Friday, 30 December 2011

2011: the year in review

Part of the expanding Castle Nazgul collection

Well, 2011 has been another busy year in Castle Nazgul, not least in making preparations for the arrival of baby Nazgul in March next year. That happy event might well affect the number of posts in 2012, but we shall wait and see!

This was also the year that brought Hugin to these shores for the first Anglo-Austrian summit at Castle Nazgul in August. Plenty of sightseeing was undertaken (the plague-pits on the far side of the moat always make for a fine spectacle during the summer months), and a fantastic time was had by all.

Our hero Hugin has had a hectic 2011 also, evidenced by the steady stream of releases emanating from W.A.R. Productions. Whilst not quite the flood of items that we witnessed in 2010 (which is fair enough really, the man has a life outside of entertaining us after all!) there was still a prodigious volume of new material to absorb and enjoy ranging from box-sets, EPs and full-length CD and tape albums, and the odd bespoke item too. Considering the time taken between releases of mainstream bands (perhaps 1-3 years between albums on average) we are truly spoiled by the volume of interesting and consistently high-quality material that Hugin releases.

The majority of action has been seen with what you might consider the core bands (Uruk Hai predominantly) whilst some of the smaller or less mature projects have had fleeting (if any) recording activity at all in the last twelve months - or, to qualify that more precisely, nothing that we've heard yet. This is shown in the band-by-band summary below, where you'll notice a distinct lack of activity in some quarters compared to the 2010 annual round-up compared to this same time last year.

It's been a steady year in terms of the growth of Honour and Darkness, with more members, visitors and countries logged on the Flag Counter than ever before and significant increases since this time last year. On average Honour and Darkness now sees 34 new visitors arriving daily (compared to 19 last year) together with 69 regular daily visitors (54 of you last time around), whilst the total number of hits on the site stood at 53,946 thanks to 26,544 of you visiting as of writing this post today (16,800 hits from 5,312 visitors this time last year).

There have been an incredible 131 countries who have visited Nazgul's little corner of the web, up from 89 in December 2010, and it's been a mixture of the obvious and the unexpected in terms of where you've visited from!

The majority of visitors still come from the USA, Germany, the United Kingdom and France, and there is a growing contingent who hail from Canada and Brazil too. However, 2011 has seen visitors coming from Libya, Netherlands Antilles, Iraq, Suriname, Mongolia and Madagascar as well, which in the grand scheme of things is rather wonderful! This means that 66.8% of recognised countries worldwide have at least one interested party/fan of Hugin's music there. Barbaric hails to each and every one of you all for your support!

One thing that increasingly strikes Nazgul is that whilst the number of visitors to the site has increased over the year, the number of emails or messages you send in has dwindled markedly. Whilst it's true to say that Honour and Darkness exists as a tribute and a labour of love than being a debating forum it would be nice to hear from you and listen to your thoughts and comments about the music, the reviews, life, the universe and everything once in a while! So make it a New Year's resolution to drop Nazgul at least 1 email to honouranddarkness@gmail.com and share your thoughts.

Right, let's get down to business with a quick round-up of some of the principal activity in 2011

URUK HAI

2010 saw in excess of 30 Uruk Hai releases, a productive year by any standards! 2011 has been far quieter, although towards its conclusion there are distinct signs that the W.A.R. Productions machine is picking up speed once again. Although the anticipated - and entirely bonkers - 40CD box-set on Steinklang didn't appear, the year has seen two new compilation box-sets appearing in the form of "Gorgorth" (6 discs!) and "Courage Is Found In Unlikely Places" (10 discs!!), plus the issue of a deluxe two-disc metal tin edition of "In Durin's Halls: Return To The Mines Of Moria" to complement the earlier tape release and slimline CD pressing.

The "Courage..." box-set is especially interesting as it brings together some classic demos from the 2004-2005 period, including songs previously only available on tape versions, so a review of this release will doubtless be a star attraction in Honour and Darkness in 2012.

In other activity, Wulfrune Worxx kept up their support of the band with a number of demo releases, some reviewed already on these pages and some yet to appear. Highlights included the "Nargothrond" collection, a tribute to Wulfrune's owner Skogen via the "Natt Skogen (A Dark Jubileum)" ensemble piece, and two demos based around "Spirits" that also saw versions issued on the Ukrainian Depressive Illusions label. Apparently passing under the radar of the general public near to the end of the year was a very limited edition tape/DVDr release called "Power Of The Ring", which Nazgul will be reviewing soon, but more well publicised were two split releases - "Darkness and the Blood of Trees" and "United with the Fallen Ones..." both of which look very interesting indeed.

2010 saw a tendency towards longer single-track and decidedly epic releases, a trend which has continued in 2011 to a degree (with the aforementioned "Spirits" releases) but tempered with the arrival of a few multi-song demos and compilations of past albums. The standard and quality of Uruk Hai releases has maintained at a high level whatever the style or format, boding well for a bumper 2012.

Highlight of 2011: "Courage Is Found In Unlikely Places" - a welcome reintroduction of some classic albums and rare tracks from the mid 2000's.
Lowlight of 2011: No 40CD box-set to enjoy (although this news caused Nazgul's bank manager and postman to breath sighs of relief!)

HREFNESHOLT

The highlight of 2011 was the release of the "Kreuz" demo tape, which took the evolving Hrefnesholt sound to new heights. Although we didn't see a glut of releases from this project in the last twelve months, the quality of what we did hear and the distinctive sound created by the band is truly exciting, carving out a unique niche for itself in the process. The last months of the year also saw some demo tapes from the last year or so being compiled onto a new digipak CD release called "A Haund Voi Dreck", which should prove to be a godsend to anyone not able to get hold of the original cassettes.

As long-time readers will know Nazgul has always had something of a soft-spot for Hrefnesholt, and with the distinctive and organic music being created over the past two years this really does seem to be the beginning of something really special as far as this project is concerned.

Highlight of 2011: The compilation "A Haund Voi Dreck", a must-have item
Lowlight of 2011: None

HROSSHARSGRANI

Can you hear it - the almost silent sound of tumbleweed slowly rolling and bouncing across the plain? That's pretty much the total of Hrossharsgrani activity in the last calendar year. Given the volume of work that Hugin produces it's inevitable that now and again some bands go into temporary hibernation, and this year it seems to have been Hrossharsgrani's turn. The Australian label Smell The Stench did put out a 3"CDr version of "The Long Grey Road" demo in the last twelve months, however, and a nicely crafted release it proved to be, but otherwise it's been a quiet time for this particular endeavour.

Mind you, Nazgul managed to get his hands on something from this band that had long eluded him, so that was a definite plus for the year: more of that in a future post.

Highlight of 2011: The artwork on the 3"CDr was excellent, and the 'mystery' find a real treasure!
Lowlight of 2011: A general dearth of material

B-MACHINA

With Max up to his ears with the Steinklang label it looked as if this would be a pretty lean year on the B-Machina / Bonemachine front. In terms of new releases that proved to be the case, but true to form Hugin came up trumps with some rare and previously unknown demos being unearthed from the depths of his Austrian lair. "Sperrgut" was one such excellent demo, recently reviewed, and it is simply amazing at times to consider how much excellent material Hugin has made over the years that may still lie unheard and unheralded in the dark, shadowy corners of W.A.R.

A development right at the end of the year - just in time for this seasonal round-up in fact - was the use of the Bandcamp website for pay-to-download tracks from B-Machina. Two have been uploaded to date, the "Heimatleid" release (recently reviewed) and the single track 'This Is Fuckin' Horror', which has literally just been uploaded in the last week or so. Perhaps this is another way forward for 2012 releases from Hugin's bands...?

Also found during 2011 was yet another bootleg release from Japanese artist Kenji Siratori using the Bonemachine name and cover artwork designed by Hugin. This particular item will be suitably scowled upon later in the new year!

Highlight of 2011: The emergence of rare Bonemachine demos, a treasure-trove indeed Lowlight of 2011: None to speak of - some new material and rare finds would make it churlish to moan!

ELISABETHA

Nothing to report on the Elisabetha front in 2011, save for some nice collectibles in the artwork field from the pen of Neon Ästhet that have found their way to Castle Nazgul. It appears as if the recording days of this particular project may be over, although as Nazgul has learned to his cost over the years: never turn your back on the undead....

Highlight of 2011: Nothing to report
Lowlight of 2011: That there was nothing to report

WACH

This time last year Nazgul was metaphorically smacking his lips at the prospect of the "Nordwand" release dropping into the Castle mailbox, as it was at that time an imminent release. Twelve months later and "Nordwand" has now been released, although so late in the year that Nazgul has yet to get his sticky mitts on a copy. Still, it will be a nice treat for later in the festive season. Also appearing at the eleventh hour was a WACH track on the compilation CDr "Gone", at least giving us something to review from the band this year!

Highlight of 2011: The appearance of "Nordwand"
Lowlight of 2011: "Nordwand" won't appear in Honour and Darkness until 2012

MANWE

Whilst the year-end 2010 report suggested a new demo or album might have been forthcoming in 2011, no completed recording has yet emerged for public consumption. That said, developments in the project itself has led to Rich Davenport (See Red, Atomkraft) becoming the new band member alongside Hugin, providing both guitar and vocals to the mix. The first song Nazgul has heard is called "Tears In A Burning Eye" and has been recorded for the successor compilation to "The First Ring" album on Nocturnal Productions. It's an excellent song too, and one that might well be covered in a separate post shortly.

Highlight of 2011: An exciting new recording bodes well for the year ahead
Lowlight of 2011: No new album just yet...

EISMOND

Since the original "01/2010" demo was released we've not heard further from this venture, although with icy blasts whistling around the crumbling castle corridors it reminds Nazgul that a fresh listen to this demo would be most timely.

DRACHENFEUER

Those of you waiting patiently for the formal release of the debut album "The Realm Of The Light" will have had a frustrating year, as there's still no official release in the offing. The issue seems to be one of finding an appropriate label to release the album through, but it surely will happen in the fullness of time: It's far too good a recording to be kept in the wings forever.
Solid Grey ...And it's a similar story here for Solid Grey: we finished 2010 primed to receive some new material in 2011 but as yet other projects and business have taken precedence. This very different musical direction is one that Nazgul is interested to hear, so let's hope that we might see the debut album released in the forthcoming year.

CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE

...And would you believe a similar tale here too?! A recent parcel from W.A.R. to Castle Nazgul did contain a COI promo disc, although at this stage it's still awaiting close inspection so whether it is new or old material isn't yet established. Again, given the number of other projects on the go, one shouldn't really expect every band in Hugin's extensive repertoire to have released material in one year

What lies ahead for 2012...?

We couldn't finish without some thoughts from Hugin himself, of course. These were some of his personal highlights of the year:

"My personal highlight was my visit to Castle Nazgul, whilst musically I have to say that the work I did together with Joe Matera & Rich Davenport is awesome too! It's a bright light for Uruk Hai in 2012 too!

My fave release from my personal projects is the "Cirith Ungol" A5 Digi Pack, and my favourite other releases for 2011 are harder to say so I need to pick up some more: 1. Atomkraft "Cold Sweat"; 2. Mpire of Evil "Creatures Of The Black"; 3. Venom "Fallen Angels"; 4. Joe Matera "Slave To The Fingers"; 5. Riot "Immortal Soul"

My wish for 2012 is to travel again to UK, maybe to watch the Olympic games, and my musical aim is a new Uruk Hai album and a new Hrefnesholt album ... and ... a possible Hrefnesholt live session in the Alps!"

A live session in the Alps?! Holy Hell!! That's certainly something to watch out for as a highlight as far as Nazgul is concerned - we could convene the first meeting of international Hugin appreciation society!

So there we have it, honoured guest: the end of another year here on Honour and Darkness. In fact, the end of the third year of the Blog, and still there is no shortage of new items for us to enjoy. It really is an incredible personal achievement for one man to have recorded so much great music over the past decade and to still carry the enthusiasm for his craft as keenly as ever, and Nazgul is sure that you will all join with him to wish Hugin the very best of health and fortune for 2012.

And a final thank you once again to all of you for visiting Honour and Darkness, and hopefully enjoying these pages: Nazgul wishes you all a prosperous and healthy 2012.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

ANCIENT TALES - update III



Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Ancient Tales
Reason for update: The original CDr pressing of this album is finally secured! Released in 2000 on W.A.R. Productions, cat ref WAR010, with full colour inlays and poster.
Edition: 200 copies

About a year or so ago Nazgul pondered on the 5 of the most sought-after items that the collection had yet to uncover, which included the legendary Uruk Hai demo "Battle Magic" - now happily collected - and also this Hrossharsgrani release: the original CDr pressing of the "Ancient Tales" CDr in an edition of 200 copies, complete with A4 colour poster of the original cassette artwork.

The album has since been re-released in a double-disc format on the Russian Valgriind label. That pressing included a host of bonus material, some of which was included on the tape version as bonus tracks and some of which was contemporary to the 1999/2000 period in Hrossharsgrani's recording history.

However, like all collectors Nazgul wanted the original release and was lucky enough to find this copy courtesy of a certain Mr Wieser, of Linz, Austria. You may be familiar with him....

To celebrate this happy event today's post has gone slightly overboard on the photographs, but then again so few images of this particular pressing have been posted online it seemed to good an opportunity to waste.

There are some classic period images on this CDr's inlay, including the one shown further above of Hugin in his warrior helmet standing in the snow, broadsword in hand (and that sword must be almost 6' tall Nazgul would imagine, not the sort of thing you'd easily wield in anger)

This is a really great find, and it almost completes the set of "Ancient Tales" releases that were issued at the beginning of this century.

'Almost..?' Nazgul hears you cry, quizzically. Why yes - this may not be the final update in the "Ancient Tales" story for no less than 2 reasons: Firstly, the whisper of a prospective multi-CD compilation of early Hrossharsgrani work that might well be coming our way in 2012 and which would doubtless include this album. And secondly, due to the fact that another tape pressing of this album exists, on the Italian Werwolf label, and that is also out there ... somewhere...!

For now, however, Nazgul is grateful that this item has finally come home to roost in the collection, and hopes that you've also enjoyed this look at what has proven to be one of the hardest Hrossharsgrani releases to find from those early years.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

MIDDLE-EARTH (PART II)


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Middle-Earth (Part II): The Outer Lands
Format: Cassette release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France), cat ref WW174. The standard black and white photocopied inlays accompany this release. A later CDr pressing of this demo is available in the "Gorgoroth" box-set (2011).
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 66 copies

Track Listing:
01. Middle-Earth - The Outer Lands 33.40

And so the festive season looms in the wings and even Castle Nazgul is not immune from brightly coloured tinsels being draped around the portcullis, or severed heads decorating the turrets. It's a hectic time of year with little spare time for frivolities, so let's get down to a little seasonal fare with Uruk Hai and some mince-pies to warm the cockles on a cold winters afternoon.

This tape is the second in the "Middle-Earth" series, of which there are currently (at the time of writing) four parts in total. You may also recall that Nazgul was fairly ambivalent about "Part I" when it was reviewed on 24 November this year, noting that whilst it was far from offensive it didn't set the pulse racing in a way that other recent Uruk Hai outings had done.

Happily, this demo is rather different. Given time to sink in over repeated listens, this is a demo of multiple parts: yes, there is the orchestrated synthesiser and drum signatures that boom and waver around the Misty Mountains like a call to arms, all very mysterious and harmonious at one and the same time. But there's also some unexpected touches to this demo, not least the soothing and actually rather good piano touches that appear after 17 minutes or so, and again at around the 21 minute mark.

It's all rather reminiscent of the piano pieces from Hugin's "Differences" demo (see post of 25 September 2010) and not only does it demonstrate once again that Hugin knows his way around a keyboard, it also shows an ear for melody and subtleties that are so often missing from other bands in this genre.

In short, "Part II" is a very welcome addition (and boost) to the series and - along with it's mysterious misty wooded cover - adds greatly to the story thus far. High hopes, therefore, rest on Parts III and IV...

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

ELIA'S LEBENSGESCHICHTE





Band: ALEXANDER WIESER
Title: Elia's Lebensgeschichte
Format: CDr in full colour covers, self-released for the 2009 'Langen Nacht der Kirchen' in Austria (see text)
Edition: 30 unnumbered copies

Track Listing (one long track):
A concept story in summary:
King Ahab honours a god of strangers 0:00 – 01:36
Elia is threatened with a drought 01:36 – 02:36
Elia hides at the river Kerit – Ravens bring bread and meat to him 02:36 – 03:26
The river dried and Elia goes to the widow, she parts the last bread with him – now she has flour and oil forever 03:26 – 04:30
Elia has a contest with the Prophets of Baal and his God wins 04:30 – 06:12
Elia is persecuted and flees from the vengeance of the Queen 06:12 – 06:54
He hides in the desert and faces death death. God gives bread and water to him. 06:45 – 07:48
Elia walks 40 days to the mountain 07:48 – 08:24
At this mountain Elia enters a cave and whispers about his sorrow 08:24 – 09:01
God talked to him: I will come

A storm rumbles mountains 09:01 – 09:31
An earthquake crushes rocks 09:31 – 10:19
A fire follows – but still God was not there 10:19 – 10:43
After that comes silence: Elia came out of the cave and God passed by 10:43 – 12:07
Elia comes back annointed a new king and prophet 12:07 – 12:55
Elia transcends and rides a chariot of fire into Heaven 12:55 – 14:31

And now for something completely different ... again!

Occasionally Honour and Darkness throws up something that even the most ardent of Hugin's fans and followers are blissfully unaware of. Past examples of this have included the unearthing of the quasi-legendary Guts For Dinner demo; the I.L.L. demo on Smell the Stench, or the practically unheard of Raben Nacht demo.

This outing is something else yet again. Recorded with his actual name of Alexander Wieser rather than the normal his solo sobriquet, Hugin. This is largely because - one would imagine - that this release is a far more personal creation as opposed to one that needs to 'fit' with his commercial discography. That said, as it's one of Alex's releases we must take a look at it in order to fulfil the modus operandi of Honour and Darkness!

The CD was released as part of the celebrations for the 'Langen Nacht der Kirchen' (Long Night of the Churches): a joint project of all 14 Christian denominations that are represented in the World Council of Churches in Austria. The purpose of the event is not necessarily to preach the Gospel, but to celebrate the beauty found in religion though arts and music. By way of example, on May 28 2010 more than 720 churches throughout Austria opened their doors, and with over 3,400 different programme points invited people to get acquainted with them, and on 27 May 2011 the process happened all over again.

As the website for the Vienna-based part of the event in 2011 details, "The 'Long Night of the Churches' shows what our churches offer: you can discover interesting artistic details, enjoy the view over the rooftops of Vienna from the steeples of the city and explore the secret passages under the church premises; you can meditate to Gregorian chants and experience a rock concert from the first church bench, or (even) participate in a religious service!"

For the 2009 event Hugin created this particular disc, presumably in the spirit of getting the churches in Linz rocking to barbarian metal! The subject of the piece is the Prophet Elijah (also known as Elia, or Elias), arguably the greatest prophet of the Old Testament next only to Moses. Reducing his 'career' to a short paragraph might seem somewhat churlish, but in brief he sought to abolish idolatry and restore justice during a time when the Hebrew nation was divided. He raised a dead child; he brought fire from heaven, through prayer, three times; he did not die but was carried skyward in a chariot of fire; and, so it is said, will return to prophesy once more before the end of times. Interestingly, the Vangelis "Chariots of Fire" release was also about Elia.

One of the first things you notice about the CD is the name Elia SolarCity. Now, it just so happens that the fiery eye has spotted that in Linz (home of W.A.R. Productions) there exists something called the Linz Solar City Project. This is an integrated solar village for 1300 households on the outskirts of Linz and includes other infrastructure, including shops, schools, and a 7-km tram rail line to the city centre. The Elia Church, for which this was recorded, is located in SolarCity, hence the name.

The second thing that strikes you is the detailed narrative on the inlay for track listing: segments in the life of the Prophet himself, all contained within a single piece of music spanning about a quarter of an hour. The style and tone of the song is unmistakably Uruk Hai-ish in places, and in fact Nazgul would go so far as to suggest that there are distinctive samples and elements of existing Uruk Hai songs that get a dusting down and re-airing on this disc. This seems an entirely practical approach, given the likelihood that many of the people hearing this would have been unlikely to be familiar with Alex's other music, and with all the other pressures of life it would be the most natural thing to use what was readily available to evolve something new.

And do you know, it's a really pleasant listening experience! It captures the hauntingly eloquent and ambient nature of Alex's more tranquil keyboard works and surely would have sounded amazing if played at volume in the vaulted chambers of an old church.

Speaking with Hugin about this release, it transpires that although there were only 30 copies pressed of the original CD it's possible that more will be done in 2012 complete with a new logo and new artwork, including both an audio and video version, shown in the last image above. Which will hopefully put this release into the 'accessible' category for those of you whose interest has been piqued by this review.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

HEIMATLEID



Band: B-MACHINA/BONEMACHINE
Title: Heimatleid
Format: Internet download available from http://b-machina.bandcamp.com/album/heimatleid and released on 9 December 2011.
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:
01. Heimatleid 12:51
02. Little Boy 21:49

Stuck in your hunt for the perfect last-minute Christmas present this year, or simply looking to give yourself an unexpected treat? Look no further, for our old friend Hugin has just the affordable stocking filler for any discerning music fan. Granted the theme of 'war industrial' is not especially festive, but ho-ho-holy shit this is something well worth breaking into the holiday budget for.

For the minuscule sum of €2.99 you too can be the proud downloader of what is described on the site as a "long lost B-Machina EP", now only available as this re-mastered internet release. Of course, it is clear from a glance at the accompanying (and rather stylish, it must be said) artwork that the old Bonemachine logo is prominently on display, rather than that of B-Machina, which makes sense given that both tracks were recorded between 2005 & 2008 at the W.A.R. Studio in Linz prior to re-mastering this year.

Personally Nazgul would call this a Bonemachine release, as the music is from that classic period and does not have the pervasive influence of Max running through it in the same way as modern B-Machina output. However, given the 2011 re-mastering and the fact that Hugin has chosen to put it under the project's current name, who is Nazgul to judge, hence both band names adorning the top of this post. It would certainly make sense to use the modern name (from a name-awareness perspective) if more recent B-Machina material is to be uploaded to this website in the future, so perhaps we should keep our eyes peeled and fingers crossed.

Both songs are available in good old fashioned digital format albeit in earlier recorded versions; 'Heimatleid' appears on a slew of early Bonemachine demos (it is certainly one of the more common Bonemachine songs across all of the project's releases), whilst 'Little Boy' was originally the subject of a very limited (14 copies) 3"CDr demo release before subsequently being made available again both on the "Erste Rotation Eine Retrospektive Von Krieg Und Zeit" and a self-titled tape demo through Depressive Illusions.

Of the two songs Nazgul's personal preference is 'Little Boy', which succeeds on a number of levels both musically and artistically, not least in getting the proverbial cast of thousands together to record their own individual pieces of narrative before electronically stitching it all back together as a cohesive whole. The aural equivalent of Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, really...

The Bandcamp site is a bit of a treasure trove for good quality downloads of cutting-edge music and other assorted nuggets. The joy is that although there is a minimum price identified for each album or song for sale, it is possible to pay more to support those artists you like best. On name-your-price albums, the site informs us, fans pay an average of 50% more than the minimum specified price, and in the last 30 days over $1m of proceeds have been paid over to artists. So why not put your hand in your pocket and put a few pennies Hugin's way this year, and support this worthy endeavour?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

GONE [V/A]




Band: WACH
Title:
Gone [various artists]
Format: CDr release on the Apocalyptic Radio label (Germany), 2011, cat ref AR060. The disc sits within a paper sleeve, which is contained inside a card sleeve that is folded in on itself to form an envelope-type arrangement. The release also comes with a sticker advertising the label.
Edition: Limited to 66 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing.
01 N.Strahl.N * Nachtstück Nr. 16 8:23
02 Wach * Mind Control 3:46
03 Vronthor * Untitled 4:49
04 Vincenzo Bossi * Kadaver Lounge 8:46
05 TZii * Lux 7:22
06 Fleshcrawler * Bluten 8:18
07 Flutwacht * Untitled 9:29
08 Goghal * Untitled 8:39
09 Antracot * Rotting Flower 6:40
10 Ego Death * Nachtod Düsternis 5:40


Nazgul always approaches compilations of this sort with a sense of foreboding. Often an amalgamation of styles - Industrial, Power Electronics, Noise, Experimental, Weird and Wonderful - you never quite know what you're going to be subjected to, and for quite how long the 'entertainment' might last. Jumping into an Apocalyptic Radio compilation is an experience akin to walking into the bar scene in Star Wars: a slow pan across alien beings engaged in unfathomable activity.

In the midst of all of the peculiar recordings on this release lies a song called 'Mind Control' by none other than WACH, the project of Reverend Kim and Herr Insomnia. Now, we've gone a whole year without WACH making a dent in Honour and Darkness in any significant manner: the last full-length release "Experimentum Solaris" was reviewed back on 15 April 2010, and the promotional photo of the "Nordwand" EP was put up on 23 October 2010 in hopeful expectation of a release shortly afterwards (in actual fact, it has literally just been released as I type, although a copy has yet to find its way to Castle Nazgul). So let us rejoice for a short moment in the fact that WACH manage to get a post in calendar year 2011, albeit at the eleventh hour!

Hugin tells me that the track in question was recorded circa 2007 (there is no information on the packaging of the release itself), and also noted to Nazgul that he was unaware that Apocalyptic Radio had actually used the piece on this compilation. Tsk tsk, I know the release is a limited edition of 66 copies but you might imagine the artists themselves would have been sent a few promo copies at least? It makes you wonder quite how royalties might be calculated in these circumstances (cue hollow laughs in the background from recording artists worldwide...)

Back to the music. To Nazgul's ears the song sounded like - and continues to sound like - a B-Machina track rather than the sort of dreamy/doomy space ambient experimentalism that WACH has recently been known to indulge in. There is a distinctly B-Machina-like mechanical rhythm from the outset of the song that brings together a pulsating bass line with a mechanised beat before sampled pieces of narrative intersect the music. Nazgul couldn't identify the original recording of the samples, although he'd be willing to bet that Hugin will be quick to fill this information gap!

The track continues with an amalgam of static-tinged narrative and the same musical theme underpinning the song, until at the three and a half minute mark it fades into an ambient void punctuated suddenly at the conclusion of the song with another short sampled piece of narrative.

Clearly the time that this was recorded pre-dated some of the more spacey WACH recordings, which doubtless helps to explain some of the other influences at work on this song. What is rather refreshing is that it is relatively short and sweet, so does not outstay its welcome and leaves you willing to give it another spin to take it in again. This is more that can be said for some of the more lengthy pieces on this album, although to be fair it is a pleasantly listenable collection and it not as intimidating as some of these types of release can be (the "Skull The Stench" compilation in particular springs to mind here!)

Nazgul suspects that there's nothing much than we should infer from this song about the future direction of WACH given the relative age of the song and the difference in style to more modern recordings. Nevertheless, as a means of raising the profile of the project on a distinguished and critically acclaimed label this feels like a success story for the most part. Perhaps someone from the label might now be able to drop Hugin a copy of the blessed thing...?!

Friday, 9 December 2011

GORGOROTH (THE LAND OF DARKNESS)


Band: URUK HAI
Title:
Gorgoroth (The Land Of Darkness)
Format: 6CD box-set released in 2011 by the Tryby label (Poland), cat ref 08/2011. The set comes in hard cardboard box of around 5" square, and contains 6 separate discs with 2010 Uruk Hai demos that were previously tape-only releases. There are 3 postcards within the set, and a bespoke cover sticker on the face of the box.
Edition: Limited to 15 hand-numbered copies

Album Listing:
CD1. Black Orcish Blood
CD2. Ash Nazg...
CD3. The Lord Of The Rings
CD4. Wrath Of The Ring
CD5. Middle Earth Pt.I
CD6. Middle Earth Pt.II

Another year, another Uruk Hai compilation box-set on the Polish Tryby label. Back in January Nazgul had a little bit of a moan at the format of the "War Anthems" wooden box set released on this same label, and whilst some of the criticisms remain for this effort (would it really have been so much more work to house the discs in card replica sleeves of the original artwork rather than clear plastic wallets?) one can only doff one's cap to any label willing to invest money to get Hugin's music out into the wider world.

Not that there are many of these box-sets out there, it has to be said: only 15 hand-numbered examples were made (this is #12) and it would be reasonable to suppose that at this stage they are all sold-out, even at the 40-odd Euro price tag it came with.

What you get here are CD versions of 6 Uruk Hai demos from the 2010 period, all previously tape-only releases on the Wulfrune Worxx label. Despite the order of the discs in the set, the original tapes were issued in a slightly different order by Skogen's label, and (with catalogue reference and edition number in parentheses) were: "Ash Nazg..." (WW160, 77); "Lord Of The Rings" (WW162, 111); "Wrath Of The Ring" (WW163, 111); "Black Orcish Blood" (WW164, 66); "Middle-Earth Part I" (WW173, 66); and "Middle-Earth Part II" (WW174, 66).

All of these bar one have previously been reviewed on Honour and Darkness: the exception is "Middle -Earth Part II (The Outer Lands)", which will be gracing these pages soon. Incidentally, a fact perhaps not well known is that there are two further parts to Hugin's Middle-Earth series - yes, a Part III and a Part IV exist, and currently nestle within the confines of the Castle library awaiting a spin on the death-deck! What price a future "Middle Earth" CD compilation in its own right, one wonders...?

The thing that all of these releases have in common is that they form sprawling epic tracts of music, very much in keeping with this stylistic development undertaken by Uruk Hai as 2010 blossomed. With the exception of the recently reviewed "Nargothrond" and the occasional other release such as "The Barbarian", multi-song Uruk Hai demos were pretty scarce finds during the past 18 months or so. The long ambient adventure was the weapon of choice for Hugin in this period, and this compilation scores a bulls eye for putting them all together in an accessible digital format for those willing to undertake the journey.

A quick word on the title of the set: Gorgoroth (also called the Plateau of Gorgoroth) was a region in the northwestern part of Mordor in Middle-Earth. Gorgoroth, the 'Haunted Plains', stood at the heart of the dark lands of Mordor and was always covered in the volcanic ash of Mount Doom, hence plant growth at all lived there. The plateau was arid with extreme climates and was considered to be uninhabitable. "A desolate land, pocked with craters and fuming pits and riven with many deep crevasses. In the centre of the plain rose the smouldering cone of the volcano Orodruin" according to J.E.A. Tyler. During the War of the Ring, Gorgoroth was the location of mines and forges which supplied Mordor's armies with weapons and armor. The 'Complete Tolkien Companion' volume also tells us that 'Gorgoroth' meant 'Dreadful Horror' in the Sindarin or Grey-elven tongue.

For all of its small presentational flaws this still represents good value for money and is a worthy addition to the Uruk Hai discography for fans of the latter period of the band's prodigious output.

B-Machina stationery

Band: B-MACHINA
Item: Band stationery!

What every well equipped castle library should have this season - branded B-Machina stationery!

Yes, a bizarre addition to the collection perhaps, but then again why shouldn't there be a line of Hugin-related stationery and desk products!? After all, we had the Uruk Hai 'Mystic Forest' mouse-mat some while ago (see post for 26 September 2009), whilst a range of coffee mugs have been a periodic feature of Honour and Darkness for many a year.

You can see it now: the branded Hrossharsgrani pencil sharpener; the Hrefnesholt combined letter opener and nasal-hair remover; the WACH paper clip ... it's a definite possibility!

However, back in the real world what we do have here are some B-Machina 'post-it' note style memo pads and a sheet of headed paper, both showing different but classic band logos. And very useful they are too.

All we need now is a Hugin calendar for 2012 and we'll be off and running. Hmmm, that might be an interesting project for Nazgul to sink his teeth into in the coming weeks...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

NARGOTHROND


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Nargothrond
Format: Cassette tape demo release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) in 2011, cat ref WW186. The songs are recordings from 2008, with the exception of the final track which dates to 2010. Standard Wulfrune Worxx format for this tape, with copied black and white inlay.
Edition: Hand-numbered and limited to 86 copies

Track Listing:
01. The Fellowship 3.14
02. The Ancient Tower (The Great Underground Fortress) 11.20
03. Nargothrond (Return To The Great Underground Fortress) 8.44
04. A Dragons Destiny 10.13
05. The Sound Of Nargothrond 5.13

That's some word to get the tongue around: "Nargthrond". Not to be confused with the Portuguese black metal band of the same name (who coincidentally had a song called 'Uruk Hai on their 1998 demo!), this reference is a location from Tolkien's realms, of course, and translated from the Sindarin tongue means "The great underground fortress on the river Narog".

Nargothrond was the stronghold built by Finrod Felagund and the realm of Nargothrond consisted of the underground city cut into the banks of the river Narog in Beleriand.

Inspired by Menegroth in Doriath, and seeking a hidden place from which to be safe from the forces of Morgoth, Finrod established the underground fortress of Nargothrond in the early years of the First Age, in the Caverns of Narog beneath the forested hills of Taur-en-Faroth on the river's western bank. The stronghold was carved into the rock beneath Taur-en-Faroth, and could only be approached by a narrow path along the high banks of the River Narog. No bridge was built across the river until late in its history. The lands to the north of the citadel were considered part of its realm, and the people of Nargothrond kept unceasing watch on the grasslands to the north, the Talath Dirnen or Guarded Plain.

The citadel long lay hidden from Morgoth, and was ruled wisely for long years by Finrod. After he was lost in the Quest of the Silmaril, his brother Orodreth expelled the usurping sons of Fëanor, Celegorm and Curufin, and was lord in Nargothrond. When Túrin dwelt in Nargothrond, he persuaded the Elves who dwelt there to change their long policy of secrecy, and openly attack the servants of Morgoth. So the Dark Lord discovered the city's location, and sent out an army under Glaurung to sack and destroy it.

The cover art of this demo shows the aftermath of the seige of 495, when the dragon Glaurung followed up his triumph in the Battle of Tumhalad by sacking Nargothrond, enslaving or slaying its people, making a bed of the treasure of the city and ruling as a Dragon-king. The illustration shows Glaurung presiding over a procession of bound Elven maidens being led away to an uncertain (but presumably unhappy) fate.

The image is taken from a Ted Nasmith illusation 'Finduilas is led past Turin at Nargothrond', which Nazgul has reproduced in its original colour version at the base of this post. The title of the piece comes from the time of the sack of Nargothrond: Gwindor was slain and died in the arms of Túrin, who he told to seek out Finduilas, saying that Finduilas lay between him and his doom. However, when Túrin arrived at the ruins of Nargothrond, he was bewitched by the dragon, and he could not respond to Finduilas' cries as she was dragged past him by the orcs of Morgoth as a slave for Angband.

So, that's the story of the cover - let's consider the musical content!

Firstly, it's wise to note that the songs were recorded in 2008 (bar one), which was a relatively quiet year for Uruk Hai releases. It principally saw a number of split releases: the "A Dark Force Shines Golden / Dreams of the Ancient Stone" (with Saltvind), "Nachtkrieg" (with Forgotten Land), and "Vereint Durch Die Kraft Uralter Wälder" (with Moloch). There was also the full-length "Lost Songs from Middle Earth" release, which incidentally Nazgul must do an update on soon as some interesting new details have come to light about that album.

The songs from the 2008 period were quite varied - 'Blood of Heroes' from "Nachtkrieg" was an early indication of the epic-length Uruk Hai recordings to come with its nigh-on half-hour running time. The split with Moloch introduced us to 'Gil-Galad' for the first time, with its upbeat and less oppressive tones, whilst "A Dark Force Shines Golden" gave us some classic Tolkien influenced works to savour. These previously unreleased recordings could, therefore, have followed any one of a number of routes.

Well, on pressing play you will be greeted with a familiar song in 'The Fellowship' - yes, this is an Uruk Hai song that we've heard before! In fact, it is 'Die Gemeinschaft' from the very limited edition tape "Lebenin" (and which also appears on the compilation "Ein Zeitzeichen von Lebenin") . And what's this - second song 'The Ancient Tower' is in fact the 'Der Turm' track from the "Zeitzeichen" split release with Draumar. Some familiar music to begin with, although given the rarity of the original releases (particularly "Lebenin", which came out in a miniscule edition of 6 tapes only) they are not exactly ubiquitous Uruk Hai songs!

Continuing the theme of things heard before, the fourth song 'A Dragon's Destiny' turns out to be our old friend 'Smaug's Destiny', previously encountered on the 2010 Wulfrune Worxx Split Series release "Dragon War" and another limited edition of only 66 copies. So something of a compilation theme going on here, Nazgul concludes sagely. Indeed, Hugin confirms this notes that the story of Nargothrond had in effect been split across a number of releases in 2009 and hence their repackaging onto one single demo.

Rounding out the tape come two previously unheard compositions; 'Nargothrond (return to the great underground fortress') being contemporary from 2008, the second 'The Sound Of Nargothrond' being a more recent piece from 2010. These two songs carry on in the fine form that Hugin has created elsewhere on the demo, and bring a combination of lush synths and haunting strongs to bear on what is a tragic tale of loss and anguish.

Unusual in the modern era of Uruk Hai for being a collection of short(ish) songs on a tape, rather than an epic sprawling track of thirty minutes duration, this demo works very well indeed and has been a frequent visitor to the Castle death-deck since arriving all those months ago.

Friday, 2 December 2011

SPERRGUT


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Sperrgut (literally translated, 'bulky freight')
Format: Self-produced demo CDr from 2007 in a purple-tinted plastic wallet with a red title sticker on front (in the style of an industrial label) and a smaller red sticker on the reverse showing the edition number. The disc is a plain silver CDr disc with another small sticker on the non-playing side. There is no catalogue reference present on this demo.
Edition: Only 5 hand-numbered copies produced

Track Listing:
01. Sperrgut 64.25

There are two things, and two things only, that Nazgul recalls running for precisely 64 minutes and 25 seconds.

The first is the 1958 Mexican black and white classic 'The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy' ('La Momia Azteca Contro El Robot Humano' to be precise) in which the walking Aztec mummy Popoca has returned, this time pitted against a mad scientist and his creation - the Human Robot - a cyborg with a mechanical body, steel claws and a human head! It's an absolute heap of garbage, of course, but oddly entertaining in that slightly paranoid manner that sci-fi films of that era tend to be.

The second thing with this exact duration is the Bonemachine demo "Sperrgut" - or to give it the name on the cover sticker, "Sperrgut Encombrant", the other word being the French equivalent for 'bulky' or 'cumbersome'.

The good news is that if it came to a head-to-head scrap this Bonemachine demo would certainly kick The Robot's candy-ass, and despite rumbling on for well over an hour it is both an engaging and actually very interesting release. It has to be said that it was yet another of Hugin's demos that came absolutely out of the blue - Nazgul had never even come across the vaguest reference to it prior to its arrival at Castle Nazgul within a recent parcel of Hugin-related goodies. Contained in a unassuming d-i-y style piece of packaging it doesn't look the most exciting of releases, but as the old adage is so right to tell us, 'never judge a book by it's cover'. In my estimation is actually one of the better Bonemachine demos that it's been my pleasure to hear, and trust me when I say that your old uncle Nazgul has heard a lot of 'em!

Despite its length, the principal asset of this demo is that it remains constantly interesting due to having distinct phases or parts within its construction. Readers of old will know that it's not the normal style of a Honour and Darkness post to attempt a dissection of a lengthy demo, particularly when composed of a single long song, but in this case a small exception is merited. There's a lot of effort that needs to be put into a lengthy composition to retain the listener's interest throughout, and in this regard Hugin has hit the nail squarely on the head with this release.

It starts out - oddly enough for a Bonemachine recording - with something quite musical! Following a brief mechanical introduction - a familiar sound of what could almost be the living, breathing heart of a machine - the next 10 minutes or so has some almost Depeche Mode elements going on within a keyboard landscape of melody and warmth. It's not 'heavy' per se, and not particularly industrial either, which if nothing else serves as a timely reminder not to try and pigeon-hole the Bonemachine sound. All barrels along nicely in this vein until the 11 minute mark, when the song moves away from sprightly-keyboard notes into a more industrially-ambient, pseudo-aquatic sounding phase. I say pseudo-aquatic in as far as there is that distinct feel of being in a large submerged object, with the building pressures and associated sounds of travelling deep into the abyss. It's genuinely quite spooky at times, too, and progresses for a further 15 minutes or so in an unsettlingly descending fashion (you have the distinct sensation of being slowly pulled further and further into the inky depths of the ocean) until a more mechanical resonance takes over.

As the piece develops the intrepid listener encounters increasing elements of repeating, mechanical and otherworldly sonic influences before the demo comes full circle again with another (unexpected) bout of keys at the end, along with some distorted and inhuman vocals from Alex (one presumes - either that, or he's press-ganged The Robot to do a cameo appearance!)

Nazgul is happy to admit he found all of this quite captivating, and even clocking in at over an hour in duration pressing the 'play' button straight after it's finished in order to hear it over once again is an easy choice to make. It's a claustrophobic sound at times, and takes the listener on a staggering journey through many and varied landscapes bourne out of nothing by Hugin's imagination...

"Sperrgut" joins the ranks of past Bonemachine releases such as "Burn Down Psychosis", and the untitled split tape with Novasek, in being utterly brilliant yet destined never to be widely heard, mostly because of the extreme limitation (5 copies, of which this is #1 of 5 and Hugin's personal copy before being ensnared inside the Castle library). Nazgul would be extremely surprised if any of the other 4 copies surface any time soon, but if you do have one then do get in touch. The sheer length of track would also be problematic in terms of uploading it to any file sharing system, or for including the song on a CD compilation. All of which is a great shame, as this really is a fine demo.

You'll just have to take Nazgul's word for it