Friday, 31 August 2012

THE FEAR [DVD]

Band: WACH
Title: The Fear
Format: Unique copy of the short film 'The Fear' in a DVD-sized box, which has been signed by Herr Insomnia.
Edition: Presumed to be 1 copy only

Track Listing:
01. The Fear (video)  9.21

Cast your mind back to the 8 August 2009 and you may recall that Honour and Darkness reviewed the 4 separate releases that comprise "The Fear" release from avant-garde project WACH.  Notable for their exquisite format - matt black digipaks, with four coloured wax seals denoting the different versions - each version contained the short video track of "The Fear" as an enhanced element.

The video itself is also available to view online, and you can take advantage of YouTube in this regard by clicking on the link here.

This particular item is a special one-off DVD that Herr Insomnia has kindly produced and signed for Nazgul, with bespoke covers and a plain silver disc inside.  It's all nicely packaged, as one might expect, and a good opportunity to revisit the film and song to re-experience the WACH modus operandi.

The film beings with the WACH logo and the quotation reproduced below, which appears in various versions online but for which a source has yet to be identified by Nazgul:

"A dream is the experience of envisioned images,
sounds, or other sensations during sleep.
The events of dreams are often impossible,or unlikely
to occur in physical reality and are usually outside the control of the dreamer."

The video then launches off into an intentionally grainy nightmare of black and white images, with the gesticulations of a mysterious hand being at the heart of the action.  Of course, following the link above and having a look for yourself would make far more sense than Nazgul trying to explain all this long-hand, so go back and click on it if you've not yet done so!

Heathen Harvest - the acclaimed web-site that 'illuminates the post-industrial underground' - noted of this video: "This leaves us with the DVD film to watch.  It's 'The Fear' again, acting as a soundtrack to a series of layered black and white images, which suffers from the same faults as the audio-only track; the video is interesting but ultimately empty. There's not enough of an aesthetic quality to make it simply nice to watch alongside the music and there's also not enough of a plot (or none, as it turns out) to make it interesting for its own sake."

How the mysterious movements of a disembodied hand can be described as lacking in aesthetic quality or plot is anyone's guess, but there you go...!!

One to file under 'unique collectables', and Nazgul thanks Herr Insomnia for taking the trouble to put it together for the Castle collection.

Monday, 27 August 2012

HROSSHARSGRANI > Where The Mighty Ravens Fly artwork

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Where The Mighty Ravens Fly
Item: A sample cover from Hugin for a demo that never was!  Read on...

Occasionally we uncover something in the collection that has not been published online before.  This is one such occasion, and reveals the artwork for a proposed split release between Hrossharsgrani and Nachtfalke circa 1999/2000.

Nazgul was straight onto the high tower to light the signal fires in order to get Hugin's recollections of what this was all about.

"When I recorded "Of Battles Ravens.." I did it for a split release with German Nachtfalke, but the guy from CCP Records loved it so much and offered me a contract for 3 albums. That's why we never released that split album and "Of Battles..." was released as a mini album only!

"Where Mighty Ravens..." was just the working title of this split album, it had nothing to do with the Ravenclaw release but later when the first Ravenclaw demo was finished I decided to choose that title because I thought it still sounded cool for a Viking based concept..."

Another piece of history preserved forever!

Friday, 24 August 2012

THE DARKEST TREASURE


Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Darkest Treasure
Format: At time of writing this is a cassette-only release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) in 2012, cat ref WW333.  The demo comes in the label's usual format with black and white copied inlays, and a C60 style tape.
Edition: Hand-numbered to 66 copies

Track Listing: 
01. The Darkest Treasure

A welcome return to this most old-school of formats and labels - a demo tape, released on Kommando Skogen's Wulfrune Worxx label in France.  Takes you right back to those heady days of 2004...! Nazgul's tape, he is proud to note, is #1 of the 66 made.

And speaking of welcome returns, in essence what you've got on this limited edition tape is a 2012 redux of music from an earlier time in Uruk Hai's discography (acknowledged on the inlay, with recording dates cited as 2009 and 2012), brought up to date with a twist of lime and a little umbrella sticking out of the top.  It is an excellent example, to quote the recent Radio Rivendell interview, of Hugin "always mix[ing] sounds from old Uruk Hai tracks with new ones to create something like a concept through all the releases I've ever done..."

Now, such an admission (if 'admission' is quite the right word) is bound to polarise opinion to some degree: there will be advocates, and there will be critics. Advocates will note that if you do something well then why not do it again, but better. The critics will cite this as a classic example of an artist being a 'one-track pony'- in other words a person or thing considered as being limited to only one single talent.  They might also raise the not irrelevant issue of money: the cost for the paying public of buying what could largely be said to be the same release more than once.  Whilst the practice of releasing alternate mixes of a song as part of an extended CD single (or as bonus tracks on an album) is commonplace, the idea of re-purchasing lightly re-worked material at full-cost over and over again might be a tough one to swallow.

Yet ask the man on the proverbial Clapham omnibus who he think is the greatest band in the world and amongst the myriad of names you'll be given you'll doubtless hear Coldplay, AC/DC, Motorhead and/or Ramones. But all these bands have something in common: they have one song. Not literally, because they have the decency to give them different names – but they are all essentially re-working the same musical idea over and over again.

It's not unfair to say that certain bands have taken the whole "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" maxim to heart and based entire careers on one good idea. Ramones, a band who understood what it meant to be a brand, are masters of this. Such was Johnny Ramone's unerring dedication to their visual and musical identity that he imposed strict codes, and any deviation from their sartorial and musical formula was strictly verboten. Fortunately, the Ramones one song – you know, the one that begins "1,2,3,4!", has no extended guitar solos, and clocks in at around two minutes – is a belter!

The same goes for AC/DC, whose song about rock/rocking/rocking all night long has been stretched to a 35-year long metaphor for sex. Just try substituting the word "rock" with "fuck" and see what happens. Exactly. Nothing. The song remains exactly the same, but in the best possible way.  Because, ultimately, we like familiarity - we want to know what we're getting. It's all about familiar signs and signifiers lighting the way through a world of chaos. German Marxist theorist Theodor Adorno summed it up when he observed: "The familiarity of a piece is a surrogate for the quality ascribed to it. To like it is almost the same thing as to recognise it."

There's a reason why Coldplay are the biggest band in the world and it has nothing to do with musical innovation or winning personalities. It's because of that song with the piano bit, the surging chorus and the message about you and me and life and stuff. The one you recognise. This familiarity is something Oasis understand and turn to their advantage. When you see them play you are not having your expectations of what constitutes a performance challenged. You are either submitting to entry-level rock thrills or you are in your thirties and re-living your teens.

Just like a magician who is famous for a specific illusion, there are lots of other successful b(r)ands out there who have re-created the same trick over and over, or at least continually re-presented it in recognisable forms: The Killers, Status Quo, Iron Maiden, the Prodigy, the Fall, Motörhead, Manowar. The list goes on and on. In financial terms, it's possibly the best move a band can make, to write one amazing song and run with it. And so long as people keep buying it, or are too blinded by fanatical loyalty to notice otherwise, they won't stop.  Even Nickelback fans.

Ultimately, you pays your money and makes your choice with these things.  If you're a fair-weather Uruk Hai fan and own some material from the 2009 period already, you may not need to purchase this tape.  If you enjoy Hugin's ambient artistry and appreciate that as the artist he has the perfect right to play around with his own recordings, then by all means take a chance and look out for this one and invest the modest amount asked by Wulfrune Worxx to make it your own.  Or you might choose to wait for the inevitable CD release instead....!?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

HEIDENSTURM - update II

Band: HREFNESHOLT
Title: Heidensturm
Reason for second update: Re-mastered reissue of this 2003 demo on Fallen-Angels Production (South Korea) in 2012, cat ref FAP015. 
Format: There are two versions of this release, both professional CDr releases in slim dvd-size cases.  The first version is a 'standard' edition with black and white covers, the second a 'limited edition' version with the same songs but with a colour cover.
Edition: Standard edition comes in 40 hand-numbered copies, the colour version is limited to 10 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Heidensturm  32:14   
02. Zwei Raben  4:41  
03. Nordlandsschlacht  8.31

A second reissue for the Hrefnesholt "Heidensturm" demo, following a tape re-issue on Wulfrune Worxx (see post for 16 November 2009), but the first time the material has been available in a CD format.  This feat comes courtesy of the Fallen-Angels Productions label of South Korea, an unlikely but increasingly productive source of new releases and re-issues from Uruk Hai amongst other of Hugin's projects.  Methinks an interview with this label might prove to be an interesting exercise....

Back to the matter at hand, however: this CDr set comes in two versions, in a total run of 50 copies across the pair (explaining why the edition number on the back of each inlay is showing /50 as the designation).  10 copies are in a colour inlay format, the remainder in black and white, and despite paying a small premium for colour the same songs appear on both versions.  Nazgul, of course, has collected both editions for the Castle library, so can at least enjoy the album in old-school stereo - two copies playing simultaneously from opposite sides of the room!  Looking at both copies together you really don't notice much of a difference between them on the front cover image, but the rear cover photo of Hugin shows a clear distinction between the two.


This new edition does contain a significant bonus for Hrefnesholt fans - the release drops the Burzum cover song 'HermodrA Helferd' from the 2003 original demo, and adds instead the 'Nordlandsschlacht' track, previously encountered in these pages as a self-titled unique demo release in its own right (the post of 20 March 2010 will doubtless jog your memory). 

This collectable song makes it well worth the effort to track down your own copy of this demo, as it's pretty much unavailable anywhere else except for the obscure and sold-out "The First Evil Spell" compilation CDr on Australian label Smell The Stench.  It's certainly good to see that the current programme of re-issues doesn't just focus on the 'big' name projects like Uruk Hai, but also is picking up some worthy releases from less obvious sources.

What becomes very evident on listening to this material again (to be fair, it's probably been a few years since 'Heidensturm' hit the death-deck) is how different it is to the modern Hugin sound.  This is notable in two main ways, really: Firstly, in the way that the whole Hrefnesholt vibe has moved away from the stark black ambient sound of this demo (which, on 'Nordlandsschlacht' in particular, manages to sound more like Hrossharsgrani than Hrossharsgrani does itself) towards the ritualistic/shaman/Percht genre that it currently inhabits.  The second evident difference comes in the improvement in the production and arrangement of songs, which in the 2012 world of Uruk Hai sound full, epic and lush compared to the more primitive recordings (even allowing for the benefits of re-mastering) evidenced on these earlier songs.


The original tape has always had a fond place in Nazgul's heart as it was one of the earliest Hrefnesholt demos that I bought, and I've never even seen another one for sale since.  It was sufficiently different and more 'pastoral' to Hugin's other material to claim a place in Nazgul's affections as a strangely peaceful place to visit: putting on an early Hrefnesholt recording brought to mind the evenings spent on the ramparts of Castle Nazgul, the ambient effects in the music mirroring the wind echoing around the battlements and the methodical percussive thud of stakes being driven into the ground to crucify the unwary. 

Even these happy memories pale next to the latest Hrefnesholt recordings though - the likes of "A Haund voi Dreck" for example - which are just in a different league in terms of quality and entertainment.  Such is progress.

Fallen-Angels Production have an interesting array of material on offer and recently have put out a number of Uruk Hai box-sets, so clearly this is an enterprise to support!  The link to the label's site can be found here

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Hohner and Darkness...

Item: Hugin's own Hohner guitar, dedicated and signed to Nazgul!
Edition: Only one of these bad boys! 

Ignore the terrible pun in the title,today's post celebrates a really beauty of an item!  Nazgul promised you all a special piece to follow the 500th celebratory post, and here it is!

It is (or rather was!) Hugin's very own Hohner guitar, as evidenced in the accompanying picture showing the guitar in situ in the W.A.R. studio circa 1999!



and here's our hero Hugin strumming away on the very same Hohner, most likely in process of recording the Gil-Galad track....

This gift came as a real bolt out of the blue, and imagine the surprise when an enormous box, weighing a ton, arrived at the Castle one snowy Christmas day.  Cue much speculation during the fevered unwrapping stages, and much "ooo-ing", "aah-ing" and general incredulity when the content was finally revealed.  

For obvious reasons it has become a much-loved item in Nazgul's collection, and looks - well, simply awesome!  It still awaits a ritual place to hang on the wall (long-awaited building work at the Castle will eventually dedicate space within a suitable man-cave to the entire Hugin collection, allowing the library to return to its former function and giving a proper area to display the various posters and other ephemera), but until that happy time comes to pass the guitar stands next to Nazgul's desk ready for some impromptu strumming.  

Imagine the number of tracks from the late 90's/early 2000's that were laid down on demos for Hrossharsgrani, Hrefnesholt, Uruk Hai and other projects using this guitar?!  Every glorious riff, fuzzy chord or electric blast most likely came from this very guitar.  

Beyond cool....

Tradition dictates that Nazgul tries to temper his boundless enthusiasm with a brief history of the item, just to maintain some form of dignity, so here we go: Way back in 1857 the Hohner company was founded in Germany by Matthias Hohner, and in those days it produced harmonicas. The company is famous for it's world-class harmonicas (by way of example, it recently announced the Bob Dylan Collection of hand-signed harmonicas) and they've been used by a number of luminaries in rock including Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.  Hohner Guitar began guitar production in the 1970's and they now produce a full range of acoustic, electric and bass guitars.

For buffs of the Hohner range, this is in their 'Arbor Series' and bears the reference number E713162.

Checking out with Hugin his personal history with the guitar revealed the following:

"I bought this guitar back in 1999 and I used it on all demos from 1999 until 2009!!  Its first official use was on the Hrossharsgrani "Der Pfad zum Tor der Toten" CDr. The typical sound comes from a KORG soundboard and the sound on that board is called, drumroll: sabbath ;-)  I still have this soundboard here in the vaults of W.A.R :-)"



All that's left to say, really, is that Hugin is quite simply a-w-e-s-o-m-e!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Nazgul's mega-rare Uruk Hai auction

Nazgul's basket of Uruk Hai goodies could be yours
Band: URUK HAI
Reason for post: eBay auction of rare items has started!

As promised in the last post, a quick update from Nazgul to let his honoured readers know that the auction of rare Uruk Hai items is now up and running on eBay.

A link to the auction is here

There is a modest reserve on the collection, but nowhere near their cumulative value which exceeds £100

This is a genuinely rare opportunity to lay your hands on some really obscure, collectable, and impossible-to-find pieces so please do take a look.  Good luck if you are tempted into bidding!