Saturday, 14 October 2017

THE TOME OF LOST WORLDS [V/A]

Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Tome Of Lost Worlds [Various Artists]
Format: Online download courtesy of the Dungeon Synth webpage, described by them as "a seasonal collection of new and recent work made by the users of the Dungeon Synth Facebook group".  It was 'released' on 22 September 2017.  
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:
01. Garadrak  *  A Questing Knight  05:05
02. Nan Morlith  *  Of Mim, Last of the Petty Dwarves  05:32  
03. Gatekeeper  *  Locked in an Eternal Afternoon, Under a Cold Sun  09:33  
04. Symbiosis  *  Nolstagia  03:47  
05. Lux Viridis  *  Hole in Ocean  03:27  
06. Inoriand  *  Vestibule of Winter  06:12  
07. Breidablik  *  The Gate To Eternity  03:40  
08. Uruk Hai  *  Die Erste Schlacht  10:12  
09. Alba  *  Innocence Lost  08:54  

With all the doom and gloom surrounding the last post, let's lift our spirits with this rather nice online compilation courtesy of the Dungeon Synth webpage.  It is described by the label as a seasonal compilation from current Dungeon Synth artists from both Facebook and the Forum. The artwork has been sourced from various artists, with overall mix and design by Kaptain Carbon.

There have been a few such 'seasonal' offerings before, as seen on the label's Bandcamp page, with this latest one being the seventh part.  Whilst there are no tell-tale signs of fallen leaves, conkers or pumpkins to indicate this current instalment is the product of the autumnal season, you can't beat a bit of dungeon synth as the nights grow longer and the evenings get chillier.  So let's dig in...

"The library, that was once discussed as having manuscripts from a different age, was famous for its catacombs. That was not all it had. Sections of the library held secrets including the ruined wing to the north. Overgrown with vines and exposed to the conditions of outside lay swaths of tomes people found too mysterious and dangerous to give proper care for. This is where some of the most infamous books find their fate. Whether originally stored in the north wing or thrown here out of some fear or spite, the books of the northern wing now lay buried under vegetation and felled trees.

This is where you most likely will find it -- The Tome of Lost Worlds. Said to possess enchanting descriptions of far away places and even simple incantations to build bridges between here and there. It is no wonder the keepers wanted it lost among the ruins of the northern wing for I heard there are places that some wish to be lost forever."

It could almost be an estate agent's script for the library within Castle Nazgul, could it not?  But don't be confused, for this is more background information from the label about the nature of the musical offerings on this downloadable feast.

The point of focus for Honour and Darkness is the Uruk Hai song at track number 8, namely 'Die Erste Schlacht' ('The First Battle').  As you doubtless will recall, this is a song that we've previously identified in this blog as appearing on the "Die Kriege von Beleriand Teil 1" back in March of 2016.

And something of a modern day classic song by Uruk Hai it proves to be, predictably epic and grandiose but none the worse for that!

It's not only Nazgul who's partial to this track: one independent comment on the Bandcamp page from user 'gatekeeper's_saveroom' notes for the release as a whole and this song in particular;  "Not polluted by the shabby commerce and the artificial glamor of these days, you can immediately feel that this music comes from somewhere else. A lost world hidden deep inside, following nothing but its own, unseizable pulse. Favourite track: Die Erste Schlacht."

Dungeon Synth as a genre will be familiar to most I'm sure, and traditionally encompasses bands in the style of Mortiis, Burzum, Wongraven et al.  My favourite attempt at trying to define the term comes in the following quotation form Tiwas of Finnish band Gvasdnahr:

"I kind of think of Dungeon Synth as a lone, ancient castle, hidden in a dark desolate corner in the shadow of Black Metal. Only a few know it’s there. And out of those few who dare to enter, only a few are capable of finding its treasure."
Let's find out a little more about the background to this particular compilation though, courtesy of Kaptain Carbon:
"Tome of Lost Worlds represents the 7th compilation made in 2017 and the start of the third round of seasonal collections of new dungeon synth. Since starting this project, I wanted to showcase new and recent works from a variety of artists who are either entering into the genre or even working on new material. The series has naturally fallen into three volumes which have become the traditional volume, the experimental volume, and finally the narrative volume. Tome of Lost Worlds represents the traditional volume or at least the one with the more identifiable dungeon synth music submitted. For as much as I adore the fringes of the odd, the sweeping sounds of ancient fields and long forgotten ruins holds something magical.
The first of the fall compilations offers a mix of traditional dungeon synth with the work of Garadrak, Nan Morlithn, and Anglezarke. Beginning with Gatekeeper and running to the end of the compilation is a series of artists which lean and run towards the ethereal side of the sound. While still rooted in dungeon synth, the sounds of Inoriand, Uruk Hai, and Breidablik possess an almost heavenly sound or at least an intangible quality much like coloured mists in the morning. This trend continues until the closer by Alba which is a sobering and melancholic piano driven track used to wake up the listener from their deep daze. As for flow, this compilation starts on the ground and eventually ends up in the clouds lost in daydreams.
The art for not only this compilation but the next two volumes was done by the very talented Dale Forward. Forward was not only quick and precise when being commissioned for the Tome of Lost Worlds but willing to license more of his work for other compilations. His black and white work not only fits the genre but possesses a dreamlike quality which suits the music on the compilation. The next two pieces will also showcase this artist’s versatility from the very narrative to the very abstract and almost nightmarish. While I enjoyed showcasing different artists for each of the compilations, Forwards art fit exceedingly well and also was there when circumstances deemed it necessary. I couldn’t be happier having a picture of a monstrous skull climbing out of the pages of some forgotten book. It was Forwards art which inspired the writing that accompanies the volume of some forgotten and ruined wing of a mystic imaginary library.
Tome of Lost Worlds is to be followed in a week by On Old Misty Roads and finally the third volume of the Dungeon Synth Forum’s narrative compilation. Each volume will have its own aura and texture with further volumes leaning towards the shadows. For now enjoy the 7th volume which offers an escape into the descriptions of lost worlds. Somewhere near the Codex of Dreams is a tome which has pages filled with stories of lost worlds. Find it and you will never want to go home."

Definitely worth exploring, and how nice to see our old friend Symbiosis on the tracklist. Nazgul encourages you to venture to the Bandcamp site immediately and - given you can name your own price to download the music - empty your wallet accordingly.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

URUK-HAI


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Uruk-Hai
Format: The item is described as a limited edition lathe cut 12" record 'made by hand on a rare Japanese Hara record lathe' and released by Beasst Productions (USA) in 2017 (no catalogue reference number).  However, does the item actually exist...?
Edition: Reported to be 100 copies only

Track Listing:
Side A
01. Uruk Hai  7.29
02. Nordhimmelstag  3.19
03. Moria  5.56
Side B
04. Kortirion  5.56
05. In Durins Halls  4.49

Caveat Emptor!

These advertisements for this 2017 release looked to be a really enticing prospect: a limited edition lathe-cut vinyl 12" of the original Hrossharsgrani demo recording that ultimately spawned the Uruk Hai project.

Indeed, the blurb for the release created by our friend Hugin for the label quoted none other than yours truly directly off Honour and Darkness: "The original "Uruk-Hai" demo tape was of course, intended as a Hrossharsgrani release and made in a tiny quantity of only 6 tapes. However, the story goes that back in 1999 when Hugin played his for his friends the general consensus was that it was so far removed from the battle-machine that was Hrossharsgani, and so ambient and ethereal by comparison, it shouldn't be issued under that band's name. So it was that the original six demo tapes were retained by this close-knit circle."

And before you write in to complain that the release is categorized on Discogs as an Uruk Hai release, not a Hrossharsgrani release, let me reassure you that this is actually incorrect, as the narrative above makes abundantly clear.  The project led to the creation of Uruk Hai (the band), but was recorded as a Hrossharsgrani demo under that banner.

All of which is very interesting, but skirts around the main reason for this post: it all looks like a rip-off in progress!

Nazgul received a direct email from Beasst Productions about this release, and - inevitably - placed his order swiftly.  Some 6 weeks later, no goods received, no response from the label to questions, nothing. 

Eventually a lengthy Paypal claim was necessary to secure a refund, during which RPM Shop (the online shop for the label) lied about having sent the parcel, stating that they would provide the tracking number for it.  That they didn't came as no surprise to Nazgul, as I have my doubts that these items physically exist let alone that it was ever posted.

Scouting around online, Nazgul found a customer on eBay.ca who has had exactly the same experience with RPM shop: 30 days of no contact and non-fulfilment of order, leading to negative feedback being left and a refund being forcibly obtained.

Relaying this incidents to Hugin also uncovered the fact that the label had gone quiet on him too, despite some extensive chasing up in the last week or so, meaning that we're all in the dark about whether these lathe-cut records actually even exist.

Without a physical copy in hand, all Nazgul would suggest to you is that you treat this release/company with extreme caution at the moment, and if you really feel the need to put money their way do so via a service/card provider that you can claw back a refund on if it all goes pear-shaped.  Which, on current form, it really looks like it might do.

Just for completeness sake, if you want to understand more about what a lathe cut record is and how to produce one, check out this useful site.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

VON BLINKENDEN SCHWERTERN IM REICHE DES NORDENS - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Von Blinkenden Schwertern Im Reiche Des Nordens ("Of Gleaming Swords In The Land Of The North")
Reason for update: A chance to look inside the envelope...

We have to cast our net even further back today for the basis of this update, to the 23 October 2009 to be exact.  For it was on that date that Honour and Darkness covered the Uruk Hai / Arkillery split release "Von Blinkenden Schwertern Im Reiche Des Nordens" in both tape and CDr format.

Were you to flick back to that distant review, you will come across the slightly bizarre revelation from Nazgul that as his CDr version was still sealed, he had chosen not to open it.  Even more bizarre, given we're now eight years down the line, that copy still sits pristine and unopened on the shelf in front of me!

So when the opportunity arose to grab a second copy of this rare release (I safely presume it to be rare as in the many, many years I've been looking around for Hugin's stuff this is only the second copy I've ever encountered and the only one offered for sale).  And so bought it was, and into the collection it came.

And happily enough, it was already open so no harm in having a peep at the contents of the wallet is there?!  And what we basically get is a silver CDr with a hand-written front (consistent with other Arkillery releases, actually) that gives us both of the band names and a couple of runes in black sharpie.

Also written onto the front of the disc is the number 10.  Now, in the Discogs post for this item (now illustrated with this very item, as it previously incorrectly had the tape inlay showing instead) someone has entered the information that this CDr was released in an edition of 250 hand-numbered copies.  I don't believe this is correct: the tape version certainly was limited to 250 copies, and I suspect duff information has been copied onto the CDr version page.

What the actual limitation was on this version is therefore still unknown, but if we purport that the number '10' on the disc has some bearing on the edition then as a minimum ten copies must therefore exist.  And no, before you ask, Nazgul is not inclined to open his original copy to see what that number is, at least not at this point in time!  It will remain an enduring mystery...

Whilst we're on the subject of Arkillery-related items, it seems something of a surprise to me that their releases have never been reissued or compiled in any way.  I've got a few on CDr, and recently updated Discogs with their details in order to bulk out the band's discography a little, so there's a nice little group of demos in the band's name clearly existing.  Does anyone know whatever happened to Rob Gaude, the man behind the band...?

Until the next time, adieu!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

ORKSTAHL - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Orkstahl
Reason for update: A 'proper' version now obtained!

It seems almost inconceivable that the last time Nazgul visited the "Orkstahl" release was back on Christmas Eve of 2009.  Incredibly, that's almost 8 years ago - how time flies?!

The reason for revisiting this very limited fan-only/die-hard release may seem something of a vainglorious exercise, but you have to go back to the original release to understand Nazgul's motivation!

You see, the original - and indeed only - version of "Orkstahl" was effectively a gift from Hugin to three friends/fans, and came therefore in a limited edition numbered, rather cunningly, 1/3, 2/3, and 3/3.  They all were distributed around the globe and that was that, until the existence of the release must have come up in some conversation or other and Nazgul received some time thereafter a special 'promotional' copy of the wee beastie, which bore the reference 'x/3' on its cover.

Now you don't have to be a genius to consider that this was Hugin being kind to long-time collector Nazgul, as really there never was the need for a promotional version this release being limited as it was.  I suspect it was made as an act of friendship as an extra copy outside of the official limitation.

And that's all fine and super, and very generous indeed, but of course from a collector's perspective (read: mad obsessive point of view) the copy in Castle Nazgul always felt like it sat apart from the 'real' Orkstahl family and was never therefore really one of the gang.

Hence this latest acquisition!

It's a rare time indeed when you get a chance to lay your hands on a collectible like this, but what's now in the collection is one of the original three copies - and #1/3 at that - to fill that little void in the Castle Library. 

It is to all extent and purposes exactly the same as the other copy, other than the fact the metal plate on the front has a very different looking finish to it from the x/3 copy, as you can see side by side.  Which of course now raises the question in Nazgul's mind as to whether both of the other copies had unique plates, or whether it was my original copy that differed simply because it was made at a different time from the original three and thus was milled/cut from a different source?


The metal cover of copy x/3
A little bit of research identified that copy 3/3 (below) is the one that is being used to illustrate this release on Discogs, and on the face of it there is a different looking finish there (akin to looking through a grey fog bank at the Misty Mountains behind!) as opposed to a patterned or stippled effect, which the other two have.  Whether this was intentional variation or just how they came out (or how they photograph in the light, perhaps?) is uncertain. 

Copy 3/3 and a slightly different style panel again

Perhaps if you are the proud own of copy 2/3 you might like to send me a photograph of the plate for a comparative analysis...?!

And that's this update done really, another triumph of obsessive collecting behaviour over common sense.  Of course, both versions will be treasured in the Castle vaults but for slightly different reasons.

Speaking of recent purchases, by the way, a couple of other rare Uruk Hai items have been bought recently for a specific reason to provide updates to you all, my esteemed readership, and these shall be brought forward in the spotlight of the fiery eye as the autumn season unfurls itself in a shroud of yellow and brown over the Castle grounds.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

DEMOS 88-99



Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Demos 88-99 War Sampling's by Bernd Barnickel [V/A]
Format: Silver CDr in bespoke front and rear covers, not released on an official label
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
01. Empyrium  *  Astrum Luciferi (demo 95)
02. Falkenbach  *  Laeknishendr (demo 95)
03. Dimmu Borgir  *  Raabjørn speiler draugheimens (demo 92)
04. Ensiferum  *  Old Man (Väinämöinen) (demo 96)
05. Hrossharsgrani  *  You And Me (demo 95)
06. Hrossharsgrani  *  The Sign Of Nargothrond (demo 95)
07. The Sins Of Thy Beloved  *  Silent Pain (demo 95)
08. Therion  *  Megalomania (demo 89)
09. Ensiferum  *  Knighthood (demo 95)
10. Dimmu Borgir  *  Inn I Evighetens Mørke Part I (demo 92)
11. Dimmu Borgir  *  Inn I Evighetens Mørke Part 2 (demo 92)
12. The Sins Of Thy Beloved  *  Even Though (demo 95)
13. Rimmersgard  *  Circle Of The Scroll (Jarnauga II) (demo 99)
14. The Sins Of Thy Beloved  *  Garden Of Eden (demo 95)
15. Paradise Lost  *  Paradise Lose (demo 88)
16. Ensiferum  *  Tale Of Revenge (demo 95)
17. Ensiferum  *  Outroduction (demo 95)

It's not often that you find Nazgul flummoxed by a release, but this one's had me scratching my head a bit.  I found it online, and the fact it came with a couple of Hrossharsgrani tracks on it made it a shoe-in for the Honour and Darkness collection.

But WHAT it is - or more aptly, perhaps, WHY it is? -  remains something of a mystery.
 
For openers, I have no idea whatsoever who Bernd Barnickel is, assuming it is a real person.  There are more than a few Bernd's listed on Metal Archives but none of this title.  Likewise a Google search brings up a few people of this name, but given their jobs (including a furniture maker and a forestry manager) I honesty think we're barking up the wrong ... ummm .... tree?

No, it's a bit of a puzzler.  Another odd thing about it is the fact that the guy's name is on the cover at all, as you'd imagine that if this was a personal collection of tracks for some kind of sampling purpose then you'd call it "Demos 88-99" and be done with it.  Not a lot of point in adding your own name to it if it is a one-off for your own personal use only, is there?  But equally were there more copies distributed, given that some effort has been expended on putting a nice set of printed inlays on it?

And are those Bernd's initials in green on the front of the disc, by the way...?
As far as the spread of music goes, there are some really good songs on here from a number of bands that will be very familiar to most of you.  And thrown into the midst of all of them are a pair of Hrossharsgrani songs, 'You And Me' and 'The Sign Of Nargothrond', both from the demo "In The Mystic Forest".

But here's another weird thing: the attribution on the rear cover for these songs says 'Demo 95', whilst in reality the release "In The Mystic Forest" came out in 2000 as a tape demo?  And the earliest of Hrossharsgrani demos, "Blut", was issued in 1998 some three years after the date cited for these songs. 

This is equally true for other tracks on this CDr: by way of example, the three Dimmu Borgir tracks are attributed to demos released in 1992 although according to Metal Archives the earliest date for demos from this band is 1994.

So does this merely represent some sloppy referencing on the inlay, or were earlier tracks and/or demos knocking around somewhere that our mysterious Mr Barnickel had access to?  Probably the former scenario, one imagines, but I guess we'll never know for sure....

Ignoring the fact that whoever did the inlays managed to misspell Hrossharsgrani, let's take some positives from this release.  As weird as it is, it's not a bootleg nor a pirated copy of anything, but seems to have been a bespoke project for *some* defined purpose, currently unknown.  It pulls together some pretty good songs too, and makes for a perfect listen in the car on long journeys.  It's also presumably fairly rare, and quite possibly a one-off, making it even more interesting in the Castle collection!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

THE EAGLES OF THE KING


Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Eagles Of The King
Format: A 3-inch CD in colour paper sleeve self-released by Hugin (no label details or catalogue reference).
Edition: 6 unnumbered copies only

Track Listing:
01. The Return Of The Eagles  4.56

Once in a while Nazgul makes a passing comment on the lines of, "... *insert random song title* that would make a good single" when a standout track pops up on a CD or tape release.  And more often than not, this observation falls within reviews of Uruk Hai material.

Well, in a perverse sense, this is sort of what you have here: a single song, old-school 3-inch CD single (remember those, from back in the day, sometimes coming in blister packs or snap-packs and always with those fiddly adaptor rings so you could play it in a normal CD player?  Ah, good times).

If you've ever heard the music of Uruk Hai - and I am rather supposing you have, given you're here, and reading this - then take all of the best bits of soaring, lush orchestration and Mirkwood-infused melody and pack it onto a few short minutes of aching wonderfulness, and this is what you'll end up with.

Absolutely bloody marvellous.

Of course, with only 6 copies floating around it's not going to dent the charts in the sense that a 'single' should, even in the rarefied environs of Shelob's local online radio show (you should you see her web-site!), but what the heck: that's not the point of this release.  

As a celebration of all things wonderful in the world of Uruk Hai, it is - quite simply - Top of the Pops.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

END OF TIME

 
Band: GUTS FOR DINNER
Title: End Of Time
Format: White CDr disc inside a DVD size case with full colour cover, self-released on Hugin's own W.A.R. Productions label (Austria) on 10 January 2017, cat ref WAR 102.
Edition: 10 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Intro
02. End Of Time
Bonus Tracks
03. Butcher XTC
04. Let's Kill
05. Ballad Of A Gore Angel
06. Torture
07. Holiday In Frostland
08. Death F*ck Armageddon

Now, to be fair, the announcement in April on Honour and Darkness that a new Guts For Dinner album was in the works was hardly likely to send you all into raptures of anticipation, combined with the fevered shaking of piggy banks.

Indeed, the level of interest in this peculiar side project of our Austrian musical hero Hugin has always been on the low side - the band's Facebook page only has 19 followers, for heaven's sake!

Yet despite this, iterations of "Demo 1" and now "End Of Time" (which is essentially that self-same demo with a couple of newer tracks added in) have spawned an improbable number of releases over the years, in tape and CDr format.




This latest version is perhaps the most professional of the lot, both in terms of the quality of the bespoke cover art and original band logo and in terms of the sonic quality of the newly recorded songs, which are a step up in production terms over the original GFD material.

Time is a distinct factor in this evolution though: looking at the credits for this demo, it's apparent that the material culled from "Demo 1" has a recording date back in the 2000-01 period, whilst new songs 'Intro' and 'End Of Time' were committed to tape (and thereafter to a lunatic asylum, presumably) in December 2016.  One might expect a little progress, and the sound of 'End Of Time' is more akin to an actual White-Hand Uruk-Hai singing the song as opposed to a drowning man gargling into a bucket of sick.

The new 'Intro' is an entirely throwaway few seconds of noise, sounding not unlike a Bonemachine outtake actually, but hardly meriting much of a mention in the grand scheme of things.

Given the history, it would seem precipitous to rule out further GFD releases coming our way in the years to come, so Nazgul is certainly not going to be daft enough to suggest that this is it.  Let's wait and see what comes next...