Monday, 31 August 2009

B-MACHINA > The Japanese bootlegs....




Band: B-MACHINA / BONEMACHINE
Titles: Various (see text)
Format: A series of bootleg CDr in A4 stapled paper (containing lyrics by Kenji Siratori) and with picture discs mirroring cover-art, released on the Hyper Modern label (Japan) variously in 2008 and 2009.
Edition: Hand-numbered editions of only (allegedly) 30 per release

The phrase for today is "righteous indignation" and, for once, it's not Nazgul who is voicing the sentiment in this Blog but our hero Hugin!

The Japanese label Hyper-Modern is known to past readers of this Blog as a label that has, on occasion, slipped out the odd bootleg release without due credit or reward going to the artist. The example that Nazgul is immediately thinking of is with the CDr pressing of the previously tape-only "D.N.A." release by B-Machina, which even Hugin himself (until recently) had not seen a copy of.

Of course, the whole concept of bootlegs is one mired in argument and counter-argument, which loosely can be boiled down to 2 opposite premises: Firstly, in favour, is the fact that bootleg recordings offer the fan the chance to hear rare studio, demo or live material that would never otherwise emerge onto the market. The second position, against bootlegs, is that the quality of such material is often poor and the artist can be poorly represented through it and will certainly not receive any money or royalties as a result.

The Hyper-Modern situation, however, is a step further beyond not crediting the artist accordingly. In the case of these 7 albums - all bought by Nazgul online for around £10 apiece, and each featuring about 60-70 minutes of 'music' - there is absolutely no association with Bonemachine / B-Machina at all. What has apparently happened (although short of speaking with Kenji this can't be confirmed) is that a bunch of his 'gabba' lyrics have been overlain across some pretty mediocre background 'industrial' noise effects, and then the B-Machina name attached quite fraudulently to the outcome. It's not just Alex's bands that have been so affected, as the source I bought from had heaps of such releases allegedly with other projects or bands, the veracity of which I seriously doubt.

Nazgul brought these releases to Alex's attention some while back, and copied some of the content onto a USB stick to send to him. The 'official word' from Austria is that this is pure rip-off material. That's the clean version! Alex did offer the following words, which I'm sure he won't mind me repeating:

"Ufff - [I've] never done music or anything else with these releases - this is a fucking rip-off, he only uses my name to produce such a stupid kind of shit - aaaarrrrgggghhhh! Now I'm a bit angry! Kenji sux!"

Which is an entirely understandable feeling, as clearly Bonemachine did have successful official collaborations with Kenji over a number of releases, which will find their place in this Blog in due course, so for this betrayal of trust to take place must be massively frustrating, to say the least.

For these 7 releases (and doubtless there may be more, Nazgul has a bad feeling about it) the basic motivation can only be profiteering from Kenji / Hyper Modern, and one hopes that in due course some form of appropriate comeback (legally or otherwise) will befall them....

For the record, the 7 albums shown in the photos above are:
  • Raijin (#17 of 30)
  • Human Anatomy (#15 of 30)
  • Dead Scream (#14 of 30)
  • Cadaver Alchemy (#12 of 30)
  • Jigoku (#23 of 30)
  • Infinite Decadence (#18 of 30) and
  • Data Sodomy (#24 of 30)

Should you see any of these releases for sale online, or other titles in the 'series', then I would strongly urge you to suggest to the seller that he might like to roll them up really tightly and insert vertically straight up his ****!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

UPON THE ELYSIAN FIELDS





Band: URUK HAI
Title: Upon The Elysian Fields
Format: 3 versions currently exist of this release, all on CD format. The original 2004 promotional-only demo CDr release was issued by W.A.R. Productions (Austria) in paper sleeve with double CDr set. In 2008 the first reissue came in a box-set from T'an! Kaven!! Ash!!! (Israel), with a revised running order and each track coming on its own 3" CD. In 2009 another reissue was pressed through Valgriind (Russia), cat ref VG020, in slimline DVD case with bonus video track.
Edition: Original demo hand-numbered to only 20 copies. First reissue in hand-numbered edition of 66 copies. Second reissue in unnumbered edition of 50 copies.

Track Listing:

Original promotional-only demo release:
CDr1
01. Return To The Sea Of Flames 23.26
02. God Tears (Oh Rain, Rain, Rain) 25.09
CDr2
03. On An Evening In Autumn 20.04
04. Under The Cold Stars Before The Rising Of The Moon 24.03

First re-issue revised running order to:

3" CD 1: Under The Cold Stars Before The Rising Of The Moon
3" CD 2: God Tears (Oh Rain, Rain, Rain)
3" CD 3: On An Evening In Autumn
3" CD 4: Return To The Sea Of Flames

Second Reissue on Valgriind:

Disc 1
01. Under The Cold Stars Before The Rising Of The Moon
02. On An Evening In Autumn
03. Return To The Sea Of Flames
Disc 2
04. God Tears (Oh Rain, Rain, Rain)
05. Raven's Empire [video clip]

"Give the people what they want..."

Wise words, and far be it from Nazgul to stand in the way of the current poll results! You tell me that you're most interested in Uruk Hai releases, so here are three all in one go (albeit the same release!) for your delight and information.

Quite the epic release, this one. The original demo is now long gone, so my thanks to Alex for turning this one (#10 of the 20) out of the vaults of W.A.R. Productions a few years ago. It has a certain charm in paper sleeve format, and the insert in blue reads "I am searching for an honest label to release the new Uruk-Hai album 'Upon The Elysian Fields' as a limited DoLP with coloured vinyl (blue and white)". Clearly no honest labels received this, as said DoLP is yet to emerge...

The second reissue from The Eastern Front sub-division TKA is in 'fatbox' format with 4 x 3"CD and runic inscription on the inlays. Whilst the format was a bit flimsy compared to some of the other TKA releases (notably the Bonemachine wooden box sets) Nazgul was pleased to see this album receiving another airing, admittedly in a small pressing once again (my copy is #22 of the 66). You might imagine my surprise when not quite one year later another version was released - with the added bonus of the 'Raven's Empire' video, which you can find easily with a Google search if you want a quick peek now - on Valgriind (a division of the Lost Reich Rex label, created for issuing 'experimental music').

Now, you might imagine that Nazgul is going to expound in a lengthy manner on the 4 tracks contained, in varying order and in slightly different lengths and re-mastered versions, on these three releases. Well, you would be wrong. And let Nazgul tell you why - it's almost impossible to put into words the nature of these 4 tracks (which is probably why there is Sweet FA written about the release anywhere online) as the music simply doesn't lend itself to narrative description.

I could tell you that it is ambient in nature, with plenty of wind, wave and shimmering keyboard effects - but you'd probably guessed as much already. I could tell you that each track is over 20 minutes in length, and is akin to a transcendental journey across your own imagination - but you'd probably think old Nazgul had lost the plot and should be pensioned off. I could tell you that the music is hugely uplifting and relaxing, and perfect for chilling out at the end of a long day - but then the sceptics would seize upon this as an excuse to try and turf Uruk Hai out of the Metal Archives (again). Oh dear.

Even the labels themselves struggled a little with it: Valgriind said:

"Travel to the beginning of early European culture through waves of deep sound canvass"
whilst TKA were content to repeat Hugin's own original inlay narrative:
"...Upon The Elysian Fields is an account of the elder days or the First Age of our Pagan past"

Let's just leave it like this - now, push your chair closer so that old uncle Nazgul can whisper this in your ear, quietly like. "This may just be the best non-metal, fantasy ambient album made by Uruk Hai, period". Right, now remember that I said nothing....

BY THE SWORD OF MY FATHER

Band: FOLKEARTH
Title: By The Sword Of My Father
Format: CD pressing on the Stygian Crypt Productions label (Russia) from 2006, cat ref SCP 029. Alex has contributed 2 tracks to this Folkearth release, the band's second album. The case (above) has been dedicated and autographed in gold by Alex.
Edition: unlimited

Track Listing:
Contributions by Hugin identified in bold type

01. Introduction 4.23
02. The Lady's Gift
03. By The Sword Of My Father
04. Naglfar Sets Sail
05. The Death Of Beowulf
06. Instrumental
07. Skaldic Art
08. Domain Of Darksome Ravens
09. Return To Walehalle
10. Heathenpride
11. Elves
12. Invictus
13. Wisdom Of Wolves
14. Sailing A'Viking
15. Tribute To The Viking Gods
16. Journey Ends 3.22

On June 11th Nazgul included the debut Folkearth album in his blog, which was relevant for the single track contributed by Hugin to that release. Here, on the band's second release from 2006, there is double the content to enjoy on a 16-track humdinger of an album!

Indeed, Ravenclaw's vision of an ever-expanding pan-continental folk-metal band continued apace with this release: whilst the "A Nordic Poem" debut featured 14 musicians from 6 different countries, the sequel boasts an impressive 31 musicians from 8 countries and is still as cohesive and well melded album as the first, despite the potential for 'more cooks to spoil the broth'. For trivia buffs amongst you, the net growth of 2 countries between albums is a result of the inclusion of 3 new territories on this release (US, Germany and Italy) with the loss of the Swiss representative from the original line-up! Now you too can be a crushing bore at parties....

Anyway, back to the sole Austrian contributor and our main protagonist. The two tracks are very pleasant indeed, and as one might expect draw upon Hugin's mastery of the keyboards for their structure. The cunningly titled introductory track is 'Introduction', and kicks the album off with some sampled bird song - rock 'n' roll ! This gentle opening leads into an expansive and echo-y synth piece that brings to my mind's eye mountain ranges, strewn with snow and boulders, being traversed by warriors off to battle. It's all very grandiose and epic in feel, with appropriate booming drums and counter-melodies to keep the momentum going. It's a piece that you feel should be played over the credits to the opening of a film, such is it's professionalism and grandeur. The birds, by the way, return at the end to leave you in a relaxed and peaceful frame of mind....just in time for the galloping riff to the second track 'The Lady's Gift' to give you an unexpected boot up the arse!

Jumping to the end of the album now is the final track from Hugin, being 'Journeys End'. There's a great otherworldly piece of synth at the outset (which vaguely reminded Nazgul of the beginning to ELO's "Discovery" album, which probably says more about his doubtful musical tastes than it does about the song!) before the main track begins. And knock me down with a feather if it's not a little "Tawantinsuyu" in nature, with some ethnic pan-pipe effects punctuating the progressive chords of keyboards in a spiralling melody. I suppose, given the "Tawantinsuyu" release was also in 2006, this similarity of influence shouldn't be unexpected.

Overall, 2 very good instrumental pieces and also a very decent Folkearth album. This project is still going strong, although by third album "Drakkars in the Mist" in 2007 Alex was immersed in other projects and was no longer recording with them.

ICH TAUCHE TIEFER t-shirt

Band: CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE
Item: T-shirt for the Ich Tauche Tiefer release, no backprint.
Edition: Limited to 10 shirts

The rather striking design above is the cover for one of the few Ceremony of Innocence t-shirts I have, this one being the "Ich Tauche Tiefer" release. The submarine theme is used extensively through the early COI artwork, including some excellent limited edition magnets and calendars on a similarly nautical theme on the "Tiefenrausch" and on the mini-CD of "Fear of the Deep".

I'm not sure if this was a limited edition run or not, as Nazgul bought it off Alex just before Christmas 2007 and his rapidly deteriorating memory can't recall much from that long ago. A nice design though, and one that usually gets a few comments when worn out and about!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

EINE DUNKLE SYMBIOSE VON BLUT & NACHT


Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Eine Dunkle Symbiose Von Blut & Nacht
Format: Split CDr between Elisabetha and German Black Metal band Nachtmahr, pressed in a paper sleeve with inserted double-sided A4 sheet (one side for each band, Elisabetha side with lyrics pictured) on picture disc CDr. Promotional-only item, never commercially released. A 2004 release through W.A.R. Productions (Austria).
Edition: Limited to 50 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

Seite Blut - Elisabetha
01. Killer Kreatur 8.32

Seite Nacht - Nachmahr

02. Prometheus
03. Pandora

Nazgul owes a debt of gratitude to Azazel of Nachtmahr for this particular beauty - as a promotional only release from 2004 there were precious few of these around at all even when newly pressed, and it would seem that Elisabetha and Nachtmahr both had 25 copies each to distribute as they saw fit. By an unlucky stroke of timing Alex had literally just given away his last copy shortly before Nazgul enquired about the existence of any, but following a pleasant email exchange with Azazel this copy (#30 of the 50) was secured and was soon winging its way to England to be held in Nazgul's vaults!

The style of the Elisabetha track 'Killer Kreatur' is unquestionably in the same vein as their preceding full length release "Und Wirklichkeit Erfullt Die Seele Wieder" and indeed some of the guitar riffs seem very familiar in this particular song, emulating that curiously and almost 1960's psychedelic sound that Nazgul mentioned in his review of the full-length release. Mixed with a smattering of echoing female vocals, some fast-paced guitar and drum work in classic black metal style (who ever said this wasn't a band deserving of a Metal Archive entry? Pah!) and suitably grim vocals later in the piece.

Helpfully (well, for those fluent in German) the lyrics to the song came printed on the A4 flyer that accompanies the release. All in all, Nazgul enjoyed this one, and although it is so evidently a continuation of the story from the earlier album it sits nicely as a single track in its own right.

Interestingly, there was a subsequent 2004 vinyl release on the Eclipse of Live Promulgation label called "Eine Dunkle Symbiose Aus Tod & Ewiger Finsternis" that features the same two Nachtmahr tracks but with a different Elisabetha recording. Clearly the promo CDr here had its intended effect and led to a formal split release for both bands, albeit with slightly revised content. And yes, before you ask, Nazgul will finally get around to reviewing some more of his vinyl collection of bits and pieces in due course, including the "...Tod & Ewiger Finsteris" release!

The two Nachtmahr tracks, by the way, are also well worth a listen, and combine excellent vocals (including some impressive baritone narrative on 'Prometheus') and compelling music with a nice smattering of black metal influences, but never becoming cliched. On the back of this CDr I also obtained online a few of the band's early tape demos, which are well worth tracking down.

As far as the Elisabetha track here goes, unless you had a copy of this promo it was pretty much unavailable until - with the release of the 3-disc rarities collection "Eternal Deathvastation" in 2008 - it resurfaced again. Mind you, there were only 50 of those triple-disc sets produced as well, so it's equally rare to find that anthology now as well

And yes, that's yet another release Nazgul needs to cover. Hmmm....there's no shortage of material to review, is there?!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

ATLANTIDA Volume 16 [V/A]

Band: Both RAVENCLAW and HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Atlantida Vol. 16
Format: Compilation CDr pressed on the Atlantida Productions label (Lithuania) with tracks from 17 different black/folk metal bands.
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:
17 tracks in total, of which the relevant two are:

04. Ravenclaw * Ravenclaw (from the "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" MCD)
13. Hrossharsgrani * Flesh And Steel (from "The Secret Fire" CD)

Another Atlantida compilation CD from the Atlantida series, being volume 16 and being the second to be covered in HonourAndDarkness.

Nothing especially new on show here - the two tracks (one each for Ravenclaw and Hrossharsgrani) are previously released efforts, and all very fine and dandy they sound here too, particularly 'Flesh And Steel' which was one of Nazgul's favourite songs from "The Secret Fire" album.

As with all compilation CDs, it's a cheap way of getting to hear a variety of new bands. It's also another way to keep collectors on their toes, trying to identify which of their favourite bands have appeared on obscure collections from labels around the globe....!

NORTHERN LIGHTS




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Northern Lights
Format: Release comes in both tape (cat ref hxnrch010) and CD format (cat ref hxnrch008), both released in 2005 on the Hexenreich label (Estonia). Tape version contains 2 bonus tracks.
Edition: CD in a limited (unnumbered) edition of 166 copies, tape version in hand-numbered edition of 188 copies

Track Listing:

CD version

01. Ancient Pride 21.36
02. Northhammer 10.45
03. Mount Doom 20.53
04. Iceland 6.53
05. May It Be (Enya cover) 3.12
06. Moria (Covered In Black Fog) 7.07

Tape version

Side A
01. Ancient Pride
02. Northhammer
03. Moria
04. Iceland
Side B
05. Mount Doom
06. May It Be (Enya cover)
07. Dark - tape only bonus track
08. Pagan Spirit - tape only bonus track

A slightly odd release this one, in as far as (and some comment has been made about this elsewhere online) the track listing repeats songs contained on another Uruk Hai release from the same year ("War Poems), and also elements of one track ('Ancient Pride') repeat within another ('Mount Doom') on the same album!

Indeed, if you really wanted to get into it, 'Mount Doom' also made a reappearance in 2006 on the Polish "Ira Deorum Obliviorum' compilation release, the Enya cover comes up again on the "United" tape release of 2006, and tape-only bonus track 'Dark' appears with the extended title of 'Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)' on the "Enslaved In Evil Darkness" split release with Valar from 2005.

But what the heck! As many of these releases are limited in pressing and pretty hard to find, a dedicated fan won't mind a bit of repetition in the hunt for all of the releases whilst a casual fan is unlikely to be buying more than one or two anyway, and probably wouldn't notice! Given the number of different labels distributing Alex's releases (just accounting for those above, we have labels from Estona, Poland, Bulgaria and the USA) it's hardly surprising that newly recorded tracks that were available at the time found their way onto different releases in different markets.

What is nice to see on "Northern Lights" is the return of collaborative working with Krom, the guitarist from one-man band Arkillery, with who Alex worked previously on a couple of split releases in 2004 (see Nazgul's Blog coverage of one of these elsewhere, dated 5 March 2009). Krom brings a guitar presence to the album that is not present on most other Uruk Hai releases, and also brings a different vocal style as evident on the 'Iceland' track. All in all, a good guy and one who compliments the Uruk Hai style well - where is he now, Nazgul wonders...?

Back to "Northern Lights". The "Moria (Covered In Black Fog)" track was covered earlier this month in the Hexenreich August 2009 compilation CDr review, and hasn't changed since then. Quite why the titled was abbreviated on the tape version to just "Moria" is unclear, although given the odd typo on the CD inlay ('My It Be' anyone?!) then it may just be a simple error.

'Mount Doom' is still the lengthy piece that Nazgul covered in the "Ira..." blog, and a great track for conjuring images of this awesome volcanic peak in Middle Earth. 'Northhammer' is interesting in as far as the lyrics (a paean to Thor) are written by our old friend Padre Adamo (Manwe), and are reproduced in full on the tape inlay. A worthy hymn for warriors of old! The Enya cover was unexpected (albeit the song is from the Tolkein films, and thus isn't a million miles away from the mojo of the project) and this version - sans vocals - is actually something of an improbable triumph, redolent in atmosphere and emotion.

The tape only bonus tracks are nice to have - 'Dark' is a lengthy track with a memorable keyboard refrain and numerous teased endings, whilst 'Pagan Spirit' (unique to this release, I think!) is shorter, more delicate in nature and a pleasant synth piece to end the album with.

Ironically whilst the CD release is sold out (at the label at least), the tape version is still available in some distros and I'd recommend you to get one!

ANOTHER TIME - update




Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Another Time
Format: In this pressing, the limited edition (7) wooden box set
Why the update, Nazgul: To share the fruits of some detective work....

If you were to cast your eye back to the Blog entry for "Another Time" (28 February 2009) you would see that the very limited edition wooden-box set created by the design-gurus at T'an! Kaven!! Ash!!! contained a war-related metal badge as part of its content. Each of the 7 boxes contained a separate badge, so inevitably the curious nature that Nazgul possesses got the better of him and a bit of detective worked seemed in order to try and find out what the other badge designs were.

Considering that Nazgul finally managed to track down his own copy from a seller in Brazil, the scale of the task was (and remains) daunting, as these sets could quite literally be anywhere on the planet with little way of knowing where to begin to look.

This update - entirely thanks to the ever-helpful Igor and Tanya at The Eastern Front - reveals the identification of another 2 designs, bringing the known list to 3. If you have one of these sets, or know someone who does, do get it touch via tall_dai@ntlworld.com and include a photo of your horde!

The top photo shows Nazgul's own badge, the 'Battleship' design. Photo two identifies a rather fine golden 'Tank' design, whilst photo three sports a 'Submarine' motif. Odds are there would be an aeroplane released badge out there somewhere, but what else might be lurking within the shadowy confines of the remaining small, wooden boxes? Only (Another) Time will tell...

NOSFERAT - update

Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Nosferat (Das Blutige Vermachtnis Einer Dynastie)
Format: Tape and CDr pressings exist (see post from 4 August 2009)
Why the update, Nazgul: different colour cover now obtained!

Back on the 4 August I posted my comments on the "Nosferat" release from Alex's ambient horror project Elisabetha. At the time Nazgul mentioned that the versions obtained directly from Alex (as opposed to from distros) came with a red cover, rather than the white one that was in my collection (which came from Leigh at STS in Australia).

Part of my order with Hexenreich (this is increasingly sounding like my month to plug this label, but it's not, honest guv'nor!) was this 'red cover' version, which had presumably been supplied to them directly by Alex at some time in the past. Same tracks, same art design, just red. More in keeping with the vampyric nature of this project, and another item ticked off the 'wants' list!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

OTHER VISIONS


Band: B-MACHINA
Title: Other Visions
Format: Credit-card size CDr (red disc) which comes in an orange envelope (sealed with the B-Machina sticker with 'Industrial Folk Hymns' motif/logo) together with 3 postcards (showing Max on guitar) and assorted magnets, including track listing/edition number design (photo 2). A W.A.R. Productions (Austria) release from 2008.
Edition: Only 17 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Other Visions 2.18
02. Forgotten 2.20

Another Blog, another limited edition release from the vaults of W.A.R. Productions!

This 2008 mini-CDr release effectively cements the addition of the acoustic guitar into the B-Machina canon with 2 short tracks, and leaves the listener wishing there was a lot more to this brief release than there is in actuality. Of course, far too many releases can outstay their welcome so the "less is more" approach can work well as a taster for the future sound of a band, but even hardcore fans like Nazgul have to wonder at the sub-5 minute duration of this particular release!

That said, the packaging is once again exemplary and the multitude of magnets and postcards certainly add an air of quality and thoughtfulness to the overall design that you can't quibble with. As with most of Alex's limited editions, there are precious few of these around (only 17 pressed, of which this is #11) so if you didn't get one at the outset then I'm afraid it's probably a good few sleepless nights poring over every conceivable internet sales site for you if you want to get hold of one now! Your alternative plan of attack would be to track down the "Rotation Zwei" release via the Russian Valgriind label, as these 2 tracks are present amidst a whole host of other impossible-to-find B-Machina material.

Anyway, back to this - the original pressing! What is immediately apparent is the prominence in the mix that Max's flamenco guitar takes - it may sound like an improbable combination, Bonemachine industrial soundscapes and Spanish guitar - but against all the odds it works! Rather like all weird-but-successful combinations (Christmas cake, strong cheddar cheese and whiskey being a recommendation from Nazgul that you really ought to try altogether), don't knock it until you've tried it....

Track 1 'Other Visions' kicks off with an effect that sounds equal parts horses on the move and/or magma escaping the earth's crust, before the most delicate of guitar interludes appears over the top. Equally, on second track 'Forgotten' the guitar is right at the front of the mix over a gentle synth background, at times strident and full-on like a Mexican stand-off in a classic spaghetti western and at times gossamer-thin and a thing of beauty.

As a statement of intent both a potent and intriguing mixture, and one that develops the project nicely into a whole new sphere.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Hexenreich sampler August 2009 [V/A]


Band: URUK HAI
Title: August 2009 free sampler (split across 3 labels)
Format: CDr with paper sleeve in plastic wallet. 12 songs from a variety of bands (see second image)
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:

Various Pagan Black Metal and other projects featured, the relevant track of which is:
12. Uruk Hai * Moria (Covered In Black Fog) 7.03

As Nazgul had just completed his post for Bonemachine's 'Zeit' tape and within it had mentioned the bargains obtained from Estonian label Hexenreich, it seemed a timely moment to add a small addition to HonourAndDarkness for this timely arrival - a free compilation sampler from Hexenreich / Arhalilised Helid / Black Devastation Records received with his last order from the ever-helpful Andres.

Of the 12 tracks on offer, the pertinent entry is the final one - 'Moria (Covered In Black Fog)' by Uruk Hai. This track originates on the Hexenreich-released CDr/tape version of "Northern Lights" from 2005, although the tape pressing truncates the title to a simple 'Moria.'

Following a distant rumble of thunder and a flourish of keyboards, a gentle synthesizer opening starts us on our aural visit to Moria ("Black Chasm"), which in the world of Tolkein was an enormous underground complex in north-western Middle Earth, comprising a vast network of tunnels, chambers, mines and huge halls that ran under, and ultimately through, the Misty Mountains.

This first part to the song is calm and placid, albeit somewhat ominous as the feeling of being enclosed and proceeding carefully through unknown dark passages is well formed. The rest of the track continues in a similar fashion - you are effectively creeping through the underground chasms of Moria with a spooky aural accompaniment! The piece ends with a light shower of rain (not literally, of course) and an ominous rumble of percussion - the path into the Misty Mountains and out of the gloom has surely been reached...

A greatly atmospheric track, and one that reminds Nazgul that he really should get on and reviewed "Northern Lights" sooner rather than later.

ZEIT


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Zeit
Format: Cassette release from 2006, label uncredited but most likely self-released by Hugin through W.A.R. Productions (Austria). Includes the tracks on the CDr release "Schwarzes Jerusalem" but adds tape-only bonus elements! One-sided paper-sleeve cover, C90 tape.
Edition: Limited to only 20 hand-numbered pieces

Track Listing:

Side A
01. Schall & Rauch
02. Die 4 Dimension
03. Raserei (Klangniederschrift Eines Krieges In 2 Akten)
04. Endzeitensturm
05. Flucht Nach Vor!
06. Erneuerung - tape only bonus track
07. Akustische Impressionen Der Letzten Groszen Schlacht

Side B

01. Heimatleid (Neuer Titel 2005)

Animal lovers look away now - the cover of "Zeit" is certainly dramatic, if not entirely dove-friendly!

This tape release collated the excellent tracks of the "Schwarzes Jerusalem" CDr released through Smell The Stench in 2006 (see Nazgul's previous Blog on this release from 7 April 2009) and adds to them a couple of cassette-only bonuses, in true old school tradition!

Firstly, you have track 6 on Side A, 'Erueuerung', which is a percussion based instrumental number in keeping with the industrial-dance ethos of the other songs on the first side. A quality additional track, although not up on the same level as Nazgul's 3 favourites from this album - and you'll have to re-read the earlier Blog to remind yourself of those, as there's far too much to do without re-typing all that lot again!

Side B gives us 'Heimatleid' as a second bonus track, which you may recall was the starter track on the "Endzeit" release, reviewed on 19 June 2009. It's still a menacing and more industrial track than the other songs on this release, but a good opportunity to hear it had you missed out on the limited run of 69 copies of the "Endzeit" CDr from Hexenreich Records. It's much edited down here from the 13.00 minute epic on the CDr version, and actually is a tad more listenable as a result.

Speaking of editions, this particular tape only came in a number of 20 and for ages poor old Nagzul searched without success to find one. Then he happened to mention to Alex that he was looking for a copy, and lo and behold Alex had a spare copy to sell (which turned out to be #20/20). It just goes to show - why complicate matters: just ask!

The aforementioned Hexenreich label (hails, Andres!) are well worth a visit by the way, as their online shop was recently offering some real Bonemachine bargains in amongst a host of sale items of their stock. Indeed, Nazgul managed to purchase a number of releases as spare copies for only 1€ apiece, including the mighty fine 'Bombardements' 3" CDr and other collectible goodies. Pay them a visit at http://hexenreich.estmetal.ee/ and tell them that the HonourAndDarkness Blog sent you!

So there you have it - another scarce and collectible Bonemachine release with some ludicrously catchy music and well worth tracking down. Except that you almost certainly won't find the tape release anywhere now, as Nazgul discovered personally. However, don't despair - the CDr version is still widely available via Smell The Stench and Hexenreich, and for the small amount of money required to own it must count as one of the best Bonemachine investments you could find!

SAGEN & GEDICHTE




Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Sagen & Gedichte ("Sagas & Poems")
Format: CDr only demo released through W.A.R Studios (Austria) in 1999, catalogue reference W.A.R 009. Hand-prepared inlay with photo of artist and thank-you list opposite cover image, and track details within (photo 3 above).
Edition: Limited to only 9 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Korperteile 7.53
02. Ode An Den Tod 2.11
03. Sagen & Gedichte 5.04
04. Vom Schwerte Tyrfing 3.30
05. Freude Am Leid 7.16
06. Rabenschwarze Nacht 6.21
07. Hey Wickie (cover version) 2.53
08. Krieg 7.33
09. Mit Dem Schwerte 4.34
10. Totale Vernichtung 5.29

Living in leafy-green Surrey (to the west of London, for the benefit of international readers)Nazgul often sees some prize machinery on his way to work in the mornings - the frequent sight of Ferrari and Porsche on the road, the occasional Lamborghini or Maserati, and just occasionally something pretty rare (or pretty and rare) like the Alfa 8C or even - on one notable occasion - a Bugatti Veyron. So what, you might reasonably cry? Well, it's Nazgul's way of leading us into this particular Hrossharsgrani release, itself a rare beastie and massively limited to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 9 copies in total, and pretty much impossible to find anywhere now.

Interestingly it's an early release (issued in 1999, so right at the start of the project) that Alex himself professes not to like much anymore. I guess that's the way of demos, they're a good way to get some early tracks down to coalesce those artistic thoughts and half-songs that wash over the musically adept but in retrospect they may not be of the quality or professionalism that the artist themselves enjoy.

From the perspective of a fan, however, they allow a real insight into how the band was forming and how the music evolves over time. It's a fair summary to report that this release falls squarely into the early era of Hross' and as such it's full of pounding percussion, black-metal influenced vocals yet underpinned with the omnipotent synthesizer that this project is known for. That said, there are plenty of other interesting qualities to the songs on this demo as they also contain a healthy dose of guitar - both electric (often producing a warbling counter-melody effect to augment a track) or in more gentle acoustic terms.

Indeed, it would be a more balanced summary to observe that there are enough 'soft' moments on this CDr in terms of acoustic passages, gentle keyboard passages, samples of nature and chanted vocal effects to make it quite a mixed listen - certainly not all blast-beats and one-dimensional pseudo black metal. Nazgul was also pleasantly surprised to hear that sampled fanfare once again - the one that precedes 'Gondolin Falls' on the Uruk Hai 'Honour' demo from 2004 - only this time it appears in fuller format and is attributed on the inlay to cinematic soundsmith Jerry Goldsmith.

Nazgul is rather partial to early Hrossharsgrani material, and as such can sit and listen to this demo quite happily in the knowledge that he is quite probably the only person in the world at any given time who (i) has access to one of the vanishingly small numbers of this CDr, and (ii) is prone to listening to it!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

ELISABETHA > original Demeter artwork


Band: ELISABETHA
Item: Artist proof of the 'Demeter' album cover

Another delve into the artwork file this evening brings up this A4 sized piece of artwork that was one of the design original pieces for the Elisabetha 'Demeter' album cover, as demonstrated above by the simple expedient of putting said cassette cover next to the art in question!

Like all things, the full size work allows a greater appreciation of the design and execution and whilst the final tape cover is striking enough, the A4 version shows the - ahem - slightly perverted cover off to full effect!

One for the virtual archive of all things Hugin, and once again Nazgul is delighted to be entrusted with the item and indeed in having the opportunity to share it with you all.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

BATTLE YELLS


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Battle Yells 1999-2003
Format: Cassette tape only release on Werwolf Productions (Italy) in 2003, catalogue reference WP0010. Hand-numbered edition, compiling tracks from earlier releases on a multitude of labels.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of only 66 copies

Track Listing:

01. In Durin's Halls (taken from "In Durin's Halls)
02. The Unknown (taken from "Elbenwald")
03. Kor (taken from "Darkness")
04. Shadow Of The Orcs (taken from "Orcish Battle Hymns")
05. Der Elfen Tod (taken from "Elbentanz")
06. Elysium (taken from "Thousand Lightning Strike")
07. Dark Riders (taken from "Only The Strong...")
08. Elfenpath (taken from "A Night In The Forest")
09. Awaken The Dragon (taken from "Dragons Of War")

Sometimes referred to as a 'best of' collection, sometimes as simply a collection of early work from a variety of demos and other recording sessions, "Battle Yells" is one of those unmissable items in any serious collection of Uruk Hai.

For a start, you get that over the top Manowar-esque artwork, all barbarian wrath and nubile maidens in shiny pointed bikinis! It's also in the classic Werwolf format of a limited tape-only release (my copy is #38 of the paltry run of only 66 made). Also of interest is the track listing, which contains reference to demos to my knowledge never officially release, and therefore tracks quite probably unique to this release despite it being a supposed 'best of' compilation. Of course, as the history of Hugin's releases unfolds on these pages there may be more to some of this than meets the eye, and Nazgul will do his best to keep you up to date with developments!

So, from the top: 'In Durin's Hall's' is the synth-driven piece that we know and love, and that has recently made a reappearance on the tape pressing of "Lost Songs From Middle Earth" as recently noted in this Blog, and has also been released in a number of tape pressings over the years. I like that demo a lot, and no collection of early work would be complete without something from that period on it. Listening to it in isolation from the rest of that demo it holds that naive magic that early Uruk Hai songs had - simple rhythm, a few sampled effects to lend atmosphere, 'big' pounding drums and flutes to give a medieval tinge, and simple yet effective keyboard play. Great stuff.

'The Unknown' on the other hand is an airy keyboard passage that wafts gently on the outset into a world of enchantment, fantasy and mystery. It's never going to be confused with a virtuoso keyboard performance, but serves its purpose well and is one of the highlights of the 'Elbenwald' demo.

The Darkness tape demo lends us "Kor" for this compilation, which is again an excellent example of early Uruk Hai - quite delightful and expansive keyboards with an overlay of harsh vocals. Starting off very gently with a piano based introduction, we're soon off into what could almost pass for an Orcish ballad. Kor, incidentally, may well be named for the Tolkein poem of the same name....

'Shadow Of The Orcs' is up next, and this again was one of Nazgul's favourite moments from the "Orcish Battle Hymns" demo, previously covered in this Blog. From the chimed bell start through to the rhythmic drumming and frenzied finale, it's a gripping track and worthy of a place here. The end part in particular would lend itself well to a live environment, guaranteed to get you bouncing around.

A more gentle song to follow - 'Der Elfen Tod' is a very pleasant listen and contains a mature melody and is not over-burdened with effects. A simple song played simply - sometimes less is indeed more.

The next couple of tracks are interesting, in as far as they are titled as appearing from two demos that Nazgul has not come across and which, most likely, are either locked away in the vaults of W.A.R. Studios, or which were reworked and released within other releases and not formally issued in their own name. The 'Elysium' track, certainly the sampled element, does make an appearance in the "Lost Songs of Middle Earth" release in reworked format but in this version was a new track to Nazgul. Similarly, I'd not come across 'Dark Riders' before this release so that was a pleasant bonus too! The main riff of 'Elysium' is simply brilliant, I have to say, and is one of those pieces of music that leaves you convinced you must have heard it somewhere before, so catchy is its refrain.

The more professionally produced 'Elfenpath' from "A Night In The Forest" follows in edited format from the original third track on that mighty opus. Still sounding as fresh as ever, it's a very different Uruk Hai sound from the raw, early vocals or simple syntheziser demos, and as an example of how the band grew in this time period is a great reference point. This track was clearly already recorded by 2003, as the full "Night In The Forest" recording wasn't released until 2004, as is as effortlessly relaxing and engaging as ever.

And so to the end - the "Awaken The Dragon" song. Now this is recorded as being from "Dragons Of War", although not in a version to be found on the 2005 release of the same name on Dragon's Breath. It's a more sombre track to finish the compilation with, dark and moody, and in that sense probably what you might expect for a foolhardy individual awakening Smaug from his slumbers...

The one perplexing thing is the extreme limited pressing of this tape. As a collection of the band's 'good stuff', and given that many fans may not have managed to find all of the separate releases these songs were drawn from (and a fat chance you have of doing that six years later in 2009!), you might have imagined there would have been a pretty strong market for this release back in 2003? Certainly 66 copies would hardly have covered the immediate hardcore fan base, let alone given new fans the chance to experience some of the highlights of the band. Ah well, Nazgul isn't here to reason with the Italian economy, that way lies madness!

Should you ever come across one of these then buy it immediately (indeed, Nazgul did manage to find and buy a spare copy - #34 - only last month from Holland, so a few are out there) and you'll not regret the investment.

THE FEAR







Band: WACH
Title: The Fear
Format: Matt black digipak CD containing 2 discs: the 5" DVD of "The Fear" movie, plus a 3" CDr of "soundtrack" music. There are 4 formats to this release, each in a hand-numbered 'series' and with a different colour seal, and each having the same standard 3 tracks but a different bonus track each.
Edition: Blue seal (series 1) limited to 20 pieces, Silver seal (series 2) limited to 21 pieces, Orange seal (series 3) limited to 22 pieces, and Green seal (series 4) limited to 23 pieces.

Track Listing:
Standard to all series variants:

DVD movie "The Fear" 9.20

CD
01. Intro 0.12
02. The Fear 8.54
03. Chains 1.06

Bonus songs for series variants:

Blue seal: 04. Return Into A Dream 5.50
Silver seal: 04. Phantasm Behind A Mirror 5.10
Orange seal: 04. Rainmaker 5.38
Green seal: 04. Dissilusion Of Mankind 6.31

The world in which WACH exists is a shadowy, ill-formed environment of half-seen shapes, edge-of-the-eye visuals and disturbing sounds. This release - well titled "The Fear" - makes capital on all of those elements within the sumptuous packaging that one has come to expect of this project, all under the watchful eye (or should that be WACHful eye?) of Reverend Kim and Herr Insomnia.

Distributed by the good folks of The Eastern Front (Igor & Tanya), this takes the packaging for an essentially short EP to new heights: four series variants, each with a wax seal embossed with the WACH logo (see second photo for the best of the lot, the Silver one!), and each bearing a different bonus track as well as the standard 3 songs plus 9 minute plus DVD movie.

Of course, the limitation on these items was pretty severe: Nazgul's particular editions are #4/20 for series 1, #2/21 for series 2, #22/22 for series 3 and #22/23 for series 4. Particular hails of gratitude have to go to Reverend Kim who saved the day when it appeared that no copies of the Silver seal second series were to be found anywhere, and whose kindness and labours unearthed the one you see in the set above complete with that masterful seal! Many thanks once again....

Musically there are in essence two short instrumentals on each release (tracks one and three) which set an atmospheric bookend to the main track 'The Fear', and lead the way into the various bonus tracks on offer. A review of these three tracks at Heathen Harvest came to the conclusion:

"...the cunningly titled, thirteen second 'Intro' and the looping Aphex Twin-isms of third track 'Chains' amount to the sum total of just over a minute of atmospheric noises that set the scene but little else. 'The Fear' itself is a nine-minute exploration of various stereo panning synth pads which supports some eerie WW2 radio/Morse Code interference and which then gives way to Jean Michel-Jarre style sweeping electronics"

Nazgul wouldn't disagree with any of that, but the nightmare-ish quality of 'The Fear' (and indeed the movie, which swirls and reels in alarming black and white imagery leaving the viewer quite uncertain what he has just witnessed) is rather lacking from this review.

Each bonus track has its own peculiarities whilst in keeping with the music patterns being laid down on the preceding tracks, so there is a coherence to the album no matter which version you find. If pushed, Nazgul would profess 'Phantasm Behind A Mirror' to be his particular favourite of all the bonus songs, but this opinion is apt to change at any given time as fresh nuances come through the songs the more they are listened to. It's not the kind of catchy music that you'll pick up and remember in a handful of listens, which adds much to the longevity of the albums.

All in all another most successful WACH limited edition release, fitting nicely in to the niche that the project has carved for itself both in terms of the exemplary artistic standards for packaging and finish, and for unleashing superbly eerie music of the night onto an unsuspecting world...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

NOSFERAT


BAND: ELISABETHA
TITLE:
Nosferat (Das Blutige Vermachtnis Einer Dynastie)
FORMAT: Official release is a casstte-tape only pressing on the Smell The Stench label (Australia) from 2003. There is also a promotional-only 2CDr version produced by Alex, with the same track listing but alternate cover (see photo). both versions contain rehearsal tracks recorded between 2000 and 2003.
EDITION: Neither tape nor CDr pressing numbered, tape believed unlimited but CDr pressing limited

TRACK LISTING:

CDr1 / Side A

01. Des Abends Rotes Seelenblut 1.20
02. Wurdulak 3.44
03. Das Blut Meiner Ahnen 1.34
04. Todessehnsucht 6.45
05. Nachtherrscahft 1.33
06. Der Vampyr 8.30
07. Fleisch 1.22
08. Leb' Wohl Lieb Land 17.29
09. Akasha 1.59

CDr2 / Side B
01. Im Schatten Jener Nacht, In Der Ich Starb 11.54
02. Verwoben Im Netze Ewiglicher Finsternis 11.18
03. Kabinett Der Angste 14.08
04. Bathori (Sturm Einer Winternacht) 8.28

Named after Nosferatu himself, this is self-proclaimed "Vampyric Avantgarde" from the original (unholy) triumvirate of Elisabetha members, recorded between 2000 and 2003 and forming nigh on 90 minutes of music across the whole album.

Some research on the internet suggests that the tape pressing of this release should come, in fact, in a red paper cover rather than the white one shown here. I suspect a bit of local distro-photocopying and tape dubbing has occurred over the years, but happily Nazgul has found a more reputable looking source online with an advertised red version, which I shall be popping off to purchase after authoring this update! [Edit 05/08/09: Alex has just emailed to say that the red cover version is his own, issued when tapes of this release are bought directly from him, as the red colour is more in keeping with Elisabetha] The 2CDr version is the more collectable pressing, as this came directly from Alex and has not been released in this format as far as Nazgul is aware.

So what does one get for one's money with this effort? Well, first and foremost you have a range of 'classic' era Elisabetha songs - all from the early 2000's when the band was just past its spoken word radio play debut and emerging into more black metal / outre-metal leanings. As one might expect from a demo of rehearsal recordings there are a few short tracks that sound like a good idea that could be used for the basis of a longer song once developed, and then a few full-formed epics that are the (raw, red) meat and potatoes of this release.

There are some general themes behind all of the music on this release, and like any good suspenseful horror film the songs keep you on the edge of your seat and uncomfortable throughout. Effective use of discordant harmonies and strange melodies maintain an 'edgy' and not-quite-right atmosphere that entertains and chills at the same time. In some ways, this is a musical version of the atmosphere depicted by American writer H.P. Lovecraft in his novels, describing the unsettling architecture of the cursed towns of Innsmouth and Dunwich.

Once again some key elements are found on this release as in previous Elisabetha material, from the Gregorian chants to the werewolf snarl, from the wispy female vocals to the oddly compelling rhythms of the damned, from the wretched screams of troubled souls to the eerie passages of keyboards and percussion, Nazgul likes this album!

Must like the ghost-wreathed town of Innsmouth there is much to be explored on this release, and much to be feared too. It's not an album for the foolhardy or the weak of heart, and Nazgul has a salutary anecdote to relay on that score: in getting his car serviced recently Nazgul had inadvertently left the CDr playing in the stereo when he turned the engine off. Along comes an unwary mechanic to transfer the car from parking space to ramps, and about five seconds into his journey (just as the break from the end of one track to the beginning of the next ended) the car violently swerved off to one side as the tortured sounds Elisabetha broke forth, echoing from the open window around the garage bay and leaving some appalled looking faces amongst the mechanics generally. Nazgul likes this album a lot!!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

MINIMAL BABY [V/A]


BAND: CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE
TITLE: Minimal Baby
FORMAT: CDr in 2 editions released by Skull Zine (Germany), catalogue reference SLCD001-08. The regular edition came with one disc in standard jewel-case. The limited edition came in a two disc format (second disc in plastic wallet) and came wrapped in a baby's nappy (thankfully unused) and with a feeding spoon...!
EDITION: Regular edition in a numbered run of 400 pieces (101-500), limited edition of 100 pieces (1-100) also hand-numbered.

TRACK LISTING:

Of the 30 tracks spread across both discs, the relevant entry is:
Bonus CD2
03: Ich Tauche Tiefer

As an ardent collector it's very, very seldom that I don't mind not having the full set of items associated with a limited edition or special pressing. In this case, however, Nazgul is fairly happy to make an exception to the rule. The special limited edition comes "wrapped in a baby's nappy, with a baby spoon" ?! So granted the release is called "Minimal Baby", but bloody hell! Whatever next....Nazgul shudders to think!? The second photo above is an internet grab of the offending article in full glory - my actual copy lies above.

This particular collection came to Nazgul directly from Alex, who presumably had received a few from the label. Skull Zine run a mail order business and zine (www.skulline.de) and this particular compilation is still available from them if modern electro-experimental is your bag. The webpage as far as I can see shows that the zine specialises in neofolk, industrial, dark ambient and 80's electronica so plenty on offer there, and indeed in this release. If bands rejoicing under the names Zhark, Datafreq, Legopop, Sickdoll, Echo West and Klement mean anything to you then Nazguil assumes you either own this compilation already, or are into the genre.

Anyway, we digress. As stated, this 2CDr came direct from Alex himself and judging by the numbering I suspect it was a label promo for the contributing artist (COI): disc one is numbered 224/500, whilst bonus disc two is referenced 'C.O.L. of 100 pieces.' Ah yes, the typo - the bonus disc bears the name C.O.L for Ceremony Of Innocence, somewhat frustrating for the artist I would imagine, particularly when trying to establish a new project....!

The track in question we already know courtesy of Nazgul's earlier post from 21st May, when the merits of this particular free internet download single (and those leather shorts!) were debated. It's still as good as ever, all wobbly electronica and toe-tapping rhythm, and Nazgul for one is very much looking forward to the next official COI release to make its way out of W.A.R. Studios as part two of the quadrilogy in progress.

One oddity on this compilation is the fact that bonus disc 2 (only available with the first 100 of this pressing, remember) advertises a 'bonus' track of its own at track 11, suggesting that there ought to be a bonus disc 2 with only 10 tracks somewhere. Except that there isn't, by all accounts.

Nurse, the pills.....

AUDIBLE WAR #1




Band: BONEMACHINE split tape with Gruuthaagy
Title: Audible War #1
Format: Cassette tape-only release on Smell The Stench (Australia) in 2006, no reference number. Split tape with Croatian band Gruuthaagy, who support "the total death of art."
Edition: Unknown - believed to be unlimited

Track Listing:

Side 1: Gruuthaagy

01. Crne Zastave
02. Robija

Side 2: Bonemachine

03. Heimatleid
04. Babiy Jar

Both Bonemachine tracks spring from the 2006 CDr release "Endzeit", which Nazgul reviewed on the 19th June on these very pages. There the label (Hexenreich) had put out a 9 track CDr containing Bonemachine tracks that also appeared on a proliferation of other demos and releases that year. This is a good example, with Australian label STS getting in on the act with the added attraction of a couple of Gruuthaagy songs thrown in for good measure on a split tape basis.

As previously reported, the Bonemachine tracks are essentially in the vein of industrial noise/martial rhythm and pound along merrily to the synthesised sound of static, falling girders, militaristic drums and bizarre vocal effects. There's something oddly compelling about this form of music, as on the face of it the description served up by Nazgul just now doesn't in all honesty sound likely to send the masses rushing to the internet to try to buy this release. That notwithstanding, it's 'strange' enough to command your attention and keep you unsettled as you'll never quite know what's coming up next.

The middle photo above shows the kind dedication that Alex made on my copy of this tape, and perhaps sums up this particular outing in the few words "there is no peace" better than all of Nazgul's ramblings.

Flip the tape and you'll come across Gruuthaagy. Now, Nazgul will be perfectly honest with you here. Based on the name sounding like a rather crass grindcore band and the internet describing them as "industrial punk" I didn't listen to this side for absolutely ages after owning the tape. Then, by chance, I read Keegan Irvine's description of the two bands on his SFM site - notably referring to them as "Satanarnachistelectrodoom vs. Industrial Heathen Hell" - which prompted me to give the Gruuathaagy side a spin. And poke me with a rusty nail, it's rather good - nothing like anything I imagined, and rather a mature keyboard and drum-based couple of tracks that are, well, really rather good!

So here endeth today's lesson - never judge a project by it's name, judge it with your ears....

TAWANTINSUYU




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Tawantinsuyu
Format: Digipak CD on Morningside Records (Spain), catalogue reference TEMPLE 002, released 2006. Double cassette tape edition on AMF Productions (Bulgaria) / Oskorei Bild Und Tonkunst (Germany), cat ref AMF037 / OBTK013 including additional tracks, first 100 of which have a black and white Uruk Hai badge, also released in 2006.
Edition: Digipak CD limited to 1000 unnumbered pieces. The double tape version is limited to 200 copies only

Track Listing:

CD and Tape 1 feature:
01. Introduction
02. The Land Of The Four Suyus
03. The Ceque System
04. Viracocha (The True Sun)
05. Mountains Of Palpa
06. Catequil (God Of Thunder And Lightning)
07. Flight Of The Condor
08. Ka-Ata-Killa
09. Arrival Of The Gods
10. ...From The Stars
11. The Lake
12. Gold (The Sweet Of The Sun)

Tape 2 bonus tracks

13. The Dream Goes On
14. Signs Of The End
15. Indian Spirit
16. The Arrival Of The Conquerors
17. Occupation
18. Years Of Darkness
19. End Of It All

Nazgul's big word of the day: "Transcendental"

That's what this album is, and why it's well worth a place in anyone's collection when you're in need of a mood-changing piece of ambient music.

Alex has shared with me that his wife, Elisabeth, spent some time with the shamans in Peru - presumably based near Machu Picchu looking at some of the photos in the inlays - and was much taken by the Inca culture and especially the legendary Nazca Lines. The latter, a series of geoglyphs located on plateaus in the Nazca Desert, are a series of literally hundreds of figures only really appreciated from the air (and created at a time many thousands of years before flight), possibly as a religious appeasement or tribute to their gods.

Being suitably inspired by this journey, and sharing an interest in the mystic origins of the Lines, this album followed and pays homage to both the music and atmosphere of this barren, lofty plain. Indeed, the word "Tawantinsuyu" is the Quechua name for the Incan Empire, and literally translates as 'The Four Regions'.

Without turning this into a proto-archaeology dissertation, there are different schools of thought about how the Nazca lines were formed, from the basic rope and stick design methodology through to more esoteric solutions such as the 'Ancient Astronaut' hypothesis of Erich Von Daniken and others. All that is certain, however, is that the Lines are incredibly impressive and make a real cultural statement at a time when most of the rest of humanity were rooting around in the mud looking for a tasty mealworm or two for dinner.

Also incredibly impressive is this album - it is referred in the inlay as a "monumental ethnic-ambient" album, which sums it up pretty well. All tracks are mixed into one single long song on the CD and Tape 1, although there are clear definitions and breaks between the sections and you have a clear idea of where you are in the 'chapters' (rather than song numbers). It's pretty much impossible to describe really, and would not in many people's minds sound at all like you might imagine. Nazgul's advice is to go and buy a copy and let it wash over you - it is at the same time the most chilled-out yet uplifting piece of music that Uruk Hai have ever produced, in my humble opinion.

Speaking of buying one, it's notable that if you were to put this album into Google you'll find literally dozens of the CD version for sale, either on eBay or distros worldwide. Given only 1000 were made Nazgul sometimes wonder if he was the only person to have actually bought a copy, so rife are the remaining ones for sale. Put this situation right immediately by purchasing yours now!

What is a fascinating - and largely unknown fact - however, is that the album was originally conceived as a double-CD release but because of funding difficulties at the Spanish label Morningside Records only the single disc was released (albeit in rather nice digipak packaging, with Elisabeth's photographs from her trip used in the inlay booklet). The tape release, on the other hand, is a double-tape because it includes the full Tawantinsuyu recordings and thus you get the same tracks on Tape 1 as the CD and then 7 further bonus tracks exclusive to Tape 2. If ever there was a reason needing to be stated to keep the tape format alive than this may be it, so if you've not experienced the full wonder of this release try to seek out the tape version - again copies are advertised online - and buy that too!

The first 100 of the tape pressing came with a nice black and white Uruk Hai badge, and as Nazgul is clearly getting senile in his old age he's just noticed that the photo above omits the badge despite it being in my collection (I have 2 sets of the tape releases, #20 and #30), so I'll cover that and some other memorabilia some other time.

The bottom line is that whilst on the surface appearing to be a rather intimidating piece of music (one single track of nearly 80 minutes length on CD format is not the easiest thing to listen to in one sitting, and a lack of track segmentation means you either have to pause it or stop...and start again) the results of the listening experience outweigh any residual concerns that you'll have.

Outstanding!