Wednesday, 30 December 2009

HROSSHARSGRANI > 'Convenit Dimicare Pro Liberate' t-shirt


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Item: Black cotton t-shirt sporting the new band logo on the front, and "Convenit Dimicare Pro Liberate" on the reverse side.
Edition: only 20 shirts made

This black and gold t-shirt was released in March 2009 exclusively by Beverina & War to mark the 2000 year anniversary of "Varusschlacht", and was limited to 20 copies only. An effective design, in black and gold, and one that Nazgul is proud to wear periodically.

And what, you might cry, is the Varusschlacht? Well, a good question. A little internet research identified a somewhat tongue-in-cheek answer to this question, which at the risk of causing a minor international incident Nazgul will publish in full from the Young-Germany blog pages as it caused him to smile:

"If you talk to German literature students about a chap called “Hermann”, you’ll realise that Germany has a problem with heroes.

Whenever Great Britain gets into trouble, for example, there’s a sleeping King Arthur hiding out somewhere in Cornwall who will come to the rescue; and when he doesn’t show up, Churchill will fill in for a few years.Or when America isn’t doing so well, everyone remembers how George Washington beat impossible odds – and the British – to found the world’s leading democracy. And when more is needed, they elect Barack Obama.And France, despite the concerns of its neighbours, is still quite happy to honour Napoleon and charge visitors a few Euros to see his final resting place in Les Invalides.

Now Germany, as we all know, has historically had quite a problem with strong male authority figures. Bismarck made quite a good impression at first, but his policies might be considered to have lead directly to the First World War. After that, no further hero candidates cropped up until a chap named Adolf Hitler, and we all know what happened there.So modern Germans are, quite rightly, very sceptical about mixing heroism, mythos and nationality: the football pitch is about the only place where this is tolerated – politicians steer well clear of anything approaching popularity, let alone cult status.

It is interesting to note, however, that Germany never actually had a national hero, mainly because while other European nations were fighting their way through the Middle Ages, it was busy being a bunch of independent, squabbling city-states. The Hundred Years’ War between England and France, for example, produces Joan of Arc for the French, the Black Prince and Henry V for the English. Henry V then becomes the basis of a play by Shakespeare and – badda-bing, badda-boom – an enduring figure of national heroism is born.

German writers of later centuries admired this kind of (historically exceptionally questionable) heroicising literature and wanted their own. After all, if a proper German nation was going to be built, it would need a national mythos. This reasoning led playwrights like Goethe and Schiller in the 1700s to start writing about young, courageous freedom fighters from the bygone chilvaric age, Götz von Berlichingen and Die Räuber being the most successful pieces of this genre.

Yet it was a young admirer of Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, who realised that these plays – as good as they were – were still essentially about nobodies. His idea was to find a fantastical figure that all Germans could get all enthusiastic about, a sort of King Arthur for Deutschland.

So he set about looking through his history books and realised that Germany was sitting on absolute gold: Roman gold. For in 9 AD, a Germanic tribal chief named Arminius scored a crushing victory over an invading Roman army, wiping out a couple of legions and dealing Rome its first serious blow since the Punic Wars two hundred years earlier. Furthermore, the Romans – being better at writing than the Germans back then – had been kind enough to record the catastrophic defeat in their annals.

So in 1808, the young Kleist took these annals, rewrote them into a superbly dramatic play and made sure to call the Romanised Arminius “Hermann”: a national hero was born. After all, Germany was at this stage being regularly pillaged by the French, so a play about a strong Teutonic fellow lopping the heads off of effeminate Latin types went down a storm.

By 1875, however, Germany had exacted its revenge on the French and, in the course of this, unified itself. This was celebrated in that year with the inauguration near Detmold in Westphalia of a 60-ft-high statue of the plucky mythological hero Hermann – complete with 15-ft-sword. The sword, by the way, was engraved with: “German Unity is my strength, and my strength is Germany’s power”.

This kind of message was, after the Second World War, understandably somewhat unfashionable; especially since the Nazis had not been shy of appropriating both Kleist’s play and the monument itself for their own propaganda purposes. Furthermore, with Germany occupied by foreign armies and split into two opposing nations, it seemed tragi-comically out-of-date.

All of which explains why Hermann is no uncomplicated King-Arthur-figure, no freedom fighter like Churchill or Washington. And why not altogether too many Germans are aware that this year, two thousand years ago, the most crushing defeat the mighty Roman empire ever suffered was dealt out to them in the Teutoburger Wald somewhere between Osnabruck and Bielefeld.
Whatever the historical difficulties that Hermann may have, I must confess to quite liking his statue with its jaunty pose and – I think – rather cheeky smirk."

More concisely, 2009 marks the 2000th anniversary of the Varus Battle, also known as the “Battle in the Teutoburg Forest of AD9, when an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius (also known as "Hermann"), the son of Segimer of the Cherusci ambushed and destroyed three Roman legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus.


The battle began a seven-year war which established the Rhine as the boundary of the Roman Empire for the next four hundred years, until the decline of the Roman influence in the West. The Roman Empire made no further concerted attempts to conquer Germania beyond the Rhine....

Monday, 28 December 2009

VAMPYR - update



Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Vampyr
Format: Cassette re-issue of the 2003 CD EP, released by Wulfrune Worxx as part of the "Remember CC" series in 2009, catalogue reference WW86. Black and white copied inlay, with tape panels on the cassette itself.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 44 copies

Track Listing:

1. Schauermarchen 01:44
2. Geisterstande 08:20
3. Der pfahler 03:30
4. Finster doch der tag begann 04:10
5. Der funke des lebens gar langsam verlischt 03:45
6. Sanguis vobiscum 06:20
7. Erszebet Bathori - Eine mar aus fleisch 22:19
8. Einsam in truben nachten 10:08
9. The priest must die (COUNTESS cover) 13:50

The CD pressing of this Elisabetha release was covered in this Blog on 21 October 2009: the tape re-issue shown here is the same album in terms of music, but with revised artwork and now in cassette format.

Nazgul's review back then alluded to the varied nature of this release - part 'classic' Elisabetha and part industrial homage a la 'classic' Bonemachine - and of course it's the same fare on offer here on this release. Nazgul enjoyed, although it wouldn't be everybodys cup of tea he suspects. The original CD pressing came in just 455 units, so you had to be fairly quick off the blocks to get one back in 2003. This tape edition has just 44 copies (Nazgul's being #2) so will be even harder to find!

As with the current reissue programme through Wulfrune Worxx the intent seems less to re-market the older songs in quantities accessible to the masses, but more to celebrate the music and albums that appeal to both Hugin and Skogen from those years gone by and cater for the small but discerning audience of fans who doubtless have been requesting the release of some of this work for years!

The alternate artwork on this version is rather good too, particularly the atmospheric centre panel (shown in photo 3 above) of the mist-shrouded figure in the woods. Very vampyric!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Festive Frolics > Schlaganfall + After Aids...

Bands: SCHLAGANFALL and/or AFTER AIDS
What the Dickens is it, Nazgul? It's our hero Alex, circa 1984-86...!!

With a bit of a squint and a healthy measure of some medicinal brandy, this could almost pass for an almost festive image of a tinsel-wrapped German punk rocking out under the Christmas tree...

In reality, it's none other than Hugin in his early metal years kicking out the jams and kicking over the potted plants!

The two bands mentioned here - Schlaganfall, and After Aids - were early groups put together by Hugin with his friend Roland, playing "German Punk Rock". Despite a few emails put around to likely suspects, however, no one is owning up to having any recordings left of those halycon days....

You just don't see material like this everyday!

Merry Christmas to you, one and all, and Nazgul thanks each and every one of you for your support during 2009.

ORKSTAHL




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Orkstahl
Format: See details below - this is a WAR Productions private release from 2009
Edition: Formally 3 copies only (see below)

Track Listing:

CD1 (blue) Morgoth 59.15
CD2 (red) Balrog 56.08

In a change from the usual programme, Nazgul is going to look at this particular release without any reference to the actual music contained on it! The reason for this apparent madness is twofold: firstly, both of these tracks have now been issued on limited edition tape format by Wulfrune Worxx and thus a detailed description of the content will follow for each one in turn early in 2010. The second reason for this decision is to focus upon the actual packaging of this particular release, which is rather special to say the least.

However, before all of that let us briefly consider the subject matter: both Morgoth and Balrog are characters from Tolkien's Middle Earth, and as such are worth a little background explanation. After his theft of the Silmarils and destruction of the Two Trees, Melkor fled the Valar and returned to Middle-Earth, as Fëanor cursed him and gave him a new name, Morgoth, the Black Enemy of the World. Returning to his ancient fortress of Angband, far to the north of Beleriand, Morgoth made an Iron Crown for himself, with the three Silmarils mounted upon it.... Equally, the Balrogs were in origin Maiar, of the same order as Sauron or Gandalf. Melkor corrupted them to his service in the distant past of the World, in the days of his splendour. They were originally gathered by him in his ancient fastness of Utumno during the time of the Lamps of the Valar. When this fortress was destroyed by the Valar, at least some fled and lurked in the pits of Angband. When Melkor and Ungoliant escaped from Valinor with the Silmarils, the Balrogs were still to be found in the ruins of Angband. Ungoliant trapped Melkor in her webs, demanding the Silmarils for herself, but the Balrogs issued from their hiding-place and rescued their lord.

Clearly this is very brief, and the Middle-Earth history lesson will continue when Nazgul reviews the tape releases!

Now then, back to "Orkstahl" itself. The story with this release as Nazgul understands it is that it was made for old friends of Alex who he was meeting up with, and typically he put together the sort of release that would shame many official releases from other labels!

To start with, and what isn't immediately apparent from the photos of the blue A5 envelope that holds the goodies, the square plate fixed to the middle of said envelope is actually made of metal, silver in colour but with a rippled pattern similar to that made by frost. This gives the piece some weight, as the envelope alone weighs over 80 grams as a result! Hand-painted on this is the legend "Orkstahl", with the band name written in gold-pen to the top left of the envelope and the edition number to the top right. As you'll see from Nazgul's copy, his is x/3 as it is a special version (effectively a promo version) of this most limited release kindly made by Alex in the Autumn.

Inside the envelope are to be found the two A4 folded sheets in red and blue with the new Uruk Hai logo, with the track details (both were recorded in 2002) and running times. The discs themselves are in fact data-discs rather than business-card sized CDr (which means you can't play them on a standard CD player, as they are MP3 for PC only), one red and one blue. They are contained - with two more smaller inlays - in a small black envelope, signed by Hugin.

A thing of beauty and wonder, Nazgul once again doffs his metaphorical cap to Alex in allowing me to have a copy of my own for the collection. It sits in pride of place on the library shelves here at Castle Nazgul, surrounded by other treasures - some seen here, some yet to be revealed...!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

BONEMACHINE > logo design

Band: BONEMACHINE
Item: The original A4 diagram that shows the design of the band logo

As Bonemachine were the subject of the last post, Nazgul decided to rummage through his folder of art and artifacts connected to Alex's projects to see what might fall out. And lo - this complicated looking sketch came to light, which shows the original design of the Bonemachine logo back in the early days circa the "Endzeit" and "Monolog & Rhythmus" period in the early 2000's.

Having done a little engineering drawing in distant school-days, Nazgul shudders at the thought of working out some of those angles!

As with most of Alex's bands over time, the logo has changed a few times - this was not the one used on the original Destination Hell CDr release, for example, and there are different ones again on "War Against Banana" and "Bombardements." When the band changed to use the B-Machina name, a few different iterations of the new band logo were used too. However, the old angular Bonemachine title is a favourite of Nazgul's, not least because the original items from the band obtained for his collection all bear it on their covers.

RIGHT NOW!


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Right Now!
Format: CDr in paper sleeve cover, released in 2007 through the Ambolthue label (Norway), catalogue reference Ambolt-026.
Edition: Limited to 45 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

01. The Smell Of Napalm 21.57

02. Now! (Remastered Napalm Version) 24.59

With it's Manga-esque cover art Nazgul had long thought this to have been released through a Japanese label (talk about making two and two add up to whatever you want them to), so imagine his surprise when research for this post discovered that Ambolthue is a Norwegian label! Possibly the connection between label and artist was formed after the split CDr release between Bonemachine and Norwegian noise terrorists Maskinanlegg, but however it came to be this limited edition CD contains over 46 minutes of music - not bad for a two track release!

Ambolthue means "Anvil Head" in Norwegian, and the label motto is "Don't Get Annoyed, Get Inspired!". The main idea of the label is, and I quote, "to release as much good music as possible, and to inspire people all over the world to make, and listen to experimental music. This is meant to be a happy-label!"

Amazingly enough it's one of those rare releases that has actually received an online review somewhere outside of HonourAndDarkness, so let's hear what Vital Weekly had to say about it:

"Bone Machine has a sustained rhythm throughout its industrial reverberated wash of industrial clanking, annoying like the alarm that continually sounds at the atomic plant at Windscale - now renamed Sellafields - well change the name and the radioactivity might go away, anyway as long as you hear the alarm everything is OK - when it stops you're dead, this then might be a release celebrating the infamous event 50 years ago in the reactor which was being used to make Britain's A Bomb - (hooray! And God save the Queen!) 'On the morning of Friday October 11 and at its peak, 11 tonnes of uranium were ablaze.' Hummm - kept that quiet but I digress - that might have helped my coming to terms with the piece - but this all too rhythmical work with its cinema horror voice-overs is not convincing."

Now this seems a little harsh to Nazgul, not least because the phrase "cinema horror voice-overs" is suggestive of poorly-narrated pieces of 6th form prose, whereas what you actually have here are samples from the classic Apocalypse Now! film (hence the tie in with [1] the album title and [2] the napalm theme). Set to a suitably ominous musical background they provide a very appropriate medium for enjoying the overall work, and Nazgul would balk at the description "all too rhythmical" too given the diversity of sound on offer.

Indeed, digressing for a moment, it would be fascinating to understand how Alex actually composes his Bonemachine/B-Machina material, particularly in the pre-Max days when the industrial sound was dominant in the mix. There's simply so much going on at times it takes a good few listens just to immerse oneself in it and try to work out what's going on. Taken as a whole the music works, but it surely must be a nightmare to construct it in any meaningful (and listenable) way...?

There is certainly a wash of industrial sounds and resonances on this album though, and whilst not exactly easy listening it does lodge itself in your mind after repeated plays! As usual, however, it's a virtual impossibility to describe on paper without listing endless effects and/or potential origins of the sounds on the tracks to try to put into words what your ears are hearing. The easiest thing is for you all to go out and buy a copy to experience yourself!

One notable thing about both songs on this release is that neither has appeared on either of the "Rotation" compilation CDs that have come out in recent years, despite many other Bonemachine/B-Machina songs from equally limited edition releases having done so. Therefore this CDr is currently the only place where you'll get to hear either of them, and a few copies are still being advertised by the label (www.ambolthue.com) so it would be well worth checking out that link if this genre floats your boat.

Incidentally, Nazgul's copy came directly from the artist, with a dedication from Alex on the clear plastic wallet holding the inlay, which reads "with the heat of napalm."

Edit: 23/12/09

Nazgul received an email reply this evening to his enquiries about this CD from the very cool and affable Kjetil Hanssen, founder and owner of Ambolthue, so here is a further glimpse behind the scenes of how this release came to be:

(1) Can you tell me a little about your label, and what drives you to run it?
Well, Ambolthue Records was started in the summer of 2006, mainly to put a label on my own releases as I do some recordings myself (mostly under the name Torstein Wjiik). Ambolthue is Norwegian and means anvil head (head made out of an anvil, whatever), which I though was suiting for the music I wanted to get out. I quickly decided to start asking friends and people I just like the music of to release stuff on my label. I soon made a website and got a few new contacts through the internet, and started releasing music from different artists and bands from around the world. I wanted my label to focus on different kinds of experimental music and also try to get out stuff that to me felt like "happy music". There is a term used by i.e norwegian noisers Lasse Marhaug and Tore Honoré Bøe called "happy noise" which I felt was exactly what I was looking for. Some noise acts use their noise more as a way of expressing anger and violence, while I look at the music as pure beauty. Well we do have some noises that are quite harsh for the ear drums and not very pleasent eighter, but to me it's interesting, and also I'm very into sounds and music that makes me happy in some way. To me music is something I really enjoy as a fenomenon, so I'm using a lot of my listening time to actually check out new stuff no matter what genre and ideology. People may make something that is supposed to make me feel uncomfortable that I feel is just good sleeping music and the opposite way around. So for me to be able to actually do releases with different artists from around the world with completely different styles and attitudes towards music is fantastic. Big or small I don't care as long as I like their music.

(2) How did you first come across Alex's music - were you aware of his work before the "Right Now!" release?

I have to admit I didn't know of his music before he contactet me. I got an e-mail from him telling me he had something he wanted to release and asked if he could send me a demo. The demo was the "Right Now!" release (as it is on the final product if I'm not completely wrong), and I liked it. I think the connection between my label and Alex is that he had released a split 3" with a good friend of mine, Maskinanlegg, which was actually the first artist other than myself that I got to release something with on Ambolthue. Maskinanlegg makes music I've never heard anything like eighter before or after I got in touch with him. All his work has to me got something I would describe as a very dirty sound. Lo-fi in a hi-fi way which has made me a fan of his work. It's very much variety in his works, but it all has the sound of Maskinanlegg to it. Unique stuff. Well anyways, when Alex contacted me I quickly found out about the split and was interested in checking out the demo he wanted to send me.

(3) What are your personal thoughts on the release?
Well, when I first head Alex calling it what he would refer to as "war noise" if I remember correctly, I thought it was gonna be something dark and unpleasent. If that's Alex's intention, then I have to say I'm sorry, 'cause I find it quite suiting. I definitiely agree, it is dark, and is very likely to be looked at that way by many listeners. But to me it's the industrial sound-style and grooves that makes it interesting. I feel I go into a factory and I get to stand in the middle of the room and just listen to the rhythms and changes from the machines working. It's evolving and evolving and I feel I can stand there listening to the grooves and go into my own world. It works on me on a euphoric state where I get energy from listening to it. The most important part is it works very well all together.

(4) Are any future releases of any of Alex's music/bands planned?
Not now at least. Maybe sometime in the future, who knows, but at the moment I'm trying to take back the catalogue holes and release all the planned stuff, before I maybe even take a break to focus on other side-labels and my own music. I don't wanna get tired of music, so lately I've listened to everything from metal to pop to jazz to folk to get some other inputs than just noise and experimental music.

(5) Do you have any words/thoughts for Alex that you'd like to pass on via the Blog?

Keep up the productivity and music. Hope to see your discography expanding and expanding in the future!

ERSZEBET BATHORI (EINE ODE IN BLUT) KAPITEL 1

Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Erzsebet Bathori (Eine Ode In Blut) Kapital 1
Format: Self-released 7" vinyl-only EP from 2002 on W.A.R. Productions, catalogue reference W.A.R. ep002. It is a split release between Elisabetha and Austrian 'Viking' band Valhalla. Double picture cover (Valhalla side done by Ralf Brandstaetter) with double-sided A4 colour insert with song lyrics and band photos.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 100 copies only

Track Listing:

Elisabetha
1. Erszebet Bathori (Eine Ode In Blut) Kapitel 1 08:20
Valhalla
2.Defenders Of Midgard 03:38
3.Behind The Dark 04:25

The original intent with this EP was to herald the beginning of a trilogy of releases to relate the tale of Countess Bathory, the story of whom most of you will already know but just to recap: Countess Elizabeth Báthory (August 7, 1560 – August 21, 1614) was from the renowned Bathory family. She is possibly the most prolific female serial killer in history and is remembered as the "Blood Countess" and as the "Bloody Lady of Čachtice", after the castle near Trenčín in the Hungary (today's Slovakia), where she spent most of her adult life.

After her husband's death, she and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls and young women, with one witness attributing to them over 600 victims, though the number for which she was convicted was 80. In 1610, she was imprisoned in the Csejte Castle, where she remained bricked in a set of rooms until her death four years later.

The case has led to legendary accounts of the Countess bathing in the blood of virgins in order to retain her youth and subsequently also to comparisons with Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia, on whom the fictional Count Dracula is partly based, and to modern nicknames of the Blood Countess and Countess Dracula.

This 2002 7" - 'a story about blood and everlasting life' - was due to be followed by the "Erszebet Bathory (Eine Mär Aus Fleisch) Kapitel II" 7" EP except that it never came about - the lengthy 22 minute song appears instead on the "Vampyr" CD EP from 2003 and not in vinyl-format. A third 7" EP covering the Venom track "Countess Bathory" was also advertised, but again was not released in this format (and indeed was recently covered in instrumental-only format in a Blog piece from 3 November on the hand-designed promo CD that Alex kindly sent me). Interestingly, another Bathory-themed track 'Bathori (Sturm einer Winternacht)' appeared on the "Nosferat" tape release also from 2003.

So just 100 of these original EP's were pressed (Nazgul's is #28) and correspondingly they are now quite hard to track down. A few come up for sale online once in a while, but you'll have to be patient if you want to lay your hands on one now as it's been a goodly time since Nazgul did actually last see one up for grabs.

Musically the 8 minutes plus Elisabetha track commences with a slow, plodding synthesiser intro before a mixed vocal approach of the deeply spoken male vocals (typical of the style of early Elisabetha narration, this time telling the story of the Countess) and female choral interludes (rather uplifting, actually, as opposed to the tortured screaming of female souls in the background that you might expect to hear!) Following some slow, atmospheric and downright eerie opening minutes a processional style march of drums and keyboards breaks out at 3:15 with a positively evil buzz-saw synth riff, before the track marches off down discordant and somewhat avant-garde avenues before an unexpected crescendo of violins at 7:26 heralds not the classically influenced ending or film-noir score that seems to be on the way, but a black metal assault to take you to the end of the track.

Another winning outing from the dangerous duo: Blutgraf Gah' Agsheblah & Graf Alexander zu Sankt Magdalen!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

RABEN NACHT



Band: RABEN NACHT
Title: Raben Nacht
Format: Eponymous cassette demo from 2000 self-released by Hugin and originally distributed through both Chanteloup Creations and Irrilchter Distro. Copied colour inlay sleeve with hand-written text.
Edition: Only 66 copies

Track Listing:

01. Trees Of Kortirion 10.57
02. Eternal Fire 4.26
03. Fleischeslust 2.40
04. Regungslose Erotik 1.53

Just when you thought the various side projects and bands that Alex has been a part of over the years were becoming clearer, up pops another one to confound and delight in equal measure!

Nazgul owes a debt of thanks to Skogen, former owner of Chanteloup Creations, for unearthing this rarity from his own collection some months ago. You may recall that it was Skogen who first unveiled the Heimatleid demos for Nazgul earlier this year, which signalled another fertile area for musical investigation back in late summer. At the same time this short demo tape came to light (Nazgul's copy being #6 of the 66), and once again there is nothing written about the band anywhere online that I've been able to track down.

So once again welcome to a world exclusive Blog entry on the latest addition to the Hugin discography, and the latest cause for revision to the definitive Metal Archives summary of his past bands (sorry Micha, and thanks in advance!)

It may not come as a great surprise to learn that the four songs on this demo - which are unique to this tape - are both structured and performed very much in the style of Hrossharsgrani of old, say circa the "Krieg" era. In actual fact, if you were to study the inside of the 'Raben Nacht' inlay you would spot in the background behind the trees on the credits listing some rather familiar stone towers, which Nazgul believes to be the same towers that adorn the front of the earlier 'Krieg' demo tape cover.

To that end, musically these are familiar in sound and have that 'dry' buzzing guitar tone set above the pounding battle-drums beloved of many Hross' songs, whilst synthesiser and keyboard riffs contribute the melodic element of the tracks. Vocals are in the harsh style, sung in English. Incidentally, Alex kindly dedicated the cover of the cassette case with the words "Odin's Raven will guide you! Hugin" but as you're doubtless very keen to see the cover image properly Nazgul has put the inlay in another case for the photo you see here.

Again, you have to wonder where the other 65 of these demos might have ended up over time, and whether anyone out there could actually lay their hands on one?! There's a very high probability I should think that the songs playing in the background as Nazgul types this entry are not being played anywhere else around the globe at this time, which kind of makes you think. It probably makes you think that Nazgul should get out more....

It's a short demo, but a good demo, and any new project of Alex's is always worth some quality Blog space so enjoy this early festive present from Nazgul.

HEIDENSTURM - update


Band: HREFNESHOLT
Title: Heidensturm
Format: Re-issued cassette tape-only release of the original 3 track demo, revising the final track. Released by Wulfrune Worxx (France), catalogue reference WW85, in 2009. Black and white inlay, part of the Remember CC series.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 44 tapes

Track Listing:

01. Heidensturm 30.23
02. Zwei Raben 4.29
03. Nordlandsschlacht 8.19

"To David, in Honour & Darkness"

So this tape is dedicated, and how proud Nazgul was to read that dedication when it arrived from deepest Austria earlier this month. The Honour And Darkness Blog is nearing it's first birthday - how time has flown! - and Nazgul is delighted that it's touched the lives of a few of you out there in a positive way, not least the main-main himself! Thank you, Alex, for your kind words.

It was back on 26 May that the original Heidensturm demo (originally recorded in 2002) was covered in the Blog in its original Werwolf pressing, complete with Burzum track 'Hermodr A Helferd' as the final track. On this re-issued tape this song is replaced by a fine Hrefnesholt original piece - 'Nordlandsschlacht' - and comes with new artwork courtesy of the Wulfrune Worxx label. And how cunning is the cover, being so similar to Nazgul's own rough-hewn, tough-as-nails warrior-esque physique!

Ironically, as reported in the original Blog piece, the 2002 demo was not that widely distributed (50 copies) so the fact that the re-issue has even fewer copies (44, of which Nazgul's copy is #2) means that perhaps not as many people will get to hear this as would be desirable. That said, it's a blessing to see the music available again as it was one of Nazgul's favourite Hrefnesholt demos anyway, with the truly epic half-hour 'Heidensturm' title track and the more bouncy 'Zwei Raben' now being augmented by the musical maelstrom that is 'Nordlandsschlacht', which has an ambient introduction similar to modern-day Uruk Hai, a spoken word part over drums that is modern Hrefnesholt (think "Furchtelmandl" yet some vocal parts and music that echo the classic days of barbaric Hrossharsgrani output. Great stuff all round!

And as the first winter snows fall softly around the walls of Castle Nazgul, and the howling winds that herald the start of 'Zwei Raben' are heard once more, the Honour & Darkness Blog thanks Alex once again for his kindness on the reissue of this particular demo and urges you all to seek it out and give it your undivided attention.

Friday, 11 December 2009

HROSSHARSGRANI



Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Hrossharsgrani
Format: Self-titled rehearsal tape from 1999 in tape format, originally made by Alex for his friend R******* from Ravenclaw. The 2CDr version whose cover is shown in photo 1 was made especially for Nazgul by Alex in order to improve the sound quality from the tape original. Neither format at time of writing has been officially issued as a demo or album.
Edition: Both the CDr version and cassette version limited to these unique single copies

Track Listing:

Side A/CD1
1. Durin 8.29
2. Nimrodel 7.00
3. Felagund (Part II) 7.56
4. Mithrandir 7.07
5. Das 3. Ende 3.03
6. Bilbo Beutlin 7.45
7. Das Lied Von Lorien (Die Sprache der Elben jenseits der See) 5.14
Side B/CD2
8. Quenta Silmarillion (Part II) 44.18

Yet another reason for Nazgul to be eternally grateful for the friendship and support for this Blog offered by Alex is demonstrated in the existence of these two great items now being safely stored in the collection deep within the vaults of Castle Nazgul. Neither the tape (originally made back in 1999 and totally unique) nor the 2xCDr set (made in 2009 for Nazgul) have received a wider release than the two copies you see illustrated here, and are thus amongst the rarest of all Hrossharsgrani material. For reasons lost in the midst of time the tape demo was never sent to fellow Ravenclaw member R******* (aka 'he who must not be named') and the release has remained locked away in the depths of W.A.R. Productions until this year.

In terms of the music this is 'prime-time' Hrossharsgrani from back in the formative early days of the band, so as you might expect there is a plentiful supply of hammering battle-drums, harsh vocals, varied keyboard and synthesiser moments, and atmosphere aplenty. Ordinarily you might expect Nazgul to go through this release song by song, but on this occasion the temptation is being resisted as there is always the possibility of over-analysis by so doing, and to be honest if you enjoy the early work of this band you'll know the sort of thing that you'll encounter (and if you aren't such a fan, why are you still reading this....?!)

There are some long tracks on this rehearsal demo, particularly on the second side where an original early recording of the 'Quenta Silmarrilion (Part II)' is recorded - a track which you'll recall was subsequently issued on CD by AMF Productions (Bulgaria) under the Uruk Hai band name (see past Blog entries for more).

A real treasure in Nazgul's collection this, and thanks to the duality of format Alex prepared it in it is available for aural pleasure on both the death-deck in the castle library or via the more modern equipment in Nazgul's car.

Who knows - given the recent spate of reissues going on under the watchful eye of W.A.R. perhaps this rehearsal too might gain a full release in due course....

Thursday, 10 December 2009

~ 2 ~

Band: URUK HAI
Title: ~2~
Format: CD only pressing on the Drama Company label (Spain), no catalogue reference, with colour inlay booklet and picture-disc CD. Split album with German Black Metal legends Vinterriket. Released 2005.
Edition: Limited to 1,000 unnumbered copies
Track Listing:

Vinterriket
1. Am brennenden nördlichen Firmament 06:57
2. Stumme Winternacht 06:30
3. Monde ewiger Verdammnis 07:02
4. Vom Echo der Melancholie 06:51
5. Der Tod Wuotans (Burzum cover) 06:46

Uruk Hai
6. Der Schrei des Blutes 11:26
7. Stahlzeit 19:20
8. Hermodr A Helferd (Burzum cover) 02:56

As a precursor to this blog, Nazgul came across Vinterriket's patented style of keyboard-driven frozen black metal slightly before discovering Alex's brand of ambient metal, and this split CD from both bands was one of the earlier introductions to the Uruk Hai ethos for me. A really well put together package from the Spanish label Drama Company, with some nicely thought out duality in the artwork (cold, bleak winter scenes for Vinterriket alongside scenes of Viking significance for Uruk Hai) to complement the music on offer.

Until recently Nazgul would have been suggesting that the Uruk Hai tracks were unique to this release, but of course the existence of the previously-reviewed "Blutreich" album puts paid to that theory for the first two (lengthy) tracks on the latter part of the album. Even the cover-version of Burzum's "Hermodr A Hrelferd" is not technically a unique track, as the same song appears on the original 2004 pressing of "Heidensturm" from Hrefnesholt (although, interestingly, not on the recent Wufrune Worxx reissue of this demo, which has an alternate final bonus track). Hmmmm - Nazgul thinks a full concordance of Hugin's songs may be overdue....

The two longer Uruk Hai songs on this release are effectively soundtracks to a movie only known to the mind of the composer, as both are redolent in effects and atmosphere befitting an unknown and unseen film. This is not to suggest that they don't hold-up as pieces of music in their own right, but there are so many nuances and passages of music that hint at mysterious goings-on that you can't help but feel there's more to this than meets the eye! By way of example, there is the creaking sound of wood on a boat that commences at the outset of 'Der Schrei des Blutes' yet which is also heard part-way through 'Stahlzeit', suggesting a united theme between the songs (and also, by association, hinting at some of the past Elisabetha songs involving the passage of Dracula by sea to England).

There are some samples from the Conan The Barbarian film on 'Stahlzeit' that neatly split the song into listenable segments, and are perhaps some of the best melded segues of music and film elements that Hugin has yet put forward to his audience.

By comparison, the Burzum cover (clearly a factor in this release, given the Vinterriket cover-song) sounds somewhat one-dimensional and almost trite by comparison, as it's complexity does not stack up against the densely populated songs that precede it. The song originates on Burzum's "Dauði Baldrs" album, by the way. That said, it's a short and entirely listenable piece, book-ended with some ominous thunder and faithful to the original, given that the source material was recorded whilst Varg was in prison for church burning and the Euronymous murder sentence (he wasn't allowed any musical instruments in prison, so made his album with MIDI format sound).

It's another of those CD's that once was a relatively common find online, yet now has become harder to track down at a sensible price. It's also quite an unusual album in as far as the tracks are only available in CD/digital format, and there has been no corresponding cassette release of the Uruk Hai tracks here.

Nazgul commends this release unto thee!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

WAR POEMS - update



Band: URUK HAI
Title: War Poems (Orcish Battle Hymns Part III)
Reason for update: 2009 tape re-issue by Wulfrune Worxx (France), catalogue reference WW80, of this previously CD-only album from 2005.
Edition: 44 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

1. Ancient Pride 21:36
2. Black Mountains River (Midgard Warriors Part II) 20:29
3. Mount Doom 20:53
4. Mettaynë (Rehearsal 1999) 06:49

Cast your mind back (or re-direct your browser if the onset of senility is upon you, as Nazgul is increasingly finding these days) to 6 October and you will see that Honour And Darkness covered the "War Poems" CD release on Dragons Breath Records, the sadly short-lived company run by Manwe's own Padre Adamo. That particular CD - resplendent in DVD sized case - was in a small pressing of only 100 copies, so many were the fans who clamoured to hear the tracks but were unable to get their hands on a copy.

Of course, as this Blog has identified over subsequent releases some of these tracks - notably 'Ancient Pride' and 'Mount Doom' - reappeared in various guises, as indeed did a revised version of 'Midgard Warriors Part II' appear on "War Poems" from an earlier split release between Uruk Hai and Arkillery.

Only the nearly 7 minute track 'Mettaynë (Rehearsal 1999)' had been left out of this re-positioning exercise, so good news all round to find that this tape reissue of the original and entire "War Poems" release includes this track and the three previously mentioned. The tape comes in the "Remember CC" Series from Wulfrune Worxx, and has all new artwork despite offering no new tracks above and beyond the original issue. For those of you equally as obsessive as Nazgul, you may be interested to see that the tape cover image of Hugin holding aloft a broadsword is taken from a publicity postcard for Uruk Hai, shown in the third photograph above.

Whilst the notion of making this release available once more is a great one, act fast - there are only 44 copies of this tape out there (Nazgul has #2 of the batch)!

ELISABETHA > Huren Dracula's artwork

Band: ELISABETHA
Item: Previously unseen artwork for unreleased "Huren Dracula's" CD

In a recent parcel of items that crossed the stormy seas between snow-capped Austria and the craggy mountain ranges surrounding Castle Nazgul was this interesting piece of artwork, ostensibly a cover for a release of the 'Huren Dracula's' track that keen readers may recall graced track 4 on the "Und Wirklichkeit erfüllt die Seele wieder" full-length release from Elisabetha in 2004.

If this was planned as a single - and let us remember that Elisabetha had a history of releasing 7" vinyl singles back in 2001/02, so such a release is not as improbable as it may sound - then to Nazgul's knowledge it never was issued formally. Perhaps the artwork that you see here - depicting an elegant gowned lady standing in front of wrought-iron gates viewing by moonlight a stone statue of a winged, hooded creature - was intended for the cover image?

This seems the most probable explanation, but whilst we ponder the possibility Nazgul is pleased to publish the image online for what might possibly be the first ever time.

Edit [18/12/09]: A little more diligent sleuthing online has revealed that there was in fact supposed to be a CD release called "Huren Dracula's" in late 2003, to be released by Blodmorfogh Productions. This clearly never happened, but the artwork you see above is perhaps the last remnant of those original plans.

FURCHTELMANDL


Band: HREFNESHOLT
Title: Furchtelmandl
Format: Tape-only release on W.A.R. Productions (Austria) in 2009. Double-sided colour inlay, album recorded on both sides of tape.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of only 6 copies

Track Listing:

01. Furchtelmandl 27.38

Always a cause for celebration, a new Hrefenesholt release is unleashed upon the world! Nazgul has a soft spot for this particular project of Alex's, so it's great to see a spate of recent recordings from the band in 2009.

Released in a tiny pressing of only 6 copies, which seemingly sold-out at almost the exact moment that the title was first advertised by Alex (Nazgul's copy is #4), this is a sure-fire future collectible and - unless a future Hrefensholt compilation brings the track back from obscurity - is destined to be one of the hardest releases from the band to lay your hands on.

Somewhat epic in length at a touch under half an hour, it's actually a very hard song to put into words. The best analogy Nazgul can offer is that the whole piece brings to mind sitting in the deep woods being initiated by a tribal elder into the arcane secrets of a mysterious sect - the track is primarily scored using what sound like pretty authentic folk instruments with a smattering of keyboards too, and is narrated in a deep, sonorous voice (in German) inducing a semi-hypnotic effect.

It's a combination of the pagan / ambient aspects of the band's history with a more cultured musical backdrop, effectively a neo-folk style accompaniment if you will. Nazgul thinks it works rather well, and despite the length of the track there is plenty of musical innovation and soothing harmonies on it to keep the listener entertained and interested throughout.

Sometimes words aren't enough to express the nature of music, and I fear that this is one of those occasions. Sadly, however, Nazgul is not in a position to suggest you go out and buy a copy for yourself as there aren't any left for sale at this point. All of which may make the cynical suggest that this review is largely redundant, but there Nazgul would take issue as his suspicion is that this limited release may herald a new era of Hrefnesholt music, which will become more widely available in due course. Think of the transition of B-Machina after Max joined, from the old style industrial approach to newer neo-folk sensibilities, signalled by the release of a few very limited edition mini-CD demos such as "Other Visions" or "The Iron Stallion".

Perhaps "Furchtelmandl" is destined to perform the same transitional role for Hrefnesholt...? Only time will tell.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

URUK HAI




Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Uruk Hai
Format: Cassette-tape only demo, self-released in 1999 by Hugin with photocopied black and white inlay (signed on one panel) with gold accents, with hand-lettered tape label.
Edition: Only 6 copies

Track Listing:

1. Uruk Hai 7.09
2. Nordhimmelstag 3.10
3. Moria 6.41
4. Kortirion 5.45
5. In Durins Halls 4.37

Possibly the most significant early demo that Hugin ever recorded, in as far as this was the genesis of Uruk Hai - probably the most well received and highly regarded of all of Hugin's various projects and bands amongst music fans the world over.

The original "Uruk Hai" demo tape was, of course, intended as a Hrossharsgrani release and made in a tiny quantity of only 6 tapes (this one being #6 of the 6). However, the story goes that back in 1999 when Hugin played this for friends the general consensus was that it was so far removed from the battle-machine that was Hrossharsgrani, and so ambient and ethereal by comparison, it shouldn't be issued under that bands name. So it was that the original six demo tapes were retained by this close-knit circle, and the demo was formally issued under the band name Uruk Hai, and was re-named "In Durin's Halls".

This demo was reviewed in Honour And Darkness back on 10 March 2009, and you'll see there that it was expanded to a seven track release (with the addition of the lengthy 'Luthien' and 'The Unknown') and given a different running order. Three subsequent reissues of this demo have occurred, as the Blog has outlined in past posts, most recently on the tape release of "Lost Songs Of Middle Earth".

However, this specific tape is where it all started, where the original Uruk Hai tracks were laid down and recorded for the very first time, and as such it's a hugely important part of the history of both projects. Nazgul is very grateful to Alex for making available this particular tape, as let's be honest they're are rare as the proverbial hen's teeth and in over 6 years of looking I'd never even seen a sign of one for sale before. Indeed, it's fair to note that this was one of the hardest items to find of all of Nazgul's collection.

Musically much has been written about these tracks already, and with some of them having reappeared in different reissues or revised formats ('Moria' most notably) over the years. The keyboard elements are both melodic, ambient and atmospheric, the release is free of vocals (except for a spoken word element at the end, which we'll come onto momentarily) or much percussion, so you can see why it was such a shock to the system for those initial listeners back in 1999 when compared to Hrossharsgrani output up to that date.

After 'Durins Halls' ends on this tape there is a short (2.17) piece of German narrative that seems to be a sampled extract from something, but the question is what?! The narrative is not present on the 'In Durin's Halls' Uruk Hai demo from 1999 so is unique to this Hrossharsgrani tape. Whether it constitutes an additional part of the 'Durin's Halls' track, or is a separate uncredited outro is not clear, but it's certainly interesting.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

REHEARSAL 2002-2004


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Rehearsal 2002-2004
Format: Cassette-only release circa 2006/07 on the Smell The Stench (Australia) label, no catalogue reference.
Edition: Presumed unlimited

Track Listing:

Side 1
01. Akustische Impressionen Der Letzten Grossen Schlacht 5.47
02. Helter Skelter (A Tribute to Charles Manson) 16.17
03. Apokalypse 7.08
04. W.R.S.G. 0.26
Side 2
05. Manifest 2.00
06. Masturbation: Eden 3.03
07. Apokalypse (Ereignis 2) 0.56
08. Vom Ende... 6.36
09. W.R.B.G. 4.38

A very industrial flavoured release this one from Bonemachine, recording rehearsal sessions at W.A.R. Studios between 2002 and 2004.

The opening track also features on the limited run "Zeit" tape and appears here in like format - the artist's impression of a battlefield scene being chock-full of artillery explosions, heavy machine gun fire and the shouts and screams of soldiers and civilians alike being caught up in the drama. Bone-War is upon us...!

'Helter Skelter' is the standout track on the tape, and at over sixteen minutes in length needs to be effective to hold your attention. Fortunately (or should that be 'Of course'...?!) it is, and combines a number of different elements - from an almost techno dance parts to a echoing children's call overlain with harsh vocals, all tied together with rhythmic industrial sections). This track was recorded in 2003, and also appears on the 2CD compilation "Erste Rotation".

The third track on side one is 'Apokalypse', which has a short coda on side two of the tape (in similar fashion, W.R.S.G / W.R.B.G. does a similar trick). A start involving some delicate strings is perhaps not what you might imagine for a song bearing this title, and it develops slowly with some trademark Bonemachine shimmying industrial noises (you have to hear them to know what Nazgul means, I fear!) and other distant mechanical echoes and auditory effects. Some deeply voiced narrative from the Book of Revelations about the Four Horsemen and the opening of the sacred seals follows, with some background choral harmonies giving an appropriately religious context and establishing the theme of the piece. An interesting mix of biblical prophecy and industrial music, although ultimately not quite as 'end-of-the-world' apocalyptic in sound as you might imagine it might be. 'W.R.S.G' is a short clang-and-bang noise piece to end side one, and runs right up to the end of the tape limit of 30 minutes.

Side two is a more varied mix of music in some ways - the short 'Manifest' has a simple yet irregular beat (like sheet metal being beaten in time) with some harsh voice effects and distant noise effects. 'Masturbation: Eden' is the first - and possibly last - track that Alex has published to my knowledge with the sound of a woman in passion (and Nazgul cleaned that up a lot!) blended with some stop-start chords and a rhythmic hand-drum beat. Errrr....not sure what to make of that one, but it possibly continues the religious theme together with 'Apokalypse' ... or possibly not!?

Following the brief hiatus that is 'Apokalypse (Ereignis 2)' - whose chimes and chants surely herald the end of the world - we move to 'Vom Ende...' and are greeted again with what sounds like a mechanised chiming of a vast clock, mirroring the previous track. It's the final countdown, but without the annoying Swedes or catchy keyboard riff! A faster rhythm then develops (not too dissimilar to a slightly squeaky old mine cart barrelling down the tracks of a disused mine!) with percussive effects over the top. As noted at the outset - this is a pretty industrial flavoured tape when all is said and done! Final track 'W.R.B.G.' maintains this approach, with vocals and music both artificially tainted and mechanised beyond mere mortal sanity...

In the overall canon of Bonemachine work it's clearly part of the early discography, although not as melodic as "Schwartzes Jerusalem" for example it still has some good tracks on it. The revival of "Helter Skelter" on the band's first retrospective 2CD collection is testimony to that. I dare say that Smell The Stench could let you have one of these with little problem, so check out their website at www.smellthestench.net for details.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

IN THE MYSTIC FOREST


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: In The Mystic Forest
Format: Cassette-tape only pressing on the Chanteloup Creations (France) label in 2000, catalogue reference AWE51. Apparently there is also an alternate signed edition with one additional track released through the Christhunt Label.
Edition: Chanteloup issue in hand-numbered edition of 300. Christhunt version limited to 6 copies

Track Listing:

1. Menegroth (Intro) 1:41
2. Mordor 6:13
3. You and Me 6:05
4. Khazad Dum 2:40
5. Mithrandir 5:34
6. The Sign of Nargothrond 1:50
7. Nargothrond 4:45
8. Rot Fiel Der Tau In Ramas Edor 2.37 (as Christhunt Edition bonus only)

With this demo from 2000 Hrossharsgrani continued to develop their ambient-Viking sound, a unique blend of black metal touches (in vocals and drums) with more atmospheric keyboards and ad hoc touches of classical music or samples. By the standards of the project this is a fairly short demo at under 30 minutes in length, but what it lacks in duration it certainly makes up for in quality.

Some of the songs here have appeared on other releases (some of which have been covered in this Blog already), notably the beautifully choral 'Mithrandir', 'You and Me' from the "Demo Compilation Volume 1" collection, and 'Mordor' which featured on the "From The Dark Ages" tape of 1999.

Of the remaining tracks, two are short introductory pieces at just under two minutes apiece whilst 'Khazad Dum' is also a pretty short song at under three minutes. 'Menegroth' has a flute-like musical theme flowing through it with some light percussion towards the end, leading us into the chanting march that opens the trip to 'Mordor' itself. This track is not the 'darkness and evil' fest that you might have been expecting, reminding Nazgul at times of the 'Balaquenta/Moria' finale to Uruk Hai's "Elbenwald" with the thunderstorm raging in the background throughout the track. It's more of an ambient adventure punctuated with guitar and those throaty vocals from Hugin, with simple yet effective keyboard riffs maintaining an underpinning melody. Late in the track the pounding war-drums of the Hrossharsgrani battle-machine kick in to pulverize you into the ground.

All of the tracks on this album (Nazgul has the regular Chanteloup Creations edition to hand, #104 of the 300) follow a similar theme and style - with the notable exception of 'Mithrandir' which, through its merger of choral, classical and black metal is one of the best Hross' songs from these early years in Nazgul's view - so the demo hangs together nicely as a result.

The Christhunt edition of this particular demo that is said to exist is one tape that Nazgul has yet to track down, so if anyone out there has one and wish to part with it then you know where to come! The bonus song on that particular edition is also contained at track 13 on the "From The Dark Ages" tape, incidentally.

This is another one of those demos that you could occasionally find online a few years ago if you were willing to search around the distros but that now seems to be sold-out everywhere, and perhaps to no surprise. It's a good one! This copy - dedicated and signed on the front of the case by Hugin in case you're wondering what the gold writing says ("Tolkien Rules") - took a while to hunt down, but thanks to Skogen another item was captured for the collection.

The 'Honour And Darkness Series'


Band: URUK HAI
Items: The 6 releases in the "Honour And Darkness Series" by Wulfrune Worxx (France)
Format: Tape releases with black and white inlays, containing a mixture of new and previously issued material
Edition: Each tape in the series comes in a hand-numbered run of 39 copies

A couple of past Blogs have referred to the "Honour And Darkness Series" of tapes that have in 2009 been issued by the French Wulfrune Worxx label. As Nazgul has a couple of free moments - and as this is a very exciting thing to happen around Castle Nazgul - a few words about the Series seemed appropriate, and is hopefully of interest to you all !

The plan from Hugin was as follows: 2 extensive tape re-issue programmes to go through Wulfrune Worxx, the first 10 tapes in a series called "Remember CC", which links to the old material released through the Chanteloup Creations label (also from France) back in the early 2000's, but also containing newer material. This series contains releases by Hrossharsgrani, Uruk Hai and Elisabetha and is in the Wulfrune catalogue as WW80 through to WW89. Each tape is limited to 44 pieces.

In addition, a second series - the "Honour And Darkness Series" - was created in a set of 6 tapes, each bearing the letters of Nazgul's name in the catalogue reference. This series celebrates the work of the HonourAndDarkness Blog, and each tape is only available in a numbered edition of 39 (this being Nazgul's age!).

The titles in this series are as follows:

WW-N "After The War (Orcish Battle Hymns Part IV)"
WW-A "Morgoth"
WW-Z "Balrog
WW-G "Black Blood, White Hand"
WW-U "Die Festung"
WW-L "A Dark Force Shines Golden"

and of course rest assured a full review will be coming along for all titles in both series in due course, as they all line the groaning library shelves in Nazgul's crumbling edifice high overlooking the cemetery.

The quality of the artwork on the opened out inlays for both Series is stunning, even in simple black and white xeroxed format, and Nazgul is reliably informed that the original first-run copy of each tape that Alex possess has professional laser printed covers, which must look awesome!

What more is there to say, really? Nazgul is both humbled and honoured to witness this singular event to accompany the development of the Blog site that you are now reading, and offers hails and great thanks to both Alex and Skogen once again for hatching such a cunning plan!

A DARK FORCE SHINES GOLDEN





Band: URUK HAI
Title: A Dark Force Shines Golden / Dreams Of The Ancient Stone
Format: Split CD with Russian ambient project Saltvind released in 2008 on the Front Line Productions label (Russia), catalogue reference FLP-011. Re-issued on Wulfrune Worxx (France) in 2009 with Uruk Hai only tracks, including bonus track on b-side, as part of the Honour & Darkness series (catalogue reference WW-L)
Edition: CD pressed in unnumbered edition of 500, tape limited to 39 numbered copies.

Track Listing:

CD version
Uruk Hai
1. Helms Deep (unreleased track) 09:34
2. Precious (remastered version) 06:09
3. Beneath the Moon, Beneath the Sun (remastered version) 11:24
Saltvind
4. Fire over Misty Peaks 07:55
5. The Land that Sank Below the Waves 07:58
6. Dreams of the Ancient Stone 08:02

Tape version

1. Helms Deep
2. Precious
3. Beneath the Moon, Beneath the Sun
4. Blood Of Heroes (b-side bonus track)

Whichever version of this you seek out (but be quick of you want the tape version) the "A Dark Force Shines Golden" album is certainly well worth adding to your collection of darkly ambient music! Should you plump for the CD version you may be interested to learn that Saltvind are a Russian band who before this release had but one demo to their name, but despite that they convey some superbly atmospheric music through their three tracks and are a promising project for the future. check out their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/saltvind) for more...

Were you to hunt down the more limited tape reissue from 2009 you would lose the Saltvind tracks but benefit enormously from the addition of a real collectors' item in bonus track "Blood Of Heroes" which is, as you may recall, the Uruk Hai track from the impossible-to-find (for all the wrong reasons) "Nachtkrieg" split CD with Forgotten Land from 2009. For this reason alone - the addition of a great yet generally unavailable Uruk Hai epic - I'd commend the tape version to you: well done Wulfrune Worxx/Alex for making this particular song available more widely! Nazgul's tape is #23 of the 39 made.

As a previous posting to the Blog covered the 'Blood Of Heroes' track in more detail, Nazgul will leave those comments to stand and instead focus on the three Uruk Hai tracks on this release. And what better way to start than to quote a review that was written by our old friend and Blog member Durandal1717:

"Helm’s Deep starts things off fantastically, though the atmosphere doesn't exactly fit in with the epic battle at Helm’s Deep, being subdued and beautiful. Perhaps it’s before the battle, or the long winter when Helm first came to it (what, you thought it was named after a piece of armour?) Absolutely beautiful, melancholic acoustic guitar followed by equally emotive piano, and really does give the image of a desolate, winter landscape, and indeed much better than his ambient contemporary Vinterriket, if I may say so myself, especially as a lonely violin and flute plays over howling wind. Quite possibly the best Uruk-Hai song yet, and one of the best ambient pieces I've ever heard. Really.

And what do you suppose Precious could be about? Hugin also has his hands in industrial music as well, and this sounds like his industrial side-project Bonemachine. It isn’t really industrial per se, more like darkwave acid house or something, but it basically sounds like the Hrossharsgrani track Oh Schatz, some programmed drums and dark sound effects, with clips of Gollum going on about his precious, this time actual clips from the movie instead of horrible voice acting. Okay, not really outstanding, but far better than the 3-minute version from his other band.

Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun however, is far too minimalist for its own good. It sounds like the eerie soundtrack strains at the very beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, only instead of building on it like it does in the movie, it just goes on and on for 11 minutes. Very, very eh-worthy.

Overall though, a great release by Uruk-Hai, I give this an 80/100, mostly for the fantastic Helm’s Deep."

Some good observations here, and again worth recording to give a little perspective to these releases from Alex rather than just hearing it all from Uncle Nazgul!

The start of 'Helm's Deep' is a tremendous piece of music, with a haunting keyboard refrain at the start (like a distant, mournful lament) giving way to the guitar and piano elements that were mentioned above, and it certainly is a very evocative piece of ambient music.

'Precious' contains some excellent movie soundtrack extracts featuring Gollum himself, and these really add some weight to the overall song. Who can't be delighted with hearing Gollum's "You don't have any friends: nobody likes you" speech again!? Having been exposed to most of the Bonemachine output over the years Nazgul wouldn't quite go so far as to suggest an overt blurring of the boundaries between the two projects but in truth there are some percussive effects in the song that are not the usual backdrop to an Uruk Hai track, the slower beats representing perhaps the dank caves in which Gollum lurks looking for his elusive precious...

Final track 'Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun' is something of a sentimental favourite of Nazgul's, as it was one of the songs that Alex added to the one-off "My Favourite..." CDr (see Blog post of 5 June 2009). As noted in that review, the track was originally slated to appear on an album to be called "Journey's End" but ended up here instead. It is a lengthy track, and one best enjoyed as background music or in the headphones in the dead of night!

Final thoughts on these two releases: the colour artwork in the CDr pressing by the Russian label Front Line Productions is very good, as is the picture disc design, whilst the artwork on the black and white tape inlay - predominantly showing orcs in various battle formations - is tremendous.