Sunday, 29 January 2012

HROSSHARSGRANI > Promotional advertisement

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
And what's this then, Nazgul? A glossy colour promotional item featuring the Hrossharsgrani discography, and also a rare piece of artwork...

Here's an interesting promotional advert pulled from the Castle archives: a glossy colour display featuring a smattering of early Hrossharsgrani demos from "Blut" through to the "Schattenkrieger" release. It's not a complete summary of the releases to this point - the "Feuer & Eis" demo and "Demo 99" tapes are not featured, for a start, and the "Ancient Tales" cassette version is also missing - but it's a relatively full listing of the items available from Hugin's Viking Battle-Machine circa 2002.

Taking the bottom two rows of cover artwork first, we have - from left to right on the middle row, the classic "Blut" artwork (that went on to form such an awesome t-shirt); the "From The Dark Ages" tape; a photo of Hugin; the "Die Ruckkehr Zum Pfade" tape; "...Of Battles, Ravens and Fire" first pressing CD EP cover; and then to start the bottom row the "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten" CDr cover; "Sagen & Gedichte"; the original pressing of "Ancient Tales" on CDr; "The Secret Fire" CD artwork; and finally the "Schattenkrieger" artwork from the standard jewel-case pressing (the digipak being different again).

Where this advert comes into its own as a historical document, however, is in the uppermost illustration of a sword being wielded against a fiery red background: this, as it turns out, is the original colour cover design for yet another tape release of "Ancient Tales" that was released on the Italian Werwolf Productions label.

That particular pressing (if true to the output of the rest of that label) would most likely have replicated this cover in photocopied black and white, and would have been numbered to a very low number of issued tapes. And, as it turns out, it's one of the very few early Hrossharsgrani demos yet to find its home in Castle Nazgul, so whilst having a copy of the original artwork - in colour, no less - is something of a boon, this tape now is pretty much at the top of the list in terms of rare items to be tracked down.

Nazgul thought he'd found a copy just a few months ago, but sadly it proved to be an old photograph of this cover used to advertise a more modern pressing of the same demo. Given that the infamously elusive Uruk Hai demo "Battle Magic" was also a Werwolf Productions release, the chances are it could be a long and arduous search before an original of this version of the demo is found...

The source of the advert is unknown - it could well have been a W.A.R. Productions release, or equally could have been something in the trade press conjured up by CCP Records, but that is of little consequence: as well as being a colourful record of many early Hrossharsgrani releases, it is the only tantalising evidence of yet another rarity that needs tracking down. Line up the fiery eye for some serious scanning of the Internet!

Friday, 27 January 2012

EMYN MUIL




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Emyn Muil
Format: CDr release on the Steel Blazes Records label (Russia) in November 2011, cat ref SBR14. The CDr comes with full colour inlays and booklet, a screen-printed disc, and multimedia bonus material.
Edition: Hand-numbered in an edition of 50 copies only

Track Listing:
01. Emyn Muil 37.05
02. At the End of the First Age 29.03

Multimedia element:
Slideshow
'Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun' video track

As someone who has been listening to Hugin's music over more years than most, there occasionally comes along a song that seems to define and encapsulate the spirit of a particular project. 'Emyn Muil' - in its full-length version - is one such track, and is a serious a statement of intent for the current standing of Uruk Hai as you could hope to find.

We encountered the edited version of the song recently on the "Felagund" tape release on SfM, and the track also appears as the Uruk Hai part of the split CDr release with Sepulchral Moon. Whilst at 36 minutes plus it could be argued that there is a certain amount of unnecessary drawing out of the piece, the combination of (to quote Steel Blazes) "majestic dark ambient with clean female vocals" once experienced is both a triumph and a real position-statement for the ethereal heights of dark ambient beauty that Uruk Hai has now reached.

The female vocalist in uncredited, and indeed in conversation with Hugin it transpires that the vocals are sampled rather than specific to this release. That they fit so well and appropriately alongside the music is testament to Hugin's skill in weaving together complex sonic tapestries in a manner that creates such wonderful music.

Honestly, Nazgul couldn't recommend this highly enough to you, so it would be well worth checking out the Steel Blazes web-site (http://steelblazes.cjb.net/) or contacting Hugin in the normal manner to obtain a copy: with only 50 copies pressed (numbered on the rear tray inlay, and Nazgul proudly has #1/50) there really won't be much opportunity to lay your hands on a copy for long.

For those of you wondering about the title of the song/album, in Middle-Earth Emyn Muil was the range of hills upon either side of Nen Hithoel, a vast maze of impenetrable rocky crags that massed on either side of the Anduin above the inflow of the Entwash and at one time they marked the northern borders of Gondor. In Tolkein's '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. After a great deal of persuasion he agrees to show them the way through, leading them south into the Dead Marshes.

Paired with this singular song comes 'At The End Of The First Age', or to give it its full title 'At The End Of The First Age (an Opera about Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains)'. Featuring on the 2009 limited edition tape demo of the same name (and indeed on the split tape release with Orcrist in the same year together and then the later 'War Anthems' box-set) this is another lengthy track, showcasing the primal screams of Moloch's Pr. Sergiy. Apart from the tenuous connection of being named after mountain ranges, the approaches adopted in the two songs couldn't be more different in terms of the vocal approach adopted, and to that extent the songs make strange bed-fellows.

What it does demonstrate well is the variety of stylistic approach even within this one project, and as a song that was only ever available on two very limited edition tapes and one even more limited - and vastly more expensive - box-set it does provide a good opportunity for adding it to your collection should you have missed it first time around.

So far, so good! But there's more: a multimedia section!

There are two elements to it: a slideshow containing a combination of photos of Hugin in chainmail and in various poses with sword, and some fabulous images of snow-covered mountains and landcapes. These would form an interesting post in their own right. The second element is the video to the "Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun" track, a song that appeared originally on the "A Dark Force Shines Golden / Dreams of the Ancient Stone" split release with Saltvind back in 2008.

Nazgul was really impressed with this release through and through, from the quality and originality of the cover artwork to the general design and execution of the release by the label to the musical and multimedia content from Uruk Hai. It's a very promising start for Hugin's releases on the Steel Blazes Records label, and with the latest Hrefnesholt digipak release out on SBR and some awesome box-sets coming too things bode very well indeed for the future.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

THIS IS FUCKIN' HORROR

Band: B-MACHINA
Title:
This Is Fuckin' Horror
Format: Internet download available from http://b-machina.bandcamp.com and released on 17 December 2011.
Edition: Unlimited download

Track Listing:
01. This Is Fuckin' Horror 10.43

Following on from B-Machina's "Heimatleid" EP being made available for download via the Bandcamp website, the project has grasped the bull firmly by the horns and uploaded a second song in the same format, this time rejoicing under the delicate title "This Is Fuckin' Horror". Heavens above - swearing in one of Hugin's song titles?! What, you might reasonably ask, is this all about?!

Well, for starters let's have Hugin's thoughts on the song:

"The story behind it is simple; I was in the mood to create something new for Bonemachine and I started without any concept, and more and more when I'm working on it the song sounds really horrifying, so dark and scary! But that's just my opinion about this track, maybe other people hear something totally different in it!"

Listening to the piece once again as this post is being typed, Nazgul notes that amidst the fuzzy, static-filled backdrop there are some fine guitar passages in the mix, alongside monsterous outpourings of electronica and vast slabs of noise, together with the delicate pickings of more acoustic refrains. The overall effect is decidedly unsettling, particularly with the electronic effects and strange almost animal-like vocalisations that appear sporadically through the song. One of those strange songs that creeps up on you and grows on you like a mould, but will create a vivid mental image in the mind's eye of listeners.

Is it fuckin' horror - well, to those of you wholly accustomed to the more ethereal waftings within the Uruk Hai discography it might well be, yes! It fits nicely within the B-Machina canon of musicial experimentation, however, and whilst it's fair to say it's not the most instantly appealing song you'll ever hear there's most certainly an insane charm to the thing which is hard to ignore!

As ever with the Bandcamp website the customer is largely free to choose their own price to download the song (above a notional starting price), so dig deep and throw some loot in the direction of the B-Machina juggernaut. Who knows, it can only encourage Hugin to upload more of these insane musings for his equally insane followers to devour.

And look - just to show there's no hard feelings about the recent Bonemachine bootleg saga, Hugin's even added a picture of Kenji Siratori on the artwork for this release...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

LOST SONGS FROM MIDDLE-EARTH - update II



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Lost Songs From Middle-Earth
Format: Silver CDr disc and hand-written inlays within a red paper wallet
Reason for update: Details about how the release was originally conceived by Hugin...

Just a quick update today, but on an interesting theme: the original proposed format for the "Lost Songs From Middle-Earth" album, reviewed on Honour and Darkness back on 21 July 2009 and subsequently updated for some artwork publicity additions on 30 January 2010.

The final release came in two formats: The first was a CD release on the Aphelion Productions label, with bonus tracks from the "Die Legende..." demo of 2002. The second and later release was a tape version on the American Winter Solstace label, which had a separate set of bonus songs, this time from the original "In Durin's Halls" release of 1999. Both very worthy additions to your collection, with the CD pressing being by far the easiest of the two to track down.

However, it transpires that these formats were not Hugin's original vision for the release at all. What had been proposed was for the release to be in two distinct parts: Firstly, a 3" mini-CD release with just three songs: 'Ecthelion', 'When Daylight Is Gone' and 'The Last Of The Dragons' (respectively, the 1st, 3rd and 2nd songs on the eventual release). The second format would be a vinyl release adding the attractively named 'The Nazgul' song as a bonus track. This song was featured as track 6 on the final versions.

For various reasons presumably to do with the labels releasing the product this plan didn't come to pass, and instead of a 3-song 3" CD and a 4-song vinyl release we ended up with the 7-song 5" CD and a 7-song tape release! It really couldn't have been more different.

That said, the final two formats did allow for the inclusion of additional songs and for older demos to get a fresh airing, so in that respect there can't be two many complaints. One can't help but wonder what the alternative versions might have looked like at the end of the day, though....

To finish, here's the "Lost Songs..." family all gathered together for the first time!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

FACE THE SCIENCE


Band: BONEMACHINE/B-MACHINA with Kenji Siratori
Title: Face The Science
Format: Plain silver CDr disc in a yellow wallet, housed inside a folded card sleeve as illustrated. No details regarding date of release or point of origin.
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:
01. Anti-Vital 9.27
02. Orbit 3.32
03. Corpse City I 22.23
04. Transfiguration 20.14
05. Dark Side 16.04

As Douglas Adams' potted plant famously said, "oh no, not again...."

The phrase "cheeky bugger" is not one that crops up on Honour and Darkness regularly but allow Nazgul to make an exception, as once again we explore the twilight world of Kenji Siratori's bootlegging activities.

For those unfamiliar with the events thus far, a short recap. There have been some official collaborations between Hugin's Bonemachine project and Kenji Siratori, notably "Acidhumanix" and "Crypt Child", whilst more recently B-Machina and Kenji got together for the "DNA". That seemed to be the time (2007) that the problems started, as Kenji's own label - Hypermodern - released a CDr bootleg version of the "DNA" tape without Hugin's knowledge.

Skip on a year or two and a slew of bootlegs of a different sort appeared, again through Hypermodern. These took the Bo-Machina name and purported to be collaborations once again, each coming in an A4-size package and in an edition of 30 copies apiece. Nazgul collected a few of these and posted on the subject in Blog on 31 August 2009. One of the major issues here was that none of Hugin's music actually ended up on any of these later releases, and the B-Machina name was being used entirely improperly. A number of other releases in similar format featuring apparent work with other bands in the industrial ambient genre also appeared at the same time, with the presumption being that these too demonstrated shameless charlatanism.

And so back to where we began, with the "Face The Science" release. Although there are no details about label or source it seems highly likely to be another Hypermodern release, or one closely linked to them: one suggestion for this is because the track listing is exactly the same as that used on the CDr bootleg of "DNA" even down to the running order, which, as the sharp-eyed amongst you may have spotted, is not as advertised on the rear of the inlay but as detailed under Nazgul's 'Track Listing' information.

As second giveaway comes from consulting with Hugin about the release. When Nazgul found a copy online and purchased it, it seemed to be a unlikely happenstance that Hugin had never mentioned it before. Sure enough, much righteous indignation was expressed in deepest Austria when a scan of the cover was emailed over to WAR, as it turns out that the artwork was actually designed by Hugin and sent to Kenji some years back for a proposed joint release that never happened!

Rather than falsely credit other music to B-Machina this time around, Kenji/Hypermodern have taken the B-Machina tracks from "DNA" and added an old Bonemachine cover to them, adding a new title and 'hey presto' - a new release! Cheeky bugger....

So there we have it - a 'new' Bonemachine release that turns out not to be so new after all, and another chapter in the Japanese bootleg saga recorded for posterity.

To quote from the original review of the "DNA" tape on 27 June 2009, Nazgul found an apt description online of the actual music that is worth repeating:

"The image DNA places in my mind’s eye is of warped transmissions from a dying planet. Indiscernible voices apathetically preach of the end of times as the world around them slowly fails and fades into another chapter of infinite history. The first track, Anti Vital, while in the same theme as the rest of the album, stands very much alone. It’s theme is very militant and oppressive, but is comprised of off-kilter rhythmic samples. This track is a strange offset to the rest of this release, but is very likable and I will return to it often.

As a whole, this release rides the line between a passive sense of loss and hopelessness, a collection of uncaring eulogies for the dead and dying. Every track is filled with ongoing drones and voice samples. I am somewhat familiar with the works of both B-Machina and Kenji Siratori. I could not honestly say I can tell which artist performed which role on this release. This is a very strong example of the abilities of each artist, and speaks well for the collaborative effort between the artists and labels."

Chances are you'll never see a copy of this for sale anyway unless you frequent the same strange parts of the internet that Nazgul occasionally visits, but if you do see this CDr anywhere the advice would be to boycott it and buy instead the official SkullFuckingMetal tape pressing from our old friend Keegan instead and benefit from the additional track 'Corpse City II' as well.

Rather than "Face The Science", one feels all of this underhand skulduggery is going to lead to someone facing the music in a more literal sense someday soon...

Monday, 16 January 2012

FELAGUND


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Felagund
Format: Cassette tape release in 2011 on the SkullFuckingMetal [SFM] label (Canada), no catalogue reference, and comes with a single-sided black and white cover. This copy has been dedicated on the inside of the cover by Hugin with "Elvish Hailz"!
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:
01. Felagund
02. The Sound of Gondor
03. Moriquendi
04. Memories
05. Emyn Muil (edited version)

Let's begin with a sales pitch / plea to all readers of this esteemed epistle. This superb tape is currently unlimited in volume, meaning that unlike the vast majority of Uruk Hai's very limited releases you will be able to lay your hands on it without difficulty. It's been released by a long-time supporter of Hugin's music - the noted SFM label run by Keegan in Canada - and is packed with brilliant music at a very fair cost. If you do nothing else today why not point your browser towards http://skullfuckingmetal.blogspot.com or drop Hugin an email to order your own personal copy?

Support the underground and support Hugin!

Let's continue with a look at "Felagund" itself. The title presumably comes from Finrod Felagund himself, a Noldorin Elf, recently encountered in the "Nargothrond" review. The Felagund element of the name was an epesse (an honorific after-name) given to him by the Dwarves who expanded the caves of Nargothrond, and meant "Hewer of Caves".

It's not the first time that the Felagund name has been used in one of Hugin's songs: give yourself a moment to consider where you might have come across it before...? Given up yet - well, Nazgul wouldn't blame you as it was back on 2 July 2009 when the review of Hrossharsgrani's "From The Dark Ages" tape revealed that track 9 on that tape was called 'Felagund (Part II)'. As you may surmise from this, given the different recording periods in question, the two tracks are not related in any other way!

The five songs on this tape are meticulously crafted, graciously melancholic pieces of dark ambient wizardry. They have moments of uplifting beauty in parts, but the mood seems to be a sombre one, and the emotional range created by these songs will leave your imaginings wandering the dark paths of Mirkwood in search of solitary places to dwell.

Title song 'Felagund' is a epic piece of artistry in this fashion, and manages to weave in a keyboard melody that sounds just a tiny bit like Sinead O'Connor's 'Nothing Compares 2 U' into the bargain (or perhaps it's just time that Nazgul reached for his medication), whilst the haunting violins playing out on 'The Sound of Gondor' are a far cry from the uplifting refrains of 'Gondolin Falls' from the 2004 "Honour" demo tape.

'Moriquendi' (the title given to the Dark Elves) follows on from this in similar fashion, and whilst 'Memories' starts to create a more upbeat atmosphere it's left to the final (edited) song 'Emyn Muil' to marry the depression and despondency with glorious chants and melodies to finish the demo on a high. This final song is an edited version of the 37 minute epic from the Uruk Hai / Sepulchral Moon split CDr (see post of 2 August 2011), and more good news: "Emyn Muil" the full-length release now exists on the Steel Blazes label in lavish colour covers with an additional song from the recent past of Uruk Hai. More on that release in a future post.

One final matter to cover, being "Felagund" - the movie! Yes, as improbable as it may sound there is an extended video that has been shot by fans of Hugin from the US under the "Felagund" banner, and - of course - Nazgul has managed to track down a copy for the Castle library. This one will be reviewed very shortly, so watch this space!

So let's end where we began - this is a golden opportunity to expand your personal Uruk Hai collection at little cost and with a brilliant demo, so get in touch with Keegan or Hugin to support both the underground and the band.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

EXPERIMENTUM SOLARIS master disc


Band: WACH
Item: Experimentum Solaris master disc (v2)
Reason for update: One of Hugin's personal master discs for this album, housed in a green paper wallet.

Goodness gracious - no less than 2 WACH reviews in consecutive months! That sort of madness hasn't happened since the earliest days of Honour and Darkness, when releases from Hugin's various projects lay unreviewed in abundance! This sort of thing won't carry on for long of course, as WACH has - to say the least - a sporadic pattern of relasing material.

That said, 2012 will see the appearance of the new "Nordwand" EP from the band on the Blog, as the CD literally arrived at the Castle gates yesterday via the local orc courier service. We shall have to see what that entails later this year...

Back to the matter at hand; a master disc of the "Experimentum Solaris" album. This album was reviewed in its published state back on 15 April 2010 and received positive reviews not just from Nazgul but across a number of online review sources. Rather than simply being a plain white CDr, this master disc has been subject to a little doodling session and now stands out as a unique and decorative piece!

Musically nothing new to report, but a welcome chance to relisten to a well crafted and atmospheric collection of otherworldly space-ambience.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

ZEIT & RAUM promotional VCD



Band: CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE
Title: Zeit & Raum [video track]
Format: Promotional 1 track Video CD containing the video for this song, which was included as a bonus clip on the COI release "Der Rote Glanz Der Flammenfee" in 2008. This white-label disc comes in an orange paper sleeve contained within an orange plastic wallet.
Edition: 1 copy

Track Listing:

01. Zeit & Raum [video track] 5.10

So then ... let's be different and open up the 2012 Honour and Darkness schedule with a less frequently featured project - the pop/ambient artistry of Ceremony of Innocence (COI).

This promotional VCD was in fact Hugin's back-up copy of the video track for "Zeit & Raum" as featured in the bonus content of "Der Rote Glanz Der Flammenfee" release. With some catchy synth textures and pop sensibilities, this is one of the songs on that album that is supremely commercial and very easy to get lodged in your mind, with its piping refrain at the start and lush orchestration throughout.

The video - the same on this promo as on the official release - presents the viewer with a broadly monochromatic kaleidoscopic effect, with bursts and rays of pulsating light and other effects detonating on your synapses. As the video unfolds - and partially hidden behind the plethora of visual effects - we come across Hugin himself, keeping the beat on a large drum as the visual chaos continues around him. Coupled with the start and end credits showing this is a COI release on the Beverina label, that about wraps things up!

The images accompanying this post come directly from the video, and if the sight of Hugin on the drums looks familiar to you it may be because it is a similar image to that used on the inlay for the proposed 2-track A.M.F. Productions COI release covered on 19 March 2011: a release that didn't, in fact, come to pass.

Will 2012 see new Ceremony of Innocence material to continue the 'elements' theme that "Der Rote Glanz Der Flammenfee" started? Only time will tell, but until that point why not see if you can lay your hands on the original release to soak up some COI rays of your own...?