Saturday, 30 January 2010

LOST SONGS FROM MIDDLE EARTH - update



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Lost Songs Of Middle-Earth
Reason for update: Publicity material for the album

As the chill winds of winter find their way through the crumbling mortar of the walls of Castle Nazgul, guttering the flames in the castle library, it strikes Nazgul that a swift Blog entry is required before the chores of the weekend must be addressed. Scanning the shelves for inspiration a small set of material produced to promote the "Lost Songs Of Middle-Earth" album catches the eye and so, honoured readers, here is a small update on that particular release, covered originally in these pages on 21 July 2009 if Nazgul's memory serves him well.

As with all of Hugin's releases there is no national media blitz, no huge record label push with glossy adverts in the music press, just a series of flyers and focused promotional items to advertise the new product. In more recent years this has expanded from the photocopied paper flyers to more specialised items like magnets and oversize postcards.

The set of items for this album represent this recent trend, and are actually rather splendid! Working from the top image above downwards, we have a postcard-sized magnet with the album cover and the Aphelion Productions logo with skeletal sword bearer in the background, and although it's a simple cover in many respects Nazgul contends that you can't beat a forest/woodland scene for Middle-Earth ambience!

The second image shows the same image on a standard business card, together with a rather handy calendar magnet (in German) that would have been ideal for ticking off the days until Hugin's next release! Finally, on a larger glossy card promo we have the man himself - sword in hand and chainmail nicely burnished- with a runic inscription around the outside (and there could be a small prize for any intrepid reader who wishes to translate this for Nazgul).

[Edit: 30/1/10: I've been given a translation so many thanks and well done to H&D follower.... Hugin?! Oh hang on, that's cheating, surely....?! Anyway, the text is in fact the Tolkien ring verse, and is as follows:]

Three Rings for the Elven kings under the sky,

Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,

Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die,

One for the Dark Lord on his Dark Throne,

In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie,

One Ring to rule them all,

One Ring to find them,

One ring to bring them all,

And in the darkness bind them,

In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

HONOUR - update

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Honour
Reason for update: see text

It was back on 10 February 2009 in only the second post in this Blog that Nazgul covered the one of the very first items of Alex's Uruk Hai project that he owned, the "Honour" demo of 2004. It's been nearly a year since then, so the time seemed ripe for two updates in relation to this tape.

Firstly, the colour image above shows the actual inlay design as it was originally conceived. The black and white xeroxed inlay of the 2004 demo gives an atmospherically grainy view of Gondolin but the full-colour version shows it rather better, and leads one to imagine how striking the tape would have looked wrapped in a colour cover. Despite Nazgul's efforts to find the artist who illustrated the original picture it remains a mystery for now, but as fellow fans of Hugin I thought you might find this interesting.

Secondly, Nazgul has also taken the opportunity to revisit that original Blog piece and to revise the photos within from the basic single scanned image to three more detailed photos of the demo in question. Why not revisit that original second post and see for yourself...?

DER GEGNER IST DIE ZEIT [V/A]



Band: WACH and BONEMACHINE
Title: Der Gegner Ist Die Zeit
Format: Compilation CD on the Theramin Noise Club label (Austria) from 2007, catalogue reference tnc044. The special fold-out packaging contains three photo cards.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 333 copies

Track Listing:
01. The Sounds of Earth - Time is the Enemy
02. Phelios - Inside the Blue Vortex

03. WACH - Schwarze Farbe Mischt Sich 5.05
04. Matamore - Howling in the Woods
05. Vhaete - Likrom Tjuerte

06. Bonemachine - Rauschkraft 5.39
07. Natures Geometry - Negative Space Intruder (Directors Cut)
08. N.Strahl.N - Ver-Gegen-Kunft (Die Nebel Lichten Sich)
09. Agonized Land - From Nature to "Endzeit"
10. Unfinished Business - Spring Fails by Means of Automated Insight
11. Tardive Dyskinesia - Sommerende
12. Flutwacht - Searching Sou
13. Aetherfront - Interstellar Pt.1

A rather excellent compilation CD put out through the discerning Austrian label Theramin Noise Club and featuring two unique cuts from both WACH and Bonemachine. Both songs fall very much in to the industrial category (this is in the style of old-school Bonemachine material, as opposed to the modern-era B-Machina compositions between Alex and Max) and once again need to be experienced and heard to be properly understood.

A superb review of this collection appears on the pages of Heathen Harvest and it says pretty much everything that Nazgul was going to write on the subject, so without further ado...

"Just in time for the winter season: a nice compilation of thirteen bands that fall either into the dark ambient or industrial category. For me "Der Gegner ist die Zeit" is great because it features a lot of bands who have not released too much material and that I was unfamiliar with. It is nice to get compilations that feature tracks from a scene’s established artists, but it is also enjoyable to be able to discover new bands that are of interest.

The packaging on "Der Gegner ist die Zeit" is incredible, and Thermin Noise Club has really done a great job. It is an extra wide design (think of it as having the dimensions of a wide screen TV) that flips open to display the CD. The artwork on the front, back, and inside in amazing: dark forests photographed at night lie before a dark blue, cloudy night sky where streaks of clouds blend in. Inside are mini cards with more nature artwork although it is not as dark; cool nonetheless. Before even listening to the CD I was in the mood for the material. Some people say packaging does not matter, but I would strongly disagree with that. When you have it in hand, it really can amplify the experience when it is so reflective of the work it represents.

So what about the music? Really, there is not a weak track on "Der Gegner ist die Zeit". That does not mean I am going to rush to pursue every artist, but a compilation does not need to make you want to do that to be good. Everything on here is enjoyable and worth listening to, which is rare for me when listening to most compilations. All the artists are pretty low-key for the most part, and "Der Gegner ist die Zeit" is definitely more on the side of mellow rather than harsh and loud. I also really like that everyone involved generally compliment one another. That does not mean that they all sounds the same, but it is a compilation that feels like some thought was put into it and there was a general point to having these bands together instead of covering every style possible. Although there is not a single track that I would skip, I still have my favourite artists on "Der Gegner ist die Zeit" such as Phelios, Wach, Vhaete, Bonemachine, N.Strahl.N, and Aetherfront. This really is a good compilation, one that can easily be listened to from start to finish.

If you are interested in hearing some really dark ambient and industrial good artists that you are probably not familiar with, "Der Gegner ist die Zeit" is a great place to start. Most of the artists have released very little and are probably under most people’s radars. If this is your genre(s) you should consider picking this up, you would probably not be disappointed. Act fast though as there are only 333 hand-numbered copies of the CD around."
Through reasons long forgotten Nazgul has ended up with no less than 3 copies of this release (#66, #82 and #215) so if you've been looking for one for yourself then get in touch through the usual address.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Nazgul's Top 10: Elisabetha rarities

Elisabetha: Nazgul's top 10 rarities
Following a few questions on the subject, Nazgul has decided to compile some 'top ten' lists of his most precious items - those rare and hard to come by releases from Alex's bands - that currently exist in his collection in the library at Castle Nazgul. For the purpose of retaining Nazgul's sanity, he is excluding t-shirts, badges, posters etc from this list and is focusing solely on the music! Feel free to disagree with these lists - starting with Elisabetha - as they are purely personal observations based on my experiences since 2001 trying to find this stuff! By necessity this list is out of date as soon as it's written, as other items that Nazgul is yet to track down will eventually overtake some of these entries...
[Edit 06/02/10: in a fit of what can only be senility Nazgul managed to omitt one of the rarer Elisabetha items from this list! This is, of course, the "Eine Dunkle Symbiose Von Blut & Nacht" promo split with Nachtmahr from 2004 (ltd 50) covered in Honour & Darkness on 26/08/09. Ooops! Let's call it equal third in ranking...]
10. MORELLA - (2008) previously unreleased vocal version
The SfM release of this track from the "Über das Prinzip der Unschuld" and the nearest thing to a CD single by Elisabetha in this modern era. Only 66 copies made, 4 or so of which are still available from Keegan at SfM (see Blog posting of 25.1.10) and once they're gone....they're gone!

9. ETERNAL DEATHVASTATION - (2008) 3CD compilation
Only 50 copies of this 3CD collection of Elisabetha's finest moments were pressed, and Nazgul knows of just one still advertised for sale, anywhere. A fine collection, and a handy short-cut if you missed out on the early releases.

8. UNTODT - (2004) demo tape
A limited edition release of 155 copies, few of which now seem to come up for sale. It took Nazgul some time to finally track down his copy, although a few have been seen for sale at various distros in recent years.
7. BLUTHOCHZEIT - (2001) 7" vinyl e.p.
The second of Elisabetha's releases in 2001, this is one of three vinyl releases by the band and the first of two that makes Nazgul's top ten list. Despite being the oldest of the three, a surprising number of there are seen online for sale if you're patient (surprising in this context being perhaps 1 or 2 a year!)
6. DURST NACH UNSTERBLICHKEIT - (2000) demo tape
The original Elisabetha demo tape, and therefore surely by rights the rarest? Well no, not quite. Nazgul could point you in the direction of two distros online currently selling this tape. That said, with only 100 ever made you'll not be seeing it very often and it took Nazgul quite some time to grab his copy the first time around....

5. ERSZEBET BATHORI (EINE ODE IN BLUT) - 2002 vinyl 7" e.p.
Just 100 copies of this vinyl e.p. were pressed, and now a very tough find. Nazgul was lucky to find his a few years ago, and also has a promotional-only version that Alex was kind enough to send over to Castle Nazgul.

4. ISTEN SZEK! - (2001) demo tape
Outrageously rare demo tape from 2001 in a limited pressing of only 66 copies. Nazgul has only ever seen 2 in nearly 10 years, the second of which is currently being sold in his listings on eBay...so why aren't you bidding yet?! The CDr version is yet to be found....

3. RENFIELD - (2002)
Remaining somewhat anonymous amongst the Elisabetha discography, this CDr from 2002 is one of only 100 pressed and consequently now almost impossible to find anywhere at all. Since purchasing this one, Nazgul has never seen another for sale. A very tough find!

2. ÜBER DAS PRINZIP DER UNSCHULD - (2007) limited edition + 3"CDr
There were but 25 of the limited edition of this album with the stylish 3"CDr in paper-wallet as a bonus item. Nazgul challenges you to find one of them now!

1. BLUTRAUSCH - (2003) demo tape
A controversial choice for Nazgul's rarest Elisabetha item perhaps, considering there were originally 66 of them made which is more than many of the band's releases, including the previous item. That said, it has taken about 6 years to finally track down an original tape of this demo, released by the Italian label Werwolf Productions, and that's rare enough for me!

EA

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Ea
Format: CDr release through W.A.R. Productions (Austria) circa 1999, catalogue reference WAR010. Features two tracks recorded between 21.9.99 and 10.10.99 as a special edition. Unique front and rear colour artwork with hand-written inner.
Edition: Believed to only 1 copy

Track Listing:
01. Quenta Silmarillion 61.13

02. Der Ring Der Macht 12.12

I know what you were thinking when you read the title of this update - "old Uncle Nazgul has finally lost the plot, and has listed the Uruk Hai CD "Ea" again on his Blog. Poor old soul, he's losing his marbles...."

But wait - marbles fully intact, Nazgul has in fact unearthed a little treasure for you here with this unique version of "Ea" recorded by Hrossharsgrani back in the midst of time as a one-off recording for a friend. This particular CDr surfaced on eBay some years ago in a bundle of discs that also included "Sagen & Gedichte" and "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten" and happily for Nazgul I managed to win the auction, as none of these three has he seen for sale anywhere since.

The origins of the 'Quenta Silmarillion' release is quite interesting. You may recall that there was previously a track with a similar name as the final song on the "Lieder Aus Mittelerde" tape, being the 4.26 version 'Quenta Silmarillion (Outro)' and also a 44.18 version which was on the rare self-titled "Hrossharsgrani" tape release, both recorded in 1999. This version - extended to 61.13 - is a third version of the piece, but of course the two longer versions never actually made it onto a formally release album: Both the self-titled release and "Ea" were one-off versions recorded for friends of Hugin.

The track finally was issued to the public on CDr by AMF Productions as "the first ever Uruk Hai rehearsal session", recorded between 21.9.99 and 27.9.99 as an epic 78.39 track. Given the dates on the "Ea" inlay this suggests that the Hross' version was a unique edit from that session, completed between 28.9.99 and 10.10.99 as a special piece. The Uruk Hai version, however, was not released by AMF until 2004 (it was remastered by Hugin in July 2004), so for five years this track existed in various versions before finally seeing the light of day!

The second track on "Ea" is 'Der Ring Der Macht', which doesn't actually appear on the 2000 demo that bears the same name but was compiled onto the "Demo Compilation Vol. 1" tape as covered in the Blog on 21 October 2009. Great track this one, complete with a brilliant classical sample at its end.

The artwork on this CD is particularly worthy of comment, as it is full-colour and high in quality and interest. Of course, it's not news to readers of this Blog that Hugin takes the time and trouble with his one-off releases to get them spot-on for the lucky recipient!

Intriguingly, the inlay speaks of this item as being CD1 of 3, which clearly implies another couple of discs may have been produced that are currently unknown to the world at large. Rest assured, Nazgul is keeping a keen eye on the global marketplace on the off-chance that they may surface in time...

Monday, 25 January 2010

SkullFuckingMetal

SkullFuckingMetal
There are many distros and labels out there that will happily sell you Hugin's releases, some well known and others less well known. There are equally some distros and labels out there who genuinely take an interest in the scene and look after their customers well. SfM is one such place, run by Keegan over in the frozen wastelands of Canada. Keegan is most certainly 'one of the good guys' and were you to look up in the dictionary the definition of "crazy son of a bitch" you'd most likely find his photograph there!

A nicer, more genuine guy you'd be hard pressed to find and since SfM have some interesting connections with Hugin and his work a profile on Honour & Darkness seemed the thing to do. You'd be amazed what Keegan has available for sale and just how reasonable his prices are, so after you've read the interview why not check out his page at http://skullfuckingmetal.blogspot.com/ for yourself?

And so, without more ado, Nazgul's traditional Q&A commences...!

Name? Keegan
Nickname? Keeg, and alot of people say I look like Charles Manson which is neat as Charlos is one of my middle names
Label name? SkullfuckingMetal
What is your aim/philospohy behind your label? Skullfuckingmetal's main goal is too promote and support all styles of underground music and distribute it at the lowest costs possible. We are basically a non-profit label which explains the abnormally low prices.
How did you first come across Alex's music? This I can't honestly answer, I believe it was via Leigh from Smell The Stench records, sent me a Gruuthaagy cdr, not sure which one tho as it was years ago, in a trade. I believe afterwords I contacted Alex and asked him if hes interested in doing a release with us.
What releases has your label made of Alex's stuff? ELISABETHA-"Morella" CDR (neo classical music influenced by Edgar Allan Poe - limited edition of 66 copies with a unreleased version of 'Morella'); GRUUTHAAGY / BONEMACHINE Split CDR (Satanarchistelectrodoom vs. industrial heathen hell. What more can you ask for unless you don't like having your head completely fucked with? Both artists hail from parts unknown and have been tearing up the underground for quite some time now....maybe even longer then Satan himself?); B-MACHINA-"D.N.A." Cassette (75 minutes of Cyber Nuke Industrial Pop featuring Kenji SIRATORI (JP),split release with Smell The Stench Tapes, limited to 100 hand numbered copies); SKULL THE STENCH 2 CDR Compilation (35 experimental artists, featuring Bonemachine, split release with Smell The Stench), and hopefully more to come!!
Which of these items have sold the best? I've traded hundreds of the Gruuthaagy/Bonemachine split cdr via master cdr and extra covers method across the world and back countless amount of times, the others are all now out of print so they sold/traded well, Elisabetha I still have 4 copies left of.
What is your favourite piece of Alex's music? This is a really hard question to answer, I've heard several of them while I was wasted which of course really made then stand out more then usual, especially while on LSD haha. I'd say the B-Machina "D.N.A." is my favourite one as I play it quite often and always get unique feelings from it.
Tell us about your own band(s)/music: Currently I'm in a few bands. I play guitar for Warlock Moon whom is a raw black metal band from Toronto that has several releases out. Since I recently joined just last month i'm not on any of their releases yet. No doubt in the near future there will be a new Warlock Moon demo and it will be more dirty and raw then ever before! I play guitair for Crucifixxx Sodomy whom is no doubt Toronto's most controversial band due to our extreme views and live performances which usually turn into things like naked girls dancing in the pit, violence, total chaos in general. We will keep pushing the limits and sure do get a good kick outta doing so. Expect a blood soaked live ritual which will hopefully be filmed this coming weekend. In conclusion we consider Crucifixxx Sodomy a punk rock band as we don't follow the trend of black metal. Also, I have a unnamed grind jam project with a dear friend of mine from a local death metal band called Adversarial, I hope we continue to jam on a semi-regular basis as I have a lot of hatred towards the system that needs to be released before I start killing people lol. Also, I was asked to play guitar for a long running local long running spooky punk rock band called The Los Gobylnz, I'm excited to start jamming with them as I've been into their music since the late 90's and used to play shows with them back then when i was in N.F.A.
Favourite book? I only read on the internet, I read about conspiracy theories on a constant basis. It's important to be aware of the worlds problems and work on finding solutions for them. The world's in a bad situation because the reptiles and pigs in charge want us all dead.
Favourite film? I
used to be a big horror movie fanatic but don't have the attention span I once had. I'm so broke I can't even pay attention haha. I'd say the best film I've seen recently was Alex Jones "End Game".
Favourite food? Stuff that starts with P's like Perogies, Pizza or hangover food like Dangerous Dans.I stay away from unhealthy food like McDonalds or junk food in general.
Craziest thing you've ever done? Basically everyday I do something considered crazy as human beings are crazy by nature. I can be very bizarre at times. If you piss me off I get really really crazy.
Best experience in life so far? I'm not sure as I consider all experiences bad and good. I'm paranoid by nature so I constantly dissect anything that happens in this life.
Worst experience in life so far? Learning that the New World Order wants to take away my freedom of speech and kill me. It's quite tiresome and I believe its taking over my mental and physical health. Its not always easy being a true rebel by nature and not having the ability to take orders.
Ambition(s) left to fulfil? I believe there isn't much time left as planet earth has gone extinct 5 times thus far. There's no denying that we are destroying ourselves and global warming is a serious matter that isn't man made. I'm finally going back to school next week at Trebas Institute for sound and audio engineering/Dj Arts. I used to be a acid tekno DJ so I'm really excited to finally be taught the ropes by professionals as I was self taught. Maybe DjSkullfucker will make a come back sometime in the near future but minus all the chemicals this time around. haha
Any message for Alex? Cheers Alex, I hope all is well with you and your family! Looking forward to any of your upcoming masterpieces of music
Any message for H&D blog readers? Keep on supporting the underground, freaks!!

And there in a nutshell you have it, honoured readers! Support Keegan and SfM and make sure one of those last 4 Morella CDrs finds a home in your collection before they're all gone....

Saturday, 23 January 2010

GANESHA



Band: B-MACHINA
Title: Ganesha
Format: Split mini-CDr with Italian band Rose Rovine E Amanti, released on W.A.R. Productions in 2008. Card CDr is red in colour, and comes in a burgundy envelope with two magnetic band cards, 4 large postcards with band information and edition number, plus stickers.
Edition: Limited to only 44 copies

Track Listing:

B-Machina
01. Ganesha 3.03
Rose Rovine E Amanti
02. L'Odio! 2.25

Ganesha - one of the 5 principal Hindu deities, appearing with an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth...

And on that basis a reasonable totem to have on your CD to incur good fortune, one would think!

This is yet another limited edition (Nazgul's copy being #43 of the 44) B-Machina release coming in a coloured envelope replete with all manner of goodies in the way of promotional material and interesting band collectables.

Two short songs are the order of the day, one from each artist, and as you might imagine from the title 'Ganesha' manages to weave an Indian vibe into the Bone-Sounds produced by Alex and Max to develop quite a mysterious though catchy groove that is a welcome development in the evolving sound of this project.

The Rose Rovine E Amanti track is shorter yet, and heavily narrative driven in fast-spoken Italian (Nazgul presumes) over some darker, more ambient music than his usual lush romantic output. None the worse for that, however!

The ever-reliable Heathen Harvest website commented:

"B-Machina's 'Ganesha' is worth three minutes and as the title implies it has a bit of an eastern sound to it. Max plays his guitar gently over slow industrial and ambient soundscapes created by Alex. I really enjoyed this particular B-Machine song, but other songs I've heard weren't as pleasing for me as this one. I really liked the way the lush guitarplay and the industrial sounds are combined; seperated at first but more joined together towards the end.

W.A.R. Productions has brought forth something really wonderful with this release. Not only are both tracks very pleasant to listen to, though very short, it also comes with a wonderful array of high quality pictures, all in a red envelope sealed with a Rose Rovine E Amanti / B-Machina sticker. This is a must have for the collectors among us, a must have for whoever follows either of the two bands, and certainly considerable for anyone else. It's pleasant for the ears, pleasant for the eyes and pleasant for the soul once you know you have one of the only 44 copies."

Good luck in finding one now, though.....

Friday, 22 January 2010

LOTHLORIEN






Band: URUK HAI
Title: Lothlorien
Format: Originally a CD pressing in 2006 from Othal Productions (Russia), catalogue reference OLP-019 with a tape reissue on Valgriind (Russia) following in 2009 with bonus tracks, cat ref vg35. Both releases with full colour artwork, but featuring completely different designs. Tracks feature vocals from Hildr Valkyrie.
Edition: CD came in a numbered edition of 500 copies. Tape in unnumbered edition of 300 copies

Track Listing:

CD version:
1. The White Trees Of Minas Ithil 00:40
2. Enter Mordor 03:06
3. Rohan Riders 03:13
4. Lay Of Leithian 19:26
5. Into The Mirror 03:21
6. Galadriel's Message 13:46
7. Keeper Of Nenya 03:13
8. May It Be [Enya cover] 03:14
9. Gates Of Summer 04:32
Bonus video clip: Enter Mordor
Tape version:
Moved 'May It Be' to track 10, and added the following bonus songs:
9. Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun 9.10
11. Precious 6.04
12. Umbar 4.55
13. Blood Of Stone 1.47

Perhaps representing the pinnacle of Tolkien influenced ambient metal yet recorded by Uruk Hai, this substantial release is dominated by two separate things: the ethereal female vocals of Hildr Valkyrie, which elevate the already esoteric melodies to ever new heights, and by the two lengthy tracks surrounded by (in the original CD version at least) relatively short pieces of what could be termed 'pseudo-soundtrack music', so carefully crafted are they.

Nazgul knows very little about Hildr Valkyrie save that she was a member of Greek band Nocternity and that she has appeared on a number of other projects too, not least Folkearth. Her vocal performance on this album does give the traditional Uruk Hai sound totally new levels, however, and whilst the songs without her presence stand up quite happily as good tracks in their own right there can be no doubt that the otherworldly feminine dimension that she adds to the album really does elevate it in the memory. Definitely a collaboration made in heaven!

The Othal CD pressing (of which Nazgul has #94 of the 500 pressed) is a nicely put together affair too, with quality colour inlays and a rather fun video clip for 'Enter Mordor' (an atmospheric track of snarled vocals and distinctly ominous music) featuring Hugin in the woods demonstrating authentic Middle-Earth swordsmanship! Also of note is the quality of inlay on the tape reissue, with some excellent illustrations care of the Rita/Juris Silders partnership.

The album has received relatively little coverage online, which is somewhat surprising given the quality of what's on offer. One review that Nazgul did unearth gives a little independent perspective on the piece, and comes courtesy of megester_efenstor on the Metal Archives pages:

"This one seemingly has been made by a true Tolkienist. "Lothlorien" is a very special piece of work that's worthy of listening, but only for ambient folk lovers (like me), everyone else will find it boring [!] ... In words, it's beautiful. Beautiful and that's it. Stunningly beautiful. The 14-min track "Lay of Leithian" (yes, it's from Tolkien's works, like everything else) is really the work of art. Other tracks accurately follow their intended mood: dark and gloomy "Enter Mordor", bombastic "Rohan Riders", museful and a bit sinister "Into the Mirror"... The very poetic, sensible, atmospheric and true symphonic ambient music. Maybe it's a little bit repetitive, but like for the Mortiis' early works any diversification would only ruin the whole atmosphere which is vital in such kind of ambient. Old true Tolkien book fans (not the Jackson's movie fans!) will appreciate it for sure."

The decision to use the Enya cover 'May It Be' is perhaps an odd one, given it was only the year before that it was recorded for the "Northern Lights" album, but a good song is a good song I suppose. What is good value - and typical of Hugin's tape releases - is that the 2009 cassette version carries with it a few bonus tracks which are well worth having. Two of the tracks (albeit it in slightly different versions) appeared on "The Dark Force Shines Golden" split album with Saltvind, previously covered in the Blog - namely 'Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun' and 'Precious', which leaves us two new songs to consider. 'Umbar' is as good a piece of ambient Tolkien-esque music as appears on the main album, so it's a surprise addition really and who knows where it's been hiding all these years?! 'Blood Of Stone' is a shorter instrumental piece, and a fitting end to what is a very strong album.

Delving into the Tolkien Legendarium, Nazgul discovers that Lothlórien is the fairest forest realm of the Elves remaining in Middle-earth during the Third Age. Early in the First Age some of the Eldar left the Great March and settled in the lands east of the Misty Mountains. These elves became known as the Nandor and later the Silvan Elves. By S.A. 1200 Galadriel had made contact with an existing Nandorin realm, Lindórinand, in the area that would later be known as Lothlórien, and planted there the golden mallorn trees which Gil-galad had received as a gift from Tar-Aldarion.

It's albums like "Lothlorien" that have turned so many Tolkien loving music fans towards the music of Uruk Hai and should you have the chance to purchase a copy of this release - CDs often come up on online auction sites, and the tape is available still from http://wotanjugend.com/valgriind - then you really should, as it defines the genre and the quality of this band in one, simple and highly enjoyable package.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

HREFNESHOLT > coffee cup

Band: HREFNESHOLT
Item: Ceramic coffee cup with printed band logo
Edition: Only 2

Armed with little more than a strong black coffee, Nazgul can often be found sweeping the battlements of his crumbling castle, looking to repel potential invaders who would seek to remove the treasures from the castle library that we so fondly know as the "Hugin collection".

And what better was to quaff his morning beverage could Nazgul have than this fine caramic mug bearing the Hrefnesholt band logo? One of only a pair (the other being in the hallowed halls of W.A.R. Productions) this is a lovely addition to the collection, and now makes up an unholy triumvirate of Hugin-themed coffee mugs - Uruk Hai, Bonemachine and now Hrefnesholt.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

THOUSAND LIGHTNINGS STRIKE



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Thousand Lightnings Strike
Format: Self-released promotional CDr by Alex, not a formal W.A.R. Productions release. Contains recordings from 2000-2003. Unique cover art and dedicated/signed jewel-case
Edition: Only 1 copy

Track Listing:

01. Thousand Lightnings Strike 2.51
02. Gollum 2.31
03. Elysium (Riding In Green Fields) 5.06
04. Deep Dark Forests 3.28
05. In The Green Fields 9.10
06. Menegroth 2.49
07. Back In The Fields 5.20
08. Kampf & Krieg 3.35
09. Mithrandir 5.30
10. Wo Die Schatten... 7.30
11. Vargriders 1.47
12. Battle Signs 2.37
13. Battle Magic 21.42

Following the 'traumatic' events outlined in the previous posting, Nazgul knew what was required was a good old dose of Uruk Hai to settle the stomach. And what better medicine than this - a totally unique demo that the Austrian ambient battle-machine himself made for Nazgul earlier in 2009.

The cover is brilliant if you've ever been into old school fantasy artwork or war-gaming (guilty on both counts, m'lord) and quite frankly Nazgul doesn't hold out much hope for the warrior defending himself from the forthcoming strike, no matter how many d20 rolls he makes.

The contents of this release will be familiar in part to many fans of the band, although your homework for tonight from Uncle Nazgul is to work out which other older releases the majority of tracks come from, and what unique goodie(s) are therefore left for this release alone! As a starter for ten, let me just say that there are contained on here all three tracks from a particularly rare tape release dating back to 2004 (limited to 22 only) which Nazgul has yet to add to his collection, and also a quantity of songs from a CD release from 2004 in which the disc shone with a glorious red hue and whose inlay folded out into a nice poster. The rest, on this occasion, is up to you honoured reader....

Unique releases of this sort are always a surprise and a delight to receive, which is why the joy of being both a fan and a friend of Alex's is a such a joy. And of course, unique gifts can work in both directions, so on that cryptic note keep an eye on Honour And Darkness throughout 2010 for some equally unique developments from the depths of Castle Nazgul....

DAMAGED SOUNDS




Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Damaged Sounds
Format: Card-sleeved CDr with a part of a broken vinyl record stuck to the cover, each unique. Picture disc CDr and single-sided inlay sheet. Released in 2007 by W.A.R. Productions (no catalogue reference).
Edition: Only 21 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

Pope On Acid
01. T.F.E. 21.31
Bonemachine
02. Darkness & Light 35.07

Irony heaped upon irony. If Nazgul were awarding the prize for the 'most ironic entry in Honour And Darkness' to date, then this release would surely scoop the prize without question!

Firstly there was the little matter of finding a copy. It was a release in a limited edition (as usual) but one that Nazgul just couldn't track down anywhere. Nazgul finally approached Alex for help or suggestions on where to find one, and in that good-natured and most generous way that Alex has his own copy (#1) was made available for Nazgul's collection. How typical was it, therefore, to almost immediately find one for sale at the Discogs website! Of course, Nazgul bought it anyway (this one being #16, to the left in the photo - no, you weren't seeing double earlier on) as you can never have too many limited editions and anyway, the vinyl piece on the cover is a different shape!

Secondly, there was the little matter of playing the wretched thing! Copy #16 played the Pope On Acid track perfectly, but only got as far as the first eight minutes or so of Bonemachine's effort before the CDr gave up trying to play it, and that was that. "Damaged Sounds" indeed, muttered Nazgul darkly, but of course the situation was redeemable by dint of that other copy (the very collectable #1 issue) being stashed away. Except, of course, that that too failed to get far with the Bonemachine track (Pope On Acid playing perfectly, of course) and also gave up the ghost fairly quickly when tried on PC and on the trusty Castle Nazgul death-deck!

Now, you might imagine that this is a tale of depression and woe but you'd be wrong. Whilst it's probably a first to publish a piece in my Blog about a track I've not yet actually heard, the tie-in with the previous post was valid (the quality and uniqueness of W.A.R. packaging) and during my research for this post I happened across a review on the Heathen Harvest website, which you will get a flavour for this release from:

"I’m unfamiliar with both the artists on this release. From the MySpace pages of each artist I learn that Pope On Acid is a one man harsh noise project from Serbia who has done releases with Merzbow, Kenji Siratori and Gruuthaagy. Bonemachine’s MySpace gives little information. BONEMACHINE IST KRIEG apparently, which is always a cheerful thing to read.

Pope On Acid is up first with T.G.E., which opens with an extended sample of a 1950’s sounding radio news report about a murder before bursting into a solid wall of viscous noise. Multiple frequencies assault the listener for a good while before suddenly cutting into a section of melodic music that caught me completely off guard. This continues for a while before the next avalanche of harshness breaks over the listener. As the track reaches its climax cutting through the noise is the sounds of a woman in distress. The victim mentioned in the opening sample perhaps? In a final twist we are treated to another interlude, this time of a couple between two "All American" sounding people, one proposing to the other, and then we are thrown back into a final two minutes of noise. The sample work on T.G.E. gives it a really odd, surreal feel.

Bonemachine’s Darkness & Light takes a very different approach. Lush ambiance and rumbling drones are the order of the day with this one. An occasional voice sample penetrates the mind of the listener already in a hypnogogic state from the soundscape. This track puts me in mind of Inade or Sleep Research Facility. High quality dark ambiance indeed. This is a perfect track for lying in a darkened room and meditating on the entropy at the heart of the universe.

I highly recommend this CD. Both tracks are very high quality examples of the genres that each artist works in. For fans of harsh noise there’s the Pope On Acid track and for dark ambient fans there’s Bonemachine. Somehow both tracks work well together on the same release, which is great. My only complaint is that this is a limited edition of 21. This needs to be heard by more people."

Ah yes, irony number three: "this needs to be heard by more people...." !!

Another review online at www.taakefrost.de (has everyone heard this apart from Nazgul?!) made the following observations:

"It's extremely interesting, how Pope On Acid try to control the listener, to demand reactions from him, which in turn intensifies the music.

Bonemachine confronts with really uncommon tones - beginning with slight rhythms, which stamp the background with metallic, deep and cold mood-fields displacing into subterranean fields – in the spiritual eye an unimaginable, industrial catacomb-realm. Immense halls, motionless machines, decay on the bellied torsos in the boiler room; a fusty and putrefactive smell lies in the air, the matt light of the floor-lamps, which inexplicably still drag electricity, gives off bizarre eeriness. Concerning atmosphere everything is simply made right here - one critical point would be the unbalanced regulation of the bass-tones, which isn't on a constant level and in some parts nearly overwhelms."

Being the collecting type, Nazgul will fearlessly go back into the search for another copy of this particular CD on the assumption that some of them will play correctly (and it's a salient reminder about the propensity for some CDr to deteriorate over time, so always make a copy folks) and, in time, another will come to light. Who knows, perhaps the original vinyl disc might be reassembled by the time Nazgul is through?!

Oh - as I'm sure the same question had crossed your mind - I did ask Alex recently about the vinyl disc that was sacrificed for the front cover design of this release. He couldn't actually recall, but suggested it might have been something pretty random from the 70's....!

VEREINT DURCH DIE KRAFT URALTER WALDER





Band: URUK HAI
Title: Vereint durch die Kraft uralter Wälder (United Through the Power of Age-Old Forests)
Format: Split 3"CDr between Uruk Hai and Moloch, coming in a special 'ancient sackcloth' package with 4 mini inlay cards, 1 colour postcard featuring both bands, 4 photos of Ukrainian and Austrian forests and mushrooms, and parts from Ukrainian and Austrian forests. Released in 2008 by W.A.R. Productions (Austria)
Edition: Only 50 copies in total, of which the first 5 came with an A4 poster & t-shirt

Track Listing:

Uruk Hai
01. Gil-Galad 11.00
Moloch
02. Auf dem Wege zu den vergessenen Wäldern (On the way to the forgotten forests) 10.45

Nazgul has frequently commented on the quality of packaging that comes out of W.A.R. Productions, and here is another great example of the sort of thing he's on about. A highly unique (and collectable) set of flora and photographs, in what appears to be a jute bag, with a really well designed 3"CDr and inlays. Quality stuff, and not the sort of release you're going to find everyday that's for certain.

The photos above come from copy #4 of the 50, and as such illustrate both the colour poster (Nazgul's has been kept in its container since 2008 and so won't lie flat without a bit of help, and the photo above cuts off the bottom of the poster which bears the album name) and the white t-shirt with the cover design on it. Both excellent collectors items!

German website www. kulturterrorismus.de called the album "A harmonious tribute to Mother Nature" and that's a rather good summary of the collaboration between Moloch and Uruk Hai on this release. They go on to conclude:

"The two one-man projects from Austria (Uruk-Hai) and Ukraine (Moloch), are both anchored in the Black Metal genre, but give themselves musically to more imaginative ambient sounds, which move in the direction of film score and soundtrack. Both bands contribute to the split ...[in] very good harmony with each other and do not "break" the concept.

The use of trumpets, captivating chanting and percussion [by Uruk Hai] guarantees a high recognition value. Moloch the other hand, relies on more darkness and destruction in his piece, and much menace and also grace revealed.
Those who favour varied dark ambient drones should not miss it."

The Uruk Hai track here is very much a light, ambient piece and - as the narrative above suggests - contains both female chanting, soft background male vocals at the outset, and delicate synthesiser passages. The percussion is almost tribal in places, which puts me in mind of some of the Ceremony Of Innocence material that was written around this same period. It could never be really described as a 'metal' track in any way, shape or form and nor, for that matter, could the offering from Moloch.

What you do get for your money are two very well crafted and eminently listenable ambient pieces of music that sit nicely as a small mini-album in their own right.

For those keeping up to speed with the Tolkien references, Gil-Galad was the last of the High Kings of the Noldor-in-Exile in Middle-earth. An Elf of the House of Finarfin, he was named High King of the Noldor-in-Exile in Beleriand after the fall of Gondolin and the death of the previous High King, Turgon.

After the War of Wrath and the end of the First Age, Gil-Galad founded a realm in the coastal region of Lindon along the shores of Belegaer, the Great Sea. At its height, his realm extended eastward as far as the Misty Mountains, though most of the Eldar remained in Lindon and in Elrond's refuge of Rivendell. According to The Fellowship of the Ring, Gil-Galad was the first of the Eldar to mistrust a stranger calling himself Annatar, and forbade him from entering Lindon. His mistrust was well founded, for it was soon learned that Annatar was in fact Sauron. After Sauron forged the One Ring, Gil-Galad was given one of the Three Elven Rings: Vilya, the Ring of Air (and most probably also Narya, the Ring of Fire). Just before Gil-Galad's death, Elrond was given Vilya for safekeeping (and Narya was given to Círdan).

During most of the Second Age, Gil-Galad enjoyed the friendship of the Númenóreans. This proved very useful as during the War of the Elves and Sauron; a great Númenórean force under the command of their king Tar-Minastir helped Gil-galad destroy Sauron's armies. After the Downfall of Númenor and the establishment by the Elendili of the Dúnadan kingdoms in exile, there was peace in Middle-earth. In the Age's closing years, however, Sauron reappeared with a newly formed army and a war against the kingdom of Gondor, closest to his old home of Mordor. Gil-Galad then formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men with Elendil, High King of the Dúnedain-in-Exile, The armies of Elves and Men, victorious after the Battle of Dagorlad, laid siege to Sauron in Mordor.

At the end of the siege, both Gil-Galad and Elendil aided in the overthrow of Sauron's physical body yet perished themselves in the assault. At the Council of Elrond, Elrond says that only three people survived the final battle with Sauron: Isildur, Círdan, and himself. A record left by Isildur in Minas-Tirith implies that Sauron himself slew Gil-Galad, with the heat of his bare hands.
For those of you of a more poetic bent, Tolkien wrote:

"Gil-Galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
The last whose realm was fair and free
Between the mountains and the sea.
His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen.
The countless stars of heaven's field
Were mirrored in his silver shield.
But long ago he rode away,
And where he dwelleth none can say.
For into darkness fell his star;
In Mordor, where the shadows are."

THE FIRST RING Vol.1 - update


Band: MANWE and URUK HAI
Title: The First Ring Volume 1 [V/A]
Reason for update: Promotional material for this album

Cast your eye back to October 9 on this Blog and you will see Nazgul's glowing review of the Tolkien inspired compilation album "The First Ring" and mini-interview with it's creator, Notturno. Containing the first piece of music from Manwe for ages, plus a new Uruk Hai track, the entire CD is fabulously crafted and contains both a variety of excellent bands and music as well as super artwork.

On the subject of super artwork these three images were part of the promotional campaign for the album, and Nazgul hopes you'll agree are worthy of their own little place on Honour And Darkness. Each band gets a mention on the various images of Middle-Earth, and it has to be said that the quality of the art is both fitting to the overall concept and meticulously created.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

BLUT / SANGUIS - unique version



Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Blut / Sanguis
Format: Unique tape edition of the Blut demo (1999) and the remastered version that appeared as Sanguis (2008), made by Alex at W.A.R. Productions in 2009. The tape comes in a hard red case with spring-mounted release mechanism, with edition sticker to rear and signed inlay cover to front.
Edition: 1 only

Track Listing:

Blut side:
1. Ozeane der Zeit
2. Kalte Nacht
3. Die Karpaten
4. Mitternacht
5. Der Pfähler
6. Sehe deinen Tod
7. Ein Meer aus Schmerzen
8. Herr über die Winde
9. Aufstieg verlorener Seelen
10. Blut I
11. Blut II
12. Apokalypse
13. Ewigkeit
14. Zuende
Sanguis Side:
1. Pax Vobiscum
2. Libera Me
3. Silentium
4. Nosferat


This was a total surprise to Nazgul, coming as a gift from Hugin back in 2009 as a special one-off version of Hrossharsgrani's "Blut" and "Sanguis" releases. From past posts, you may recall that the 2008 digipak release "Sanguis" was a re-mastered version of the original 1999 "Blut" demo, condensing the 14 songs on offer into three tracks, with the addition of a rehearsal recording 'Nosferat' that dated back to 1998.

It was the CDr version of the original demo that bore the outstanding werewolf artwork that you see adorning this new tape version, and which Alex has also made into a superb collectible t-shirt (literally signed in blood) for Nazgul as covered in the Blog on 14th November. The cover is also signed in gold pen, and the edition sticker on the back proudly proclaims this to be #1 of 1!

To have this tape in the collection is truly a special moment - again it demonstrates the time and effort that Alex is willing to put in for his fans around the world, and once again Nazgul hopes this Blog tribute helps to pay back some of this debt of gratitude.

Guaranteed not to be seen on sale anywhere soon!