Sunday, 21 August 2011

TAWANTINSUYU - update




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Tawantinsuyu
Reason for update: Previously unseen photographs and images for proposed artwork

Recently Alexander of AMF Productions passed to Nazgul a bunch of oddments from his collection that related to Hugin's past releases. In this Blog update, what you see here are a selection of alternate cover images that were for 2006's "Tawantinsuyu" album. Alexander also sent Nazgul a selection of other photos shot in Peru, which could have graced the album in one way or other but were not finally chosen. We'll cover some of these in a future post...

The very first image shown at the top of the post shows a completely different set of possible cover images for this release, from the full colour landscape/scenic versions through to the figure of the Inca lady that was one option considered for the tape version.

The four black and white images below use some of the photos previously mentioned and some actually used on the final releases to construct some different tape cover versions. You'll note the different styles of Uruk Hai band logo on all of these images, two different on the colour versions and a third used below:







and the final image below is the AMF Productions promotional card for this release, showing the final two versions used on the tape covers.


A nice historic selection of an album under artistic construction!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

DEMO 1/2010 - update


Band: EISMOND
Title: Demo 1/2010
Reason for update: Alternative packaging of this demo

Some while ago we came across one of Hugin's friends by the name of Andreas Müller, who provided Nazgul with some examples of his unique bespoke versions of some of Hugin's recent releases.

The example shown on the Blog today is a CDr version of the 2010 tape demo from Eismond which, you may recall from the post of 16 April 2011, was a tape only release in the 'real' world via both the Wulfrune Worxx and Depressive Illusions labels. In Hugin's world, however, anything is possible and a result this special version was produced for tape-adverse Andreas!

You'll see from the photo that the standard colour insert from the Depressive Illusions is used as the inlay behind which the CDr disc lies, all housed in a hand-written and signed blue envelope.

Using coloured envelopes for limited edition or special releases is an occasional gambit of our Austrian hero, and notable examples of the art include Uruk Hai's "Orkstahl" release (see post for 24 December 2009), the B-Machina/Rose E Rovine split "Ganesha" (23 January 2010), or the promo-only edition of Elisabetha's epic "Und Wirklichkeit Erfüllt Die Seele Wieder" (20 July 2010).

Again, an excellent example of Hugin taking the time and trouble to give his friends and fan-base that personal touch

Saturday, 13 August 2011

KREUZ


Band: HREFNESHOLT
Title: Kreuz
Format: Cassette-only release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) in 2010, cat ref WW185. The traditional label format of a black and white photocopied label remains, with a hand-written edition number in gold pen (in what looks suspiciously like the hand of Mr Wieser). Tracks recorded between 2009 and 2010.
Edition: Only 77 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Kreuz 2.17
02. Pestnogl 1.11
03. Schworzeichn 5.09
04. Die Glockn Von Dahoam 3.57
05. Dreck (Ans) 3.27
06. Dreck (Zwa) 7.05

Every now and then a band really gets their stuff together - they release an absolutely killer album that defines their sound and pulls together all the elements of their earlier work into one fine recording for the ages. Iron Maiden did it with their seminal "The Number Of The Beast" album, and before them Motorhead arguably hit their groove with the still-awesome "Ace Of Spades" release. It's a pivotal moment in the history of any band, as it's that moment in time that is often seen as the turning point in moving them from merely accomplished into the realms of genre-setting excellence.

With 'Kreuz' Hrefesnolt comes of age. Not so much knocking on the door of success, Hugin comes barrelling through like an out of control juggernaut and kicks some serious ass on the way. This, loyal readers of Honour and Darkness, is the definitive Hrefnesholt release.

An EP's worth of material in terms of overall duration at a smidgen over 22 minutes in length, there are some unmissable moments on this tape release and whether you collect this format of release or not you really should try to get your hands on this, or start an immediate petition to get the thing released as a CD pressing. In fact, I tell you what, let Uncle Nazgul give you a helping hand by starting a poll on today's page to see how many people actually would like to see this on the CD medium - take a look at the poll and vote away!

Anyway, back to this most excellent release. I don't really want to dwell on any one track in particular as they all have their merits, it's the overall nature and synthesis of the sound that demands your attention. From the outset there's a nod back to the band's "Rabentanz" CDr, all wind and keyboard effects, before the scene shifts into the 'new' folksy Hrefnesholt sound. Some songs blend riffing guitars with maudlin violin parts with absolute precision and beauty, on others you'll find organic rhythms and melancholy vocals performed brilliantly by Hugin.

In similar fashion to past Burzum albums, Hugin complements instrumental passages with suggested lyrics, giving us prose for 'Pestnogl' and 'Die Glockn Von Dahoam'. Hidden away elsewhere on the inlay is a small salamander-type lizard scuttling to the right of the cover photo, and to the left on Nazgul's version (#1 of the 77 copies) is a dedication from Hugin, "Up to the cross!"

Regular readers of this page will know that Nazgul has always had a soft spot for Hrefnesholt, and it's an absolute pleasure to report that with this EP Hugin has recorded one of his finest albums ever, across any of his projects. As the old rogue Xavier Russell used to proclaim in vintage Kerrang! album reviews, "buy-or-die": it's really that simple.

Can you say "all time classic" ...?

Friday, 12 August 2011

OF BATTLES, RAVENS & FIRE - vinyl update


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Of Battles, Ravens & Fire
Format: Picture disc vinyl edition released in 2001 on CCP Records (Austria), cat ref 10223-1.
Reason for update: a closer look at the artwork on this release.

As the fires of recent riots across England's green and pleasant land burn dimly in the distance, Nazgul sits within his castle on the hill, drawbridge firmly closed against passing hooded marauders, contemplating setting loose the dragons to ward off casual pillaging on the Nazgul estate.

And contemplating dragons put in Nazgul's mind this Hrossharsgrani picture disc - the only vinyl release in the Hrossharsgrani discography, fact fans - with the accompanying thought that it hadn't really been done justice in past posts.

So here it is in all of it's glory, with the first photograph above showing the most excellent illustration on the Hross' side (this being a split release with Austrian horde Mittwinter, after all), and the second photo showing the hand-designed inner paper with 'Hail and Kill' greetings to a number of Hugin's faithful following.

But where did the artwork for the disc come from, you may wonder? Well, wonder no more: it's another John Howe illustration that has been adapted for use on a Hugin release. We've seen a few over the years, most recently the superb cover of the Uruk Hai/Moloch vinyl release "Iron Age".

Here's the picture in full for you to enjoy, showing Smaug (from The Hobbit) in all of his splendour:

Interestingly most of the online references to this piece of art - which crops up on no end of Tolkien fan-sites - refer to it by the title "The Death Of Smaug". Strange indeed, for even the most cursory glance at the picture shows Smaug in anything but his death-throes. Indeed, if you ask Nazgu he's in full fiery fettle here and anyway, as we all know, it was Bilbo who finally put paid to Smaug.

No, the truth is discovered through John Howe's own website, where he reveals that the picture is actually called 'Smaug destroys Laketown' and was:

"Originally done for the 1988 Tolkien Calendar, I was of course overjoyed and flattered to see it make not only the chosen month, but the cover of the English edition. I remember spending ages trying to get Smaug the way I wanted him, and nothing seemed to work. Finally, I put that little kink in his tail that broke the smooth line of it, and the whole thing fell into place."

So there we have it - straight from the horse's mouth.

For completeness to round off this revisit to an old favourite, here's a photo of the Mittwinter side of the disc/inlay should any of you have been curious to see it.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

URUK HAI / SEPULCHRAL MOON split


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Untitled split release with Sepulchral Moon (Switzerland
Format: CDr release on the Black Ambient Records (USA), released in April 2011. There is no catalogue number but this is one of 8 releases on that label. CDr has a picture cover, and comes in a slimline jewel-case with pro-printed black and white cover.
Edition: 33 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

URUK HAI
01. Emyn Muil 37.07

SEPULCHRAL MOON
02. Shadows Flying Over Orodruin 3.12
03. Passing the Gate of Eternity 2.56
04. A Majestic Moon 5.28
05. To the Snowy Lands 2.10

Just the appearance of this CDr release took Nazgul back to the halcyon days of 2004 and specifically to the visually similar Uruk Hai "Ea" demo on the Italian Werwolf label, which also has a slimline case and black and white inlay. Whilst the picture disc and the pro-printed inlay are welcome and add a touch of class it has to be said that the process used to produce them gives off a ferocious odour - this could be the first Uruk Hai demo with the ability to transport you to distant realms as much as a result of the print fumes as the music!

This CDr came directly to Castle Nazgul from our Austrian hero, but Nazgul notices that were you to order a copy from www.blackambientrecords.storenvy.com you may also land yourself a pair of 1" badges, one for each band, whilst stocks last. Given that there are only 33 of these releases out there (Nazgul's copy is #2 for those of you keeping score) then one suspects stocks won't last very long at all...

Both of these bands conjure up some intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable music with various twists and turns on the ambient/dark ambient spectrum. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has been paying even the most cursory attention to recent Uruk Hai product, although by even Hugin's own mighty standards the epic 37 minute plus offering on this demo is one hell of a recording. Swiss horde Sepulchral Moon are new to Nazgul but on this showing will be a band to investigate in more detail in the future for sure.

This full-on version it is as majestic as the mountain range after which is was named: In Middle-Earth Emyn Muil was the massive range of hills that spread above the inflow of the Entwash. At one time they marked the northern borders of Gondor; This craggy, impassable highland region located upon either side of Nen Hithoel (the large lake upon the Great River Anduin, amid the Emyn Muil to the east of Rohan).

In The Two Towers, Frodo and Sam, attempting to reach the Black Gate of Mordor, are lost in the eastern Emyn Muil for days until Gollum finds them and, after a great deal of persuasion, agrees to show them the way, leading them south into the Dead Marshes.

This journey ties up rather nicely with the first of the Sepulchral Moon songs, 'Shadows Flying Over Orodruin', with the latter being the Sindarin term for Mount Doom, found of course in the black heart of Mordor...

'Emyn Muil' contains many of the modern-day Uruk Hai hallmarks in terms of the style of percussion employed and the epic length of the song in question. It also contains some uncredited female vocals to lend the song an ethereal touch in places, underscored by a distant buzzing guitar which gives a nice juxtapositioning of styles. It may sound rather terse to describe a half hour plus song in such brief terms, but as with many of Hugin's lengthy compositions it's all about the atmosphere generated and the sense of grandeur invoked rather than a detailed description of which riff kicks in at which moment, or how catchy the chorus is. Let's be honest, the only way you're going to appreciate songs like this is to immerse yourself in them and let your mind drift rather than reading the crazed ramblings of an old hack like Nazgul.

As previously noted Sepulchral Moon are unfamiliar to Nazgul but on this showing some further listening is clearly needed. The Swiss horde describe themselves as minimal black ambient and black metal and, based on online reviews of other material they've released (the Khazad-Dum demo being one such example), most of the tracks fall into the extreme dark ambient arena. As one commentator had it, "very interesting to listen to during those long night walks in the blistering cold forests of wherever you are".

Nazgul would confidently expect this particular Uruk Hai song to reappear on a more voluminous release at some point in the future to give more people the chance to appreciate this epic song, so keep your eyes peeled for it. In the meantime, if you are able to get your hands on this particular split release Nazgul can only encourage you so to do, as it's rather special.