Saturday, 30 April 2011

Nazgul's Top 10 B-Machina cover art

As it's nearly the end of yet another month here on Honour and Darkness, Nazgul thought he would celebrate the passing of April with another one of his infamous Top 10 lists. These always provide Nazgul with yet another feeble excuse to have a rummage through his collection, but hopefully entertain at the same time.

Todays list is based around Nazgul's favourite B-Machina / Bonemachine album and demo covers. Now, in saying that they are my favourite does not necessarily mean that they are the best covers in purely artistic terms. If the list included the definitive range of technically expert covers, then we might be looking at inclusions from releases which were professionally done. However, Nazgul being the 'square peg in round hole' sort of chap that he is often prefers the more abstract, unusual or not-so-obvious cover illustration and as such this list is a personal compilation of the pictures that I find most entertaining.

You will doubtless disagree, and may indeed end up fuming that your favourite cover was omitted ("how could Nazgul have not included %$&^....!!!") or consider that the top ten choices are just plain crazy ("why has Nazgul included ^£"%....??!"). Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles, of course, and if you'd like to send Nazgul your personal list of favourites then perhaps that could lead to an updated post in a few months time....
Anyway, enough of the rambling and onto the list, presented here in traditional reverse order:


10. Ganesha

Simple, clean, Indian. Three adjectives that have never been used to describe Nazgul, but which apply rather nicely to this split release with Rose Rovine E Amanti. The simple but striking design of Indian art complemented the theme of this release perfectly, and is most unusual compared to the rest of the band's 'normal' artwork. This makes it both memorable and refreshing, hence it edges into our top ten countdown.

9. Mystified vs. Bonemachine

Very obviously triangular, and award yourself a gold star if you can name the only other release of Hugin's to sport a triangular inlay*. Whilst there's not too much to say about this cover (which is housed inside a large cloth bag, so technically whilst it is the cover it's not really on view) Nazgul has always liked it so what the heck, here it is!
* A gold star if you answered Elisabetha's "Morella"

8. The Iron Stallion


The concept of iron goes together rather well with the B-Machina project, evoking images of industrial rigidity and strength. There's a track on the "Mystified vs. Bonemachine" split called 'Iron Age', rather proving the point. So it should be no surprise that the theme of "The Iron Stallion" fits perfectly with the band's imagery, and how better to show it that through this beautifully lit cast statue of, well an iron stallion. It has drama, movement and strength - as did this excellent release.

7. Little Boy

The Depressive Illusions re-issue of the classic Bonemachine demo came with a cover of perfect imagery - the devastation of the post-atomic landscape in Japan, the harrowing photo of a mother and her child in the smoldering ruins, and the classic double-headed Bonemachine logo. One of the most appropriate and well executed covers in the band's discography.

6. War Against Banana


Apart from having what could just be the most ridiculous name of any of Hugin's releases (although a firm favourite of the resident monkey at Castle Nazgul, who as I type is delirious with excitement in seeing this release make the list), it is certainly a notable cover. There's just 'something' about it that grabs old Nazgul's attention, so congratulations to our old friend Chris Huber at Theremin Noise Club for the design. Top banana, you might say...

5. Anti-Genesis

Of the 6 entries covered so far, 4 have been split releases and here's the latest of them: "Anti-Genesis" featuring Ukranian ambient project Saturn Form Essence. A touch of divine inspiration perhaps for this one, as the effect of the whole cover is perfectly balanced with the astronomical leanings of SFE and the prophetic utterances of B-Machina.

4. Schicksalswinde

Hell's teeth, another split release of sorts! This tape release came from the very limited and rather expensive Moloch box-set "Traumklange Und Klagelieder" and to this day remains exclusive to that particular release. It features Bonemachine remixes of 3 Moloch songs, and has an absolute peach of a cover attached to it with the Jester of Doom (or perhaps the Harlequin of Hades) playing away in front of what looks like a canal scene. Perhaps this is the Venetian version? Anyway, come what may this is a sufficiently striking image to garner #4 on the top ten list...

3. Burn Down Psychosis



Now, to be fair this is rather an odd cover. It's always struck Nazgul as a bizarre image - an old metal worker using his bare hand to manoeuvre a near-molten bar of metal, pulling the sort of face you might imagine following such a daft feat - but for reasons doubtless grounded in complex psychology I rather like it. Anyone with insights into why this is the case should email immediately!

2. Bittere Erkenntnisse Durch Nahtod


One of the more recent Bonemachine acquisitions to the Castle library this one, but one of the favourites too and only kept off the top spot by Nazgul's all time favourite (have you guessed what that is yet?) A really beautifully executed cover this, retaining a hint of the industrial in the tunnel yet bringing in the ethereal angels to literally illuminate the piece. Stunning.

1. Novasak / Bonemachine split


I just think this is such a clever idea for a tape cover: take one old circuit board, dissect amongst the 16 tapes in the edition so each one is unique, add some green-coloured inlays and tape and there you have it - the perfect release. Nazgul would love to see some of the other 15 copies out there to see how they compare to his tape, so if you are the proud owner of another please do drop me a line. Sure, the tape is a nightmare to store (being unbalanced, it falls over more readily than Nazgul after a night at The Witch's Head tavern) and yes, it collects dust like you wouldn't believe. But Nazgul forgives it all of these issues as part of it's mad charm and inspired design.


Errata: having come to the end of this lengthy post, it is quite typical that another release has just come to Nazgul's attention that probably should have made it onto the list. It is the literally out of this world cover from "Extraterrestrial Death", as posted on Honour and Darkness way back on 24 February 2009. Being an internet-only release, poor old Nazgul's ailing mind had forgotten to include it at the deliberation stages. Go and take a quick look, and consider it to come around =8 on the list.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

BENEATH MORDOR


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Beneath Mordor
Format: Unique double video-CD set in DVD box, signed and numbered on the reverse in silver pen. A W.A.R. Productions release from 2010, no catalogue reference.
Edition: 1 copy

Track Listing:
VCD1
01. Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun 12.22

VCD2
01. Enter Mordor 4.45
02. Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun 12.22

As you've all been such a patient bunch this month, here's another treasure from the Castle archives for you to savour.

This unique VCD set was a surprise gift from Hugin in 2010 and has been much played since it's unexpected arrival. Disc 1 contains a video shot for the 'Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun' track that featured on the "A Dark Force Shines Golden" split release (see post of 25 November 2009), whilst the second disc features the same track plus the video for 'Enter Mordor', a song from the "Lothlorien" album (see post of 22 January 2010). Interestingly, the 'Beneath...' track also features as one of the bonus tracks on the "Lothlorien" album, so there's something of a concordance there.

Equally themed, both videos are shot in the deep woods and feature Hugin in various guises in amongst the trees. The 'Enter Mordor' video will be familiar to readers of Honour and Darkness from the self-same titled VCD that was reviewed back on 20 March 2010 and is the same colour video. The 'Beneath...' track is shot in atmospheric black and white, and features a lengthy tramp through what could only be Mirkwood, complete with a ghostly white figure flitting through the trees at opportune moments...

Once again, Nazgul is deeply honoured to have such a friend as Hugin who has gone out of his way to present these two videos in such a stylish package as this, with ominous grey thunderclouds on the front cover and a signed, numbered rear cover overlaying an image of the man himself. Marvellous!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

HROSSHARSGRANI > Ancient Tales t-shirt

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Item: Unique white cotton t-shirt printed with a one-sided, full colour design.
Edition: 10 t-shirts exist

This is usually a very busy time of year in Castle Nazgul, so apologies for the lack of new posts recently. You can take some comfort from the fact that there is no dearth of material to cover: oh no - with an artist as prolific as Hugin there's always something new to be discovered. No, uncle Nazgul merely has been working his undead soul to the limit with more mundane matters than Honour and Darkness business, so to put this situation right a quick post seems to be in order.

What you see here is a close up of the stunning panel from this hand crafted Hrossharsgrani t-shirt. Talk about taking the shirt off someone's back, this addition to the collection has the very aura of Hugin associated with it still, so swiftly was it ripped from his grasp once offered...

The design - of a dragon threatening a pumped-up and doubtless pissed-off barbarian, set against a fantasy background - is both striking and effective. Notice the old style Hrossharsgrani band logo, denoting this as a release from the early days of the project's existence. It manages at one and the same time to come across as a bit amateur and yet entirely in keeping with the philosophy of the band, and in that respect has become one of Nazgul's favourites. And could that crumbling edifice in the distance possibly be Castle Nazgul itself....?

The artist of this masterpiece is none other than Heidi, a lady best known to collectors of Hugin's work as the illustrator for the Hrefnesholt "Hrefneswinter" tape release, and also of note for having designed the cover for the Hrossharsgrani promo-CDr "Urd".

What's that, you cry - "Urd"? What are you on about, Nazgul, never heard of such a thing! Well, that much may yet be true, for this promo-only release is yet another rare item locked away in the bowels of the Castle, but due for public airing very soon indeed...

[Edit: 28/4/11 - Hugin has just sent through additional information about this t-shirt:
10 shirts printed of this one!! It's called “Ancient Tales” T-Shirt, painted by Adelheid Bagar in 1999. She also painted the "Ancient Tales" poster & the first tape cover. The Hrefnesholt "Hrefnesvinter" cover was painted by her too, as was the Hrossharsgrani "...Of Battles…" logo and the Hrefnesholt logo. Uruk Hai's "Gone With The Wind" CD cover was done by her, as was the Hrossharsgrani "...Of Battles…" picture LP insert frame!]

Sunday, 17 April 2011

URUK HAI / FUNERAL FORNICATION




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Uruk-Hai / Funeral Fornication split album
Format: Professionally manufactured CD-r in standard jewel case with 4 page booklet, released in September 2010 on the Hypnotic Dirge label (Saskatchewan, Canada), cat ref HDR-015. The album is a split release between Uruk Hai and Funeral Fornication (Canada). All artwork, photographs and layout were created for this release by Hugin.
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:
Uruk-Hai
01. Orcish Battle Hymn (Intro) 1.36
02. March to War 12.31
03. Death is Just Another Path 8.07
04. Cirith Ungol (edited version featuring Pr. Sergiy) 11.39

Funeral Fornication
05. The Weeping Tree 5.42
06. Stargates Eternal Beheld My Nightmares 6.45
07. Chamber Below the Abyss 5.35
08. The Keep (Solstice cover) / Obsidian Tarn 7.50

This fine looking split CD is a release on the Hypnotic Dirge label (www.hypnoticdirge.com), which is a label that boasts an interesting array of recent releases (including a split featuring our old friend, Symbiosis) and a very positive attitude in their self-promotion. It's one of the better independent label sites Nazgul has seen for a while, so do check them out and why not put a little business their way if the product appeals? Whilst many of the recent Hypnotic Dirge CDr releases are limited to 500 units their website suggests there is no limitation on this particular split album so there's little excuse not to go and grab a copy.

All of the artwork and design on the glossy booklet comes from Hugin's creative mind, and the split features a tidy four songs from each band to keep the listener entertained. It is an album of contrasting styles through, and there will be few that will confuse the output of each project. In a happy-yet-rare occurrence there are quite a few reviews of this release online, so let's kick off with one that gets to the heart of this stylistic difference right away courtesy of Defiance webzine (www.myspace.com/defiancemagazine):

"The eight track album ( four tracks by each band respectively) is full of contrast on many levels, the first one being the style of music. I was pleasantly surprised by Uruk-Hai as I had not previously heard of them only to find myself engrossed in a style of music that is long forgotten. Music that is inspired on so many levels, if you love your war inspired classical sounding pieces then the first part of this album is for you.
Beautifully produced to a high standard it's almost like a musical play starting with "Orcish Battle Hymn" or if you like the procession into war then "March to War" and then we finish with "Death is Just Another Path" and my favourite piece by Uruk-Hai "Cirith Ungol". It might be different from the previous three but it's a nice touch, almost like peace has broken out and now the happy ending with growling vocals thrown in and some very interesting musical elements. These four tracks are like a beautifully written sonnet to my ears, I could sit here for hours and listen to it over and over. It's a breath of fresh air and for my ears it's also a sound of fresh air.

The second half of the album by Funeral Fornication sees them returning to the Black/doom metal growling and prowling with "The Weeping Tree" with the catchy guitar riff leading you astray from yourself and into something completely different such as "Stargates Eternal Holds My Nightmares" with the harpsichord adding another dimension to this track and all I can say is Funeral Fornication really haven't lost their touch with tracks like "Chamber Below the Abyss" and "The Keep". The music really is a contrasting and complimentary on so many levels. Here you have an album, two different styles and it's on one CD! These two bands really compliment each other well, You have Black/doom metal and you have epic war style music, what more could you possibly ask for on a split album like this?"

Taking a slightly sideways step, this was Nazgul's first exposure to Funeral Fornication so let us explore that band's origin's a little. According to the biography on the Hypnotic Dirge site, Funeral Fornication is a one-man project hailing from BC, Canada which began as a pagan black metal band with thrash metal influences. This project has been in the works for 5-6 years releasing demos and then its debut album a couple years ago on Funeral Moonlight Productions. On the second album 'Paganheart' Funeral Fornication's style has evolved over the years, and a more depressive black metal based album entitled 'Solitude and Suicide' is another label release.

Most of the Uruk Hai tracks will be familiar to most readers of this Blog due to their presence on other releases, notably 'March to War' and 'Death Is Just Another Path'. The intro track 'Orcish Battle Hymn' bears the same name as the demo from 2000 on Chanteloup Creations, but is a feisty instrumental to get proceedings under way, whilst track four ' Cirith Ungol' is a much edited down version of another recent demo by the same name, which will be the subject of a separate post in due course.

In terms of how these tracks sound, let's turn to the Nocturnal Cult webzine (www.nocturnalcult.com) for their thoughts:

"Up first are four tracks of Tolkien themed ambient music from Uruk-Hai. A pounding tribal beat repeats its racing line against a frolicking violin melody for 'Orcish Battle Hymn'. A darker pounding beat cracks like thunder as 'March To War' begins. Samples of Saruman commanding his legions into battle drift into this victorious and inspiring song of horns and thunderous drums. A ghostly voice snakes its way through the song. Light melodies break like dawn across 'Death Is Just Another Path' and Gandalf's wisdom spills forth in samples across the song's landscape.

If possible, the drums become even more forceful as the song explodes like a cavalry charge during its more powerful movements. However angelic choirs dance lightly upon the song's moments of stillness. Finally 'Cirith Ungol' unites peaceful piano and warming horns while they hover above a battlefield of clanging steel and acidic black metal shrieks. The shrieks continue as insistent beats and crystalline xylophones chime through the darkness.

Then the second half is underground black metal, steeped in atmosphere and primitive destruction. A repetitive and methodical beat supports morose atmospheric black metal on 'The Weeping Tree'. Riffs create barren textures while they are paired with slowly swaying synth passages. A mournful melody and romantic synth create a vampyric feel to 'Stargates Eternal Beheld My Nightmares'.

I still really wish Funeral Fornication would get a REAL drummer as it stands out during the cymbal rides on this track. 'Chamber Below The Abyss' begins with haunting and sharp guitar notes slicing down from the stars. The song creeps along at an eerie pace, keeping its true form concealed until deep, horrific vocals drift in like creaking wood in a haunted mansion. The whole song is nebular in shape and disturbing in effect. Finally Funeral Fornication's half is brought to a close as he delivers a pagan epic of clean vocalised Viking chants during a Solstice cover song, 'The Keep.' "

There is also an interesting review at the Doommantia (www.doommantia.com) that's worth a read:

"Check this out - Uruk-Hai, Elisabetha, Folkearth, Hrossharsgrani, Hrefnesholt, Ravenclaw, Raben Nacht, Manwe, Heimatleid, Bonemachine (now know as B-Machina), Ceremony of Innocence, Wach, Solid Grey, Drachenfeuer, Schlaganfall, After Aids, Guts for Dinner and Eismond. Close to 40 demos, around 30 split albums, about a dozen full length albums, 6 EP's, countless singles and a 6 CD box set. This is the staggering resume of ambient musician Hugin, real name Alex Wieser.

His main band though is Uruk-Hai, the name is a reference to an advanced breed of orcs from J.R.R. Tolkien''s Lord of the Rings trilogy. This man is the most prolific songwriter and musician that I have ever heard of and he is showing no signs of slowing down either. Hugin plays all instruments as well as all the electronics and programming on most of his releases including this split with Canada's Funeral Fornication, a depressive black metal band that has is the work of one man also, Vultyrous.

Funeral Fornication started out as a pagan/thrash/black metal act but changed its style towards depressive black metal when it signed with Hypnotic Dirge Records in Early 2009. This split album starts off with Uruk-Hai in a total Tolkien, fantasy based concept. A theme that this musician has kept going through most, if not all of his releases. Musically it is blackened, ambient doomy stuff blended with neo-classical influences, it is bombastic yet kind of nerdy music and I say that with all due respect as I actually like most of it. Because of his incredible recording output, I have only heard a small part of what he has done but I can tell this is a huge step-up from what he was doing a few years ago.

The production is much better, the songs have more direction and dynamics but it still an acquired taste. This is the kind of music you either love or hate or have to be in the mood for. There is a lot of screaming going on and samples from the Lord of the Rings movies so it is an odd blend of different elements but somehow it all works. I can't really see myself listening to this too often but I also find it intriguing material but it is something you have to judge for yourself. No amount of reviews is truly going to tell the story here.

Funeral Fornication is different again but doesn't sound out-of-place next to Uruk-Hai. This is very depressive, bleak black metal that is soaked in doom and gloom. One thing it has in common with Uruk-Hai is the synths, both bands rely pretty heavily on that sound for the atmospherics. Here they are blended with sickly, depressing guitar riffs with abrasive, harsh vocals but it all sounds kind of the same until you get to one song called "Chamber Below The Abyss" which is the only track that breaks the usual formula. It is the only track not really blackened metal but it also one of the best tracks on the entire split for the incredibly dark atmosphere. Overall, I am very impressed with this release from Hypnotic Dirge Records. One of their better releases of the last year."

All in all, a very satisfying release and one well worth seeking out.

To end, seen pictured above is the flyer sent out by Hypnotic Dirge to advertise this album, the text of which reads:

"As a precursor to Funeral Fornication's forthcoming full-length album 'Pandemic Transgression', comes the split album with Austria's legendary Uruk-Hai, a project that Vultyrous has cited as a strong influence throughout his many years as a musician. Both projects on this album carry their own distinctive sound yet the album flows together as a solid entity and each artist's work complements the album as a whole.

Uruk-Hai delivers his brand of epic, LOTR-inspired ambient black metal in the vein of Summoning, while Funeral Fornication continues to grow with each sequential release adding new elements to his sound including a cover song of UK doomsters 'Solstice' with clean vocals! This release comes packaged in a standard jewel case with artwork designed from Uruk-Hai's 'Hugin'."


Saturday, 16 April 2011

DEMO 1/2010





Band: EISMOND
Title: Demo 1/2010
Format: Tape release in two editions: The first edition was released at Wulfrune Worxx (France), cat ref WW178, with a xeroxed cover on matt light blue paper. A second edition was released at Depressive Illusions Records (Ukraine), cat ref cut162, with a full colour cover on glossy paper. Both releases have the same track on either side of the cassette.
Edition: Both versions limited to 99 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Eismond 32:22


"This one is ice cold!" proclaimed Alex on the cover of my Depressive Illusions version of this tape (Nazgul has both editions nestling on the library shelves), whilst the inlay to the Wulfrune Worxx copy states, "Aller Eis - All Ice". However you cut it, there's a cold wind of change blowing through Castle Nazgul this afternoon and it's not the Scorpions whistling their early 90's cash-cow either.

Eismond is yet another project from the artist who surely has taken multi-tasking to new heights. Quite what prompted Alex to consider that yet another project was a good idea is a mystery at the moment, not because it's unwelcome (hell, new work from W.A.R. Productions is always cause for celebration here) but simply because the risk of not having the time to fully devote to it must be alarmingly high.

Leaving personal life away from music to one side, this is a man who not only already has a range of full time bands on the go (Uruk Hai, Hrefnesholt, Hrossharsgrani) but some part-time ones too (B-Machina, WACH, Ceremony of Innocence, Elisabetha and Manwe) and still others that are also new ventures needing time to develop (Drachenfeuer, Solid Grey). You'd have thought another band/MySpace page to worry about would have been about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit, but undeterred our Austrian champion soldiers on!

So here we have it, the debut recording from Eismond (a name, incidentally, that translates as Ice Moon). Two pressings on different labels with the same half-hour song (packaged differently only through the use of colour) is an ambitious beginning - 198 copies in total even for an established artist like Hugin would not necessarily fly off the distro shelves even given his pedigree with the mighty Uruk Hai. It possibly reflects more the support offered by these two labels - Wulfune Worxx and Depressive Illusions - than it does any realistic ambitions to physically sell that many copes, although perhaps time will prove Nazgul wrong. I'd certainly like to think so, and if you can find a few spare Euros to throw at either distro to secure your own copy then bully for you.

The band's MySpace page (intriguingly titled www.myspace.com/icemond, presumably because the suffix Eismond is already in use elsewhere on MySpace) suggests the listener should be expecting some ambient black metal whilst investigating this first demo, cunningly entitled "Demo 1/2010". This is useful information, as there is nothing else of much worth to be found anywhere else in the cyber-ether. Not untypical, sadly, of the usual coverage afforded to Hugin's projects in the main but hey - that's why Nazgul sits at his oak desk well into the early hours, enlightening the world at large about this arcane and obscure releases. So grab yourself a glass of your favourite tipple and pull up a comfy chair, as we're about to go exploring together...

The musical offering is a cold and wholly ambient experience - it's the soundtrack to blizzards falling in the upper Alps, of glaciers creaking in the dead of night, the musical accompaniment to trekking through strange and desolate mountain reaches on a Lovecraft-inspired expedition in search of those Great Old Ones still frozen in the icy tundras of the north. Occasionally there is a very brief interlude of almost a pseudo-industrial noise or a short percussive beat, otherwise 99% of this recording is fuelled by frosty keyboards in repetitive, stark passages. Personally speaking, to Nazgul's ear this new project has much in keeping with the sounds of recent Uruk Hai demos more than any other of Hugin's bands, with a faint touch of B-Machina and a unique twist of ambient-drone in the escalating and repetitious music.

A half hour debut track is pretty ambitious for any new act, but such trivialities have never deterred our Austrian maestro in his quest to release his musical musings. So, does this demo 'work'? Well on most levels yes it does - it's not too dissimilar to Hugin's other instrumental forays, but that cuts both ways: it won't alienate much of the potential audience for the work, but conversely offers nothing that could be called radical and different. It's a bleakly ambient track, never quite creating the mystical atmosphere of something like Wongraven's "Fjelltronen" for example, yet it grows on you over time.

Listening to this demo as a warm spring breeze wafts through the library window and vultures mournfully squawk outside does not perhaps give the music the right environment in which to blossom. Nazgul shall return to it in the chill depths of winter, to listen to it afresh as the snow silently falls to pile up against the Castle ramparts, as that is surely the time for the Ice Moon to flourish...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

TRANSILVANISCHER HUNGER - update



Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Transilvanischer Hunger
Format: Promotional copy of the limited edition CD single released on W.A.R. Productions in 2010, comprising a hand-written CDr contained in a bespoke paper sleeve inside a plastic wallet.
Edition: unknown - possibly only this copy

Track Listing:
01. Transilvanischer Hunger

Sad times - the number of Elisabetha releases over the past year or so has pretty much dried up, save for the odd release of old instrumental demos on Wulfrune Worxx. As such, we've not had much coverage of this particularly toothsome project on the Blog in recent times. A shame, for there is a long and (un)healthy tradition of Elisabetha demos in the early years of the previous decade that led to some fine releases being unleashed upon the world at large.

However, all is not lost as Nazgul does still have a few tricks up his sleeve, the first of which is to crack open the file marked 'promo and master CDr' for inside are a selection of unusual items bearing the Elisabetha name. Rejoice, for it is not quite time to say 'fangs for the memory' yet...!

This particular item is a CDr promotional version of the "Transilvanischer Hunger" release (incidentally, spot the spelling mistake on the CDr!). It is, in fairness, the same song on a silver CDr as contained on the formal release (but on silver disc as opposed to the rather splendid black and gold sided disc that the final version came on), housed in a specially created paper cover with the band logo on it. The rear of the paper inlay is interesting though, as initially it looks as if a water-stain has marked the rear paperwork, but after closer inspection it becomes evident that it is the middle 'bat' part of the old Elisabetha logo!

Truth be told, that's about all that can be said about this disc really, as a more detailed review of the formally released single was posted on 14 September 2010. Still, it keeps the Elisabetha flag flying into 2011 and with other master-disc CDr's being housed in the Castle library we can pick up the project again in a future month with another random blast from the past (or should that be 'rave from the grave'?)

On a final note, contained in a parcel that Hugin sent over to the Castle some months ago were some mis-pressed copies of the official CD version of this release. Said copies don't play of course, but do make rather intriguing coasters for the many and varied Hugin-themed coffee mugs that pile up on Nazgul's desk during the scribing of this Blog...!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

SCHATTENKRIEGER > photo session 2002

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Item: Promotional CDr containing pictures from the "Schattenkrieger" album shoot, 2002
Format: Yellow CDr disc in bespoke paper sleeve housed in plastic wallet.
Edition: One-off copy for the library at Castle Nazgul

"Schattenkrieger" is what you might think of as Hugin's 'Marmite album' - you either love the glossy melodies and highly polished sound (courtesy of supporting ensemble Ecstatic Fear and a host of session musicians) or you consider it nothing to do with the true Hrossharsgrani heritage and something of a black sheep in the family.


Since Honour and Darkness took a look at the release back on 19 May 2009 we've also covered a few other related items - a t-shirt promoting the album, and a few promotional flyers and adverts that came across the library desk.

Today's offering is slightly different - a few examples of the original photos from the album photo-shoot done back in 2002 for the CD booklet.


Hugin has kindly bundled together a sample of the session's output onto a CDr and given it a natty paper cover, from which Nazgul has selected a few photographs to share with you this morning.


Those of you who own the album will recognise the triumvirate of our Austrian Hero, Hugin, together with the mysterious Munin and the glamorous Fylgja. A few good solo shots of Hugin also pop up in the mix, so let's enjoy that Medieval Overlord look circa 2002!


Another unusual one from the collection. On a similar theme and for fans of Uruk Hai there's a treat in store in the weeks ahead, as a photo session for a very popular recent release will be explored in more detail. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Hail to the Chief...

Happy Birthday Hugin, 2011 !

The wheel of time turns once again, and we find ourselves in April 2011 and needing to recognise the only reason this blog exists - a certain Mr Alexander Wieser, of Linz, Austria. Many thousands of words and hundreds of photos have been posted in the past two years as Honour and Darkness helps to bring to global attention the work of this most prolific of musicians from one of the less obvious outposts of Europe.

Yet here we are, 13,000+ strong with unique readers of these missives, all here for one reason only - Hugin's music has touched all of our lives in some way and as a result the man himself has made a positive difference to all of our lives. Think about that, for just a second. Despite all of our individual best endeavours most of us only touch the lives of immediate friends and family, and often fleetingly at best. Here is a man who has touched literally thousands of lives with his creativity and talent, yet remains as nice a guy as you could ever hope to meet. A rare thing, indeed.

Hugin has made a permanent and beneficial difference to the lives of anyone who has bought and appreciated his music, and for that we should give thanks.

So here we are, in the annual 'Happy Birthday' post to the maestro himself. This year, Nazgul thought it would be a splendid idea to combine some rarely seen photos of Hugin through the ages (in no particular order) with tributes and thoughts from some of the artists who have worked alongside Hugin in the past years to produce such magnificent music. So please join Nazgul in wishing Mr Wieser a happy 42nd birthday (an auspicious number, according to author Douglas Adams, being the answer to life, the universe and everything...).

And a suggestion - if each unique reader of this Blog were to place a mere $5 order with Hugin via his MySpace pages (links to the right) then we could provide rather a nice financial contribution to the W.A.R. Productions coffers. Go on, you know you want to - it's the decent thing to do...

"Hails Alex, I am very grateful for having an opportunity to be friends with a man like you. During all these years we have made many wonderful creations together and supported each other. As for the birthday wishes - I wish you great unearthly health and let inspiration be inside your soul forever. Now I see that the spirit of the Lord of the Rings lives in Austria and has a name: Alex. Keep up your great work and spread the magic of Moria in this lost world."

S. (Depressive Illusion Records)


"Infernal and blasphemous greetings to one of my greatest friends. Continue to compose your music from the tower of Isengard!"

Grav (Orcrist)


"Hails my friend, Well, it's always hard for me to compose and write good wishes, so I'll be short, but sincere - Happy Birthday my friend Alex, may the wisdom of the stars shine on you and your family!!!"

Alexander (AMF Productions)


"My friend, stand strong & stand proud! looking forward meeting u again soon in the holy Alps."

Cz (Vinterriket)


"Good luck, good health and long life to you and your family. We are not born, but we live. Barracuda!"

Klat Ba (Mhnunrrn)


"To Alex, my good friend and fellow musician, wishing you the best of days and good health to enjoy it! And I'm still convinced you only get yourself into hospital to have the attention of all those pretty nurses. Hah! Hope you have a great day my friend."

Jim Kirkwood
"Happy birthday! I wish you all the best for the future, may your inspiration and your art never leave you. Real music needs honest and honourable people like you. May the Gods enlighten your way. All the best!"

Valerio (Symbiosis) And finally, but by no means last, is this most excellent contribution from Blog reader Morax Druag, who you will remember from a recent 'Followers of Honour and Darkness' post.

The creation below was created especially for Hugin's birthday, and makes Nazgul well aware of his own lack of creativity in the artistic stakes! The image is taken from a painting by John Howe, based on a story from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion (and prominently featured in The Children of Hurin as well). It shows the dragon Glaurung being slain by the cursed sword Gurthang, wielded by Turin Turambar.


What more fitting way could there be to end this short birthday tribute: Alex, from Nazgul's own heart comes a wish for health, luck and happiness to you in the year ahead, and may you and your family be content in the knowledge of how you have touched our lives now and for always.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALEX!

ASH NAZG...


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Ash Nazg...
Format: Cassette tape demo on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) released in 2010, catalogue reference WW160. The tape follows the standard presentation for this label of being a C60 style cassette with a photocopied black and white inlay. The title of the demo comes from the 'Black Speech', a language devised by Sauron and used in his land of Mordor.
Edition: Hand-numbered in an edition of 77 copies

Track Listing:

01. Ash Nazg... 21.40

As readers of Tolkien will be aware, the One Ring was created by the Dark Lord Sauron during the Second Age in order to gain dominion over the free peoples of Middle-Earth. In disguise as Annatar, or "Lord of Gifts", he aided the Elven smiths of Eregion and their leader Celebrimbor in the making of the Rings of Power. He then forged the One Ring himself in the fires of Mount Doom.

Sauron intended it to be the most powerful of all Rings, able to rule and control those who wore the others. Since the other Rings were themselves powerful, Sauron was obliged to place much of his native power into the One to achieve his purpose.

Creating the Ring simultaneously strengthened and weakened Sauron's power. On the one hand, as long as Sauron had the Ring, he could control the power of all the other Rings, and thus he was significantly more powerful after its creation than before; and putting such a great portion of his own power into the Ring ensured Sauron's continued existence so long as the Ring existed. On the other hand, by binding his power within the Ring, Sauron became dependent on it - without it his power was significantly diminished.

The Ring seemed simply to be made of gold, but was impervious to damage. It could be destroyed only by throwing it into the pit of the volcanic Mount Doom where it had originally been forged. Unlike other rings, the One Ring was not susceptible to dragon fire. Like some lesser rings forged by the Elves as "essays in the craft" – but unlike the other Rings of Power – it bore no gem, but its identity could be determined by a simple (though little-known) test: when placed in a fire, it displayed a fiery Tengwar inscription in the Black Speech of Mordor, with lines from a rhyme of lore describing the Rings. The ring-inscription is in the Black Speech, a language devised by Sauron and used in his land of Mordor.

The inscription embodied the One Ring's power to control the other Rings of Power. The words were evidently also part of the spell that imbued the One Ring with power; for the Elven smiths heard Sauron utter these words during the Ring's creation, whereupon they became aware of his purpose and took off their own Rings to foil his plan. The inscription used Elvish letters because the Black Speech did not have its own script.

"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie"

Those lines inscribed in bold above were translated by Gandalf in Book I, Chapter 2, "A Shadow of the Past" as: "Ash nazg durbatul√Ľk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatul√Ľk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul" And that, dear readers, encapsulates the story of where this 2010 demo derived its unusual name.

The Uruk Hai demo "Ash Nazg..." is therefore as steeped in Middle-Earth atmosphere as a well-roasted turkey leg at Bilbo Baggins' birthday party. It is composed once again as a single, long piece of music rather than a set of individual songs, as is the current way with late-period Uruk Hai. As ever, this can be challenging: settling down to listen to a lengthy song requires time and patience, as opposed to dipping in and out of an album of separate songs. It's also presented Nazgul with more of a challenge too as writing about a single track is far harder, in much the same way that writing about a long-haul flight is more difficult than describing some short, punchy aerobatic displays.

The first observation to make is that this is almost entirely an instrumental demo. The start - and indeed the end - of the recording contains a sinister voice effect of Sauron himself spewing the phrase "Ash Nazg...", thereafter it's keyboard ambiance all the way!

There is an a fascinating atmosphere developed on this track, with underlying cavernous synths setting an ominous tone whilst above them a keyboard melody (sounding not unlike the breathing pattern of a dragon played on a violin) progresses. Against this, some elegant and classy touches on the keys ensure, giving the whole piece a maturity that sines through. The whole song maintains a delicate balance between beauty and evil, and is a real pleasure to listen to. There are some very fitting changes of key and pace in this track, and as an overall listen it evokes all of the airs and charm of Hugin's classic Uruk Hai material.

With the recent glut of demos from Uruk Hai in late 2010 you could be forgiven for thinking that Hugin would run out of ideas or enthusiasm for this sort of material. This demo proudly dispels any such notion, and for any fan who appreciates the subtle and more gentle side of this project Nazgul would recommend this tape unhesitatingly.