Wednesday, 27 March 2013

STERBEGESANGE - master CDr

Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Sterbegesänge master CDr
Format: A two-song CDr disc in white paper envelope, with a typed paper cover. This was not an official release, but contains two songs from the recording sessions for the band's 2001 demo
Edition: Presumed to be a single copy

Track Listing:
01. Intro (Hure) 02:43
02. Im Mahlstrom der Zeit 12:50

One of the most interesting things that Nazgul has been listening to this month has been an old pair of Elisabetha songs dating to 2001. They form part of the demo "Sterbegesänge" ('Songs of Death'), and this disc represents part of the recording sessions, way back when in 2000/2001 when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Lemmy was but knee-high to a grasshopper.

The recording information on the inlay paper tells us that the recording was done between 10 December 2000 and 22-24 June 2001. It also confirms that Hugin's primary role was in the music, whilst lyrics were the prerogative of UB (Gha'agsheblah).

With the recent glut of material winging its way to Castle Nazgul from W.A.R. in recent years it's sometimes easy to get into tunnel vision mode and focus only on new releases, without revisiting and being able to appreciate once again some of the classic earlier material. Such an opportunity was gifted to Nazgul recently when this master-copy CDr was included by Hugin in a recent parcel of goodies to add to the collection. 

 Housed in a simple paper sleeve with typed inlay, the two songs transported Nazgul right back to the early days of his mania, when the "Sterbegesänge" had only just been added to the collection and was on repeat play on the Castle death-deck. It was back on 8 May 2009 that the original review of "Sterbegesänge" found it's way onto Honour and Darkness, which is as near as makes a damn 4 years ago! Nazgul doubts the tape has seen the light of day more than once or twice since then: how times flies.

Not having heard these songs for some years, what is immediately apparent is the sheer atmosphere and presence generated by them: it really is like being thrust into the midst of a Gothic horror story, complete with appropriate orchestration and sound effects. Somehow - and don't ask me how - the unholy triumvirate that comprised the band manage to pull this off without sounding cliched (personally, Nazgul avoids cliches like the plague) and what remains is a phantasm of mesmerising quality.

Parts of the introductory song 'Hure' sound rather like a nightmarish dream where you find yourself at first-hand involved in a game of Doom set in a Gothic cathedral, as Doom-esque background noises merge with creepy keyboards and other-worldly whispers. The piece ends in a thunder storm, which segues nicely into second track 'Im Mahlstrom der Zeit', where the keyboards take a distinct turn to the Egyptian in melody and the song descends into a whirling spiral of chaos and terror as Elisabetha transport us once again into their rather peculiar realm.

Oh, how the golden days of Elisabetha recordings are missed. And yet, with the Castle collection at hand, a re-discovery of these amazing songs is but the work of a moment.

It's been said before, but this may be the last Elisabetha item to feature on Honour and Darkness for a goodly while, as nothing else (new or old) is expected to be uncovered any time soon ... although with the extensive W.A.R. catacombs to plunder, who knows what other strange discoveries are yet to be made!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

PULL THE STRINGS TIGHTER

Band: SOLID GREY
Title: Pull The Strings Tighter
Format: Professionally issued CD on the Runenstein Records label (Germany) in 2012, cat ref RRCD01. Tracks were recorded in 2010 and mastered in 2011 at Luftschutzkerker in Switzerland. Solid Grey is formed of Hugin (music), Bart Piette of Dead Man's Hill (vocals/lyrics), with additional lyrics from Inga Whitehouse.
Edition: 500 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Shadow Song
02. Beautiful Night
03. Scary Night
04. And You Mean Nothing To Me
05. Autumn
06. So Alone
07. Strange Puppets
08. Solid Grey
09. Fade To Grey (hidden track)

Jack Skellington, Pumpkin King of Halloween Town and cover star of this CD, neatly identifies one startling issue with this release in the lyrics to one of his own songs: "What's this? What's this? There's something very wrong. What's this? There are people singing songs..."

You see, what we have on this debut release from Solid Grey are ... well, songs! Traditional ones, with verses and choruses and everything. Not really what we've come to expect from our Austrian ambient noise hero, given his penchant for 45 minute epics and other unearthly delights, so what gives? Who, in fact, is pulling whose strings tighter...?

Let us take a step back in time to investigate further. The realisation of the Solid Grey project came in January 2010, when Hugin and Bart Piette (simply referred to as Piette here and best known for his work in Dead Man's Hill, who you will recall had the split release "Dead:Meat" with Hrossharsgrani in 2010) got together to lay down some songs in the Gothic/New Wave style. The band's describe their sound as 'loneliness in a depression', citing musical influences including The Mission, Fields of the Nephilim and The Cure, and certainly within the 9 songs on offer there are plenty of recognisable influences and nuances being worn on sleeves.

It comes as little surprise to seasoned followers of Hugin's music to witness a foray into the Gothic and New Wave genres: in recent years his eclectic taste in music can be seen spread across various projects, from the neo-classical (latter-day Elisabetha) to EPM/electronica (Ceremony Of Innocence), from ambient (Uruk Hai) to Percht-Folk (Hrefnesholt), let alone the early days of Viking Metal and Vampyric radio dramas!  Hells bells, visitors to Castle Nazgul have even been nonplussed to hear Hugin's venture into children's lullabies as his special one-off piece for junior Nazgul echoed around the young maniac's grim bedchamber.

But let us consider for a moment: what is Gothic rock precisely? The consensus arguement that it is a musical sub-genre of post-punk that formed during the late 1970s. Gothic rock bands grew from the strong ties they had to the English punk rock and emerging post-punk scenes, with bands such as Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and The Cure are often seen as the forerunners of the genre. 

Gothic rock itself was defined as a separate movement during the early 1980's largely due to the significant stylistic divergences of the movement; Gothic rock, as opposed to punk, combines dark, often keyboard-heavy music with introspective and dark lyrics. Gothic rock then gave rise to a broader subculture that included clubs, fashion and numerous publications.  


Standard musical fixtures of Gothic rock include scything guitar patterns, high-pitched Joy Division bass-lines that often usurped the melodic with dirge-like or hypnotically tribal beats. Siouxsie and the Banshees tended to utilise the 'flanging' guitar effect, producing a brittle, cold and harsh sound that contrasted with their psychedelic rock predecessors, whilst on percussion several acts used drum machines to under-stress the back beat in the rhythm. Gothic rock creates a dark atmosphere by drawing influence from the drones used by proto-punk group The Velvet Underground, and many Goth singers are influenced by the "deep and dramatic" vocal timbre of David Bowie, albeit singing at even lower pitches.

All of which is incredibly relevant as virtually everything written above appears at some point as a musical element within this album's songs, with some classic 80s New Wave influences thrown in for good measure. Piette's vocals are very low in timbre, and whilst conveying an atmosphere of melancholic despair (that's what you get for living in Belgium!) they are prone to fall into a one-dimensional monotone at times, leaving the listener wanting to hear a counter melody or some contrasting balance within the songs. The Sisters of Mercy got around this problem by employing a female vocalist juxtaposing Andrew Eldritch's dramatic intonations, and an occasional blast of something similar here wouldn't go amiss. 

The vocals work better on some songs - 'So Alone' - than others, at at their best come across as a strangely appealing amalgamation of Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan and Andy McCluskey of OMD. And before you start writing emails to Nazgul on the lines of OMD being a 'pop band', take a listen to their song 'Romance of the Telescope' from "Dazzle Ships" as a point of reference. You do need to work at the songs on "Pull The Strings Tighter" in order to appreciate their subtle differences, and it's well worth the effort to do so as there are some promising ideas under the surface of their debut. 

One hopes that the time it has taken to find a label to actually issue the album from its date of recording (approximately two years - so well done, Runenstein Records for stepping into the breech) won't put the guys off from having a second stab.

As noted, the music contains a myriad of influences from around the scene, which the sceptic might see as thrusting a hand into the bag marked "Gothic song styles and effects" to sprinkle a little authenticity over the affair, but to Nazgul it largely conveys the impression that these guys are simply fans of the genre and wanted to pay homage to the various bands they enjoy. Jangly guitar parts? Check. Piano solo? Check. Mysterious keyboards and deep, gloomy moods? Check and mate. 

But let's be frank, if you like many of the bands that once strode the planet - the likes of Dead Can Dance, Nosferatu, Skeletal Family, Sexgang Children, Inkubus Sukkubus and the splendidly named Clan of Xymox to name but a few - then you'll enjoy what's on offer here.


Incidentally, the hidden extra song- a cover of Visage's 'Fade To Grey' - is great fun, and features an impressive change of style on the chorus from Midge Ure's "aaaaah, we fade to grey" to a far more animalistic "AGGGHHHHH we fade to grey"! And in today's piece of trivia in honour of the nationalities of our two band members, Nazgul was interested to learn the original Visage single from 1980 - often called the first New Romantic single - peaked at 3 and 4 in the Austrian and Belgian charts respectively.

The hours spent listening to this release ushered in many happy flashbacks to Nazgul's misspent youth, where his sister's old Bauhaus and Spear of Destiny records came banging through the bedroom walls at regular intervals and many hours were idly passed reading gig reviews in Kerrang! of Goth bands at the Town and Country Club in London, where the photographs strongly suggested that half the local cemetery were propped up against the stage and had been dusted down with a light coating of flour.

Sadly, this album seems to have been lost to the world at large, as there is virtually nothing about it online save at the label's website and on the band's MySpace page (itself not updated since June 2011) or on Bandcamp. The latter is helpful though, in as far as you can play the 'So Alone' song and see what you make of it, and Nazgul would urge you to do so. And if you have the requisite 9 or so Euros available, you could head off to Runenstein to buy a copy of the album.

A few additional snippets of information to finish. The album's title comes from part of the lyrics in the song 'Strange Puppets' ("and the Puppet Master says, 'pull the strings tighter...'") whilst the evocative artwork comes from the talented pen of Chris Huber. Inga Whitehouse, credited with many of the lyrics on this release, is a good friend of Hugin's, also based in the UK as it happens, doubtless in a castle of her own. So there's no excuse: wade through your old profusion of black velvets, lace, fishnets and leather tinged with scarlet or purple, pull on those tightly laced corsets, gloves, precarious stilettos and silver occult jewellery, cram a Stetson on your barnet and head out to town. 

And that's just the men....

Sunday, 17 March 2013

DARKNESS (1999-2012)

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Darkness (1999-2012)
Format: 6CD box-set in DVD style case released in 2012 on the Fallen Angels Productions label (South Korea), cat ref FAP017. The set is completed by 3 colour inlay cards
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 25 copies

Track Listing:
01. Darkness Part I  01:02:15
02. Darkness Part II  01:06:35
03. Darkness Part III  59:00
04. Darkness Part IV  50:42
05. Darkness Part V  45:34
06. Darkness Part VI  01:06:25

"Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye..."

Shrivelled minds come fast and furious around the towers of Castle Nazgul, what with the grotesque tortures delighting the prisoners in the deeper dungeons and the sanity-sapping waves of pure hatred emanating from the very stone of the Castle walls out into the surrounding barren wastelands. Should the internal darkness of Nazgul's domain fail to sear your brain into oblivion, then Hugin's epic 6-disc "Darkness (2011)" box-set might very well do the job instead!  

Just nine and a half minutes short of the 6 hour mark, this handy compilation puts onto CD for the first time the entire Darkness saga, including a new 'Part VI' to entice in those already replete with parts I to V.


The origins of the first "Darkness" demo are well documented on these pages: despite the original release being a 'typical' multi-song Uruk Hai demo (and - by the way - lending this Blog half of its title) the subsequent parts have all been long, single song epic tracks of both ambient and murky depths. Parts II to V have been covered over a span of a few years, and the full five part set is contained on tape within the die-hard box-set (complete with various goodies) that was released in a run of just 5 copies in 2010. 

 This Fallen Angels pressing not only gives the intrepid fan the opportunity to lay their hands on the saga thus far, and in digital format too, but adds as a bonus the latest part of the Darkness 'story'. Nazgul says 'latest' rather than 'final' part, as over the past month or so Nazgul is certain that a Part VII has been spotted somewhere in the various new releases from W.A.R. Productions...?!

And what of the all new Part VI you might ask? Well, the beginning of the song throws the listener for a loop, featuring as it does a bass riff on what has been an entirely synthesiser-driven series to date. So far, so intriguing ... and if you are now intrigued I suggest you point your browser towards the Fallen Angels web-page and order your own copy, pronto!

If you like your Uruk Hai ambient and moody then you really can't go far wrong with a compilation of this nature, and in terms of bang for your buck there's plenty of music to get your teeth into. It's atmospheric background music for the most part, of course, so don't expect to be blown out of your chair with catchy short songs. Pick the right time and location, stick on a disc, and ease yourself into a different realm...


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

G.F.D. Demo 1 - update


Band: GUTS FOR DINNER
Title: Demo 1
Format: A special one-off version on cassette of this now infamous demo, previously only available on CDr.
Edition: 1 copy (see text)

Track Listing:
01. Butcher XTC   02:43
02. Let's Kill   02:26
03. Ballad Of A Gore Angel  02:05
04. Torture  01:38
05. Holyday in Frostland  02:25
06. Death Fuck Armageddon  01:49

Periodically this now legendary and infamous demo tape is referred to in hushed terms on Honour and Darkness, in the way that you might hold a whispered conversation about that weird, hunch-backed uncle of yours that you keep locked up in the attic. A non-serious grindcore project from Hugin that is at the same time hilarious and terrifying, it compels the listener into some form of reaction ranging from flinging themselves out of the window onto rusty spikes to rapidly turning off the stereo and putting something light and fluffy on instead. 

One can almost imagine the compositional process for Guts For Dinner- Hugin, seated at his white grand piano, whilst the melodic and airy strains of 'Ballad of a Gore Angel' come wafting in through the windows as the curtains billow in a gentle breeze....

Not to be confused with the demo of the same name from US death metal band Fatal, this release has previously seen the light of day in two iterations: a self-produced (and very limited edition) CDr from 2000, and on a split CDr ("Gore vs. War") with Bonemachine in 2006. And let's be honest, it's a brutal listen, which few fans of Uruk Hai or Ceremony Of Innocence (to name but two of Hugin's more mainstream projects) would easily stomach. Not that you would have had much of an opportunity to stomach this morsel, however, as the availability of the demo has always been in short supply. 

 However, good news is on the horizon - Wulfrune Worxx are planning to reissue the demo with new artwork on tape in the near future, and Nazgul knows there will be a veritable stampede of fans making their way to Skogen's door, waving fat wedges of bank notes in the air and demanding their copy. Mmmm, and a pig has just flown past the windows of the Castle library.

Until that time, you'll have to be content with a look at this unique cassette version of the demo, produced by Hugin especially for Castle Nazgul. Hand designed, and held in a wonderfully evil pentagram painted fabric bag with a matt black tape inlay, the songs still sound like a full orchestra falling into an industrial meat grinder and surely can't be good for one's health over prolonged exposure. 

God help the incumbents of the Castle's Advance Listening Room once the Wulfrune Worxx version is released and the resident monkey gets his paws on it...!

An oddity for sure, and a rather splendid collectible for certain, it's this sort of weird and wonderful release that is the lifeblood of Nazgul's eclectic collection. Enjoy!

Monday, 4 March 2013

GEFALLENER ENGEL

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Gefallener Engel
Format: Cassette demo with black and white cover and standard C60 style tape. A single song demo created by Hugin but never intended for distribution. No label reference number. Recorded at the end of the last Millennium, this tape is dated "Promo 2001"
Edition: 1 copy

Track Listing:
01. Gefallener Engel 8.38

To say this is rare is an understatement - a little like suggesting that winters in Finland can get a bit chilly.

As far as Nazgul can tell this demo never been referenced online before, and other than by the mighty Hugin himself it has probably never been seen before. It is that rarest of items: a lost Uruk Hai demo tape!

This isn't a normal release, however. It was a song created by Hugin in the late 1990's that didn't seem to quite fit with the Uruk Hai canon despite being recorded under that project name. It later resurfaced as the track 'Engel' on Hrossharsgrani's 2000 release, "Ewig Winter".

The cover image looks at first glance like one of Hugin himself in silhouette, but in fact is from the German film Premutos from German film-maker Olaf Ittenbach, whose low-budget splatter epics have won him a worldwide cult following. It has been described as a "gory and ambitious shocker", in which Premutos - the first fallen angel, pre-dating Lucifer himself - is an evil spirit who has been walking the Earth in a variety of hosts since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

When a man (Ittenbach himself plays the role) finds a mysterious yellow potion and a strange old book in the garden and begins to read the latter aloud, and unwittingly brings the demon back to Earth who not only takes over the unfortunate gentleman's body but then bring an army of the dead back to life to do his murderous bidding. Such unexpected events unfolding around his ears must have been a bit of a bugger, but the moral here, readers, is never to read aloud from dusty old tomes found in basements, cabins in the wood, strange houses or in the possession of gaunt featured old people.


Should you be in the market for a gruesome film (and supposing that you can track down a copy), this probably ticks all the 'gore' boxes (but don't expect it to be the best 'film' you've ever seen). MonstersAtPlay.com had this to say:

"Premutos is a gore lover's wet dream come true from nearly start to finish. Ittenbach is the only man I know who can give Peter Jackson a run for his bloody money. There is so much gooey nastiness in this film, I don't even know where to begin. Body parts chopped, bitten and chewed. People gutted, heads and limbs loped off, people smacked around with their own limbs, faces and flesh torn off. Death by bullet (many exploding heads), throats slit, chainsaw after chainsaw, knife, machete and pickaxe (and normal axe). You name it, this flick has it, and the blood flows freely. Take away about 1/2 hour of the talkity talk talk and you'd have a tight little gore flick. You have to know what you're getting yourself into, if you looking for cinematic class, you've come to the wrong place. This film was made with loving care for the gore hound market in mind and I can respect that. The problem is that it lacks the charm of films that obviously inspired it such as Evil Dead and Dead Alive."

"Ittenbach has an undeniable talent for making gore films that please to no end. Good old fashioned gore, unlike the CGI spectacles of today. This film gleefully took me back to the days of Romero's gore filled Dawn of the Dead, Raimi's Evil Dead and Jackson's Bad Taste or Dead Alive. The problem is that in addition to the spectacle of gore these other pictures are ultimately good films while Premutos is unfortunately not. Can this film still be enjoyed? Yes, on some levels, but the missing charm that these other films possess feels like a black hole in Premutos, an unfilled void that ultimately leaves the viewer feeling a bit empty."

Sounds rather like an average evening in the Castle dungeons to Nazgul...

Something of a missing link in the recorded history of these two noble projects, and an interesting historical artifact to be sure.  As always, Nazgul sends hails of friendship over the Austrian Alps to Hugin for releasing this to the Castle collection.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

THE BEAT SOUNDS FROM WAY OUT VOL. 5 [V/A]


Band: CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE
Title: The Beat Sounds From Way Out (Volume 5) [V/A]
Format: Free download via this link on the Bandcamp site for the Institute For Alien Research. The compilation was uploaded to Bandcamp on 20 January 2013, and is the fifth in the series.
Edition: Unlimited free download

Track Listing:
01. Factor X * Unison (We Breathe Together) 07:12
02. Time Hitler and the Assholes From Space * Cocaine Daydream 05:26
03. Super Sucker * Sakit Perut 03:02
04. Rocco John Iacovone & Dalius Naujo * I Dunno 08:00
05. Mutantbeatniks * Oubli 08:00
06. Total E.T. * Alien Abducted Drum Machine (Patternal Instincts) 04:36
07. Los Trompetos de la Muerte * Blue Planet War Song 03:54
08. Painburn * The Day Of The End 03:00
09. Hollywood Video Game Kill-Bot * Sin (extended mix) 08:00
10. Sigismondo Paletta e i Suoi Condomini * Cento Fori A Centofiori 03:15
11. Cabrini Green * Bumpin' That Real Shit 04:26
12. Solar Flairs * -Smash Up- 09:30
13. Mama Baer * Retect 07:38
14. Ceremony of Innocence * Ich Tauche Tiefer 04:13
15. Membrana Psicodélica * Alien Cosmic Doom 09:26

This fifth release from the Institute For Alien Research (IFAR) marks their first anniversary on Bandcamp, and contains as weird and whacky collection of musical misfits as you're ever likely to find in one place. Tagged under the manifold genres of 'electronic, breakbeat, breakcore, electronica, experimental, & techno' this isn't your average fare for Honour and Darkness by any means, but is notable for containing a song from Hugin's Ceremony Of Innocence project (C.O.I.), 'Ich Tauche Tiefer'.


The original song was reviewed way back in the infancy of this Blog, on 21 May 2009 to be precise, and was notable for two reasons: a dramatic change of genre in the style Hugin's recorded content (or, at least, of that which he was prepared to share with the rest of us), and a startling cover photo of Hugin in tight shorts looking for all the world like an extra from an Erasure video shoot. Perhaps fortunately for the world at large, the t-shirt that promoted this single chose a different image to display (the post for 27 August 2009 explains all)! 

The title of the song, incidentally, translates to "I Dive Deeper" which might explain the submarine imagery on the shirt (but - hopefully - not the leather shorts!)

IFAR seem to be prevalent everywhere online at the moment, with pages on Facebook, SoundCloud, Reverbnation as well as Bandcamp, and it was through Facebook page that the request came to use one of C.O.I.'s songs in this compilation.

This particular selection of songs is eclectic and - much like a Durian fruit - will not be to every taste. Dig in if you're brave enough...