Friday, 27 August 2010

DESTINATION: HELL


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Destination: Hell
Format: CDr released on the Smell The Stench label (Australia) in 200x, no catalogue reference. The release comes in a DVD-sized box with outer artwork by Neon Ästhet (ex-Elisabetha). This release contains the original Bonemachine demo, recorded in 2002.
Edition: Presumed to be unlimited

Track Listing:

01. Sympathy For The Devil (Let Me Please Introduce Myself...) 77.03

The year 2002 was an apparently abnormal year in Hugin's unusually prolific recording history. Whilst the period 1999-2001 positively blossoms with Hrossharsgrani demos and Elisabetha vinyl - plus the odd Raben Nacht tape - and the period 2004-2006 sees the start of the fertile period of Uruk Hai demos (particularly 2004) and Hrefnesholt releases, the middle period of 2002-2003 is a relatively quiet one, by comparison. One notable development in 2002, however, was the genesis of the industrial project Bonemachine.

Now, it's written on the Bonemachine/B-Machina website that the project originally recorded under the name Heimatleid in the late 1990s, and indeed the first "Trummer Aus Stein" demo was examined in Honour & Darkness back on 24 September 2009. You may recall Nazgul's surprise on listening to that particular tape for the first time that the demo actually proved to be a recording straight out of the Hrossharsgrani viking-metal mould circa "Kampf" and "Krieg", and as the precursor to Bonemachine it bore little aural relationship at all to the project we now associate with that name. Heimatleid recorded another demo (technically just the one, although there are two differently titled recordings on the one tape as a future post will reveal) in a similar vein before, at some point around 2001-2002 becoming re-christened as Bonemachine.

This vast, sprawling demo track - over an hour and seventeen minutes in length - is the result of that transformation. It's a world apart from anything that Hugin had recorded (or - at least - recorded and published) before, and showed a different side to the artist from the more 'traditional' metal releases preceding it. There is no guitar, and the unpredictable, undulating aural landscape is punctuated only by the sounds of synths, samples and strangeness. This is Bonemachine 'as was', well before the involvement of Max on acoustic guitar, and prone to unexpected convergences of industrial/mechanised rhythm with dark, sparse keyboard passages and eerie samples/voice effects. There is an element of 'everything but the kitchen sink' about this demo, natural enough perhaps in so far as it must have been a massive release valve for Hugin to commit to CD these alternative musical outpourings that clearly were waiting to get out!

It's pretty much impossible to try to describe the music to you, as you can't really translate 77 minutes of this sort of stuff into straightforward prose. Well, Nazgul can't - but here's an attempt from one online site who were clearly feeling more able to have a stab at it:

"Sympathy for the Devil" is a strange journey through ambient landscapes. A release that features one song which is lasting for 77 minutes, very hard to listen to and maintain yourself focused to what is happening there, and there aren't many things that you'll notice because there aren't too many variations here and when a new element theme appears in the music there is the tendency to repeat and repeat that theme until you say that you've had enough. I don't know if anyone is interested in this kind of release but anyway everyone is free to say what he wants to say... isn’t he?" 6/10

Whilst they may not be overly complementary how refreshing to see some coverage of early Bonemachine material online, for once!

Appropriately, this original release came though Smell The Stench, a label renowned for its pressings of the more esoteric and unusual side of the musical spectrum. Nazgul imagines that a quick trip to the STS distro lists would most likely identify this release as still available, and for a modest outlay. You may also be interested to learn that a re-mastered version appears on the first disc of the Bonemachine 2CD compilation "Erste Rotation (Eine Retrospektive von Krieg und Zeit)" from Sabbathid Records (Japan), also yet to be reviewed in Honour and Darkness but still widely available.

The inlay design on this original Smell The Stench release, incidentally, is from the prolific pen of former Elisabetha member and artist Neon Ästhet, and begins the war-themed artwork typically associated with the early Bonemachine releases although, of course, Hugin himself penned many of the covers of the next few immediate releases such as "Monolog & Rhythmus" and "Soldat".

Hand on heart it's not a release amongst the many that Nazgul possess that often is given a spin on the Castle death-deck: the sheer size of the song precludes you being able to do much with it other than dip in and out occasionally if the CD is playing in the background. It's too big, too difficult to get to grips with on a regular basis and certainly not the sort of material that you'd whistle in the bath. It is interesting though, as it is clearly the beginning of an entirely new project that would ultimately appeal to a largely different audience from Hugin's more familiar work - much like WACH in fact. Indeed, Nazgul suspects that of the readership of this Blog the vast majority of you are Uruk Hai fans, with a minority only being able to boast much Bonemachine or B-Machina in your collections. This type of release might be why - it's not easy, and it's certainly not on the same planet as the ethereal Uruk Hai material of recent years. The happy ending, as it were, is that this demo is the 'grand-daddy' of some of the later more accessible Bonemachine output, of which there is plenty - and if you're inclined to want to dig deeper to hear it drop Uncle Nazgul a line and let him give you some pointers....

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

THE SONG NEVER REMAINS THE SAME

Band: URUK HAI, HROSSHARSGRANI, ELISABETHA and B-MACHINA
Title: The Song Never Remains The Same
Format: A cassette-only compilation released on Wulfrune Worxx (France) in 2010, cat ref WW128, as a part of the Split-Series. Inlay is photocopied black and white paper, showing the 'four faces' of Hugin. The tape is a standard C60 cassette. Guest vocal appearances from U.B., Piette, P.R. Sergiy, and Els.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 66 copies only

Track Listing:

01. URUK HAI * Over Old Hills [Summoning cover]
02. URUK HAI * Hermodr A Helferd [Burzum cover]
03. HROSSHARSGRANI * Countess Bathory [Venom cover]
04. HROSSHARSGRANI * Down There [Beherit cover]
05. ELISABETHA * Transilvanischer Hunger [Darkthrone cover]
06. ELISABETHA * The Priest Must Die [Countess cover]
07. B-MACHINA * Beth [Kiss cover]
08. B-MACHINA * The Power Of Love - rehearsal [Frankie Goes To Hollywood cover]

By Nazgul's reckoning it was back in 2007 - with "The "First Evil Spell" emanating from Aussie label Smell The Stench - that the last compilation spanning a number of Hugin's bands was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. It's taken another three years until now, but stepping into the void comes enigmatic Frenchman Skogen - owner of Wulfrune Worxx and all round 'good egg' - to release another set of songs from the fevered mind of Alexander Wieser.

The name of this album may have given you a clue, being an adaptation of an old Led Zeppelin title. If not, and if the track listing above has also passed you by, then allow Nazgul to elucidate - this is a compilation of cover tracks by four of Hugin's projects (sadly no Hrefnesholt material, but you can't have everything!). Some have been included on previous releases, some not. Some cover the sort of territory that you might expect they should, others cut a path down some very unexpected avenues.

As an overall package it's great value - 8 songs, the odd unique-to-this-release track, and another quality addition to any Huginophile's collection. Nazgul's copy is #7 of the 66, and the tape is playing on the Castle death-deck as I type...

So let's start at the beginning: Side A. Straight off the bat we're in for a treat - how many times have you asked yourself the rhetorical question, "I wonder what an Uruk Hai cover version of fellow Austrian artists Summoning might sound like?" If the answer is never, then you possibly have strayed here by mistake. Austrian symphonic BM band Summoning are one of the more recognised bands in this genre, and their albums are a triumph of epic metal over major label indifference. The track covered here - 'Over Old Hills', from their "Dol Guldur" album - is recognisably Hugin in interpretation, but retaining those unmistakable melodies that make Summoning the band they are. Unique to this album, and worth the purchase price alone, you really do need to listen to this...

The second Uruk Hai cover song (there are two from each featured project) is an old chestnut - Burzum's 'Hermodr A Helferd', previously recorded for the "~2~" split CD with Vinterriket, and also appearing on both the original "Heidensturm" demo from Hrefnesholt and Uruk Hai's later demo "A Viking's Journey." The original appears on Burzum's 1997 release "Dauði Baldrs" and translates loosely as "Hermodr On A Journey To Hell". It's an easy choice, one might suppose, to cover a Burzum track given the dark ambient nature of some of that band's output. To choose this song, from perhaps Varg's least well received album and recorded during his incarceration, takes some balls too. Nazgul has never been a Burzum follower, so can't really comment on the quality issues, but found this an interesting listen for the duration....

Next up we have pair of Hrossharsgrani recordings, both on the recently reviewed "Dead:Meat" CD from Steinklang Industries. 'Countess Bathory' has that catchy keyboard melody piping through it to keep your toes tapping, whilst the slightly off-kilter but hugely engaging cover of Beherit's 'Down There' is another highlight of this compilation, with it's wacky piano accompaniment.

So far, so good (so what?!) - well, let's flip to Side B. Here we find a new and an old couple of Elisabetha covers. 'Transilvanischer Hunger' has been made the subject of a limited edition release in its own right on W.A.R. Productions, so although appearing in slightly edited form here we'll leave the critique of that track until Honour and Darkness covers it specifically. Suffice to say, it adds to the original and is a good version! The second of Elisabetha's pair of songs is 'The Priest Must Die', the product of Dutch madness (via Countess) in 1995 and last heard off on the 2003/2009 Elisabetha release "Vampyr". A lengthy song of numerous transitions and plenty of black metal riff-ery, it sounds better here than Nazgul remembers. A good sign!

And so to the B-Machina tracks. Now, as you might imagine from a neo-folk-industrial-hell sort of outfit, any cover song is unlikely to instantly sound like it's forbear. In this instance, I would imagine even the original song-writer might be hard pressed to seek royalties after a listen here! The Kiss cover "Beth" is not entirely as I recall the original, but what the heck: Nazgul knows little of Kiss the band. Sadly, being a teenage of the 1980s, Nazgul does recall Frankie Goes To Hollywood (not to be confused with UK rock 'legends' Paddy Goes To Hollyhead), but the good news is that the cover of 'The Power of Love' sounds bugger all like their effort from back in the era of shoulder-pads and mobiles the size of a brick. Personally, a 'Two Tribes' cover would have been more appealing, but Nazgul's not in charge of affairs so who is he to criticise?

The final scores on the doors, were Nazgul to be broken on the rack until revealing his favourites on this release, would see his choice for the top 3 songs on this album being:

1. 'Over Old Hills' - a classic, and surely a future Uruk Hai track for a CD release or my name's not Nazgul;

2. 'Down There' - mad, bad, and entirely brilliant; &

3. 'Transilvanischer Hunger' - something to get your teeth into...

Friday, 20 August 2010

NACHTKRIEG - update

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Nachtkrieg
Reason for update: a surprise development!

You may recall the saga that was Nazgul's efforts to obtain the "Nachtkrieg" split release between Uruk Hai and Amercian black metal band Forgotten Land. If not, head back to the post of 24 September 2009 for the detail, the short version of which reads "label keeps money and never sends the promised item: no copies of Nachtkrieg to be had, anywhere, until saviour found online". Now, from out of a clear blue sky, comes a surprise development that allows Nazgul to set the record straight as it were, and address concerns raised in that original post.

In a recent postal delivery to Castle Nazgul came an unexpected and very interesting brown paper parcel bearing a US postmark. Inside, much to the delight of the castle monkey, was a small selection of CDs from Dungeons Deep plus a copy of the "Nachtkrieg" disc signed in runic script on the front by no less than Lord Tetrarch himself, sole member of Forgotten Land and owner of the Dungeons Deep label. There had been some intermittent email correspondance between the two parties since that September post and some promises that the paid-for CD would be in transit soon, so the receipt yesterday was a solid sign of honesty and good intent, and Nazgul is delighted to reflect this situation in Honour and Darkness.

Information received from WAR Productions also suggests that the CDs expected by Hugin from the label have also arrived in the recent past.

There appears to have been some updates on the Dungeons Deep front recently too, not least on their website which is back with a new look and new product. Here is a link to their store for the aforementioned Uruk Hai split CD that you might want to try, and if you enquire first about availability and expected delivery times then it might be well worth further investigation: http://www.dungeonsdeep.com/024.html

Overall then, a happy end to the story...

[Edit: it seems that Nazgul may also owe a debt of thanks to Blog reader Morax Draug for keeping this particular ball in the air - many thanks!]

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Nazgul's Top 10: Uruk Hai rarities

Nazgul's Top 10 Uruk Hai 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 - Uruk Hai being the fifth (and possibly most anticipated) in the series - 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...

Choosing the top ten collectable items from Uruk Hai is a little like trying to choose your favourite child - ultimately a fruitless endeavour that you really shouldn't be trying to do anyway. There are so many items in the band's discography - even omitting the one-off items and 'special/private releases' - that whatever the list produced it will be controversial and very subjective. However, not one to shirk from a challenge, here is Nazgul's personal take on the situation. In order to make something manageable out of this, and not flood it with one-off specials, I've excluded the following categories of items:
  • private pressings (often literally 1 or 2 copies at most) where the item was not offered for general sale - for example "Orkstahl", "Mystic" or "Thousand Lightnings Storm";
  • items where a subsequent re-issue has made the tracks available more widely, even where the original pressing is hard to find - for example, "In Durin's Halls", "Of Gleaming Swords in the Land of the North", "Valkyrian Romance" or "Quenta Silmarillion";
  • oddities - for example, the mis-titled "Schall Und Rauch" split 7" from 2001, which is labelled as Uruk Hai but actually features a Bonemachine track, rare Uruk Hai tracks on compilation CD's (notably the Depravity CDr), and the almost infamous Forgotten Lands/Uruk Hai split that is hard to find only because of poor distribution from the US rather than being 'rare' per se.

So before we hit the official top-ten, let's consider the 'nearly' items that were on the fringes of inclusion but for one reason or other didn't quite make it. Frankly, most of the discography prior to 2006 is pretty hard to find at the best of times, but heck, we've got to draw a line somewhere


The 'close but no cigar' awards:
"Darkness" demo (2001) - one of the earliest demo releases given a wider distribution from the band, but still really scarce;
"Arkillery/Uruk Hai" split CDr (2004) - try and find one of these? There were 50 or so pressed, so you never know your luck...;
"Battle Yells" compilation tape (2003) - they are out there, Nazgul's owned 3 copies over the years and traded 2 away, but again, it's a tough find

But enough of this, let's proceed to the real arguments and invoke Nazgul's official top 10 Uruk Hai rarities! You may agree, you may disagree, but Nazgul would be delighted to hear from you in any event: tall_dai@ntlworld.com


10. Lebenin
Well, let's start with a controversial one - this cassette was offered for sale via the band website in 2009 but probably sold out within minutes of being advertised. Only 6 copies of this specially packaged demo were made, and although it's a recent release you won't be finding one for sale anywhere now. The principal difference between this and early demos from 2002-2004 period is that many of the tapes in the early years were produced in the low hundreds, so theoretically (at least) they might occasionally come up for sale. That has certainly been Nazgul's experience in the main, although it's been a painstaking process to track them down. This one, however, is likely to be tucked up safely in collections for good, and thus will be impossible to find in the future...?
9. Ea
A small but perfectly formed CDr demo on the Italian Werwolf Distributions label, released in 2004 in a quantity of 100 copies. You'd imagine therefore that they would be pop up for sale once in a blue moon, but experience shows this to be far from the case. In fact, the only copy I've ever seen for sale is the copy I have in front of me now, and that was purchased pretty soon after it was released. Quite where the others went is frankly anyone's guess - somewhere in deepest Italy there may yet be an undiscovered box containing hitherto untapped "Ea" reserves, but until it's discovered you'll be hunting high and low for this release!

8. Angband (metal box edition)
A sneak preview for you - how many more of Nazgul's forthcoming surprises will be laid bare by this ambitious post? Nazgul can almost hear the sound of jaws dropping open at the thought of how a 2010 release could possibly be in the top ten list of Uruk Hai collectables. God's teeth man, it's only been out a few months so how can it be so scarce? Well, simply because fledgling label Runenstein Records only released 5 copies of the metal box edition of "Angband" complete with the extra goodies, and they've all been sold. Simple. Can you buy one now? I doubt it, and I doubt too that the owners of the 5 will ever be persuaded to part with their copies either. It has 'future collectable' and 'rare' stamped all over it. There were only 21 numbered copies of the release in total, so with just 16 'standard' versions left to fight over I'd head off to the label sharpish....

7. Blutreich
The original blog entry for this CD could have been summarised thus: 'best-of compilation CD in edition of 333 copies on respected label suddenly appears from nowhere' shock! It was an extraordinary thing really, given the years of tracking down Alex's material - this CD suddenly appeared in 2009 on the Uruk Hai MySpace page as a part of the Uruk Hai discography, and following further enquiry on the lines of "what's all this about, then?!" this copy came into Nazgul's possession. It remains as improbable as Castle Nazgul winning a 'tourist destination of 2010' award. But where are the rest of them (the CD folks, not the tourists!)? Why is it so unknown, even on the internet, despite apparently existing in a fair number on a 'known' label? Why did it take until 2009 to be recognised in the discography when is was released back in 2005? Was it, in fact, ever officially released? Have you got a copy? Probably the most bizarre Uruk Hai rarity of all.

6. Long Forgotten Tales
Another pressing of 50 copies on the Werwolf label in 2004, another fruitless 3 year hunt on-line trying to find one having missed the boat the first time around! Against all the odds a copy was finally tracked down, in the Netherlands, and the deal was done. Just goes to show that with a little application and perseverance you too can go to the ball, Cinderella. Oh hang on, went off at a tangent there. The fact remains that this little demo is an early gem from Uruk Hai that any fan would be proud to own.

5. Land Of The Shadow
There have been a few occasions where eBay has been worth its weight in gold. One was the happy day when Nazgul managed to sell a CD for £1,000 to a completely mad Englishman who just had to have it to finish his collection (and before you ask, it was a Radiohead disc pressed in South Africa and - as it turned out - the only known copy in existence...which Nazgul found for £2 in a second-hand shop. Ha!). Collectors, eh? Barking mad, the lot of us. Anyway, that brings us to "Land of the Shadow", which despite it's supposed 100 copies eluded Nazgul for years, until this copy popped up on eBay in America for a scarcely believable buy-it-now price of £3. Was it a bargain - oh yes! Would Nazgul have paid £1000 for it - errrr...next!

4. Elbentanz
Think of Odium Records: in rapid proximity the words 'Phil', 'Knight' and 'midget' may spring to mind. Also springing forth from this label was a collection of early Uruk Hai demos, released into an unsuspecting world in 2003, in an edition of just 100 copies and titled "Elbentanz". As before with the "Ea" release, however, where the other 99 copies have ended up is impossible to tell as they just simply don't come up for sale anywhere, anytime. After taking pity on poor old demented Nazgul, the kindly Mr Knight plundered the depths of the Odium archive to retrieve this copy, most probably the last one he had and very likely one of the very last few any of us could lay hands on at a moment's notice.

3. Uber Die Nebelberge Weit
Certainly impossible to find anywhere beyond a 1 mile radius of WAR Productions, this demo from 2000 only came into Nazgul's possession (much like the next entry) through the kindness of Hugin himself, who made his own copy available to me. Hand-made inlays add the personal touch to a demo limited to only 6 copies. Borderline private pressing in a way, but then again this was at the very early stages of the project when the market for this material was nowhere near as big as it is today, hence the low volume ('big' in this context being relative, of course, compared to say Iron Maiden!)

2. Gone With The Wind
Another hand-packaged demo, this time from 2001 and with only 5 copies out there rarer than spotting Bigfoot at the Loch Ness Monsters' tea-party. As with the previous entry, this was never going to be something you'd just stumble across on-line and so Nazgul is eternally grateful to Hugin for putting this excellent demo in his clutches. Oddly, not a whiff of Scarlett O'Hara to be found though - what gives? Frankly, dear readers, I don't give a damn

1. Battle Magic
So having reached fever-pitch with this countdown what, you might reasonably cry, is at the top of the list? The supreme collectable, the uber-item in the Uruk Hai catalogue. Well, in Nazgul's humble opinion it is this equally humble cassette tape demo from 2004, with photocopied inlays and released on Werwolf Productions (it's that label again!) in 2004 in an edition of 22 copies and with out-takes from the "Barbarian" album sessions.

Not the smallest limitation we've encountered on this journey, but by George it's an elusive item. So much so, in fact, that absolutely no one Nazgul knows has a copy. Alex hasn't got one, the nice man at Werwolf hasn't any spare, and most depressingly of all Nazgul hasn't got one. It's the ultimate prize in my book, as it appears to have vanished from the face of the earth.

The tiny photo you see here is from Metal Archives, so I know someone out there has one - so step up and make yourself known!

Now, you might consider that Nazgul is cheating slightly here, as the three tracks on this tape were in fact released on subsequent Uruk Hai releases - two ('Varg Riders' and 'Battle Magic') as bonus tracks on the tape version of the "Barbarians" release, and the third ('In The Green Fields') only recently on the aforementioned "Angband" release. But hell, it's Nazgul's rule to break, and as this is (probably) the only known Uruk Hai release not to be securely held in the castle library, it is by default the ultimate collectable. At least, until another "Blutreich" turns up out of the blue....!


Sunday, 15 August 2010

HUGIN MUNIN > publicity material

Band: HUGIN MUNIN
Item: Publicity flyer for their "Viking Brothers" release, featuring Hugin

The Brazilian band Hugin Munin is not, of course, a dedicated side-project of our prolific Austrian hero Hugin. That said, Hugin has contributed to this album as we have covered in a past post, so as this glossy flyer was found blowing around the library after letting the brisk morning air into the castle it seemed timely to update the Blog with a quick post.

This particular CD was pressed by Beverina & WAR, whence this flyer originated, and as noted on the bottom of the colour side, "Featuring Hugin from Uruk Hai & Hrossharsgrani." The reverse shows a photo of Hugin bedecked in bullet belts and leather, and no points are awarded for spotting that this is the same photo as appeared on the inlay of the "A Night In The Forest" tape (and which, going off at a small tangent, was itself presumably one of a session used for other AMF releases, including the "Barbarians" tape, where our hero can be found in the same attire and up to his knees in a snowdrift...)

The reverse side narrative notes:

"Hugin Munin band is here to gratify for the friendship and support of our "6th" member from Austria, he is the almighty Alex 'Hugin' Wieser from Hrossharsgrani and Uruk Hai. He is working together with Hugin Munin now in creation, composition, concept and art in order to create deeper and even heavier Viking tunes!"

Keep scanning the horizon for an impending invasion of long-boats...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

OF BATTLES, RAVENS AND FIRE - update


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Of Battles, Ravens and Fire
Format: Multiple - three new tape versions released in 2010 to complement the 2 existing CD pressings and picture disc vinyl edition. See details in text
Editions: various - see text
Reason for Update: New versions of this early Hrossharsgrani release released on tape in 2010

One possible question that might be asked of Nazgul were he ever interviewed in context of Hugin's work might be, "So, what demo or album in your collection do you have the most copies of?" Who might ask this is left to your imagination, but the answer he or she would receive would most certainly be "Of Battles, Ravens and Fire" by Hrossharsgrani.

This is, on the face of it, a surprising answer (not least to Nazgul) as recent inventory work reveals no less than 6 different versions of this recording on official releases from W.A.R. and other labels. There was, back in the beginning, the 7 track 2000 CD EP pressing on CCP Records (Austria). This was followed by a limited edition (300 copies) picture disc vinyl pressing (a split 12" with Mittwinter) in 2001, and then a CD reissue in 2005 with two bonus tracks, both on CCP Records. That took the tally to 3 at the end of 2005, and have been covered in past posts on these pages.

The 3 new tape reissues, 2010
Skip ahead 5 years into 2010 and 3 more versions of this demo/EP have seen the light of day, so for convenience sake Nazgul will deal with them all together here. Clearly, akin to some form of rampant Viking rabbit, putting two copies of this album together spawns numerous offspring!

In no particular order in February 2010 the legendary French label Wulfrune Worxx released two tapes in their Split Series, both featuring this particular Hrossharsgrani recording. One - a split release with self-titled project Hugin, with the "Differences" tracks on the flip-side - featured the 'extended version' of "Of Battles, Ravens and Fire", being in other words the 9 track version formerly on the 2005 CD reissue. Two - another Split Series release with Hugin, this time with the "Brotherhood" release - featured a 'first take recording session' of the original tracks together with a separate song, a medley called 'March & Fight'.



Copies of the Split Series releases were limited to just 66 hand-numbered copies of each tape, and the photos below show the particular tapes detailed above:


"Of Battles, Ravens and Fire" split with Hugin "Brotherhood" (#10/66)

"Of Battle, Ravens and Fire" split with Hugin "Differences" (#10/66)


No sooner had these hit the world at large then Ukrainian label Depressive Illusions released a 3 track cassette demo in March 2010 - cunningly entitled "Of Battles, Ravens and Fire" - in a limited edition of just 33 hand-numbered copies, with full-cover cover with the extended version of 'Of Battles...' as track one, the 'March & Fight' medley as track two, and an extended version of 'Fimbulvinter' (the original version of which is part of the extended version of 'Of Battles....', if you follow me) on the reverse of the tape as track three.

You will recall that 'Fimbulvinter' has also appeared as a Hross' track in various other places, notably the "Ewig Winter" demo (2000), the 2010 split tape "The Long Grey Road", and in entirely different form on the "From The Dark Ages" compilation tape of 1999. Oh - not to mention as the song on the one off blue CDr pressing that Hugin made for Nazgul. It's eternally complicated, but endlessly rewarding, being a collector...



Anyway, photo detail of the Depressive Illusions release is shown here:

Depressive Illusions pressing "Of Battles, Ravens and Fire" #2/33

Head spinning following this summarised discography, the burning question that remains therefore is, "Which of these releases should I buy, then?" Well, like all things you pay your money and you take your choice: collectors of the rare and obscure might favour the vinyl pressing (although be warned, the few you'll find for sale are usually ambitiously priced); advocates of modern digital sound will doubtless head towards the CD selection, of which the reissue offers more value given the additional tracks; old school tape addicts might favour the colour print, 3 track limited edition version from Depressive Illusions. In any event, there's a fair chance in your online search for all things Hugin you'll stumble across at least one of these releases, and well worth your time and investment it will prove to be.

Friday, 13 August 2010

BROTHERHOOD


Band: HUGIN
Title: Brotherhood
Format: Cassette release on Wulfrune Worxx (France), part of their 'Split Series' and a joint release with Hrossharsgrani (whose "Of Battles, Ravens and Fire" release is on the reverse side). 2010 release, catalogue reference WW109.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 66 copies

Track Listing:

01. Intro - The Windlords [from "Land of Frost" by Nachtfalke]
02. Venus Rising [from "Reign of the Fallen One" by Dark Domination]
03. Angel Enthroned [from "Reign of the Fallen One" by Dark Domination]
04. Introduction [from "Ancient Runic Sorcery" of Forgotten Land]
05. Outro [from "A Nordic Poem" by Folkearth]
06. Introduction [from "By the Sword of my Father" by Folkearth]
07. Journey Ends [from "By the Sword of my Father" by Folkearth]

Here's a cracking wheeze - take Hugin's various contributions to other projects done in his own name (as opposed to being release from one of his formal projects on a split album or compilation) and bring them together in one place under the 'Hugin' project. No longer do you need to scour the seven kingdoms to unearth the last remaining copy of the legendary "Ancient Runic Sorcery" album from Forgotten Land, nor expend oodles of cash on various Folkearth and Nachtfalke releases.

This can't be called the the definitive collection of extra curricular work from Hugin, however, as for one thing it doesn't include the 'Ravens Empire' introduction for Hugin Munin (Viking warriors of Brazil) amongst it tracks, or indeed the instrumental tracks 'Set Sails Onward To Plunder', 'Odin's Blackwinged Messengers' or 'By The Power Of Mjolnir' from the "Viking Brothers" release, but what is on offer shows plenty of variety and having most of it in one place can only be a good thing for casual fans and collectors alike.

By dint of the fact that this material tends to book-end most other artists albums, either as intro or outro pieces, it should come as no surprise to learn that these are short instrumental pieces, and heavily keyboard driven. It should also comes as no surprise given that the songs in question have been covered on their respective original releases on Honour and Darkness, and Nazgul is proud to have had a part in helping with this release in as far as providing the MP3 file for 'Introduction' from his copy of the "Ancient Runic Sorcery" release, a 2006 demo so obscure that even Hugin himself couldn't lay hands on the original track!

The only track here that has not been covered previously is the opener, the introduction from Nachtfalke's epic 2003 album "Land of Frost". Here, a brief introduction of - you guessed it - wind-based ambient effects is the prelude to some rigourous riffing and throaty vocals from the German horde.

The title for this collection is rather fitting too - "Brotherhood". Defined as 'an association of men, such as a fraternity or union, united for common purposes', which (if the ladies reading will allow Nazgul this indiscretion) probably nicely sums up the majority of readers of these pages. The subtle irony of the cover illustration, which portrays armed female warriors in winged helmets, can't surely be coincidence....

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

LEBENSENDE: WINTER - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Lebensende:Winter
Format: MCD version of this 2010 demo release, on Satanica Productions (New Zealand) catalogue reference SAT555-36. CD comes with glossy colour inlay and picture-disc enhanced CD with video as track two. There is a dedication on the inlay to CZ of Vinterriket.
Edition: Presumed unlimited

Track Listing:

01. Lebensende:Winter (audio) 11.12
02. Lebensende:Winter (video) 11.38

The first Honour and Darkness post of April 2010 covered the excellent "Lebensende:Winter" demo from Uruk Hai in its cassette pressing on the Depressive Illusions label. As noted at the time, the intention was to issue the tracks on CD as well as tape, and here is that version courtesy of New Zealand label Satanica Productions.

Packaging wise the CD looks the part - the cover art shows a more ominous purple hue than the blue-grey colour of the tape pressing, symbolic of the impending snowstorm that is hovering just over the horizon.

'What snowstorm', you cry? Well, take a look at the accompanying video for this track and you'll be immersed in a blizzard from the outset, which lends the track the necessary wintry feel that you just can't get when reviewing the song on a fine August day like we have here at Castle Nazgul this afternoon. Even the traitors rotting in the oubliettes below the Castle seem to be in better spirits than usual today, and Nazgul is sure the weather must be to blame. This track greatly benefits from having a snow-covered forest and twilight as a visual accompaniment, so the video track (hand-held footage shot by Hugin) is a definite boon.

Should you buy this as well as the tape? Hell yes, of course you should.

ELISABETHA > The Depravity interview...

Band: ELISABETHA
Item: An interview conducted with Depravity Zine #2 in 2005, featuring Elisabetha band members Blutgraf (U.B.) and Neon Ästhet (A.R)

Rescued from obscurity and re-published for posterity, here is an interesting little interview with two of the three Elisabetha band members, circa 2005, originally published in 'Depravity' zine issue #2. It's about the only interview Nazgul has seen with the band that actually excludes Hugin from the responses, so in that regard it's a bit of a collectors item!

Depravity was the written word 'weapon of choice' for Annak and Phil Knight (who Honour & Darkness readers will know has been very helpful in supporting this Blog over the years) to vent their spleen on the world at large, and feature some up and coming (and some already there) bands from the underground scene. Nazgul thanks Phil - Welsh midget-molesting champion five years running now - for this copy of the zine, which is a mixture of the bizarre and terrifying with occasional references to music!

This is the original article, faithfully reproduced as it was originally published (allowing for the odd grammatical correction and tidy up here and there), so the doubtful nature of some of Mr Knight's questions together with the answers given have nothing to do with your old Uncle Nazgul, oh dear me no....

Hailz, please introduce yourself and your activities.

Blutgraf: I offer my greetings, worthy friend...I am called Blutgraf and I am a restless entity, a half-demon, existing only to analyse the stories about vampires. Big names have written the history of vampires - Prosper Merimee, Baudelaire, Byron, Alexander Dumas, to name any of them. Elisabetha is my haunt about the living, my imagination of the slow death. Elisabetha is death's force, respresenting the restless, the inconsistency and the contradiction. Elisabetha is death's blindness, how it pretends to be life.

Neon Ästhet: Dark regards! I'm the Neon Ästhet and see myself as a modern dandy from the southern states of the USA. I live with magic since the middle of the eighties. I do provate studies about magic, philosophy, theoretical physics and other sciences. I have two parts of themes in my writing and art - my universe of erotic-blood-pain with urban horror, MSF, war crime and other influences. All the other part is vampires, of course.

How are your dealings with Eclipse of Live Promulgation [Nazgul's note - the German label who released some of Elisabetha's demos]? How did it come about?

Blutgraf: The first contact was at the time of the "Vampyr" CD. The label weas impressed from the recordings and published them. The publication of the "Untodt" tape was the next, and now EoLP will release a split 7" with Nachtmahr. For me, the label distinguishes itself through unusual publishing - no commercial thinking, truely bound with the underground. The one and only basis to let art and inspiration grow...

Explain your vampyric obsessions? You have taken quotes from Werner Herzogs films amonst others, what remains your all time favourite vampire film?

Blutgraf: Hmmmm, Werner Herzog's movie is brilliant, but it doesn't play a big role in the samples taken by Elisabetha. To call one vampire movies my favourite would take away the worth from other movies. I have many beloved ones, and will tell them to you:
  • 1922 Nosferatu - Eine Symphonie Des Grauens
  • 1920/21 Dr. Mabuse Teil 1 / Teil 2
  • 1931 Tod Browning's Dracula
  • 1932/33 Das Testament Des Dr. Mabuse
  • 1965 Blood For Dracula
  • 1970 Taste The Blood Of Dracula
  • 1963 Schloss Des Grauens

But also Hammer Productions - like Feinde Aus Dem Nichts & Das Grune Blut Der Damonen, also Jess Franco's Eine Jungfrau in Den Krallen Von Frankenstein / Frankenstein's Todesfluch have a very dark and morbid charm. Sorry to say, I don't sympathise with the newest movies about vampires: Angel of the Night and Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula are really the only exceptions that I like. Because I prefer an inspired and subtle use of light and shadows, refined montages (like the silent movies trembling light effects) to creates a doom and evil-like scene for the cruelty.

Neon Ästhet: Vampires are more than an obsession for me. They are the axis of the Dark Path that I go and reach through art and writing into all parts of my daily life. Also, my studies are under the sign of vampirism. I'm always interested to contact people to talk about vampires seriously. From old to new, I like many vampire movies and novels, and I'm still looking to discover new ones. I don't have an all-time favourite vampire movie, but let me tell you my preferred ones:

  • 1922 Nosferatu - Eine Symphonie des Grauens
  • 1984 The Keep (Die Unheimliche Macht)
  • 1987 Near Dark
  • 1990 Pale Blood
  • 1990 Sub-Species
  • 2000 Shadow of the Vampire
  • 2000 Dark Prince
  • 2001 The Forsaken

But ask me any months later, and other movies may be on the list. I also like horror movies from splatter to atmospheric ones, sexploitation and erotic thriller if they are very hard and vicious.

Have you ever drunk the blood of a virgin? Or had rampant sex with a rotting cadaver? If you could, would you choose to become a vampire?

Blutgraf: I would reveal my innermost self if I gave a detailed answer to your question. The sexual attraction between two people can also be defined, to want to do things together, that would be sick, to do them with another person, hahaha....

Neon Ästhet: I make no secret about being interested in S&M and the dominant lifestyle therein. But I think you will understand if I talk only to my good friends about the details of this and other private things. To the second part of your question, it's like with my name. Some of my friends call me Neon and other ones Arnold - it's always a thing of feeling and understanding...

When can we see the next works of your emerging? How did the collaborations with Alex Wieser come about?

Blutgraf: Elisabetha will prepare new works for the years 2005/06 - here we go:

  • 2005 Nosferat double-CDr
  • 2005 Elisabetha/Namtar split tape
  • 2005 Elisabetha/Nachtmahr split 7"
  • 2005/06 Elisabetha/Vow Dreams split CDr in DVD case
  • 2006 Morella CD

Neon Ästhet: In all things Elisabetha I give the word to the Blutgraf - he's the 'head' of Elisabetha. I'm only a part of it, and very proud about that. For myself, I can say that I still write, paint and do new experimentsin writing and art. I'm always open for people interested in my art or who have suggestions. My next exhibition will be in 2006, here in Linz, Austria.

Enlighten our weary soulless minds will your full discography, and your most cherished album of all time?

Blutgraf: Hmmph, we have realised many publications until now - to tell them all with comments would be a little too long for the frame of your magazine. So I beg for the understanding of the reader to take all necessary dates from our homepage, or please try to contact the German label EoLP. About other Elisabetha publishing, I cannot say 100% which is my most preferred one but I prefer the newest ones, that's for sure. Because the sound is different using digital recording and a PC studio too. So the CDs "Vampyr" and "Wirklichkeit Erfullt Die Seele Wieder" stand high above the other recordings and offer the listener a true cabinet of horrors with dark emotional outbursts.

Neon Ästhet: I don't have the internet, but readers will find many in the net under Neon Ästhet. Maybe you can see a little part of my art on the Elisabetha homepage, soon.

I think that's all for this short interview, to finish give us an extract of your lyrics, and anything else you desire.

Blutgraf: One lyric, written with my heart-blood, has been written for the song 'Kloster Der Hoffnung' (in English translation):

"I writhe in anguishes...the grief scorches my heart...

A tremble penetrates my body...there's no way back...

The bell's sound tears the silence...the desire for blood in the storm of the night...

An angel tender and nude, call me away from there...the might of the living, dwindles into a feverish dream

Convent of Hope, protection under the standard of the cross

Convent of Hope, God's charity

Convent of Hope, the power of the blood steals your life

Convent of Hope, Satan's children are near to you..."

I am very pleased about your interest in Elisabetha and it's a great honour for me to answer your interview. Look out for new releases out of the grave...

Blood is life - Blutgraf in immortal passion to Akasha. Answered during the dying hours of the day 06.08.2005

Neon Ästhet: An extract from my lyrics is a bit of a problem. Because my lyric is a fusion of cynical and ambiguous nursery rhymes with parts of speech experiments it's difficult to read in German and impossible to translate. I call it Psychotronic lyric and writing. My desire is to go onward down the Dark Path, to learn more about magic and vampires. The private wishes are really banal ones - to interest people in my art, and to contact people about vampires, eroticism, etc. Glad to answer your questions. With dark regards from the Neon Ästhet.

Depravity #2 also carried with it an interview with Uruk Hai, which Honour & Darkness will re-produce on a future occasion. Sweet dreams, don't let the Neon Ästhet bite....

Sunday, 8 August 2010

URUK HAI > artwork for unreleased 2004 promo

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Untitled
Format: Never released
Edition: None
What on earth are you on about then, Nazgul? This shows the proposed artwork for a 2004 Uruk Hai demo that was never released.

In amongst the boxes of assorted bits and bobs that have accumulated at Castle Nazgul comes this single sheet of paper, approximately 4.5" square and printed in single-side technicoloured glory!

It is something of an interesting item in as far as it denotes the track listing - and artistic style - for an Uruk Hai demo that never was: a proposed 2004 release from Hugin, which never saw the light of day and was never officially titled.

You have the older angular Uruk Hai logo - still perhaps Nazgul's personal favourite of all of the logos for the project as they have evolved over time - together with a photo of our Austrian hero bare-chested and clutching the hilt of what appears to be an enormous sword (stop sniggering at the back, you know full well what I mean). Further back still in this image a dragon rears up over a lone warrior, surrounded by a lake of molten lava....

This particular release was destined to contain the following tracks, most of which will be familiar to readers of these missives from later Uruk Hai material:

01. Nebelberge (Parts 1 -2)
02. Nebelberge (Parts 5-6)
03. Das Auge
04. Die Legende (Parts 1-6)
05. Elbentod
06. Gondolin Falls (Parts 1-3)

As ever, Nazgul sends hails of thanks to Hugin for digging this one out of the W.A.R. Productions archive.

ANTI-GENESIS


Band: B-MACHINA
Title: Anti-Genesis
Format: Cassette-only pressing on the Depressive Illusions label (Ukraine), cat ref CUT057, released in 2010. This is a split release with ambient Ukrainian project Saturn From Essence. The package comes in a unique, hand-finished design that differs for each tape in the edition (see details in text below)
Edition: Only 9 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

Side A - Saturn From Essence
01. Anti-Genesis I
02. Anti-Genesis II
Side B - B-Machina
01. Prophecy [Part I]
02. Prophecy [Part II]
03. Prophecy [Part III]

Join Nazgul on a voyage of exploration as he unravels (quite literally) this new split release between the B-Machina war machine, and Ukrainian ambient/transcendental/quite weird band Saturn From Essence.

This is completely new territory as this particular tape is sealed and hasn't yet been opened, so you're coming in at the beginning of an adventure into both the mysterious world of Hugin's industrial-esque project and into the extraordinary world of Depressive Illusions packaging!

We begin at the beginning - releasing the cassette case from the pink wire wrapped around it in a complex knotted weave. Doubtless symbolic and the product of a fiendish mind! Unlike the other copy of the tape that Nazgul has (see the Blog entry for 'Top 10 B-Machina items' on 10 July 2010, item #9) there is no external computer component strapped to the case on this particular pressing, and so once the wire is off we progress to the case itself.

Now, as you'll have seen from the photos above the case has also been styled by hand through the medium of a light finish of black spray paint over the transparent elements of the cover. This gives a rather pleasing matt stippled effect, which matches the matt black rear plastic cover of the case a treat. So far, so very mysterious...!

Once opened, a new surprise comes to light - there is a component of computer in here after all, hidden inside the case alongside the standard C90 tape. A quick word here from our friends at Depressive Illusions, who confirm that "each copy comes from a part of technology of modern civilisation" and, in this case, it's some form of errrr....chip-thingy (Nazgul's note: the Castle computer is powered by steam and spinning cogs set in motion through the wails of lost souls, or something. Certainly not these modern looking pieces of technology. Nazgul is not a techo-geek, so can't shed any more light on what this particular component is/did/does!)

From the case Nazgul extracts the inlay - vibrant and colourful and now freed of its disguise behind the blackness rather splendid. It reveals that this tape is #2 of the 9 made, and more importantly discloses the track listing which, until this point, had been a total mystery. Before opening the release, Nazgul had looked online for some details about this release but, as is often the way, nothing was forthcoming of any detail. Being such a tiny pressing, Nazgul supposes there was a certain inevitability about this, but the details of the songs on the tape were a complete mystery until this juncture. Would they be old songs, new songs, remixed songs, cover versions....who knew?

Well, now we do know, and it's a combination of the above! What we have here is the complete (one supposes) 'Prophecy' trilogy, interesting not least as it was generally assumed that 'Prophecy' was in fact a two-part affair! You will recall Part I and Part II of this song being released on 3"CDr by Smell The Stench a few years ago, but here on this tape is a new chapter, titled (believe it or not) Part III. Listening to the whole work mixed together and in one long version is a really enjoyable experience, bringing all the elements of the industrial-folk-flamenco-samples mix into one cohesive song. Part III builds on the atmosphere and is composed in similar style to the preceding parts, and if this track doesn't appear on a CD pressing in the next 18 months Nazgul will be officially astonished - it's surely far too good a piece to languish on what will inevitably become a sought-after collectors item of such limited quantity?

The Saturn From Essence side, by the way, is a more ambient and rather spaced-out listen. Long periods of cold, empty soundscapes mix with some electronic effects and on the whole it makes for a very relaxing if slightly eerie listen. This project seems to be relatively new, judging from the releases information on their MySpace page, but would be well worth further investigation.

So there we are - the previously unseen innards of "Anti-Genesis" copy #2 are now on display to the world at large. Of course, given the individuality of each tape, the collector in Nazgul is keen to see what the others look like. And so, loyal readers, should you have one of the other 7 copies currently at large around the globe, why not email a photo of it to Castle Nazgul to share with your fellow Huginophiles....?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

URAUNGST (advance tape)

Band: HREFNESHOLT
Title: Uraungst (literally, 'primal fear')
Format: Cassette tape release on the Percht label (Austria), no catalogue reference, released in April 2010. Glossy colour inlay with lyrics on reverse side, standard plain C60 style tape.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 27 copies

Track Listing:

Side A
1. Furchtelmandln
Side B
2. s' Perchtenzeit [tape-only track]
3. Dunklmoos (a schwoarzes Stickl)
4. I bin da Woid
5. Hexnfeia
6. Kum mit mit uns [tape-only track]

Another retreat into the rural idyll of deepest Austrian mountain folklore could be the tag-line to this latest release from Hrefnesholt, developing the band's focus further into the traditional melodies and native music surrounding the pagan history of the Alpine region.

This cassette (Nazgul's copy being #8 of 27, by the way) was issued by the Percht label, and is described on the excellent Metal-Archives website as an 'advance tape'. Given that two of the tracks are identified on it as 'tape only' bonus material, it seems logical to conclude that a CD pressing containing these songs - or perhaps another tape release - may well be forthcoming at some point.

This wouldn't be without precedent - for example, Uruk Hai's "Black Blood, White Hand" originally was released in advance in an unmastered tape version on the Wulfrune Worxx label in 2009 as part of the Honour & Darkness series, prior to the formal CD and cassette pressings in 2010.

Incidentally, the Percht label (www.myspace.com/perchtlabel) is a sub-label of Steinklang Industries, who we know for their recent Uruk Hai and Hrossharsgrani releases, and features as one of their more recognised luminaries the band Sturmpercht, an Austrian experimental, traditional folk and neofolk group inspired partially by indigenous alpine tradition. Steinklang's own website describes the release as follows:

"Hrefnesholt is the sound of rotten roots in darkest forests, the spirit of alpine myths and legends, as well as extreme Perchten-music from the deepest Austrian valleys. The title "Uraungst" means "primal fear" in Austrian dialect and so is the music - the tape is nearly 60 minutes long and includes a 29 minute psycho-coverversion from the Sturmpercht/Allerseelen hit "i bin da Woid". In summer/early autumn Percht will finally release the first album of Hrefnesholt, 9 years after the band had started!"

Some of the origins of the Percht mythology were discussed in the Blog piece on Hrefnesholt's "Woid Und Geist" demo, on the 8 May 2010. The Perchten are still a traditional part of Austrian holidays and festivals, with the wooden animal masks made for the festivals (the 'Perchten') being worn in parades and festivals in the mountainous regions of Austria. In the 16th century, the Perchten took two forms: Some were beautiful and bright, known as the Schönperchten ("beautiful Perchten") - these come during the Twelve Nights and festivals to "bring luck and wealth to the people." The other form is the Schiachperchten ("ugly Perchten") who have fangs, tusks and horse tails which are used to drive out demons and ghosts. Men dressed as the ugly Perchten during the 16th century and went from house to house driving out bad spirits. These sorts of masks can be seen in the images on the cassette inlay, and they are the sort of face that you really wouldn't want to have surprise you on a dark and stormy night!

The tracks on offer here are occasionally familiar, by dint of having appeared on other recent releases: Side A, for instance, is taken up with the epic 'Furchtelmandln' saga, originally released as a self-titled 2009 demo in a tiny pressing of 6 copies. No one apart from Hugin, Nazgul and 4 others presumably ever saw or heard it! Consequently, not to be lost to history, it appeared a further three-times in 2010 - once on this release, once on the aforementioned "Woid Und Geist" demo on Depressive Illusions, and also as part of a split tape release with Uruk Hai on Wulfrune Worxx, alongside that band's equally epic 'Quenta Silmarillion (Part 1)' track. More of that split on another day...

'Ich bin da Woid' also appears on the "Woid Und Geist" tape, whilst 'Dunkelmoos' has made a brace of other appearances, on the split tape with Uruk Hai 'Quenta Silmarillion (Part 2)' and also on the soon-to-be-released "From The Ancient Forest" split tape with Malaysian band Omen. It's the usual merry-go-round of multiple demos and songs popping up unexpectedly here and there, no doubt designed as a fiendish device to keep fans and collectors alert at all times....!

And so onto Side B. Here, the smaller song structures work well as an alternative to the vastness of 'Furchtelmandln'. Listening to the side as a whole gives the pleasant sensation of being deep in forested mountains, surrounded by vegetation and with a fire crackling merrily in the background, listening to a native shaman recite mysterious and ritualistic incantations to an accompaniment of natural sounds and traditional instrumentation. It really can't be called as 'metal' in the rigid definitions of the genre, because what you have here is a far mellower and ambient experience, in the tradition of neo-folk and pure folk music.

For a contemplative evening in around a roaring fire, snow gently falling on the ground outside, you'd be hard pressed to beat this for genuine atmosphere and enjoyment. Not ideally suited to the humid summer conditions currently afflicting Castle Nazgul therefore, but one to rediscover on those cold, dark winter evenings ahead....