Saturday, 15 February 2014

DRACHENFEUER > fabric patch


Band: DRACHENFEUER
Item: A band logo fabric patch, measuring 10cm by 2.5cm, produced by Depressive Illusions (Ukraine)

An early contender for this years shortest post, it is nevertheless a pleasure to welcome back to Honour and Darkness the Drachenfeuer project, after far too long away!

Sadly, we are still not able to celebrate the formal release of the amazing 2CD set that was recorded with Jim Kirkwood seemingly aeons ago, but given the band's new Facebook page perhaps things are beginning to gather momentum and move in their favour?

In the meantime, for all of you wanting to support the project and decorate your denims with a item sure to cause confusion and puzzlement among your friends, here is a new band logo patch for your delectation!

Nazgul has discovered there is a fireworks company in deepest Austria ('Feuerwerk & Pyrotechnik' no less) that shares the same name as the band, based in Weistrach, a mere 30 minute drive from Linz.  The opportunities for some corporate sponsorship of the band's debut album "The Realm Of The Light" must surely exist!  Just think, the company could use the music in their displays, whilst each CD released could come packaged with a free firework!  Never has a corporate tie-in seemed so obvious!

Availability of the patch seems good - drop Hugin an email via the usual routes to procure one of your own.


Thursday, 13 February 2014

TRIBUTE TO BURZUM [V/A]

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Tribute To Burzum [Various Artists]
Format: A DVD-R disc in DVD sized case, with full colour cover, released on the Depressive Illusions label (Ukraine) in 2013, cat ref cut 1207.  Uruk Hai contribute two songs to this compilation.
Edition: Limited to 111 unnumbered copies

Track listing:
01. Der Einsiedler  (France) - Han Som Reiste
02. Hyperborea (Colombia) - Han Som Reiste
03. Winter Depression (Ukraine) -  Han Som Reiste
04. Mardrom (Germany) - Han Som Reiste
05. Ssunfuck (Usa) - Han Som Reiste
06. Müldeponie (France) - Hermodr A Helferd
07. Microkiropterus (Russia) -Hermoðr Á Helferð
08. Müldeponie (France) - Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Sule Der Singularitt
09. Serotosis (United Kingdom) - Erblicket die Tochter des Firmaments
10. Moloch (Ukraine) - Erblicket die Tochter des Firmaments
11. Funerary Descent (Usa) - Beholding The Daughters Of The Firmament
12. Ash (Indonesia) - Erblicket Die Tochter Des Firmaments
13. Hellvete (Indonesia) - Lost Wisdom
14. Funeror (Spain) - Lost Wisdom
15. Ash (Indonesia) - Lost Wisdom
16. Grímsvötn (United Kingdom) - Feeble Screams From Forest Unknown
17. Al-Azif (Costa Rica) - Dunkelheit
18. Gurthang (Poland) - Dunkelheit
19. Ash (Indonesia) - Dunkelheit
20. Lyset (Spain) - Dunkelheit
21. Hyperborea (Colombia) - Dunkelheit
22. Sacrilegius Funeral (Costa Rica) - Dunkelheit
23. Müldeponie (France) - Moti Ragnarokum
24. Kingdom of SHAD (Belarus) - A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit
25. Fethuruz (Venesuela) - My Journey to the Stars
26. Ràzakél Krièg (United Kingdom) - Ea Lord Of The Depths
27. Gynophagia (United Kingdom) - The Crying Orc
28. Necroennui (Usa) - The Crying Orc
29. Müldeponie (France) - The Crying Orc
30. Warground (Usa) - Channeling the Power of Souls Into a New God
31. Prometheus Rising (United Kingdom) - Burzum
32. Fort (Russia) - War
33. Internal Decadence (Greece) - War
34. Nightfall (Canada) -Dunkelheit
35. Teratology (Brasil) - Lost Wisdom
36. Almófar (Argentina) - Tomhet
37. Avarayr (Iran) - Tomhets Pt. 2
38. Müldeponie (France) - Tomhet
39. Ash (Indonesia) -  Illa Tithandi
40. Müldeponie (France) - Illa Tidandi
41. Moloch (Ukraine) - Gebrechlichkeit I
42. Balpehor (Costa Rica) -  Dauði Baldrs
43. Müldeponie (France) - Daudi Baldrs
44. Ash (Indonesia) - Die Nerpus Love
45. Müldeponie (France) - Die Liebe Nerpus
46. Gucumatz (Mexico) - My journey to the stars
47. Ash (Indonesia) - En Ring Til a Herske
48. Ash (Indonesia) - Black Spell Of Destruction
49. Anhedonia (Poland) - Spell of Destruction
50. Müldeponie (France) - I Heimr Heljar
51. Sturm (United Kingdom) - Illa Tidandi
52. Erkhrankung (Ukraine) - Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
53. Uruk-Hai (Austria) - The Crying Orc
54. Uruk-Hai (Austria) - Hermoðr á Helferð
55. Humano (Argentina) - Dunkelheit
56. Vixenta (Australia) - Black Spell Of Destruction

You know you've let yourself in for one hell of a task reviewing an album when it isn't until the 53rd song until the band you're waiting to hear shows up!  There are only two possible courses of action with such an monstrous proposition as this Depressive Illusions tribute compilation: take a high level overview of the thing, or dive into the murky depths and risk all of your SAN points in a Call Of Cthulhu-esque insanity raid.

Nazgul is no fool - he is adopting the high level approach.

But you'd seriously have to wonder at the thinking behind the construction of this release.  Firstly, and on a very mundane note, a DVD-r is almost in every way less practical than a CDr as it won't play on standard CD players.  Can I listen to this on the way to work in the car - no.  Can I give it a spin on the death-deck in the castle library - no again.  OK, you get a ton of material on the DVD-r that otherwise would be needing a multi-CD set to accommodate, but even so not the most convenient of releases to get to grips with.

Secondly, and most significantly, there's the issue about just how many versions of a particular song you really need to hear on one album!  The proven business model for the vast majority of tribute albums is to cherry-pick the best version of a specific song, preferably by a band you've heard and care about, and present as an album of maybe 10-12 different songs.  Simple, or so you'd think, a veritable licence to print money.  The approach from Depressive Illusions has been radically different, and seems to focus on shoe-horning as many possible versions of a limited range of songs as humanely (or, arguably, as inhumanely) as possible onto one disc.  Now, all power to their arm for trying something different, but this level of overkill is quite daunting.

Nazgul challenges you with a simple question: just how many versions of 'Dunkelheit' do you seriously need to hear on a Burzum compilation?  One, or maybe two at a pinch if it's a double-album?  Try 8 on this offering, including 6 consecutive tracks all covering the same song!  Honestly, you'll go mad before the end of the fourth version, and just when you think the torture is over after 6 in a row then the damn thing pops again twice more before you're done.  Why?  Why do I need to hear the same song six times in a row?  It's not the most complex of tracks, there's not a lot of nuance or twiddly bits to get my head around, so why in the name of all that's holy do I need this looped around my speakers?  It's like having a demon child repeatedly playing the same note over and on a toy piano, a musical version of Chinese water torture if you will.

This is repeated across large parts of the disc: the album begins with 5 back-to-back versions of 'Han Som Reiste', by way of another example.  And if it was presented like like this in predictable blocks, perhaps you could get a handle on it and work out a coping strategy.  But it's not all as consistent as that; other songs periodically appear scattered across the track listing.  For instance, there are (mercifully) only 3 versions of 'Hermodr A Helferd', two of which appear as tracks #6 and #7, but the third (the Uruk Hai cover) only pops up at #54.  Why this difference in running order and methodology, you ask?  No idea.  A similar thing happens with 'The Crying Orc' - three successive covers at tracks #27-#29 but then you'll be hanging on until #53 for the Uruk Hai version.

Speaking of which, the two Uruk Hai songs on this release are not unique to it, and we've encountered them on our travels before: 'The Crying Orc' appears on the split release "Ancient Remembrances", whilst "Hermodr A Helford' goes back much further, debuting on the split release "-2-" with Vinterriket in 2005.

It really is a most perplexing way to compile and album, and it infuriates as much as it entertains.  Even the most die-hard Burzum fan would surely baulk at the prospect of listening to multiple covers of the same basic songs over and over again, particularly in cover-version format where it's not even Varg himself tinkling the ivories.  For a casual listener it could even turn you off wanting to hear another note of Burzum for the rest of your life.

The album is in essence like the world's (current) strongest beer, Snake Venom, at 67.5% ABV.  This literally venomous beer may well come in a 275ml bottle (and, at £50 per bottle, will cost you a pretty packet) but the brewers recommend they only intended it to be sipped in servings of 35ml per session.  Little and often, you see.  Nazgul would strongly recommend that "Tribute To Burzum" be treated with equal caution, and only digested in small quantities of perhaps 7-9 songs at a sitting.  

And if you want to remain sane, Nazgul would further recommend pre-selecting the play list to specify individual different songs, perhaps grouped by artist, otherwise you might find yourself listening to the same thing over and over in some form of hateful deja-vu inspired nightmare.  Or maybe that's the effect Depressive Illusions were aiming for - Nazgul wouldn't put it past them!

In fairness, and without being overly negative about this release, there are positives to celebrate too.   Clearly a lot of work has been put into it, from the design of the cover artwork (including all of the myriad band logos illustrated on the inner sleeve) to the effort in tracking down and compiling the multitude of tracks.  There's an astonishing global coverage of bands represented here too, aptly demonstrating that the black magic of Burzum has permeated the planet from Costa Rica to Indonesia, from Australia to Argentina, and from Mexico to the Ukraine, via the expected stopping off points in Europe and the US of A.  It is truly a global album, and despite the limitations of the original music there's enough on here to find something interesting to listen to.  

Just not all in one go.

The Uruk Hai logo is hiding under the disc, left of centre button

Friday, 7 February 2014

SOUNDSCAPES OF DOOM


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Soundscapes Of Doom
Format: A split release on CDr partnering Ego Death (Greece).  This was released on Kadaath Records (Russia) in 2013, cat ref Kadaath 52.  The disc is housed in a colour sleeve, inside a plastic wallet.  The inlay states that tracks were recorded by both bands in 2012.
Edition: 20 unnumbered copies only

Track Listing:

Uruk-Hai
01 - Middle Earth Part V (Barad-dûr)  37.09

Ego Death
02 - Ossified Figurine  6.06
03 - The Curse Of Being Greek  4.31
04 - Under Costumes In Panic I Live  4.22

Hurrah!

Another part in Hugin's semi-legendary Middle-Earth series hits the streets, for the first time in digital format as opposed to the original cassette tapes that presented Parts I - IV.  This latest instalment - "Part V, Barad-dûr" - takes as its setting the fortress of Sauron in the heart of the black lands of Mordor, close to Mount Doom.  The name of the fortress - and song - translates from Sindarin as Dark Tower.

Barad-dûr was built by Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, with the power of the One Ring, during the Second Age. The building took six hundred years to complete; it was the greatest fortress ever built since the Fall of Angband, and much of Sauron's personal power went into it.  Barad-dûr was besieged for seven years by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men and was levelled after Sauron's defeat at the end of the Second Age, but because it was created using the power of the One Ring, its foundations could not be destroyed completely unless the Ring itself was destroyed.  Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron's hand but refused to destroy it, so the Tower was quickly rebuilt when Sauron returned to Mordor thousands of years later.

The Dark Tower was described as existing on a massive scale so large it was almost surreal, although Tolkien does not provide much detail beyond its size and immense strength. Since it had a "topmost tower" it presumably had multiple towers. It is otherwise described as dark and surrounded in shadow, so that it could not be clearly seen.  That said, The Eye of Sauron kept watch over Middle-Earth from its highest tower so that bit was clearly pretty visible!  There was an "immeasurably high" look-out post, "the Window of the Eye in Sauron’s shadow-mantled fortress", said to face Mount Doom.  From this window, Frodo and Sam had a terrible glimpse of the Eye of Sauron.

The description of the fortress, "..rising black, blacker and darker than the vast shades amid which it stood, the cruel pinnacles and iron crown of the topmost tower of Barad-dûr..." would have been an unmitigated disaster for any aspiring estate agent trying to sell the place, but has so many homely similarities to Castle Nazgul that your humble scribe feels positively affectionate towards it.

There also exists a drawing by Tolkien that he titled Barad-dûr but since he did not publish it during his lifetime, it is unclear how close the drawing is to his mature vision of the tower. His picture shows only the left edge of the lower part of a structure that seems to be constructed of immense masonry blocks of some greenish-grey stone. The few existing windows are small and either dark or lighted dark red; one is clearly barred. One high, thin vertical spire is visible in the background. The whole building seems to stand on top of a large monolithic rock with almost vertical edges and a relatively flat top. A narrow stone bridge leads across the chasm to the single visible door, through which flames can be seen inside the tower. An erupting volcano (presumably Mount Doom) can be seen in the background, a lava stream flowing from there past the side of the monolithic rock.

If this is an unfamiliar release then you can check it out on Kadaath Record's Bandcamp page, which oddly has a release date for this music of 11 November 2011, almost two years ahead of the actual physical release on the same label and one year before the recordings were made.  Presumably a typo, or some strange warp in the space-time continuum...

The Uruk Hai song is another lengthy affair, and - as Nazgul found out this week - is almost impossible to listen to whilst driving without having the volume up to ear-piercing volumes.  The beginning of the track is laden with gloomy rumblings and low frequency murmurings, very probably an accurate representation of the desolate wastelands of Mordor but virtually inaudible in the presence of tyre roar and traffic!  No matter, it's the sort of song that is best experienced late on a dark and stormy night (and believe you me, Castle Nazgul has been experiencing a fair number of those recently) when the wild winds howling without meld with the eerie sounds coming from within.

As ever with epics of this nature from Uruk Hai, there's a lot of time spent on painting the canvass in terms of 'feel' and 'atmosphere' rather than establishing a jolly jig or catchy riff.  The adage of "don't bore us, get to the chorus" just isn't in the band's modus operandi.  The issues bourne by such songs is that they are not naturally memorable for much of their duration, but on the other hand manage to create a sense of place during their airing.  You could probably listen to this for half a dozen times in a row and still struggle to actively whistle more than 10 seconds worth of content from memory, but equally you'd come away with a enhanced perception of the blackness and bleakness of Barad-dûr and its environs, which is really rather the point.  There are many film scores that would be equally hard to convert to a hummable format but that can still chill the blood and scare the pants off you in equal measure.  Conclusion, therefore: mission accomplished!

Confession time: Nazgul had supposed that the name of Greek band 'Ego Death' had derived from their own warped imaginations.  No so, oh dear me no.  Ego Death is something terribly profound, if the internet is to be believed, as immense screeds of twaddle have been written about it, with preposterous definitions being used.  Here's a typical one: "Ego death represents the neurodetoxification of fossilized repression, removing the friction and futile cycling of the nervous system, allowing a higher pattern to form."  Good, so that's all cleared up then.  No ... wait ... what was that again?

Actually, I'm almost beyond caring but it turns out that page 14 of Psychological Claptrap For Dummies (a copy of which lies on a dusty library shelf) offers a more basic understanding: "Ego-death does not mean the disintegration of the healthy ego, the ego we need in order to function in daily life. What dies in this process is the part of us that holds on to the illusion of control, the part of us that thinks we are running the show, that we are in charge. What disintegrates is the false identity that operates as though we are the centre of the universe."  Right, so that's what a neurodetoxification of fossilized bollocks is all about.  

Not that you're going to escape completely from peculiar language and odd concepts, mind you, as 'Ossified Figurine' (a figurine that has changed into bone) might indicate.  What is the 'Curse of Being Greek' you might ask?  Hard to tell, unless it's getting prompt service in a Turkish restaurant? Why is there panic under the costumes?  Very hard to know, to be honest.  But that said, it's an experience trying to find out!  

Keeping the psychological theme running, let's disassociate ourselves from the band's name and focus upon their almighty noise, and see what the music's like, shall we?  For Ego Death is an experimental, noise, industrial, drone one-man-project from Athens, Greece, fronted by Manos Michaelides, formed in 2004. The sounds are created with the use of instruments and/or software facilities in various improbable combinations.  They are somewhat legendary in their field and have performed a couple of live shows, one of which featured friend to Honour and Darkness - Nova Sak.

And the results are actually very listenable - more in the realm of power electronics in this particular outing, there are sufficient bells and whistles in the melodies (if melodies they are) to engage your attention, and having 3 relatively short tracks does rather help the listening experience.

Overall this is a well presented physical release from Kadaath, albeit in a tiny quantity.  Whether they were aiming for the hardcore fan market or were just convinced 99.9% of us were going to download the thing (illegally or otherwise) isn't clear, but it's quite disconcerting to imagine that two established bands like Uruk Hai and Ego Death would be unable to ship a fair number of CDs between the two of them.  If this is this a reflection/reaction to the current state of the music industry in a time when downloading is clearly ruling the roost, then it paints a sad picture for those who enjoy getting their hands on a physical release rather than a set of digitised data.