Wednesday, 29 December 2010

2010: the year in review

Alex "Hugin" Wieser

And what a year it's been!

When viewed in retrospect, the year 2010 in the realm of things Hugin was notable for one thing above all others: releases, releases and more releases! Indeed, the sheer volume of releases in the last 12 months is boggling when viewed in total, leading to the inevitably conclusion that Linz, Austria, is the location of a previously unheralded bubble in the space-time continuum, where days are in fact 50 hours long and where no one requires sleep or food.

Let's make a start on a short seasonal round-up of the years goings-on whilst sipping a festive port in the Castle library...

URUK HAI

Right then, brace yourself! In the last 12 months this one project alone has released (or re-released, depending on the item) the staggering total of 39 demos or albums, some of which have been across multiple formats. By which I mean, for example, that "Black Blood, White Hand" came out in 3 different formats - digipak, box-set and tape versions (and that's ignoring the 2009 advance tape release!) - whilst "Lebensende: Winter" is a good example of a demo that has received both a tape and CD release on different labels. If you total up all versions of all releases, you're up to somewhere nearer to 50 different items issued in 2010 for the fan or collector to procure. That's getting close to 1 release per week, and that's just for Uruk Hai material!

Now, fair play - some of these releases have either been reissues of older material (notably through the Wulfrune Worxx's Split Series), the odd compilation release ("Angband"), or repackaging of already released material onto different split albums (for example, the split albums with both Funeral Fornication and Sieghetnar). Much of the older material - re-released demos like "Valkyrian Romance" and "Quenta Silmarillion" - hasn't been easily available for years, so for the growing army of fans out there this is a good thing. We shouldn't therefore accuse Hugin of releasing any old rhubarb in a triumph of volume over quality (a tactic popularly known as "doing a Zarach 'Baal' Tharagh", when seemingly even random farts can be recorded and released as a demo).

There have been the occasional oddities over the course the year though - one that springs to mind is the release, then re-release (within the same calendar year!) of the "Elbentraum" demo tape, albeit with an additional song on the latest pressing.

A trend that became a little more worrying was the frequency with which some songs would crop up on multiple recordings: Nazgul commented earlier in the year about 'Fate of Man' having appeared on a good few releases recently. Another example is 'Gil-Galad', originally appearing on the 2008 split 3" CDr release with Moloch before making reappearances this year on the split albums with Sieghetner and Mhnunrrn, on the "Angband" compilation, and on three different tape releases (on a split series release, as a 2 song demo tape, and - just out - as a 4 song demo!). This could potentially be irksome - not to say expensive - to the casual fan trying to make some sense of all of these releases..

A development to be praised, therefore, is the note that started to appear in the inlay to a lot of the recent Wulfrune Worxx tapes, which states something on the lines that the version on that release is/will be available nowhere else. I think that does help to offer the more regular customer more in the way of value for money although, to be fair, no one is twisting our arms and forcing us to buy all of this stuff!

Over the year it's been rather nice to see some vinyl releases too, notably the ultra limited "March to War" release but also the marbled green and white vinyl release that was the "Iron Age" split with Moloch. Box-sets also seem to be back in a big way this year: previously only Bonemachine had received the (wooden) box-set treatment, but a veritable rash of Uruk Hai boxes appeared in 2010 including "Darkness" (card), "Angband" (metal), "Black Blood, White Hand" (wooden) and "War Anthems" (wooden). And wait for it - the wooden box version of "In Durin's Halls" is likely to be available any day too via Steinklang!

Additionally, as Nazgul types there are still scheduled releases for 2010 yet to see the light of day including the aforementioned wooden box edition for "In Durin's Halls", the 6 volume "Everlasting Wrath of the Tyrant" series and the 3" CD version of "Elves & Men" (the tape version is out already at Depressive Illusions). Who knows, at the current rate of knots by the year-end these may also have been released too! Nazgul has also heard a whisper suggesting that over the Christmas/New Year period Steinklang may start advertising the mother of all box-sets of Uruk Hai material, being nothing less than a 40CD (yes, that's 40 - that's not a typo!) collection of old demos and albums. Postmen around the globe: Fear hernias in getting those delivered!

On the back of this post it seemed like a good idea to inaugurate some year-end awards to mark the conclusion of 2010, so here are Nazgul's picks in respect of Uruk Hai:

Best release of the year: "Iron Age" - a really excellent piece of work, from the content to the presentation
Best packaging of the year: "Angband" - from the Runenstein Records label, lots of thought has gone into this one
Best album cover of the year: "The Lord of the Rings" demo - it positively oozes Middle-Earth
Biggest disappointment: "War Anthems" - nothing new for the collector, and although nice to have on CDr surely the Tryby label could have printed some colour inlays given the asking price....?

HROSSHARSGRANI

Generally speaking a quieter year on the Hrossharsgrani front, although there have still been a few releases here and there. All told there were 8, including the split tape "The Song Never Remains The Same" (featuring 4 of Hugin's projects), "Dead:Meat", and "The Long Grey Road / Valkyrian Romance" split release with Uruk Hai. What is notable in 2010 is the degree to which Hrossharsgrani has changed in sound and style: look back to 2009 and we had the "Sanguis" release (re-working demos from barbaric black metal days of 1999), which moved to a fresher approach - inspired by the Roman Empire - with "Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est".

Step forward into 2010 and the major album release in this year has been the "Dead:Meat" album, featuring yet another twist on the band's sound and including an intriguing cover version by Beherit but with a distinctly contemporary sound. At the same time, just to keep in touch with its heritage, 2010 saw a few reissues of older Hrossharsgrani material including no less than 3 variants of the "...Of Battles, Ravens & Fire" album and a remastered 2CD version of "Ancient Tales".

It seems to be a period of ongoing transition on the Hrossharsgrani front, so who knows what 2011 might bring for this project...?

Best release of the year: "Dead:Meat" - a revitalised sound, and a transitional step to ... where
Best packaging of the year: "Ancient Tales" - great value for money with the original album remastered and a whole disc of rare bonus material
Best album cover of the year: "...Of Battles, Ravens & Fire" (version) - that classic Bathory album art is always worth a look...
Biggest disappointment: "Of Battles, Ravens & Fire" (versions) - ...but did we need to see it quite as often?!

HREFNESHOLT

It's long been known that Nazgul can be a little contrary, and favours the underdog. This may, in part, explain his soft spot for the Hrefnesholt project, infrequently recorded and seldom heard before 2009 but relatively prolific in recent times (coincidentally after Honour and Darkness started, but this is surely a coincidence!) 2010 has been a rather good year for fans of this band: the Uraungst advance tape was an early statement of intent (the CD version just now released), being a doom-folk-percht-laden experience not to be missed.

Much like Hrossharsgrani, the Hrefnesholt sound has developed over the last few years but has seemingly now settled down into the present Alpine folktales mode. Nazgul likes this very much. As with Uruk Hai there have been a few tape demos where some tracks on offer have subsequently re-appeared on CD (for example, tracks from "Woid und Geist", the split tape with Firing Human, and "Wurzelmann"), but the overall bonus tracks offered make up for any duplication.

Again, Nazgul appreciates that not everyone will be as obsessive as he is and attempt to buy everything, and that the whole point of a demo is to, well, demo stuff for an upcoming album. Just make sure that if you buy nothing else, you get yourself a copy of the Uraungst CD so that you can see what the growing buzz is all about.

All in all 2010 saw the Hrefnesholt name on no less than 7 various releases, with another 2 planned but yet to appear - the "Unruahnocht / Lousberg" split tape (Lousberg apparently having disappeared, hence the delay), and the split release with Omen, "From the Ancient Forest".

Best release of the year: "Uruangst" - what a killer album this is!
Best packaging of the year: "Uruangst" - Hrefnesholt finally gets the 'proper' album treatment, and all is good in the world!
Best album cover of the year: "Woid und Geist" - it's those trees again!
Biggest disappointment: None - it's been a vintage year

WACH

Well, on the experimental dark-noise front there has been one significant movement in the year, namely the release of "Experimentum Solaris". This album, in full-on digpak packaging courtesy of the Old Europa Cafe label, was a powerful album to boot.

Never the most prolific of projects at the best of times, with the exception of the odd (and sometimes very odd!) contributions to occasional compilations, it's been a typically quiet year for this most tantalising of side-projects.

Best release of the year: "Experimentum Solaris" - by default, although it is a good release
Best packaging of the year: "Experimentum Solaris"
Best album cover of the year: "Experimentum Solaris"
Biggest disappointment: "Nordwand" - the expected 2010 release of this EP didn't materialise, but should guarantee something to talk about in 2011

B-MACHINA

Whilst we're on the subject of all things experimental and weird, let's consider the B-Machina world in 2010. Ok, so that didn't take very long! Much like collaborative project WACH, the time available for new bone-sounds to be created has (presumably) been pretty limited, with Hugin evidently up to his eyes in other work and fellow band member Max equally hard at work elsewhere.

2010 did see the release of the rather bizarre B-Machina / Kaelteeinbruch split release "Music For Catgirl Lovers 03" with its packaging of doubtful colour photographs, but even this features an older style track very much in keeping with pre-Max Bonemachine days. The band also contributed two cover versions to the Wulfrune Worxx split release "The Song Never Remains The Same", although the Kiss cover would probably leave Messrs. Simmons and Stanley scratching their respective heads trying to identify it!

Best release of the year: "Music For Catgirl Lovers 03" - like it or loath it, this was about all for the year!
Best packaging of the year: "Music For Catgirl Lovers 03" - by default, and not as a ringing endorsement for rude piccies!
Best cover of the year: "The Song Never Remains The Same" - thank goodness for Wulfrune Worxx!
Biggest disappointment: Following the innovative split release "Absinthe" in 2009 it looked like a vintage year was on the cards, but lack of time for this project has left little product to review

ELISABETHA

One of the highlights of 2010 for Nazgul was the interview on Honour and Darkness with Neon Asthet, which I trust you found as interesting to read as I did. What a nice chap he proved to be.
Nazgul expected no actual product from Elisabetha during the year as the project had been largely defunct since 2008 and the band's final releases,"Über das Prinzip der Unschuld" and the subsequent "Morella" CDr. However, as well as a couple of cover songs appearing on "The Song Never Remains The Same", two other releases arrived rather out of the blue. Firstly, some old untitled band rehearsals from 2001 turned up on a split tape with "Asgard" early in the year, to be followed in May by the "Transilvanischer Hunger" CD single (the song was also one of the two tracks on the aforementioned split tape). This took us back to a time before the band's neo-classical renaissance to some core black metal roots, care of this cover of a Darkthrone classic.

So the vampire is not dead, but is presumed festering slowly in unhallowed ground, biding it's time for more possible unholy assaults in 2011.

Best release of the year: "Transilvanischer Hunger" - raw, evil and utterly brilliant
Best packaging of the year: "Transilvanischer Hunger" - down to the faux-barcode on its inlay
Best cover of the year: "Rehearsal 2001" - so Nagzul likes trees...
Biggest disappointment: No Neon Asthet artwork to be seen on the latest releases

Elsewhere...

Given all that's gone before you might be excused for thinking that for the remainder of the year Hugin would have had his feet up, sipping a cup of tea and planning his next holiday. But no - there's been even more going on! Does this man never rest?!

Here's Nazgul's very quick run down of Hugin's other project activity in 2010:

HUGIN

Some excellent split tape releases came out from Hugin's eponymous project, including "Differences" (various untitled piano tracks), "Brotherhood" (a compilation of Hugin's musical contributions to other bands, including Dark Domination, Folkearth, and Forgotten Lands), "Asgard" (tracks from Hugin Munin recording sessions) and the "Bounded By Blood" demo tape. The latter was notable for a pictoral appearance from young Erik, male heir to the Wieser legacy!

HEIMATLEID

Another project long assumed dead and buried, being the forerunner of the Bonemachine project back in 1999. So strike me down when a short 'rehearsals and demos' compilation tape appeared late in the year, compiling material presumably older than (war and) time itself. A welcome - and possibly final? - return from this old warhorse.

MANWE

Troll metal lives! Whilst the anticipated 2010 return yielded but two songs via the band's MySpace page ('Oh Great Spirit', and 'First Battle Medley') there is a promise of a new Manwe album to come in 2011. The campaign for the reissue of "First Battles" starts here!

SOLID GREY

The new-ish project of Solid Grey continues to record, being a new wave/gothic ensemble of Hugin with fellow aficionado Bart Piette. Three songs have appeared so far on the project's MySpace page - 'Shadow Song', 'Strange Puppets', and 'So Alone' - and the first demo or recording looks highly possible in the new year.

DRACHENFEUER

With a demo issued in 2CDr promotional version and reviewed here on the Blog, the project continues to look for a label to release its debut album in 2011. Last Nazgul heard, the search was on for an artist to draw a suitable dragon-themed illustration for the artwork...

CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE

A quiet year for C.O.I. but given Hugin's other activities this is hardly a surprise. The world awaits with interest the band's second album with interest following the first 'Fire-themed' instalment.

EISMOND

Yes, you can't keep this man down: finding time from who knows where, Hugin has unveiled a new project called Eismond (literally Ice Moon) in 2010, with the first demo tape released on Depressive Illusions in December - just in time for this retrospective. Nazgul has a copy, and is saving it for Christmas!

GUTS FOR DINNER

Thankfully, nothing new here :o) !!

On Honour and Darkness itself...

...it's been a busy year too, although with slightly fewer posts in 2010 than in inaugural year 2009. So what have we seen this year: a few competitions, the odd interview, the occasional Blog exclusive item, a broad church coverage of Hugin's many projects and - hopefully - a consistently enjoyable read for everyone out there on Planet Earth.

As ever, the Blog would not have been as entertaining for me without the contributions made by yourselves, so my thanks to each and every one of you who have dropped Nazgul an email over the last 12 months.

Speaking on behalf of all of us as fans of Hugin's music, thanks too should go to those labels who have in particular helped spread the good word of Wieser around the globe over the last year, particularly Wulfrune Worxx and Depressive Illusions, but also of course Steinklang, Runenstein, Aphelion and all of the others. Good work, guys!

And thanks too, of course, to Hugin himself for having recorded all of this great music for us to enjoy :o)

So as Nazgul nears the end of his glass of port, let's have some random statistics to round things off.

According to FlagCounter, 89 countries have now visited the Honour and Darkness. If you take the generally accepted number of countries in the world to be 196 (some have not been recognised by the UN so the actual number is disputed) then this suggests that Hugin has at least 1 fan in 45% of countries globally. That's pretty impressive!

The visitor counter (which has only been live since early in 2010) suggests that there have been 5,312 unique visitors, with total visits now standing at over 16,800. Special hails have to go out to those of you in Germany, USA, France and the UK who are by far and away the most frequent visitors. Let us not forget, however, some of the more unexpected locations for visitors that we've had: the Aland Isands (located between Sweden and Finland, I understand), Senegal, Iran and Panama amongst them.

An average of 19 unique new visitors find the site every day, and around 54 of you regularly come back on a daily basis to see what's going on. Thank you.

And, personally speaking, for the scariest statistic of 2010 - the cost of collecting to keep the library at Castle Nazgul up to date! One of the more frequent comments arriving via email to Castle Nazgul runs something like this: "So Nazgul, guess you must get all of your stuff free of charge, eh?" Well, to put that misconception to bed, having added up all payments made to W.A.R. Productions, to other web-sites, labels and to private traders, Nazgul thinks it evens out at just over £950 (say US$1,500 or €1,100) in the 12 months ending December 2010. This might explain why Nazgul's bank manager occasionally asks him if he is involved in money laundering or smuggling operations between England and Austria. Not the cheapest of hobbies then, but certainly enjoyable! But definitely not free!

So ends a vintage 2010.

Seasons greetings to you, honoured guests one and all, and Nazgul wishes you all a healthy and prosperous 2011.

Friday, 24 December 2010

B-MACHINA / ROSE ROVINE E AMANTI t-shirt

Band: B-MACHINA
Item: Official t-shirt with 2 band logos, B-Machina and Rose Rovine E Amanti. to the left of the logo is written "Linz" (home of B-Machina) and to the right, "Roma" (home of Rose Rovine E Amanti). Single-sided colour design, on white cotton.
Edition: 5 copies

Something from the Castle wardrobe today - a rare t-shirt featuring the logos of both B-Machina (above) and Rose Rovine E Amanti, who you may recall recorded a rather nicely presented split release together in 2008, covered in Honour and Darkness on 23 January 2010.

To celebrate this acclaimed release a celebratory joint t-shirt was commissioned in a small run of 5 copies, one of which is proudly housed in Castle Nazgul. To recap briefly, Rose Rovine E Amanti (literally, Roses Ruins and Loving) is a musical project based in Rome, lead by Damiano Mercuri and aided by Noemi York Christian Valente and Giuseppe Lorenzoni.

The sound has changed through the years from pure neo-folk to a wider range of sounds, and the music is perhaps best described as a mixture of acoustic neofolk-rock with some bitter songwriting thrown in. The music is inspired by religious visions of the medieval Catholic Europa, to cabaret grotesque pieces, to human madness, all explored with an inner spiritual strength. Stylistically the band operates in similar territory to Sol Invictus, The Trees, Death In June and Jacques Brel's style, all reinforced with Mediterranean flair.

Hugin's project we know of yore, of course, from the bands early inception as Heimatleid through to the apocalyptic industrial-noise fest that was Bonemachine to the current era of flamenco-guitar tinged post-industrial B-Machina.

Whilst t-shirts for many of Hugin's bands don't exist in large numbers, there are a few around and it's interesting to note than amongst Nazgul's collection there are probably as many for Bonemachine/B-Machina as for any other band, including the ever-popular Uruk Hai.

A t-shirt to be seen and appreciated by absolutely no one at all save a select group of cognoscenti, Nazgul has worn this on a few occasions to general indifference and ignorance from the circle of people around him. The fools, the poor fools....

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

An interview with ... Nazgul

Nazgul, pondering his impending interview...

In a poll carried out in autumn some of you rashly decided you’d like to read an interview featuring Nazgul himself. And here it is – typically verbose, and quite possibly the least interesting thing ever published on Honour and Darkness!

To distract you from the content, there are some nice photos of parts of the collection to admire as you progress. So read on, honoured guest, but don’t blame Nazgul if you fall asleep part way through…

The first 12 questions came in from Hugin himself:

Q1. When & where (asks Hugin) did you discover my music for the first time, and why did you decide to buy some of my stuff?
A1. I guess it must have been sometime in late 2004 when I first came across the "Honour" demo tape on eBay. By way of background, at the age of about 9 (in the late 1970's) I was at school in England with my friend Anthony (Ant). He had older brothers who were into rock music, and I had older cousins who were listening to Status Quo and Rush.

I recall the day that Ant bought the very first issue of Kerrang!, and quickly we also became converts to the lure of rock and metal! My collection of tapes (shows my age, and why I like the tape format!) soon grew and spanned a variety of bands from Quo and Rush (inevitably) through to Iron Maiden (I was there when their debut was released!), Budgie (awesome and much under-rated), Judas Priest and Motorhead. It wasn't always that easy finding stuff from overseas, but occasionally the odd album from the Scorpions or Blue Oyster Cult would come my way.

This love of metal basically continued from then into the 1990's, when I started working full-time after university and lost interest in the then grunge-dominated scene. Rediscovering the wealth of music available via the internet in the late 90's it made me go out and find out what my old favourites were up to (most still recording, some dead) which in turn led me to find other genres and bands.

I was a huge fan of UK thrash band Sabbat in the late 80's, and then Skyclad in the early 90's. Finding Skyclad to be still recording with the Martin Walkyier line-up in 2000 was great, so I bought their albums to catch-up. In reading online reviews I came across reference to other bands - Cradle of Filth, Ewigkeit, Summoning and many others - so sampled their wares too. Eventually, through some providential act of fate in looking up one band on eBay I managed to stumble across the Uruk Hai demo "Honour" advertised on eBay, was suitably intrigued, and it went from there.

Q2. What is your favourite project/band of mine?
A2. That's a tough one. From purely a musical perspective - and if I were compelled to listen to one project only at the expense of all of the others - I'd probably have to go for Uruk Hai, partly for the variety present in the music and partly for the sheer number of releases to choose from. I can relate to the Middle Earth themed elements of the work too as I too enjoy reading the fiction.

However, it's a little like trying to choose between your favourite children: I also developed a soft spot for Hrefnesholt, stemming from the largely irrelevant fact that the project had very few releases compared to Hugin's other bands (!) and I rather liked the largely ambient nature of the early work from this band.

Q3. Will you ever do a printed version of the Blog in the form of a book or something similar?
A3. The thought has crossed my mind a few times to attempt a small book or photo-book. However, a number of issues spring to mind with this idea: it would most likely cost a fair bit, which means having to sell some to recoup expenses and I'm not sure how big an audience there might be for such a project given the Blog is a free enterprise to read.

Equally, the time needed to create something suitably different from a simple replication of the Blog pages (I imagine any potential customer would want to view something different) is an issue, given that normal life is pretty hectic most of the time.

Q4. How would you describe my music?
A4. Eclectic and unpredictable! The different genres occupied by Hugin’s various bands are probably now well known, and although there is sometimes a repetition of melody or theme it never ceases to amaze me that such a varied musical kaleidoscope has all been generated by just one man (for the most-part). It really does boggle the mind how many releases and songs Hugin has actually created or contributed to, particularly as for much of the time he is the proverbial one-man band. I think that the music created across his manifold projects can augment and compliment one's mood in virtually any situation, and it can be positively uplifting in the right circumstances.

Q5. What's the worst song I ever recorded...?
A5. I'm sure there are a few recorded in the After Aids and Schlaganfall days that would be pretty hard to listen to now, although Hugin still maintains that no trace of them exist any more! Of those releases that I have heard, I guess the one that I would find hardest to listen to on a repeated basis would be the Guts For Dinner demo. As this was pretty much a one-off exercise for a grindcore-mad friend of his, however, I suppose it's a forgivable travesty!

Q6. ...And what's the best song I ever recorded?
A6. *scratches head* Well, there's an easy question!? There are too many tracks that I would have on my personal compilation tape to merit picking out just the one. That said, 'Gondolin Falls (Parts 1-3)' from the "Honour" demo was one of the main reasons why I started to investigate Hugin's music in any depth, so it has become a particular favourite of mine.

Q7. Any special wishes I can do for you with one of my projects?
A7. Given the kindness and generosity already shown to Nazgul by Hugin over the years in terms of his creation of unique items and helping me find obscure old releases, it would seem churlish to ask for anything else! What I think would make an interesting set of recordings, however, would be to create something around the works of the author H.P. Lovecraft.

In my bachelor days I had an impressive collection of Cthulhu statues and memorabilia, together with other Lovecraftian works of art, and although now long-sold I find it a fascinating subject and surprisingly under-utilised in music. I once mentioned the idea to Hugin, and we tentatively thought that B-Machina might be a suitable project to carry such a concept, so who knows what the future might hold...?

Q8. Why don't you have a turntable :-) ?
A8. Mostly because I never needed one before now! I was a child of the tape era, and progressed straight to CDs. The only vinyl I've really ever owned, the odd collectable aside, came when I picked up the early Elisabetha 7" EP's and more recently the Uruk Hai vinyl releases. Now the only reason I don't have one is (i) because I'm stubborn, (ii) because I'm cheap, and (iii) to wind up Hugin!

Q9. Does Mrs. Nazgul like my music?


A9. The delicate and lovely creature that is Mrs Nazgul does indeed enjoy some of the more gently ambient moments from Uruk Hai and Hrefnesholt, which occasionally waft up from the Castle library into her lofty suite of rooms. Indeed, parts of Uruk Hai's "Lothlorien" are on her MP3 player as I type. The more raucous and raw recordings are not to the good lady's tastes though, and the weirdness of WACH and Bonemachine have been known to cause some distress to her sensitive ears and a disparaging eye-brow to be raised in Nazgul's direction.

Q10. When will the infamous Hugin Museum open its gates?


A10. Ha! The long awaited opening of the Hugin Museum is currently postponed, pending finding suitable accommodation to display the collection to best advantage. Prospective viewers should apply care of Castle Nazgul's email address – strictly by appointment only :o)

Q11. What are your favourite non-metal bands/project(s)...?


A11. Here's a good moment for any shreds of credibility Nazgul has left to fall by the wayside! I also enjoy early-period OMD and Ultravox, a bit of John Foxx, and London nutty boys Madness too! My desert-island discs top 10 songs would be very, very mixed...!

Q12. What's your favourite Uruk-Hai release?


A12. Ummm...I honestly don't think I have just one. I like "Honour" as it has significance for me in being the first of Hugin's recordings I bought. I value "Land Of The Shadow" as being one of the hardest of Uruk Hai releases to find that I managed to track down under my own steam.

Some releases are favourites because Hugin himself made them available to me and I know I wouldn't have found them anywhere else – the original "Uber Die Nebelberge Weit" and "Gone With The Wind" CDr being two great examples. Yet others are special as they are unique promo or unreleased versions, such as "Thousand Lightnings Strike" and "Enter Mordor", which are great items for a collector. You can't really pick a single favourite from such a list as that!



…and to the remainder of questions kindly sent in by readers, in no particular order:



Q13. What was the catalyst that made you want to start a blog devoted to Hugin's stuff?


A13. One of the determining factors was the paucity of information on the Internet about Hugin's music (this was in a time before Hugin's MySpace pages existed). As I tried to find out about the releases listed on sites like Metal Archives I became more surprised about how little had been written about the releases, even to the extent that there might not be a track listing or picture for some of them, and I discovered a number that were unlisted anywhere.

Whilst sites like Metal Archives was excellent for those bands recognised as 'metal' in nature (Uruk Hai, Hrossharsgrani etc), other bands - particularly Bonemachine - were virtually absent from any online coverage to speak of. Given the enjoyment that the music gave me, and the number of releases out there, it struck me that this was a very strange situation and that perhaps I should do something about it...



Q14. Did you talk to Hugin before you started it, or was it after the fact? What did he think of the project?


A14. I had mentioned in a couple of emails to Hugin that I intended doing something, but the ideas took a while to crystallise into something tangible that I could commit the time to do properly, and to a decent standard. Hugin has always been very supportive of the idea; it is after all good promotion for his work, but I think he finds the content genuinely interesting due to the variety of interviews and releases I try to cover and is always very helpful at correcting the mistakes that inevitably creep in.

Q15. Why use blog format and not a normal website?
A15. This partly explains why the Blog took a while to get going. I'm not the most IT literate person (pity the poor old fool in his crumbling castle...), so when I did my initial investigations into running a web-site it seemed rather complicated to set up and maintain, not to mention potentially costly.

However, whilst on honeymoon I managed to have enough relaxation time to investigate other options and the blog concept looked far more straightforward for my needs. Being free and template-driven were also rather helpful features. As I really only needed a dedicated web-address for people to find my ramblings online (assuming anyone would be interested so to do!) a blog seemed to tick all of the boxes. Hugin also had some of his sites up and running at this time, so I wanted to make sure it didn't overlap with them either.



Q16. Why not just update discogs.com with all his releases, or do you prefer the more personal and exclusive touch?


A16. Discogs was a site I only stumbled upon after Honour and Darkness went live, but even so I always wanted to launch something that was a personal commentary rather than a mere catalogue of available recordings or an addition to someone else's pages. I wanted the ability to share the artwork, talk about the music or the item without risk of the piece being edited or deleted by anyone else.

I think too the nature of Hugin's own approach to his fans - very hands-on and personal - reflected the way that I wanted to convey my thoughts about his music to the wider world. What has proven rewarding to me is that these other sites - Spirit of Metal, Metal Archives, Discogs etc - have used details first published on Honour and Darkness. That's been fun to see.



Q17. What are some of the more interesting queries you get in regards to your blog?


A17. The standard type of enquiry tends to be about whether I can help find a particular release, sell the enquirer a particular release, make an MP3 copy of something (the answer is always NO!) or if I have trade list. I'm always happy to answer any emails on anything I've covered in the blog though, so if you feel inclined get scribbling.

Q18. Be honest, not everything Hugin releases is gold. Which releases don't you particularly care for?


A18. Wash your mouth out with soap! Seriously though, it would be a lie to say that every release gets the same amount of play, as some do appeal more than others. Whilst I have yet to come across anything that was plain unlistenable, as mentioned previously the Guts For Dinner demo is best left on its shelf I think! The production used on Hrossharsgrani's "Sanguis" also mars that release to my ears, and whilst it's not a bad release I find "Destination:Hell" from Bonemachine quite hard to listen through in one sitting.

Q19. What does the rest of the Nazgul clan think about your blog?


A19. I keep my private live to myself (allowing for this interview as something out of the ordinary), so other than Mrs Nazgul - who patiently allows me the odd hour here and there to tap away at the keyboard - the wider Nazgul clan are unaware of my role in the blog.

Q20. What are your plans for the blog? How would you like to develop the blog further in the next year or so?


A20. 'More of the same' is the current thinking. As noted, I write the blog as my own tribute to Hugin's work and therefore for my own enjoyment first and foremost. Whilst it's been great that others have joined the site and/or regularly read my musings I don't feel a great imperative to change things around dramatically at the moment. Of course, I'm always open to suggestions and occasionally launch off into some new theme or other, but the primary focus of the site remains to draw attention to Hugin's vast back catalogue and hopefully encourage people to try it out for themselves.

Q21. What have you seen in the blog that people have responded to well, and what hasn't worked?


A21. Some of the interviews have gone down well I think, judging from comments that I've had (though this one might kill that trend off!) . In particular, I think the occasional chats with Hugin are well received, and the interview with Neon Asthet also seemed to be popular. Personally I think such interviews help to add a level of understanding to how some of the music was conceived, and it has been a privilege through running the site to have been able to be in touch with other bands and labels to discuss various releases.

In terms of things that could be improved I think the main area for me is in the number of photos in the early posts, or rather the lack of them. This has led to an infrequent but ongoing editing process on some of the earliest pages to add in more detailed photos of inner covers and rear tray artwork, which weren't always put onto the original post. I'm also not entirely sure why I thought green was a good colour for the side panels in the blog's colour scheme, but it's grown on me over time!



Q22. Have you ever gone back and edited or removed prior blog entries and if so, why?


A22. Occasionally I'll nip back and change something. Typical examples include adding photos to older posts, correcting inaccuracies (and thanks to anyone who writes in to correct something I've got wrong), and very infrequently changing details for anonymity's sake. An example of this would be an email I received from the 'other artist' in Ravenclaw (now in Folkearth) wanting me to blank out rather than print his real name - although it's used widely elsewhere online. I've yet to delete a post completely after it's been published.

The one thing that I do get wrong every now and then in drafting a post comes in loading or editing the photos. You have to load them up in reverse order to get the sequence correct, so if you get one in the wrong place, or inadvertently delete on somewhere in the middle whilst tidying up a draft post and deleting spare lines, you have to do the whole page again...that's led to a few moments of blog-rage in the Castle over the years!



Q23. Any embarrassing moments regarding the Blog - missed an important fact or gave bad credit?


A23. I dare say there have been a few, and that at some point they'll come to light if they haven't already! Other than a few small factual errors nothing that I'd call embarrassing has happened yet...

Mind you, in the very early days of my collecting career I did confuse Austrian Hugin with Danish Hugin (another prolific black metal artist, appearing in Sansager, Essoupi, Skjold, Blodarv and Aranruth) and spent an inordinate amount of time tracking down obscure demos from these bands! In sending the 'real' Hugin a photo of my fledgling collection during an email exchange many years ago my mistake soon came to light...! To add to the merriment there was/is also a Huginn in Italy, but luckily the extra 'N' gave him away as an impostor early on in the proceedings!



Q24. Which of Hugin's projects appear to be the most popular and least popular, and why?


A24. In my estimation the most popular project - and by a significant distance - is Uruk Hai. I think it's most likely a combination of the accessibility of the music entwined with the ever-popular Tolkien imagery that strikes a chord with a large number of people. It's doesn't have the overt clichés that some genres of music do (corpse-paint, bullet belts, leather and chains, etc) that can put off the casual listener, and on a practical level the band has had more high profile major-label releases than Hugin's other projects so you can actually find them and buy them! Generally speaking, the more experimental or out-of-mainstream the music becomes the less popular it seems to be for the majority of people.

Of the active projects, WACH probably would fall into the least popular category simply because of the relative scarcity of releases and the acquired taste required to listen to it. Equally, projects like Ceremony of Innocence probably struggle to get significant sales either as it is something 'new' and different.

Interestingly (well, for me!) from looking at distros worldwide and talking with people I would estimate that more people listen/buy (older) Elisabetha product than either Hrossharsgrani or Hrefnesholt, possibly as it is a more established 'black metal' sound with a clear vampire theme, and I guess this also appeals to sizeable numbers of people. Availability has to be a major consideration though: To find specific releases by Bonemachine, WACH or Manwe I've literally had to scour the internet for months in some cases. If you can't find it or listen to a band, its popularity is going to wane somewhat!



Q25. What is something missing in your collection of Hugin music that you know exists and you wish you had?


A25. An excellent question, and one that if anyone out there can help Nazgul with he would be very grateful! Currently, the top 5 in the 'wants' list would be the following items:
"Battle Magic" tape (Uruk Hai) on Werwolf Productions
"In The Darkness Bind Them" tape (Uruk Hai/Valar) on Lifeless, although this is a bootleg release I believe
"Ancient Battles" CD (Hrossharsgrani) - the original WAR pressing with limited edition poster
"Nachricht aus Mittelerde" demo (Hrossharsgrani) - another private pressing
"Upcoming Releases" promo CD (Bonemachine)

Of course, as Hugin keeps making exceptional one-off or very limited edition items for friends and has been doing for years, there are very probably promos and exclusive tapes out there that he's forgotten about and which would be gold-dust for the collector were they to come up for sale. Once in a blue moon one of these turns up somewhere online (the "Urd" promo CDr by Hrossharsgrani on eBay being one of the last), but otherwise it's likely that they'll become lost to history.



Q26. Has immersion into Hugin's material made you interested in other fields, such as the Lord of the Rings and general Tolkien scholarship? Runes? Heathenry? Paganism? Vampirism?


A26. Errrrrrmmm....no, not really. I was already familiar with Tolkien, and exposure to Skyclad had opened my eyes to Wicca and pagan beliefs. I suppose the two things that have come out of the last few years are (i) a realisation of how reliant on English I am as a language (and kudos to all those who have had to write to me in a language that isn't their mother tongue, it's made me think seriously about learning some basic German...), and (ii) listening to the split releases has opened my ears to other bands that I might well have missed otherwise, notably Valar and Symbiosis.

Q27. Why do you feel tapes are still profitable in this genre?
A27. I'm not convinced that tapes are especially profitable, but they have an old-school charm that you can't beat (or maybe you need to be a child of the 70's to appreciate them?!) Looking at the price of most of Hugin's tapes they are all pretty much in the 4-6 Euros range. Allowing for costs in buying the tape stock, printing inlays, time spent dubbing tapes and posting out to customers etc. I suspect the profit margin at the end of the day is often pretty small. There are hardly economies of scale given the numbers of tapes being produced either, with limitations often well under 100 copies per demo/album.

To answer the question in another way, I think tapes are one of those diy formats that has always had a certain charm and which can be home-produced without the need for extensive amounts of equipment. They are also culturally part of the underground scene now, so I suspect they'll survive as a recording medium for as long as the tapes are still available to find.

Q28. Who would you love to interview that's collaborated with Alex?

A28. To my mind there are two 'big' missing interviews to date: From a performance standpoint, there is Max (B-Machina). He's a busy guy though, but hopefully in time something will come together on that front. From a label perspective there is also Skogen (Wulfrune Worxx / Chanteloup Creations), who continues to release many of Hugin's demos. Skogen has expressed his wish for privacy though, which I respect, so at the current time there are no plans in that direction.

The recent development in collaborative recording on 2010 Uruk Hai releases, together with some new split releases, has created a host of new potential interviewees so watch this space!

Q29. What was the first CD/LP/tape you ever bought?

A29. The very first tape I bought back in 1980 at the age of 10 was a compilation tape on K-Tel Records called "Axe Attack", which featured bands like Judas Priest, Motorhead, Rainbow, April Wine, Blue Oyster Cult and the Scorpions. Absolutely superb, and I still have it somewhere in the Castle. I remember my mother thought the title sounded a bit violent so wasn't keen for me to buy it, so you might imagine the response when I proudly showed her the front of Iron Maiden's "Killers" album which I bought not long after :o)

Q30. Where do you live?

A30. I live in the small city of Guildford, in the county of Surrey (25 miles west of London), in England. Castle Nazgul is something of a local landmark; a crumbling edifice perched high on the hill overlooking the overgrown cemetery beneath.

Q31. What do you do for living?

A31. My main occupation is as a chartered accountant - rock 'n' roll, baby!!

Q32. What's your favourite painting?

A32. I'm not really very knowledgeable about art. Mrs Nazgul has painted a few nice canvasses, and some of Neon Ästhet's art is rather striking too. If I re-frame the question to cover album art instead, one of my favourite covers is that of Bathory's "Blood Fire Death" album by Peter Nicolai Arbo. I don't begin to understand modern art.

Q33. What's your favourite place on earth?

A33. I've been privileged to visit some wonderful places over the years in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. In terms of sheer indulgent relaxation I would favour Mauritius, but having some Welsh Celtic blood in me I am always drawn to mountains so the Alps or similar landscapes appeal greatly.

Q34. What's your favourite movie?

A34. For suspense, the original version of "The Shining". For fun, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". Yes, I am sad and need to get out more.

Q35. How would you like to die...?

A35. Content in the knowledge that I've lived my life well and have left a positive legacy for my family.

Q36. ...And the soundtrack to your funeral?

A36. Probably "Wonderful Life" by Black. Of course, I'd demand to be buried with my collection of Hugin's music on mp3 and wired up to the mains supply, volume turned up to 11!

Q37. Are you pessimistic/optimistic/realistic?

A37. I am very much a realistic optimist! For me, the glass is always half full. So many people have far more significant problems or issues in their lives that I'm sure that I could never endure that I really can't see the point in being negative about what I have. At worst, I am cautiously sceptical.

Q38. Your favourite food?

A38. If I find myself on death-row, my request for a last meal would run to honey-glazed gammon, baby new potatoes and garden peas (with parsley sauce) and for dessert an apple and blackberry pie with run and raisin ice-cream. As you can tell, I’ve given the matter some thought!

Q39. Your beer of preference?

A39. Ah - now you're talking! Nazgul claims to be something of a beer connoisseur, and has sampled widely in this field! I'll give you three of my favourites: Fullers Vintage Ale (only released at Christmas, which is nearly upon us again thank goodness), Courage Imperial Russian Stout (now sadly not produced), and Delerium Tremens from Belgium. Basically you can keep your lagers and fizzy stuff: if it's in a bottle, over 8% volume alcohol and actually tastes of something then give me a call.
Q40. What other bands similar to Hugin's bands have you happened on in your journey that you'd also recommend?
A40. There are a few 'obvious' recommendations in the rock/metal genre - Summoning, Vinterriket, Symbiosis, and Valar spring to mind immediately. There is also an excellent Spanish band called Lugburz who I would recommend.

Q41. Have you met Hugin, and if so, what was that like?

A41. Sadly no, we have not met as yet. There was a cunning plan to meet up in the summer of 2010 as Hugin was due to visit another friend in England but sadly that trip never came to pass because of ill health. However, something will clearly have to be done, and I'm sure that Mrs Nazgul can be persuaded to take a long weekend trip to the Austrian Alps to take the mountain air and meet the family Wieser :o)

Q42. What other hobbies do you have?

A42. Virtually none - a 'busy' job and a family make for a pretty full schedule. I do a little auctioning on eBay once in a while, but sadly there are too few hours in the day. Once upon a time I collected statues and artwork associated with the Cthulhu character from H.P.Lovecraft's eerie fiction, but they are long sold to make way for more appropriate decor now that the Castle is a shared abode!

Q43. Any backlash, hate mail, or denouncers that have contacted you in regards to the blog?

A43. Tempting fate as it may be to answer in the negative, so far no bad experiences at all. All emails I've received have been from fellow fans, so have been of an amicable nature. So far, so good....

Q44. Any Hugin releases you own that have met an accidental demise?

A44. Funnily enough only the other week I was rearranging a shelf to accommodate some new items when I noticed that the wax seal on the front of "The End of all Dreams" by WACH had a chunk missing! I located said piece behind a Bonemachine CDr, and remain convinced of some inner-fighting amongst the items as they jockey for position on the shelves!

In terms of physical demise, I have been incredibly lucky not to have any tapes chewed up yet. The Hrefnesholt "Wolf" CDr did stop working eventually and I had to get a back-up disc from Hugin. A few other CDr releases seem to be a bit temperamental in reading the track data, notably the "Damaged Sounds" release from Bonemachine (oh, the irony) and Uruk Hai's "Blutreich". So far though, nothing has been damaged beyond repair...yet!

Q45. What bands would you like to see Hugin collaborate with?

A45. It would be very cool to see Hugin's music being complimented with some lyrics/vocals from Martin Walkyier (Sabbat/Skyclad). I remain convinced he is one of the best lyricists in music (let alone metal), whose voice would add a definite zip to any song.

Q46. Approximately, how often do you receive a parcel from Austria?

A46. It varies greatly of course, depending upon what's been in the water in Linz and therefore how prolific Hugin has been! Recently I should imagine it's been about a parcel a month, prior to that more infrequent. They are the equivalent of Red Cross parcels for Nazgul, some sanity amidst the chaos of everyday life.

Q47. For anyone that is looking to get into Hugin's material, what do you suggest they start out with?

A47. For ease of accessibility (in terms of both finding the material and of being easier to listen to) I would suggest that Uruk Hai would be the obvious starting point. Beyond that it might depend on your musical preferences of course, as a lot of Uruk Hai stuff is fairly light and ambient in nature for a listener weaned on metal.

The best thing is that if you visit the band's respective MySpace sites you can listen to samples and songs for free, meaning that if you don't know your Manwe from your Ceremony of Innocence, or you worry that neo-classical Elisabetha may be a step too far, you can check them out for nowt!

Q48. What percentage of your collection would you estimate that you have already photographed and archived?

A48. I guess I must have covered in excess of 70% of my collection so far at the time of writing, but with new additions and the odd update here and there I hope there will be plenty to cover in the coming months. It certainly helps that Hugin doesn't take years between releases :o)

Q49. How much do you estimate that your collection grows each month?

A49. Averaged out across the year probably only by 5 or 6 items I would imagine. Some months are lean, others bumper: for example, September this year saw 2 parcels arrive with over 20 different new releases and odds and ends in them, which is an unusual quantity by any standards! In other periods nothing new will be released from Hugin's side, but I'll track down the odd item to fill a hole in the collection.

Q50. Who would be your top 3 online sellers for anyone trying to build a collection similar to yours, or simply for more information?

A50. I've found one of the best approaches simply sticking the name of the item you're looking for in Google and being prepared to sort through pages of possible links to find the odd distro, private seller (usually via a forum on a website like BlackMetal.com) or label offering the item for sale. That said, in years gone by I found a lot of items on eBay although the rare items don't appear as often any more and it tends to be releases from the last couple of years only.

Another good source is www.discogs.com too, particularly for Bonemachine stuff, which can be hard to find otherwise. And, of course, you could do a lot worse than to email Hugin via his MySpace pages and ask him!

Q51. How do you find time to write such interesting posts for each item, and on average how long do you spend working on a post per item?

A51. Well it's good to hear that at least one reader finds the items 'interesting'! I tend just to write whatever comes into my head at the time, following a bit of online digging to see if any reviews or other information has been posted on the item in question. I do try to make the links between various recordings or items of artwork so that there is some useful information conveyed through the Blog, but ultimately it's a question of penning something appropriate and fun! Most posts will take under an hour to write and publish, allowing for photo taking and editing, but may follow many hours of listening and researching before hand.

I think the "Black Blood, White Hand" blog and some of the longer interviews (this one included!) would be the longest to put together, being a few hours of writing after the planning. The reason some posts are shorter is because I don't always have much time to publish much, with other commitments having to take priority. My main rule of thumb is to try to give all of Hugin's projects equal coverage in the blog.

Therefore in any given month I try to cover a release by the 'major' bands and, where possible, to put something in from one of the less prolific projects. This is how the blog became a mixture of music and miscellaneous posts, as there simply is not that much around for some of the smaller projects to feature often. I also like to mix up the items, so will often follow a tape release with a CD, then a poster, then an interview etc. as I think it makes for a more varied read. Part of the freedom of the blog is that I write primarily for my own entertainment, so although I know that there are those out there who might prefer me to only cover Uruk Hai and who couldn't give a rat's ass about WACH, for example, I try to make sure that all projects receive comparable space.

I also try to drop in unique or one-off pieces on a fairly infrequent basis amongst the commercially available releases, as they are special items and are thus reserved for special occasions! Frequently I choose the next item simply by scanning my collection and wondering what I haven't played in a while - there's no schedule of forthcoming posts, that's for sure - it's pretty ad hoc.

Q52. Does it piss you off to find your images or reviews/information posted elsewhere online, or do you think that it helps to spread the word?
A52. An interesting question. Generally I don't mind the posting of my photos elsewhere, but it is nice to see a credit once in a while when my images are used. It's not uncommon to see an eBay listing using my photos, and I've even seen misleading captures of my images in online shops (one recently was selling the Uruk Hai "Lost Tales of Middle Earth" CD but showing my photo of the CD with my signed copy of the tape, which could confuse any potential purchaser). I did find one eBay listing using my blog text verbatim, and I emailed the seller to suggest that next time he might like to put a credit next to it...

I always try to credit other sources for quotes I use in my posts, but at the end of the day if more details about Hugin's releases get out to a wider audience then this is a good outcome and I don't want to get 'precious' about the Blog content - after all, the Internet is supposed to be an information superhighway after all.

Q53. What would you say is your most prized item in the entire collection - I know this will be hard, but if you could only grab one thing while fleeing from the burning castle, what would you grab?

A53. Ye Gods, that really is a toughie. Given the collection isn't sorted by any sort of 'value' criteria I'd probably just grab the biggest thing to hand, which would probably be one of the box-set items like 'Darkness' or 'Black Blood...". Given a few seconds to choose though, it would probably be the 'My Favourites' item, which Hugin made especially for me some years ago and which is very dear to me.

Q54. What's the most valuable item in your collection?

A54. It depends on what basis you're measuring I suppose. On an intrinsic level, the most precious items are those that Hugin has taken the time to personally create for me, and which have never been commercially available.

On a financial level, however, it's more difficult to tell - as I've learned using eBay, something that you think is valuable only really has a value if two or more people happen to want it at the same time! Some of the box-sets and limited editions I own from Uruk Hai and Bonemachine cost over £50 each to buy yet I doubt that they would realise that if I re-sold them, particularly the Bonemachine stuff where there is a pretty small market for them. One might imagine that the really rare early demos - say, for example, the "Uruk Hai" demo by Hrossharsgrani - should be worth a fair bit in the way that the earliest demos from Summoning, Burzum or other niche bands would be valuable. As one has never come onto the market though, it's hard to know!

Q55. How many items are there in the collection, and how much has it cost you to put the collection together?

A55. Including t-shirts, CDs, tapes, vinyl, mugs, posters, etc. (but excluding duplicate items) let’s just say that there are over 350 items in the collection to date. I would estimate that to put it together has cost somewhere north of £2,500....

Nazgul thanks all those who took the time and trouble to send in their questions (in particular Hugin, lt, Nick & Michele, and Daniel), and hopes you enjoyed the read.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Hexenreich sampler January 2010 [V/A]

Band: URUK HAI (amongst others)
Title: January 2010 free sampler (split across 3 labels: Hexenreich, Arhailised Helid, and Black Devastation Records)
Format: CDr with paper sleeve in plastic wallet. 14 songs from a variety of predominantly black metal bands (see second image) including Bestia, Urt, Simbioz, Realm of Carnivora and more.
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:
Various Black Metal and allied projects featured, the relevant track of which is:
12. Uruk Hai * Quenta Silmarillion Part I (sample) 10.06

Another year, another deal struck with Hexenreich Records in Estonia leading to another compilation disc having fallen into the Castle library sometime in early 2010. A previous compilation from the same label (also featuring Uruk Hai) was reviewed back on 15 August 2009 and this effort is very much in the same mould.

There are a number of fast and furious acts on board here, at least one of whom has recorded split releases with Uruk Hai before (being Bestia, appearing on the flip side of "Under The White Hands Flag" and "Dragon War" releases), and others of whom offer up wholly terrifying and innovative approaches to tearing ones throat to pieces in the pursuit of musical madness!

There is a certain amount of similarity in the pounding approach that many of the bands adopt, making the inclusion of this particular edited version of 'Quenta Silmarillion' rather an offbeat sort of choice to be honest. Even in edited form it runs for over 10 minutes (approximately twice the length of the other songs present) and it would be entirely possible to imagine that casual listeners might not instinctively take to the slow, measured, and relatively gentle approach of the song given what precedes (and follows) it.

Still, that's the beauty of a compilation - and a free one, at that - in as far as you get a chance to listen to stuff that you may well not encounter otherwise, and if you enjoy it then all to the good. Nazgul, for example, quite intrigued by fellow contributors Sojaruun, who manage to combine jazz saxophone with their black metal in an entirely unexpected manner. Not that you'd want a whole album of that sort of thing, you understand, but it was interesting while it lasted!

The original CDr release of "Quenta Silmarillion" was issued by the Bulgarian label AMF Productions back in 2004 (see blog post for 16 June 2009) and had long since been out of print. In 2010 the track - a massive 78 minutes on the original version - was reissued on 2 separate tapes in remastered version by Wulfrune Worxx, both in the Split Series and with the Hrefnesholt demos "Furchtelmandl" backing Part I, and 'Dunkelmoos' on Part II.

All of which is jolly interesting you may think, but what's that got to do with Hexenreich Records nabbing a bit of Part I for their compilation?! Well, as well as the Wulfrune reissues there was also a very limited tape pressed at Hexenreich with Part I on side 1 and - wait for it - Part II on side 2. This came in a colour inlay and will doubtless be appearing on a certain blog in the fullness of time!

SANGUIS - update

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Sanguis
Reason for update: Official tape version of this album
Format: Tape reissue in 2009 on Wulfrune Worxx (France), cat ref WW81, of the "Sanguis" CD released in 2008 on Beverina & W.A.R. Features the same four tracks as the CD release, itself based on the 1999 "Blut" demo. The tape is part of the label's "Remember CC" Series. Along with the inlay comes a colour business-sized card with contact details.
Edition: Only 44 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

Side A
1. Pax Vobiscum 17:31
2. Libera Me 10:19
Side B
3. Silentium 10:46
4. Nosferat 09:09

One of the laws of physics states something on the lines that "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". Correspondingly, one of the unwritten laws of the Hugin universe is that "for every CD release, there is an equal alternative tape release".

And here, in the case of the "Sanguis" release, is further roof of this very theory.

Sporting a black and white cover image that mirrors that found on the fold-out digipak CD version, this release contains the same 4 audio tracks as the aforesaid digital release, losing only the bonus video track (naturally) from its contents.

Full details of the review of this album can be found in the earlier post of 17 July 2009, where you may recall Nazgul's comments about the mastering/production techniques that rather overshadowed the music on offer. You may also recall that this is not actually the first time that "Sanguis" has actually appeared on tape, as a unique red-cased version (combining with the original "Blut" demo tracks) was most generously created for Nazgul by Hugin, and covered in these pages on 9 January 2010 and, for inexplicable reasons, failed to enter into the Top Ten Hrossharsgrani rarities post in May of this year!

Great to see Wulfrune Worxx in full flight again (this was, as you may know, the old Chanteloup Creations label that issued many of Hugin's early demos) and long may that relationship continue.

Friday, 17 December 2010

BALROG

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Balrog
Format: Tape release on the Wulfrune Worxx (France) label, cat ref, WW-Z, and part of the Honour and Darkness Series. As is common with Wulfrune releases, the inlay is a photocopied black and white image. This album has also been re-released on CD format as part of the War Anthems box-set.
Edition: 39 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

1. Balrog Part 1 28:56
2. Balrog Part 2 28:56

This, ladies and gentleman, is "Balrog": the final tape to be reviewed in Wulfrune Worxx/Hugin's Honour and Darkness Series, released into the world in 2009. In the standard Wulfrune presentational format, this particular tape is number 2 of an edition of only 39 copies. Being the intelligent and retentive sort of reader that Nazgul knows you are, you will only need a brief reminder of the other tapes in this series: In no particular order, "Black Blood, White Hand", "Die Festung", "Morgoth", "A Dark Force Shines Golden", and "After The War (Orcish Battle Hymns Part IV)", all of which have been reviewed earlier in the blog.

Balrogs were the creation of J.R.R. Tolkien, who changed his description of the beast a few times in his novels. Balrogs are described as tall, menacing, demonic-looking beings, with the ability to shroud themselves in fire, darkness, and shadow. They frequently appeared armed with fiery whips "of many thongs" and occasionally used long swords.

In Tolkien's later conception, they could not be casually destroyed; significant power was required. Only dragons rivalled their capacity for ferocity and destruction, and during the First Age of Middle-Earth they were among the most feared of Morgoth's forces.

In essence, therefore, you don't want to get on the wrong side of one of these bad boys...!

In a similar vein to the "Morgoth" release in this Series, "Balrog" is a single, very long track (split across both sides of the tape) and presenting the listener with nigh on an hour of listening material. To attempt a blow by blow account of this track would therefore be futile, and incredibly tedious for you to read. There is a great deal of 'space' on this recording, in that there are periods of silence or near-silence interspersed with ominous rumblings and foreboding keyboards. It is, in some respects, akin to those descriptions of battles of the First World War: there are long periods where nothing much happens, then sudden bursts of frenzied activity.

The outset of the track does, by coincidence, have the ringing sounds of a brief battle before the song delves into the first of its quieter periods with various effects that could be said to emulate the inner rumblings and grumblings of a cavernous mountain space. Such a start may be a deliberate reflection by Hugin on the aftermath of the moment in The Lord of the Rings when Gandalf throws the Balrog from the peak of Zirakzigil, and it "broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin".

This sort of lengthy epic is rapidly becoming familiar to Uruk Hai fans, as this 2009 demo has been followed on a number of occasions in 2010 by tapes bearing songs of equivalent length and depth. This presents the listener with something of a challenge, as these are not albums don't contain convenient 'bite-sized' songs that can be played and stopped in convenient places. They represent involved and convoluted musical sagas, best enjoyed when played as accompaniment to some dramatic and (preferably dangerous) weather crashing around you - something like a good thunderstorm should do the trick!

On the one hand such a lengthy immersion into the world of Uruk Hai can be an entirely pleasant experience. On the other hand, unless you are in a position to sit and absorb such an album it can be rather an intimidating thing to approach, the problem being that if you only have an hour to spare (or less) to enjoy some tunes then this sort of album is unlikely to be one of the ones you'd instinctively pick out.

It's quite ironic that looking back to the very earliest Uruk Hai releases circa 2001-2003 most of the demos were packed with very short pieces of music (barely songs, really just ideas). Skip forward to 2009-2010 and quite the transformation has occurred; these long spacious songs are very much the order of the day alongside more 'standard' albums bearing distinct and individual songs. Such is the evolution of any musician and project over time, one supposes.

In 2010 the previously cassette-only "Balrog" was reissued in CD format as part of the compilation box-set "War Anthems", which will be appearing in Honour and Darkness shortly.

The two colour images below show the inlay illustrations in their original glory (and yes, they are reversed on the tape cover!)


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

DARKNESS box-set

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Darkness I - V (box-set)
Format: 2010 box-set released by W.A.R. Productions in 2010, cat ref WAR BOX 002. As well as all of the five parts of the Darkness saga the box contains a myriad of items, as illustrated below. Each box is hand-numbered in gold on one of the side panels. Parts I - IV of "Darkness" have been released independently over time, but Part V is unique to this box-set. There is a DVDr in the box with all of the tracks contained on it.
Edition: Only 5 numbered copies created

Contents:
Tape 1: Darkness (Part I - Darkness)
Tape 2: Darkness (Part II - The Darkness)
Tape 3: Darkness (Part III - Total Darkness)
Tape 4: Darkness (Part IV - The Last Ray Of Light)
Tape 5: Darkness (Part V - Between The Darkness And The Light)

As it's nearly Christmas and you've all been good girls and boys, kindly old Uncle Nazgul has left his high-backed leather chair in the castle library and has unwrapped an early present just for you: the "Darkness" box-set release from Hugin's own W.A.R. Productions label.

This is but a preview of the item, as to review what amounts to five separate albums within one post was a task that was evidently going to be rather ambitious to pull off. Consequently, Nazgul has decided that each tape will be covered individually in future posts.

Instead, Nazgul offers you a sneak preview of the Darkness series by lifting the lid on the contents of the box-set itself, which was released in 2010 in a tiny quantity of only 5 copies (this being #1/5). Packed with a surfeit of goodies, this is a high quality set but not one that came cheaply: purchase price of each of the 5 copies was around €55 when released. That they have now sold out is a testament to the loyal fan base that Hugin has built...

So, let us proceed on our journey through this most fascinating of Uruk Hai releases:

The Box


Dedication on the inside of the lid by Hugin

Side panel showing the edition number in gold (bottom left)

The Music

Tapes 1 through 5 in the Darkness series

The DVDr with all 5 parts on disc
The Contents:
Contained in a black envelope are Uruk Hai stickers, Petrified stickers (see below), and a Darkness card
The Darkness card reads:
"Samhain (November 1st): The Pagan new year, the most important of the Sabbats. The wheel has come full turn, signifying the end of the harvest that will ensure survival during the coming time of Darkness, winter. It is also at this time that the separation between the physical and the spiritual world is at its most tenuous, hence a time for paying homage to the spirits of our ancestors, who may walk among us"

Darkness card-disc
This vibrant blue card-disc contains a Darkness video clip, and 3 designs of Uruk Hai wallpaper. It's highly likely that this little item will have a post of its own in the months to come to show off some of these features!
'Petrified' cards x3 (front)

'Petrified' cards x 3 (reverse)
An additional - if apparently random - bonus item within the box-set are this set of three photocards (coming in a sealed black envelope) from renowned photographer/graphic designer Chris Huber (www.kunstgalerie.net.tc), known to Honour and Darkness followers for some of his past album artwork for bands such as WACH. These 3 pictures, each initialled on the reverse by Chris, are in a limited run of 50 copies and were released through the Beverina and War label.

A blackbird feather, black incense stick, and 3 acorns

Internal soft packaging, aka the Austrian black widow!

2 black wax candles

Boxes within boxes: 2 Bloodstones (black, of course) and a blacked out box of matches, for lighting one's candle to escape the dark...

Pumpkin seeds!
This last item is rather a nice personal touch, as the design on the front of said seed packet is that of the Uruk Hai pumpkin carved by Mrs Nazgul as part of Halloween festivities in 2009! See the Honour and Darkness post for 27 October 2009 for more details and photographs.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this festive treat, and will be looking forward to the 5 albums being covered in their own right later in 2011. If you are one of the other 4 lucky owners of this magnificent box-set and would like your views to be taken into account during these reviews, then Nazgul would be delighted to hear from you via the usual email address (see panel to the right).

HROSSHARSGRANI > First official t-shirt

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Item: The first official t-shirt made for the Horssharsgrani project in 1999. The item is a grey, single-sided, cotton shirt.
Edition: Only 1 made

Adding new items to a collection that already encompasses some pretty rare objects is becoming something of a challenge, but recently a splendid deal was struck which has seen a number of early and obscure t-shirts from some of Alex's projects finding their way to Castle Nazgul. Indeed, it must be said that Hugin was more than generous in finding a number of shirts to supplement the agreed number, and as a result Nazgul will be running another competition over Christmas week for the lucky winner to get their hands on a rare Uruk Hai shirt. More of that anon...

The article you see here is a one-off design - literally purchased off Hugin's back! - and represents the first ever Hrossharsgrani t-shirt design from 1999. Hugin himself voiced dissatisfaction with the final article as the lettering in the middle of the band name has inadvertantly been cut off at the top of the image, and clipped at the sides where the cross design is. Possibly as a result of this, the design never progressed beyond the mock-up stages, leaving just this one version in existence.

Nazgul rather suspects that with the exception of a few of Hugin's Austrian friends pre-Millennium, none of the rest of us would ever have seen or known of the existence of this shirt, so many thanks to Hugin once again for offering it to the world's foremost independent collection of all things Wieser!

The main design is unusual, given the Black Metal/Viking tendencies of the early Hross' demos - two mounted German soldiers circa WWII sporting gas masks! It look for all the world like an image copied from an early band demo, although Hugin assures me this is not the case and it was simply chosen as a design in its own right.

Alongside the blood-numbered 'Blut' t-shirt, is this the rarest Hrossharsgrani t-shirt in the world today? Quite possibly...

Friday, 10 December 2010

LAND OF FROST

Band: Nachtfalke
Title: Land Of Frost
Format: CD and vinyl release on the Christhunt Productions label (Germany) in 2003, catalogue reference CHP038. Full colour inlays and professional disc (CD), with white vinyl version also pressed. The musical introduction and some of lyrics are by Hugin.
Edition: presumed unlimited on CD, 500 copies on white vinyl

Track Listing:

1. The Windlords 07:55
2. Ragnarök 09:16
3. Berserker 04:30
4. Immortal Home 05:48
5. Men From North 04:38
6. Land of Frost 04:26
7. Intro 01:00
8. Ode to the Fallen One 09:34
9. Warrior's Nightmare I 01:50
10. Warrior's Nightmare II 06:26
11. Odin 00:24
12. Asgard Riders (Outro) 02:25

You may be wondering whether the onset of the mind-numbing cold of winter has caused Nazgul to forget the main theme of his Blog, given this post features an album from German band Nachtfalke. Fear not: as we know, whilst being nothing but prolific through his own projects and musical ventures Hugin still finds time to occasionally appear as a guest on the recordings of other bands.

We've seen from past Blog entries that he has, for example, worked with Brazilian viking metallers Hugin Munin and with Lord Messir's Latvian horde Dark Domination. So here we have another name that can be added to this distinguished list of collaborations: Nachtfalke (literally, Night Falcon). Here, on their 2003 release 'Land Of Frost', our man in Austria provides the lyrics to two of the songs on offer - 'The Windlords', and title-track 'Land of Frost - and contributes the spoken word/musicial intro and outro to 'The Windlords' to boot.

So what of Nachtfalke themselves: "are they in the mould of Uruk Hai, Hrefnesholt, WACH...?", I can hear you asking. Well, here's a rather good review of this album culled from Metal Archives to give you an overall impression:

"This album contains six songs from the German black metal band, performing epic and viking styled/themed music. This is very guitar oriented as a whole, but as all the listeners of Moonblood know (same main man in both bands), the creator behind this is more than capable of composing with the guitar. The music is mainly mid-tempo or faster but not ultra-fast at any time. How bursting Nachtfalke's main guitar riffs can be is introduced with the first song The Windlords. This song has simple but very dominating and melancholic main guitar melodies that create a feel of ancient barbarity. At times this guitar work in The Windlords reminds me of Deathspell Omega as they have raged their way through similar compositional paths.

The style of Nachtfalke is also very close to later-era Bathory with both bands performing some of the best viking metal moments. "Land of Frost" sounds the best for this kind of genre. The instruments are not too clean or perfected, it is a little bit raw and rusty as it is meant to be. The drums are quite simple in many songs but at the same time they help the songs to maintain their barbaric and dark feel. The album is very convincing for those internal travellers who want their music full of emotion and atmosphere."

And hold that Bathory thought in mind, for the musical side of Hugin's musical introduction on 'The Windlords' is more than a little reminiscent of the classic 'Odens Ride Over Nordland' track from Bathory's "Blood, Fire, Death' release: that distant echo of neighing horses over trampled ground, together with remote and almost ghostly sounds of battle, is a respectful and fitting touch to the mood of the album generally and to the sadly deceased Quorthon.

In 'The Windlords' Hugin's introductory paragraph is spoken word, with the main song kicking in immediately afterwards with an almighty roar of mead-fuelled power. To close out the track, another shorter spoken word section is spoken. The full lyrics to the song are reproduced here:

There was a darkness over the valleys of the north

two ravens high and far off above the battlefields
the black-winged messengers watched
the fighting man and their blood-red axes
the windlords of Asgard
The springing and dying
the song and the weeping
and the snow everlasting groan
of overburdened stone
so two ravens – the windlords
accompany all the brave warriors
from endless battle to battle
with power, with flesh and steel
High and mighty – the lords in the sky
back to Asgard – the ravens will fly
claws of Metal – shining in the night
strength and honour – in every fight
With a message for Odin
they spread their wings again
high over the northern mountains
across the deep and darkest seas
they took their victory back
back to the golden halls of Valhall
to endless fights and battles
to the glorius power of flesh and steel
Storm…wind…thunder…and lightning
the force of the windlords

For completeness sake, Hugin's lyrics to the 'Land of Frost' track are shown below:

Hail – to our ancient gods – hail – hail – hail

Hail – to my fathers sword – hail – hail – hail
Set sail warriors onward to fight
bound for glory bound for right
in Muspellheim we raise our swords
in the name of all the ancient lords
only the strong shall here prevail
warriors of evil warriors of Hel
none of the battles can be lost
in a land of fire in the land of frost
In a land where no life dwells
in a land where’s the dead alive
in a land of thousand winter nights
in a land of eternal frost and ice
Hail – to our ancient gods – hail – hail – hail
Hail – to my fathers sword – hail – hail – hail
All the pain and suffer is going stronger
stand up and fight we can’t wait no longer
they killing they raping day by day
the army of the god takes all life away
pounding the world with a fist of steel
there is no fear of pain we feel
none of the battles can be lost
in a land of fire in a land of frost
Hail – to our ancient gods – hail – hail – hail
Hail – to my fathers sword – hail – hail – hail
Over old hills and far away
in thousands of grim battles
and army of dead with only one aim
killing all the enemies
an army of the dead in the land of frost
Called: The Einherjer
Hail – to our ancient gods – hail – hail – hail
Hail – to my fathers sword – hail – hail – hail