As previously pointed out by the editor of this site, metal demo recordings does not exist as crass commercial propositions with the sole purpose of advertising the market viability of the artist, but function — at least ideally — as independent works produced and distributed without further infringement from the recording industry. In spite of eventual shortcomings resulting from lack of budget, experience, and time, demo-level recordings remain a breath of fresh air because they oftentimes capture bands at a nascent and untempered creative stage.
Besides their artistic value, demos can also function as important informational sources regarding the development of a particular band and/or style. Seen in this light, Eerily Howling Winds serves a dual purpose. It is highly enjoyable as a musical work, but also interesting from a developmental perspective. The tape comprises three compositions in total, each of which would show up in re-recorded and slightly re-arranged form on Ancient’s debut album Svartalvheim (1994). While still a few steps away from the epic otherworldly atmosphere and epic scope of the band’s seminal works (Svartalvheim and the Trolltaar EP), “Eerily Howling Winds” captures the essential power of early Ancient in glorious rawness.
The title track serve as a good case in point. By all means a prototypical Ancient composition, “Eerily Howling Winds” cycles through relatively basic yet highly distinctive long-phrase minor melodic riffs, punctuated by a contrasting chorus section that serve as a nexus before the song narrative plunges into further digressions of main themes. Despite belonging to the Nordic school of black metal, Ancient shows a surprising affinity with contemporary Greek and French bands in regard to melodic syntax and instrumental lyricism, but parallels could also be drawn to the epic sensibilities of their compatriots in Gorgoroth and Immortal as well as the Polish Graveland. A gratifyingly crude production coupled with stripped down structures and straightforward performances highlight the core element of the composition, namely the dynamic interaction of riffs assembled into an organic whole.
It took only a few months after the demo had been put to tape before Ancient began recording their first full-length album. Thankfully enough a record deal was landed with the France’s Listenable Records, giving the band the opportunity to create without compromise. With rough edges straightened out and granted a suitably warm and bass-heavy production, “Eerily Howling Winds” reached its full potential as a immersive, dreamlike black metal composition on Svartalvheim. Compare this to the situation a few years down the road when the band signed a contract with Metal Blade and began their downward slope into ridiculousness and you get a good idea of how corporate influence degraded black metal into yet another pompous rock’n’roll triviality.