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.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

THE IRON STALLION


Band: B-MACHINA
Title:
The Iron Stallion
Format: 3" card-shaped mini-CD released by W.A.R. Productions (Austria) in 2008, in a rust-coloured envelope sealed with a sticker on the reverse, with band sticker on the front top right. Envelope contains two band stickers, 2 magnetic cards of the album artwork, 8 postcards (reverse showing edition detail) and card CD in plastic wallet.
Edition: Unnumbered edition of 25 copies only

Track Listing:

01. The Iron Stallion 4.16

Much like the "Other Visions" mini-CD that preceded it, this is a very limited edition release from B-Machina that further develops their 'Flamenco Folk Industrial' approach to music through the ambient rhythms of Alex and the staccato flamenco strumming of Max.

The release had favourable press at the Kulturterrorismus website, where it was written:

"Messrs. Alexander & Max of B-Machina (ex Bonemachine) belong to a group of artists who bestow their supporters pretty regularly with new releases, but never turn in circles [instead producing] convincing, new and interesting topics as varied musical art. This mini CD-R in a square Carddisc format, which is entitled "The Iron Stallion", [is in] a Private Edition of 25 specimens in a rusty brown envelope + cards, magnetic cards and stickers.

They dedicate themselves to the "stallion" in times when wars [were] decided on the "warhorse" though more [commonly] experienced today in the form of iron monuments with its rider left to receive his due honor. To which great military horse is referred to specifically the protagonists have left open, probably to include all the great "steeds" that appear in historical memory, as a tribute.

The musical work of this release is performed in a 4 minute sound collage, composed of the styles of folk, ambient, and a little noise. To accentuate this attractive piece the players match samples showing how the turmoil of a horse and the "crack" a whip is used. In particular, this short work of the duo captivates with its Spanish-style guitar lines."

And it's true to say that the distinctive guitar style that Max brings to this peace does weave its own acoustic tapestries over a grim background environment.

The limitation on this release really meant it was only ever going to fall into the hands of followers and fans of the band rather than the casual customer wooed by the packaging and lure of something a little different, and as a further taster of how a full-length 'new style' B-Machina release might sound I hardly think any one of the 25 owners will be unhappy with their purchase.

FIMBULWINTER - update

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Fimbulwinter
Reason for update: Alternative artwork

As the old saying goes, "time flies like an arrow ... fruit flies like a banana." Can you believe it's been six months to the very day since Nazgul posted the Fimbulwinter entry into HonourAndDarkness? The intent back in May was to share with the wider world the rather excellent mini-CD that Alex had made for Nazgul based on the edited version of 'Fimbulwinter', which had originally been destined to be pressed as a 7" single on CCP Records.

The artwork for the 7" had been prepared, and in a recent trawl through the ancient tomes in the library of Castle Nazgul a small flyer with said artwork came to light, so it seemed a timely moment to celebrate the 6-month anniversary of the first post by updating the Blog both with that original design - which is striking similar in theme to the "...Of Battles, Ravens and Fire" picture disc lp that was made back in 2000 - and a better photo of the cover of Alex's unique CDr version of the song.

The Hross' logo on the black and white 7" cover is quite unusual, in as far as it adopts an almost computer-like lettering theme unlike any of the band logos before or since. The river of blood amidst frosty trees is a real classic amongst covers though and - whisper this quietly though - would make a really good t-shirt.... now where has that phrase been used before?! Seriously though, it's a superb contrast of colour and context (warm blood spilling in the coldness of nature) and to use such an image for a one-off cover Nazgul is most honoured.

ATLANTIDA Volume 19 [V/A]

Band: Both HROSSHARSGRANI and ELISABETHA
Title: Atlantida Volume 19
Format: CDr on the Atlantida label (Lithuania), date of release unknown, no catalogue number. Compilation of 19 bands, featuring black metal, neo-folk and a variety of other genres.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
19 different bands features on the CD, the relevant tracks being:

01. Hrossharsgrani * Nacht Der Helden 4.21 (in a different version to that on "Schattenkrieger")
02. Elisabetha * Wurdulak 3.41

Another month, another Atlantida compilation CD to review! This one is Volume 19 in the lengthy series put out by Lithuanian label Atlantida (featuring he who must not be named, formerly of Ravenclaw - not to be confused with the other 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named' - Lord Voldemort - who was, of course, in Slytherin house not Ravenclaw...)

Anyway, Nazgul digresses. What we have on this particular outing are two tracks from Hugin's bands Hrossharsgrani and Elisabetha, and both seemingly unique to this release.

The Hrossharsgrani track is an edited version of the song that ends the "Schattenkrieger" album (there called '...Krieg Entbrannte (Nacht Der Helden)' and running for an additional 25 seconds or so) and loses the battle scene from near to the end of the song whilst changing the intro to a spoken word piece over the same violin riff, though now accompanied by a bell-like tolling rather than the symphonic guitar/strings music on the full album. It certainly changes the song, and to be honest makes it more of a Hrossharsgrani track than the more polished version that appears on "Schattenkrieger". Worth a listen.

The Elisabetha track "Wurdulak" (which I gather is an expression meaning astonishment or interest) starts out with a deep spoken segment before getting to the heart of the matter with a pseudo-harpsicord playing in what sounds like an echoing old castle (hmmm, the dungeons of Castle Nazul perhaps?), spinning a tale of spiralling melody against a backdrop of unsettling sound effects. The perfect soundtrack for an assault on the coffin of Count Dracula himself!

The CD notes that this Elisabetha track is from the "Nachtmahrfahrten" CD, which is not an album Nazgul is aware of being formally issued, although somewhere in the vast paper files of Elisabetha flyers and artwork I do seem to recall mention of this title...one for further investigation, perhaps?

One of the better Atlantida efforts in Nazgul's humble opinion, and two more songs from Alex's extensive repertoire that may have escaped wider notice.

Friday, 20 November 2009

BLUTREICH




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Blutreich
Format: Burgundy red CDr pressing on the Ancient Pride Productions label from 2005, with colour covers throughout and a picture-disc CD also. Edition number printed on the spine.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 333 copies

Track Listing:

01. Asenheil 4.06 (from "Across The Misty Mountains...Far Far Away")
02. Northhammer 10.46 (from "Northern Lights")
03. The Plague 7.11 (from "Elbenmacht")
04. Stahlzeit 19.21 (from "~2~" split with Vinterriket)
05. Iceland 6.33 (from "Northern Lights")
06. Lebenin 9.26 (from "Elbenmacht")
07. On An Evening Of Autumn 20.04

"In honour of absent friends...."

You know, Nazgul finds this collecting lark is sometimes quite a perplexing thing! Take this particular Uruk Hai CD which, to all intents and purposes, appears to be a fairly conventional compilation of tracks primarily from the "Elbenmacht", "Across The Misty Mountains...Far, Far Away", "Northern Lights" and "~2~" split releases of 2006 and 2005, with a bonus track thrown in.

But the more you look into it, the more peculiar things become. For example, as you may have gleaned from these virtual pages Nazgul has long been a fan of Alex and his works, yet until last month I'd never even heard of this release before. It's mentioned absolutely nowhere online that I can see in any discographies or even label pages, and it was only by complete chance Nazgul stumbled on its existence at all: in checking the dates of certain releases against the official Uruk Hai MySpace page I noticed that nestled in the midst of the 2005 releases was something called "Blutreich". Asking the obvious question of Alex, it transpired that this was indeed a formal release and one that had apparently escaped the notice of the world at large!

Now this I could understand if the CD had come out in some minuscule pressing, as some of Alex's releases tend to do. But no - this was pressed in a volume of 333 units (this one is #2/300), and so there are presumably either a large number of people sitting on collectors gold out there without knowing it, or Ancient Pride sold none and have a room somewhere with these CDs piled from floor to ceiling?! Very, very odd!

Alex very kindly offered me this CD for the vaults at Castle Nazgul and thus through this act of kinship the most improbably rare Uruk Hai for some time landed in Nazgul's hallowed halls shortly afterwards. Of course, Alex being Alex also mischievously added something else to the parcel that in Nazgul's humble opinion is an ever rarer Uruk Hai item, but more of that on another day!!

Some great artwork and design accompanies this collection, including a most familiar rear cover image (although don't ask me where I've seen it before) and the lyrics to the epic track 'Northhammer' appearing on the inlay. The cover illustration - a view down-river with distant hills and fields - is also rather fitting to the theme of the release, although it's a shame that the quality of the printed image is not as high as the rear cover. Still, beggars can't be choosers as they say!

The choice of tracks is interesting - Nazgul has yet to post anything on the split CD "~2~" with Vinterriket from where 'Stahlzeit' derives, so we'll keep the analysis of that epic until later. For the record, the track also appears on the 2006 tape release "A Vikings Journey", as does 'The Plague', which also needs a review on Honour And Darkness. So many releases, so little time!

'Asenheil' is all is didgeridoo glory is, of course, the same introduction as graces the CD version of "Across The Misty Mountains..." album and is still a rather wonderfully wind-swept piece of music. The two tracks from "Northern Lights" were two of the more vigorous pieces from that particular release, being more guitar-focused than much of the rest of contemporary Uruk Hai output, and as such add an interesting counterpoint to the rest of the album.

For humble fans, however, it's the last track that will hold most interest, for the 20 minute plus 'On An Evening Of Autumn' is unique to this release (Nazgul believes....but then another 'lost' release may yet prove him wrong!)....

One thing Nazgul would observe is that the CD is a bit of a swine at being recognised in either CD or PC to play - one wonders whether that might have contributed to the album not being widely distributed if other copies proved equally reluctant to play, or whether this particular disc is just rather inconsistent?

And, of course, having written all of this Blog entry whilst listening to the CD we reach the final track and - the blessed thing refuses to play! Cue much swearing, changes of CD player, but all to no avail. And so, dear readers, bear with Nazgul until normal service is resumed as soon as possible: a 'Blutreich' final track update post to follow...!

WAR AGAINST BANANA

Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: War Against Banana
Format: 3" CDr in mini-DVD case, released on the Tosom label (Germany) in 2007, catalogue reference TOSOM XS-002. The release has 3 inlay cards, one for each band and one showing edition number and label details. Split release with Norwegian band Maskinanlegg.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 150 copies

Track Listing:

01. Bonemachine - War 10:49
02. Maskinanlegg - Banana 10:02

The bizarre title aside, this is Bonemachine in pure industrial noise mode, accompanied by eclectic Norwegian pioneers Maskinanlegg with an *ahem* interesting track, more of which later!

Nazgul's edition (#21/150) was described by Tosom as follows:

"Austrian War Industrial meets great Norge Noise. Split release by Bonemachine from Austria and Maskinanlegg from Norway. Each project with one track. "War Against Banana" is a strange kind of electronic art from the vaults of Europe."

This release is perhaps one of the least immediately accessible in Nazgul's collection. The Bonemachine song does grow on you over time, as the mechanised rhythms in the middle section around 6 minutes in overtakes the more sporadic, effect-laden industrial soundscapes of the initial few minutes. There is a distinct groove and melody to be found, which makes it a far more pleasant listen to these ears that the Maskinanlegg outing, which Nazgul can only describe as the sound of a large military helicopter slowly but noisily landing amongst a herd of cattle, whilst lunatics look on. Totally whacked!


Online fanzine Club-Debil.com had this to say about the release (literally translated using Google translation services, hence the slightly stilted prose):

"Bonemachine describe themselves as Industrial War, quite a relaxed start then passing into a hypnotic drone ritual. That's exactly my thing! Over time, joined to another, slower rhythm, which sounds somewhat mechanical and oscillates between clear and faded picture. After about six and a half minutes faster, more hectic rhythm sets in, uses the much higher frequencies. After some time [he] begins to reduce the number of layers and again until the track ends up back there, where he has begun. The last few seconds of it jarring a little, in my view unnecessarily, for the wonderfully hypnotic mood somewhat suffers. However, there is no time to enjoy the trance state - Maskinanlegg come along with much harsher sounds...."

And Club-Debil weren't that complementary about Maskinanlegg either, in case you're wondering!

Despite the relatively small limitation a few of these still knock around online - indeed, checking around today there is one on eBay and another at the Tosom website itself (www.tosom.de) if you fancy taking the plunge. For fans of the industrial genre, well worth a go. For more 'traditional' Hugin fans accustomed to his Uruk Hai outings, perhaps a banana too far...?

ZEITZEICHEN


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Zeitzeichen
Format: Cassette-tape only release through W.A.R. Productions (Austria) in 2009, with black and white xeroxed inlay. Split release with Draumar
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 50 only

Track Listing:

Uruk Hai
1. Die Ruckkehr zu den grunen Feldern 14.10
2. Der Turm 11.02
Draumar
3. Tagesanbruch
4. Heereszug
5. Ruine
6. Blass

Seemingly with a nod of acknowledgement to the 'old school' days of hand-made tape releases and mighty synthesiser passages, "Zeitzeichen" was a blast from the past when released in September 2009 on the W.A.R. Productions label. True to the old days the inlay is a folded xeroxed sheet, hand-numbered in red on the reverse (Nazgul's copy is #3/50).

Musically this is a very strong release, with both tracks being laded with catchy hooks and synth riffs, mixing modern production standards with the very essence of the early days of the band through the harsh vocals on 'Die Ruckkehr zu den grunen Feldern' to the vast bell effect at the beginning of 'Der Turm' ('The Towers').

The opening track is a real masterpiece, and one that you could sit around and listen to all day - a blend of piping (almost triumphal) keyboards, strings, thunderous drums and those harsh semi-whispered vocals. Although over fourteen minutes long it simply flies by in an unfettered mixture of hypnotic melody and innovation. One of the best Uruk Hai songs, period.

Second track 'Der Turm' kicks off with the 'gong' of a mighty bell, followed by a sonorous deep and sombre oboe-esque refrain before a wave of melodious keys and synthesiser washes crash over the listener, with an underpinning theme of the vast bell/gong repeating throughout. Very atmospheric it is too, being both relaxing and strangely uplifting at one and the same time. At around the four minute mark spitefully buzzing guitars come into the mix as the tempo shifts to a more anxious and frenetic sounding pace, with ominous drums and other effects woven into the song, putting images into Nazgul's mind of terror-filled flight from towers of pure evil. There's so much to this song, from the complex percussion near the end to the composition of the musical elements - it's far more complicated than early Uruk Hai tracks, make no mistake, yet for all that it retains the atmosphere and imagery of the early releases.

A great Uruk Hai release - thoroughly modern yet oddly old-fashioned, and all the better for it.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

ANCIENT RUNIC SORCERY

Band: Forgotten Land, with introduction (track 1) by Hugin
Title: Ancient Runic Sorcery
Format: CD pressing on the Dungeons Deep Records label (USA), catalogue reference DDR001, in 2006, and re-released in 2007.
Edition: Original pressing only 50 copies. Reissued in limited edition of 111 copies

Track Listing:
01 Introduction ("By Hugin Of Uruk-Hai") 2:21
02 Around The Fire 6:29
03 Apocalyptic Ending 5:38
04 Nearing The Stronghold, Resting At Great Oak 4:59
05 Floating Through A Cosmic Wasteland, Void Of All Life 4:25


It was back on 24 September that Nazgul relayed the story of the "Nachtkrieg" CD split between Uruk Hai and Forgotten Land, and the issues that arose with actually trying to purchase one from Dungeons Deep Records. You may recall that there was a happy ending to the tale - courtesy of a trade effected with a Discogs member called GiganticBrain, who had access to some of the Dungeons Deep releases through a healthy relationship with Lord Tetrarch.

In the trade that led to "Nachtkrieg" arriving on these fair shores was a copy of the "Ancient Runic Sorcery" CD from the original pressing of 50 that were issued in the DVD case format. This particular copy - numbered #36/50 - is the only one I've ever actually seen anywhere, so again thanks to the 'Brain for making this particular item available to Nazgul's collection.

For you see, before the split album with Lord Tetrarch (which featured the epic Uruk Hai track 'Blood of Heroes') Hugin contributed a short keyboard introduction to this Forgotten Lands CD, and as far as I know it's a track only available on this particular album. Another nugget now collected and catalogued for posterity!

Perhaps the most fitting way of describing what is in essence a short opening piece is to quote our friend the 'Brain, from his own review of the album on the Metal Archives web-site:

"The introduction (although not done by Forgotten Land) is beautiful. It’s the best ambient track I've heard since Mortiis’s “Asthma” off his album The Grudge. The 'Introduction' was done by Uruk – Hai, another ambient black metal band. It gave a good insight of what to expect of this album: Ambiance, and amazing melodies."


It's comforting for Nazgul to know that he's not the only one out there eulogising over Alex's music...

Of course, there's a pretty high likelihood that you'll never be able to find this CD in either of its pressings, and thus the track in question may well pass you by for as long as it remains unique to this release. Which would be a shame - it is indeed a splendid track, simple yet effective - haunting keyboard chords hanging in the air like mist wraiths, and over far too soon. Perhaps a future Uruk Hai rarities collection should compile this into a more accessible medium....

PAGAN FOLK & APOCALYPTIC PSYCHEDELIA [V/A]


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI plus 17 other artists
Title: Pagan Folk & Apocalyptic Psychedelia
Format: Card sleeve promo CD from Steinklang Industries (Austria), released June 2009.
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:

01 TETHRIPPON - Andreios
02 VINTERRIKET - Bergtal
03 STURMPERCHT - Das letzte Zapfenmanderl
04 ÀRNICA - Tu miedo
05 FALKENSTEIN - Kraftort
06 ALLERSEELEN - Sturmlied
07 A CHALLENGE OF HONOUR - Angkor
08 SANGRE CAVALLUM - Chin glin din
09 WERKRAUM - La marmotte
10 DÉFILÉ DES ÂMES - Trivial
11 THE JOY OF NATURE - Tanchão
12 JAHRTAL - Kleines verlorenes Kind
13 NEBELKORONA - Baumgespenster
14 HROSSHARSGRANI - Countess Bathory 4.20
15 SVARROGH - Life water Krynitsa
16-ONCE A BARGE - Kristall
17 JÄNNERWEIN - Klage
18 KLAMMHEIM - Schwarzweisse Welt

Part of an ongoing series of advance CDs from Steinklang, this year focusing more on folk and neo-folk releases, this 2009 compilation features a hitherto unavailable cover song from Hrossharsgrani, so is well worth a listen for all Huginophiles out there!

Recently Nazgul posted a piece about a unqiue 4-band CDr that Alex had prepared for him, on which was an Elisabetha cover song of an old Venom track 'Countess Bathory.' In that version that song was vocal-less, but in this more recent version it has the lyrics (in a low, rumbling tone) that do add a certain menace to the song compared to the instrumental version. The catchy keyboard refrain is still there, and all told although it's less a typical Hrossharsgrani track than much of the recent work from the project it remains a cracking song.

This compilation is also interesting for featuring a neo-folk track with sung vocals (as opposed to screams) - 'Bergtal' - from Vinterriket (who have recorded with Uruk Hai, of course), which I am reliably informed is representative of their most recent album and a move away from the cold, black synthesised compositions of years gone by. Also of note is the track from Svarrogh (featuring former Ravenclaw member Dimo Dimov).

Not an expensive purchase, and plenty of varied music on this release to make picking one up a no-brainer!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

ELBENMACHT - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Elbenmacht
Format: Cassette-tape only release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France), released in 2009, catalogue reference WW82. 'Old-school' black and white copied inlay, with alternative artwork to the unique CDr version (see post of 25 April 2009).
Edition: Only 44 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Intro 00:42
02. Lebenin 09:26
03. Elbenmacht 00:45
04. The Plague 07:11
05. Uruk Hai (part III) 00:34
06. Long Before I Die 03:35
07. Growth Of A Black Flower 02:49
08. Pagan Spirit 01:37
09. Dragonfire (demo version) 10:06

There are exciting times ahead for fans of Hugin and his music!

In association with the French label Wulfrune Worxx Hugin has two re-issue programmes afoot at present, both unearthing lost treasures in various formats: never before issued releases (like this one), CD-only releases being put onto tape with bonus material and new artwork, all sorts of goodies! The re-issues are being produced in two distinct limited edition series - the "Remember CC" series, in honour of the early work with Chanteloup Creations and Skogen, and the "Honour And Darkness" ... cue large smiles in Castle Nazgul!

I've seen previews of all of the artwork for the tapes in both series, and let me tell you there are some extraordinarily good things coming for all of us fans, so don't miss out - follow the links in the main page of this Blog to the main Uruk Hai site!

This tape (#2 in the series) contains the same tracks as on my treasured CDr version of the release, and the review of that particular item can be found in the past posting for 25 April 2009. Nazgul's favourite has to be 'Lebenin', but there's plenty of great music on this release and now no excuse not to own it!

DRAGONS OF WAR



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Dragons Of War
Format: CD pressing on Dragon's Breath Records (USA) released in 2005 in clear DVD-size case with insert and picture disc. Tape pressing on AMF Productions (Bulgaria) followed, with 2 tape-only bonus tracks, a different running order and alternative artwork.
Edition: CD pressing of 1,000 unnumbered copies, tape pressing unknown

Track Listing:
CD version
01. Remember the Ancient 20:01
02. Minas Morgul 04:52
03. The Eternal Halls 29:06
04. Isengard 09:23
05. Dragonfire 10:06

Tape version
Side A
01. Remember The Ancient
02. Minas Morgul
03. Dragonfire
04. Lebenin (tape-only bonus track)
Side B
05. Isengard
06. The Eternal Halls
07. Hill Of Tears (tape-only bonus track)

"Thus began the fourth of the great battle, Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame. In front of that fire came Glauring the Golden, father of dragons, in his full might; and in his train were Balrogs, and behind them came the black armies of the Orcs in multitudes such as the Noldor had never before seen or imagined. And then assaulted the fortress of Noldor, and broke the leagues about Angband, and slew wherever they found them the Noldor and their allies, Grey-Elves and Men..."

There is something of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde about this release, not because of the differences between CD and tape versions but because of the two styles of music on offer within the overall package. On one hand, you have some of the best ambient/atmospheric Uruk Hai music ever composed, including the lengthy and multi-part 'The Eternal Halls' (which truly do give the impression of having been recorded in a cavernous location) and the brooding 'Remember The Ancient'. At the same time, you have some tracks featuring Krom of Arkillery - 'Minas Morgul' and 'Isengard' taken from the 2004 split release between the two bands, and which are heavily augmented with guitar and Krom's unique vocals.

Now, you'll not find Nazgul complaining about either of these styles as they are both excellent in composition and content. No, the (minor) problem is that they don't sit that well next to each other at times, as the peaceful mood generated by the longer ambient tracks are rather broken by the guitar-rhythms of the split recordings. Of course, you could programme your CD player to play them in different chunks, or perhaps Nazgul is getting old and doesn't like being shaken from his reveries when listening to the quiet bits!?

It's certainly no reason not to rate this album as a fine one, though, and of course if you were unable to get the Arkillery/Uruk Hai split CDr in the first place then it is a nice bonus to have two of those songs available more widely, and you can't fault Hugin for making that possible. Indeed, talking of bonus songs and wider availability it's worth noting that 'Dragonfire' and 'Lebenin' (tape-only bonus) appear here, and had previously only appeared on the legendary 'Elbenmacht' demo (which, until very recently, was limited to only one unique CDr copy in Nazgul's collection - more of this in another post later!) The second tape-only bonus track 'Hills Of Tears' is very reminiscent of the finer elements of "A Night In The Forest" or "Songs From The Woods", with the sounds of nature and music being beautifully interwoven.

There is some very good artwork on both of these releases too, the CD version in colour throughout and the tape version in black and white. Incidentally, the inside of the tape inlay answers the trivia question from Nazgul's recent Blog on the compilation CD "All That Was Once Lost...", for the wording on the inside reads "What Was Once Lost...We Remember It!"

A fine release - none the worse for having two sides to display, just choose which you're in the mood for or submit yourself to the entire performance with gusto - and nicely summed up by AMF Productions on one of their promo inserts: "cold, majestic and ritual battle-ambient."

Saturday, 14 November 2009

HROSSHARSGRANI > Blut t-shirt - signed in blood!



Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Item: Unique t-shirt bearing the "Blut" CDr album cover art. Rear of shirt has been numbered #1 in Hugin's own blood...!
Edition: 5 copies, only the first numbered in blood [see edit, below]

It was only recently that Nazgul was musing in this Blog about the Blut cover art being more than suitable for a striking t-shirt. Clearly this view was shared in Austria too, as shortly afterwards Alex took the trouble not only to have this one-off shirt printed up for Nazgul, but also hand-number the piece on the back of the collar in his own blood ('Blut' translating to blood, as you've doubtless already worked out!)

Just as well therefore this shirt isn't destined for mass-production, otherwise we'd all be guilty of turning Alex into a suspiciously anaemic-looking bloodless husk!

But what a gesture though - Nazgul has vague recollections that Manowar once famously signed their recording contracts in their own blood, but apart from that I can't say that losing the precious red fluid for one's art is a common activity nowadays. So kudos to my eternal brother Alex for the thought and commitment to making an already unique release more, errr, unique.

Oh - and the photo of the knife and cut Alex made to draw blood nearly made the post, but even Nazgul gets squeamish looking at it!

Clearly a shirt for special occasions only (it can't be washed, of course) it puts Nazgul in mind to conduct a poll on the Blog pages about t-shirts so far highlighted in HonourAndDarkness, so have a look at that before you sign out?!

[Edit 25/1/10: As this is such a striking shirt Alex has put in an order for a further 4 to be made, not least so he can have one for himeself, which seems reasonable enough! There are no plans to bleed the man dry to number the additional 4...!]

Friday, 13 November 2009

ALL THAT WAS ONCE LOST ... WE REMEMBER IT [V/A]

Bands: B-MACHINA, HROSSHARSGRANI & URUK HAI
Title: All That Was Once Lost ... We Remember It
Format: A5 colour paper sleeve (double-sided) with blue CDr disc, released jointly in 2008 by Beverina & WAR labels (Latvia/Austria). Item comes with photo card, badge and A5 label flyer backed with cover art, all in plastic wallet. Photos in inlay courtesy of A.W.
Edition: Hand-numbered (in glittery green, no less!) edition of 75 copies only

Track Listing:

01. Svarrogh * Slyne Moe, Lebe E Monata Molitva 8:02
02. Tomb Of Time * Space Of Serenity 9:45
03. B-Machina * Other Visions 2:18
04. Tscheljabinsk65 * The Demons Of Iron 6:48
05. Hrossharsgrani * Sanguis / Katharsis 6:23
06. Vinterriket * I Skogens Favn 4:08
07. Mystified * Milkfield 4:54
08. Nova Sak * Drowning While On Fire II 13:10
09.
Uruk Hai * Ravens Empire (video clip) 3.28

This is a rather jolly compilation CD, and features artists that readers of this Blog will be familiar with from past posts together with some interesting (and unreleased) goodies from some of Hugin's projects.

The release celebrates 12 years in the underground for these two labels (1996-2008)and compiles neofolk, ambient and industrial genres into a special hand-made package. Nazgul's copy is #10 of the 75 made.

Some of these tracks have appeared on past split releases with Bonemachine and Uruk Hai and may be familiar to you that way - for example, the Svarrogh track is from the acclaimed (well, by Nazgul at least!) "Melancholie Eines Herbstes In Drei Akten" split with Uruk Hai and the Rubixx Project from 2004 (see Blog entry for 9 May 2009), whilst the Nova Sak track appeared on the wonderful split tape with Bonemachine (reviewed 23 April 2009).

Also present on the release are bands that have recorded albums with the same two of Alex's projects, notably Mystified (with Bonemachine) and the ever-wonderful Vinterriket (with Uruk Hai), although the tracks here do not come from split recordings.

From Nazgul's perspective there are three elements to this release to record for posterity on HonourAndDarkness. Firstly, the short and sweet 'Spanish-flamenco-meets-industrial-melody' from B-Machina, which was also covered in a past Blog posting on 20 August. In its original release there were but 17 of the mini-CDr discs released, so this is an excellent chance to hear it if you missed that one. Nazgul liked it back in August, and he still does in the cold light of a wet November afternoon!

Secondly, there is 'Sanguis/Katharsis' from Hrossharsgrani. Now, the inlay states that this is taken from the "Demo 1" tape of 1999 (the original WAR001 release). Clearly a bit of detective work to do here as Nazgul can't locate said track, or indeed a demo by this name, in his collection, and there are a fair few from those early days that are knocking around Castle Nazgul. Irrespective of origin, this is almost certainly a unique recording of this track on CD format so worthy of collecting! Following a gruffly spoken short introduction the track adopts a rather sinister tone, with fuzzy guitar and rumbling keyboards - it's much more like an Elisabetha demo, in actual fact, than the battle-hardened stomp of much early Hrossharsgrani. There's even a signature synth piece at about the 3:30 mark that sounds very familiar from an Elisabetha demo recently reviewed...! In terms of the development of the sound within Alex's various projects this is something of a cross-over piece, and all the more interesting for it.

Final piece of particular note on this compilation is the bonus video track, which is a previously unreleased 2006 video called 'Ravens Empire' from Uruk Hai. Keen readers of the Blog will know that a song by the same title appeared as the introduction to the similarly-titled Hugin Munin EP reviewed in the Blog at the beginning of this month. However, this is an entirely different piano-based song - very Enya in places - that accompanies black and white grainy footage of eagles (? - too big for ravens, surely?!) swooping amongst the jagged peaks of a spectacular mountain range. Shot by Hugin himself, and a very serene ending to a well thought out compilation. For fans of these genres of music Nazgul would give this an unhesitating thumbs up.

Random trivia question for you all, to finish: the tile of this compilation is "All That Was Once Lost ... We Remember It" - which Uruk Hai release bears the very similar phrase "What Was Once Lost ... We Remember It" inside its inlay.....??

BONEMACHINE / STIRNIR Split


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Untitled split release with Stirnir (Holland)
Format: CDr release in red paper sleeve inside black windowed envelope on W.A.R. Productions (Austria) from 2007.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 23 copies

Track Listing:

01. Sirnir - Untitled I 5.31

02. Stirnir - Untitled II 6.25

03. Stirnir - Untitled III 7.45

04. Stirnir - Untitled IV 6.32

05. Bonemachine - War Poem 29.36

Judging by the simple fact that this release seems to crop up for sale quite often Nazgul can only assume that it wasn't one of the more popular Bonemachine releases from the vaults of W.A.R. Productions. This may have something to do with the lack of easy listening material from the Stirnir portion of this split, which to Nazgul's old ears is a blur of static and feedback which makes ploughing through over 25 minutes of the stuff difficult, to say the least.

Sadly, however, by spurning the release (and let's not be overly harsh on Stirnir - maybe the look of the item might have put potential customers off, although I rather like the effect) one of the better Bonemachine moments from this period would almost certainly have evaded your attentions. For 'War Poems' in all of its 29 minutes plus is yet another triumph of the meticulously constructed song in multiple sections that the band is known for.

Starting out with a sampled speech from Nazgul knows not where [Edit: Alex has just told me it's from the film The 13th Warrior], the focus being on warriors entering Valhalla where they will live on forever (this final phrase being repeated to form the whispered finale to the song nearly half an hour later) interspersed with mechanical sounds of heavy artillery, the song then produces an almost Buddhist-like "ommm" effect through the expedient of a single phrase - distorted, but periodically repeated throughout the track - echoing inside a synthesised beat. And then lots more goes on for the other 20-odd minutes!!

There's actually lots on offer with this lengthy track and it does generate quite a meditative state as it's played, allowing ample time for reflection on wars and conflicts past and current. A more appropriate title would be hard to find....

The release (this is #17 of the 23 by the way, and Nazgul has another mint and unopened one in his collection) was reviewed by Heathen Harvest in December 2007, and they had this to say:

"Although I got acquainted with Stirner’s style and manner not long ago with the help of Incubator of Hate release, I’m still not familiar with Bonemachine (a project of a man called A.W.), which is claimed to be a martial/industrial/dark ambient act. This time those two cooperated to issue a split CD. And maybe due to the presence of Bonemachine’s spirit this limited album sounds a bit more “melodic” if I may say so. Sure it won’t appear so to those who haven’t heard Stirner’s own works.

This album is issued on W.A.R. Productions, which has a nice looking militaristic website and seems to be keen on limited editions. By the way, this one is limited to 23 copies (symbolic number, certainly) and I got number 10. The thing with all those handmade copies of limited editions is that they have a personal touch – a number put by a hand in the corner of the package or some words written on the CD. It is not a matter of fan-hood or anything, just you feel that each piece has a personal touch. Another thing I like limited editions for is their covers. Here the cover is a black envelope with a red “booklet” (and a place for the CD at the same time) with a black sun on the front and a tracklist in the back.

So, now we slowly approach to what makes an album the album. The music. Or better to say anti-music. Again it is a set of frequencies, chaotically changing each other during 55 minutes and 46 seconds. Sometimes it seemed to me that melodies are hidden behind those patterns, just they are distorted so much that it is difficult to recognise anything. However, interesting thing is that from time to time Stirner managed to create a melody (although primitive) from the sounds which were not meant to be any melodic. First four tracks seem to be composed (or rather constructed should I say, because it more looks like a Lego-game, a complicated structure built from numerous bright bricks-sounds which shape remains unclear, very abstract) and one 29 minutes long track called War Poem that has clear martial and industrial influences and composed in quite a traditional way – speech samples, the samples of hostility, pieces of heroic music in the beginning and hypnotizing industrial/dark ambient-influenced soundscapes (which made me think about Deutsch Nepal for the moment) during the rest of the track.

Somewhere in the middle of War Poem clear rhythm appears for the first and the last time on the recording. I think I quite liked that part, because when it comes to noisy music I prefer having the rhythm – straight, broken, anything for the ear to catch.

In conclusion I should say that this album is really specific and probably will be appreciated by the admirers of the genre. As far as I’m not among them I cannot say that I was impressed by the images I got while listening to it or by the marvellous melodies and harmony, but rather by the sound volume and the effect this release had on my whole family – they thought hi-fi is saying its last goodbye. However, the guys did their job and managed to issue a CD. Who knows, maybe one day I get the CD out and while listening to it realise the message I couldn't get many years ago."

For Bonemachine fans (and fans of static hiss....) then this would be a release well worth seeking out whilst a few copies are still out there, as the length of the 'War Poems' track will most likely keep it off most compilation albums and as far as Nazgul can tell this split is the only place that you will find it - and finding it is well worth the effort.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

URUK HAI > Legacy Of The Tyrant t-shirt

Band: URUK HAI
Item: The 'Legacy Of The Tyrant' white cotton t-shirt (no back print) from 2007.
Edition: Only 10 made

An interesting story lies behind the name of this particular Uruk Hai t-shirt. Back in around 2005 some posts appeared on various internet sites from Dragonsbreath Records advertising a forthcoming Uruk Hai compilation CD to be called "Legacy Of The Tyrant" (see, for example, this one at Ultimate Metal http://www.ultimatemetal.com/forum/self-promotion/190751-new-record-label-dragons-breath-records.html).

For various reasons this proposed release - destined to be a box-set, possibly featuring 4 discs of material - was not to be. However, a few t-shirts clearly were made in anticipation of the event, for in December of 2007 I bought this one from Alex.

Whilst this may sound a story destined for a sad conclusion, an interesting development took place earlier this year when a news update on the Israeli label T'an! Kaven!! Ash!!! for May of this year shook Nazgul to his very core! This time, a proposed 8CD box-set (!!) was slated as forthcoming, which will be the long delayed "Legacy Of The Tyrant" box set and is due to contain rare, unreleased and remixes plus some video clips.

As one of my old friends used to say, "all good things to he who waits..."

In the meantime this splendid t-shirt with its suitably naturalistic motif is currently advertising the impending event to all those inhabitants in and around Castle Nazgul, and surrounding districts...!

Friday, 6 November 2009

DEMO '99


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Demo 99
Format: Cassette-tape only, independent release through Alex Wieser in 1999.
Edition: Hand-numbered and limited to 30 copies

Track Listing:

1. Ozeane der Zeit
2. Kalte Nacht
3. Der Morgen nach dem Leben
4. Herr über die Winde
5. Aufstieg verlorener Seelen
6. Apokalypse
7. Zuende

Dipping back into history once again, this 1999 demo from Hrossharsgrani is a variant on theme from the "Blut" demo that preceded it in 1998. That latter demo was a 14 track epic, and was re-released with a bonus 15th track in 2003 on Werwolf Productions as detailed on these pages back on 8 May 2009.

The "Demo 99" release contained 6 of those 14 original tracks plus one new song, 'Der Morgen Nach Dem Leben', together with a new cover and limitation to only 30 tapes. Interestingly, the cover for this release shown on the metal archives pages (which is lifted from Alex's MySpace pages) shows a colour cover, whereas this one (and it's the only one Nazgul has actually handled in person) is xeroxed black and white, and hand-numbered #2 of 30. Whether it is a copy of an original, or perhaps only a few were in colour, is yet to be established! [Edit: Alex has just confirmed that only tape #1 has a colour cover, all the others are black and white!] Also of interest is the fact that the 14 tracks from the "Blut" release appear on side B of the tape, so you got the full works with this particular demo!

As detailed in the May post, there is quite a variety of styles on offer here, and the overall tone of the recording is less pound-you-into-the-ground than later battledrum-driven outings from the band. Take the new song 'Der Morgen Nach Dem Leben' for example, with it's repeating tinkling keyboard motif interspersed with dark keyboard passages.

In addition, the opening track 'Ozeane Der Zeit' and 'Herr Uber Die Winde' are short sampled narrative pieces, the former with strings high in the mix and the later predominantly vocal with the snarl of a wolf kicking things off. 'Kalte Nacht' is a brooding synth piece with breaking waves in the background, giving the impression of a dark night on the coastline awaiting the arrival of the long-ships!

Ultimately it is another insight into the formative stages of this band, which has evolved between ambient - black metal - viking metal - symphonic metal - battle metal genres over time. Given the relative scarcity of any of the early demos from this band you can't really go wrong if by happy chance you come across this one for sale somewhere...

Thursday, 5 November 2009

...OF BATTLES, RAVENS AND FIRE - update

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Item: Promotional A4 flyer for the "...Of Battles, Ravens and Fire" release from CCP Records

An interesting double-sided promotional flyer for this Hrossharsgrani release from Austrian label CCP Records, not least for the biographical information on the reverse side (photo 2 above).

In this we learn that:

"In winter 1998 the project Hrossharsgrani was founded by Hugin (ex. Schlaganfall, After Aids and Heimatleid)."

What's all this, thought Nazgul? Schalaganfall....?! After Aids...??!! Who they??!!

Well, fingers crossed Nazgul might have something more to add to this story later this year, as part of another HonourAndDarkness 'global exclusive'!

Meanwhile, back to the rest of the CCP blurb:

"At the beginning it should be a pure 'Dark Ambient' project but soon it became a very rough but still atmospheric form of Black Metal , as on the 1st demo CD "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten." The 2nd demo "Lieder Aus Mittelerde", which was released through the German tape-label Irrlichter Records has more epic and sad keyboard-sounds which fits quite well to the J.R.R. Tolkien concept.

At the beginning of the new Millennium Hugin released his 3rd demo "Ancient Tales" on CD. At this 74 minute long CD you can listen to Hrossharsgrani's first clear vocals, acoustic guitars and battledrums which transform Hugin's music into a very martial form of Viking Black Metal. The reviews from all over the world were very good and so this demo was sold 300 times in only 4 months.

At the same time the 2nd part of the "Lieder..." demo, named "Der Ring Der Macht", was released on tape through the French tape-label Chanteloup Creations. It has still the Tolkien concept but with much more keyboard parts, which creates more epic and bombastic feelings.

After this Hrossharsgrani entered the CCP Records studio the first time to give the new songs a professional sound. The new CD "...Of Battles, Ravens And Fire" developed, which will be released through CCP Records. Each warriors heartbeat will increase when he is listening to these mighty sounding 'Atmospheric Viking Battles'. Hugin, who normally works alone, became help for this CD from Roland (ex. Dogma, Curtis Pregnant, After Aids and Schlaganfall) on the guitar and Eva who speaks the female parts. With battles and choirs they creased a music which accompany the listener through ancient, glorious times.

Also in the future Hrossharsgrani want to walk beside the path by producing clearly outstanding, epic sound-scapes without any forces or preconditions. Atmospheric Viking Metal - where battles and choirs accompany the listener through a glorious time."

to be continued......