sounds while moving to build a sense of tension and movement. The instrumentation used throughout the composition is keenly mannered, each instrument is used to compliment and interweave, never dominate. This is evident in the middle section of tracks such as ' Enchanted Forest' and 'Distant Stronghold' where the music colours the imagined landscape, characters and events in lieu of any lyrical narrative. Towards the close of 'The Challenge' choral and solo voices are introduced deftly fading into instrumentation or capturing a mood, but never lingering beyond their welcome. Uplifting phrases and the introspective guitar strings draw down the curtain on a work that while acknowledging influences such as Liszt or Strauss never seeks to repeat them. 'The Challenge' is a serious piece of composition and exhibits the obvious maturity of it's creator in producing a thematic vein of music that conveys a tale of anger, deceit and retribution. This is the essence of high-fantasy and Anabasis has thrown down a very proficient gauntlet in the form of 'The Challenge'.

The more mysterious Gargrim the Liar is the second 'book' of Two Worlds. Here, the full-length CD, 'Stories of Long Forgotten' seems to draw from the steam-punk fantasy world of Warhammer, particularly in respect of the 'City-state of Miragliano'. Within such a recognized fantasy template any attempt at an accompanying soundtrack may rise or fall heavily. 'Stories of Long Forgotten' soars. From the opening field-recordings of birdsong there is a sense of open spaces and untamed expanses. The overwhelming strength, which is immediately apparent on 'Stories of Long Forgotten' is the employment of choral voices, not set apart from other elements in the compositions but rather, the voice is recognized as an instrument in itself and as such interflows throughout the music to produce captivating pieces that are highly emotive and stirring. There are some reminders of Enya's soundtrack for The Celts but here any similarity is nullified by the sweeping arrangements that quickly put the aforementioned work into shade. At times the narrative of the music is driven forward by percussive phrasing and the accompaniment of strings which pervades the resultant sounds with a richness that serves to voice the tale. 'Stories of Long Forgotten' is a very strong piece of work that wraps many emotions together through incredibly expressive compositions. Again, there are subtle nods to influences such as Leone on 'No Way Out' but Gargrim's music retains its originality and complexity serving to propel the listener into a world apart in a manner that few other composers are capable of.

Waerloga have obviously taken great care in the aesthetic presentation of this double CD release and produced a sumptuous eight page booklet to accompany it. The artwork is another highlight as Waerloga have secured John Howe's piece that he produced in the 1980's for the cover of Robert Holdstock's utterly brilliant Mythago Wood. Two Worlds benefits from the fact that the two composers never overlap in style and composition so both works are separate in realization and sounds, allowing the audience to delve into either world which are distinctive to one another. This is a very mature release both in structure and vision that opens a great deal of potential for the future of the 'Dark Fantasy' soundtrack. For more information go to www.waerloga.com or www.myspace.com/gargrimtheliar or www.myspace.com/anabasishome (review by Michael Cunningham)