Monday, 30 June 2014

DER PFAD ZUM TOR DE TOTEN - update II


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Der Pfed Zum Tor Der Toten
Reason for second update: Copies of the CDr in its original packaging obtained!

Track Listing:
1. Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten 15.10
2. Schönheit Gibt Es Nur Im Kampf 7.40
3. Schwerter & Äxte 10.10
4. Heimfahrt Nach Hördaland 6.10
5. Barbarenblut 5.02
6. Bußfertigkeit 11.21

Back in the mists of time, those halcyon when Nazgul used to have opportunity to post updates to Honour and Darkness a dozen times a month or more, this Hrossharsgrani demo was first reviewed:  Stardate - 23 April 2009, and the review focused on the CDr pressing of the release as the uber-rare tape version (of 33 copies) had not been found at that time.  And, indeed, that's still sadly the case as the original cassette has yet to be added to Nazgul's horde though the reissue on Wulfrune Worxx was reviewed on 24 June 2011.  However, two additions to the collection meriting this update coincidentally occurred within a few short weeks of each other about a year ago, and here's the tale...

Were you to look back at the 2009 review you'd see that the last paragraph contained the sentence: "Stop Press!! I also recently discovered that the original CDr release came in a coloured jewel-case and had a rusty nail enclosed as a gimmick."  Nazgul's copy - #7 of the 200, did not have a nail and was not in a coloured case, as it came via an online auction site and presumably the original owner had replaced the case at some point in the past.

Many years of looking around yielded no joy in finding a complete original, and so Hugin very kindly made his personal #1 copy in a red case available to Nazgul, complete with an original and very rusty nail, and this was welcomed into the fold like the prodigal son returning home. 

By strange coincidence, however, within a few weeks of that occurring another copy came up for sale online (#17) and was also complete with (very rusty) nail, so Nazgul in classic OCD mode added this to his treasure trove too.  It arrived in a completely shattered blue jewel-case (thank you postal courier!) which was sadly too far gone to be salvaged, so the hunt is now on for a similar light blue case to rehouse it in.  

Issue #17/200
In conversation with Hugin it turns out that there were a variety of coloured cases used for the original release, including yellow and green as well as the red and blue already identified.  Now the hunt is on to collect all hues of this long deleted release as Nazgul attempts to expand his stock of "Der Pfed..." and increase his holding beyond the 1.5% of the total global stock currently housed in the Castle Library!

3 of the 200 copies all safe and snug in Castle Nazgul!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

EISMOND interview in Fatal Underground #42

Band: EISMOND
What's this then? An Interview with Eismond for FATAL UNDERGROUND Fanzine, Issue #42

With apologies for taking short cuts when Google Translation couldn't assist in taking the German language original to anything remotely understandable in English, here is an interview in the German zine Fatal Underground featuring both members of the Eismond project.  It's been out for sale for a few weeks, but you can still grab a copy for a very modest amount to enjoy all 120 A5 pages of blood-soaked carnage.

Hails Alex . Nice that you found the time to give me a few words. Your musical project has the name 'Ice Moon' . How did you get the idea to use this name as a band name?
Alex: I found that this name alone already sounds very spherical and an extremely good fit for the project - I imagined a frozen landscape drenched in the blue of the moonlight.  When the first song ('Ice Moon') was written I had no name for this project, but this track and  these images of an icy landscape led to the band name Eismond being born.

What is the idea behind the project as you are presenting them to us here?
Alex: The idea was/is to combine music with ambient Black Metal and other sounds and create a somewhat spacey atmosphere. Dark Space Ambient Black Metal, if you like!  A soundtrack for a ride through space :-)

Eismond is now a two-man project: maybe you should introduce yourselves?!
Alex: Since 1984 I  have been working in various bands with perhaps Uruk-Hai being the most famous.  I am still working with Hrefnesholt, COI, WACH, Hrossharsgrani, Bonemachine (B-Machina), Manwe , Elisabetha, Solid Grey ... a lot of fun things to do!  I was born in 1969 in the Steel city of Linz in Austria where I still live now .

Jaron: I am also a musician from Vancouver, Canada, active in my solo projects Ringbearer , Almuric , Funeral Fornication and also as a bass player in the Technical Death Metal band Archspire.  Additionally, I was front man of symphonic black metal band Artep. I play 5 instruments and I was very excited when Alex asked me to work with him in the Eismond project since I've long been a big fan of Uruk Hai!

Will the band permanently remain a double-act or are there plans to change this situation?
Alex: I do not think that in the near future anything will change - Jaron and I are currently working on a new Eismond track. But who knows what the future will bring us , we are open to anything!

Since the start of the project in 2010 you already boast a truly remarkable bunch of releases! "Demo 1" 1st edition tape (ltd. 99), "Demo 1" 2nd edition tape (ltd. 99), "Behind The Moon We Are looking Into The Distance" CD (ltd. 200), a split CDr with Dysonsphere (ltd. 20) and now sold out , "As We Hide The Moon" digipak CD ( ltd. 500 ), "Another Moon" split with Noldor CDr out soon, "Are There Dragons Behind The Moon" tape ( ltd. 44 ) also sold out ! 

You must still have an immensely creative streak that you can offer so much to new musical material?
Alex: In 2010 we had the first demo tape "Demo 1" which consisted of a long ambient track and came out at Wulfrune Worxx and also at the same time at Depressive Illusions Records. This demo was reissued on CD in 2012 via Kristallblut Records, revised with other instrumentation plus 2 other tracks. 

In 2012 there was also the Split CDr with Dysonsphere where we contributed two tracks. Regarding the "Another Moon" with Noldor we wanted to have nothing to do with that band due to their right-wing leanings: the songs from this split we used for a split with the German ambient project Karg, which appeared as a CDr in 2013 on Ash Spring Records. On our debut album "As We Hide The Moon" (again on Kristallblut Records) we worked with Jaron's great vocals for the first time!  Both our lives consists mainly of music and we work almost daily on new songs so the productivity is not as crazy as it may seem :-)

A conspicuous feature of your releases for me is that some were released as tapes. What makes you a fan of the cassette and how does this sit with your fan base?  Would it not be appropriate and inevitable to publish your music as a cool vinyl release?
Alex: Yes, cassettes still have for us a very special appeal, we are probably going to bring out a few tapes again as there are still quite a few unreleased demos and first takes of Eismond songs which want to see the light of the world :-)  Vinyl would of course be A1 and we are always looking to find a good label for an LP version of our releases, but we also know the vinyl productions are not exactly cheap. So: if any label is interested - we are ready :-)  I can certainly imagine "As We Hide The Moon" looking very, very good as a 12" gatefold LP with the artwork and blue vinyl, man, yes that would fit perfectly!

Judging by the band name one might have expected more icy and ominous sounds. To my ears, this does happen but everything sounds quite 'warm' , soulful and contemplative.  This consistently makes a damn strong , almost comforting atmosphere. This makes for a pretty stark contrast from the band name and the offered material!
Alex: Strange - I find the song really cold and clear, For me is brings to mind infinity, where the universe is somehow a kind of journey in space . But I have heard exactly your words from other people.  Maybe this helps create the appeal: moving between worlds, between icy cold and toasty warm, a balancing act if you will.

You even call this style 'space ambient atmospheric black metal' and whilst I think this term applies quite well,  you have admit that the proportion of black metal elements are quite marginal. Furthermore, I would but even mention various slight psychedelic and progressive influences.  What does it mean to you, and what is the ideology behind it all?
Alex: The black metal content in Eismond songs should always be in the background, as it were.  We like it that way because this "background noise" called black metal makes up the atmosphere in our music . We do use guitars sounds to create this psychedelic effect, there are a lot of little gimmicks in the songs that emphasise this effect. The ideology behind our project is to mix the 70's psych sounds with the ambient and black metal sounds of today to create something completely different.

What bands have influenced you here? I would say Pink Floyd in particular?
Alex: It was during the recording of "Behind The Moon ... " that I realised that somehow I was moving toward a Pink Floyd sound.  I've since added the guitar sounded which enhances this, and what we had we really liked!  Another original influence was Vinterriket.

What makes a 'typical' Eismond song? What are the criteria for a piece to be published under the Eismond name?
Alex: That is very simple: Keyboard and a hypnotic drum rhythm . That said, the insertion of the 'icy' guitars in the background and all the little sound tinkering gradually turns the songs towards the psych sound. There are songs we have discarded because they were just bad:  every day is different and sometimes writing music does not come easily and the work of an entire day can be for naught. It is not always easy since I in Austria working on my part of the song and Jaron is at home in Canada ... there is an endless cycle of file uploading and downloading until we get to a good result , and we chat in between for hours to develop a common musical denominator  :-)

Does the music of Eismond even hold something like a spiritual value?
Alex: You'll laugh, but yes I use this music in demo form (without guitar & F/X, only the keyboard layers of Eismond) to meditate.  Spirituality in my life has a great importance and none of my projects would probably exist without my spiritual side existing.

So would you say that composing and recording music is a form of spiritual process for you?
Alex: I would say yes , as when I make music it transports me into another world and I can disappear there for hours - it is clearly a spiritual realm. I think everyone who works intensively with music , whether listening or making , are immersed in a spiritual world and can relate to this, especially in the metal genre.

In contrast to all of your other musical projects are you working on, Eismond songs have a lot of singing. How important to you now is this particular project, given this development?
Alex: In "As We Hide The Moon" we have used Jaron's voice for the first time as an additional tool. It was a big step for us and for Eismond!  If we have a second album it will be with 100% confidence that we once again enhance it with singing. The singing is very important as Jaron conveys somehow the personal element of music, distinct from the mechanical part and sterility.

The lyrical content of your songs is heavily based on the nature, especially the mountains. How or where do you draw your ideas to create new songs?
Jaron: My way of writing the lyrics go a little bit away from the 'normal' path as they very long. When Alex sent me the songs he told me the vocals should be, if possible, in a black metal style.  I tried it ... and musically it just didn't sound right. What you can hear now is what I transformed it into with my own touch. So I needed text which could match Eismond's musical style and which could express the coldness in the music.  Well, first because of the length of the tracks I ordered the guitar parts to be able to filter out parts of the song better where I could then insert the lyrics. 

The only song influenced by external lyrics is "Name Of The Wind", where the text comes from the book of the same name that I had just been reading, which I thought would fit wonderfully on this album. The other 3 songs are all very similar since they all tell of a journey. "The Wind Shakes The Grass " is a journey into the wilderness , and the evolution which results from the sense and nonsense. " The Gilded Mountain" is about experiencing a physical journey to a cold, lonely place on the way to abandonment. "Stepping Beyond" is about the evolution of people into something else forever ... the next step when the small existing element of mankind acknowledges that problems no longer exist and their inner eye to the true universe opens.

How would you express visually what you have recorded musically on "As We Hide The Moon"?
Alex: A little spaceship floats through the cold of space and the pilot is alone only with his thoughts as he travels from planet to planet, just the sound of the craft and his own breathing can be heard, onward for years to come. As he flies in a kind of fog his mind is merging with the universe and his thoughts join with a collective of millions of other thoughts . Has he now found God or is he just a prisoner  ....

In our society,  the musical field is flooded and it is not really easy to stand out from the crowd.  However, I do think that you have managed this with Eismond.  Do you worry that your musical work is not at all great and ultimately as a musician and as a label owner you don't achieve success or sales?
Alex : Because I do not look at it as my job - more as a special hobby - I am happy to invest whatever time or money is necessary!  Of course it would be great if the albums also sell well , as that would help a lot - but as it is it's good I think!

Can I ask about the reactions to the release so far and whether all the effort was really worth it?
Alex: Responses to "As We Hide The Moon" were really great, we did not expect so much positive feedback! Whether the effort is rewarding will have to be seen: in once sense sales will never amount to very much and will barely cover the costs of production, but it was worth for us as we are more than satisfied with the album!

Eismond is not the only one of your bands with which you have taken slightly different musical paths recently. Is Eismond now a kind of catch-all for ideas, that you could not incorporate into your other bands/projects?
Alex: Possibly, yes, there are pleasing sounds to me in this project which would simply not fit to my other projects. A catch-all for ideas sounds good, actually all my projects are a pool of my ideas but each goes in a different direction, I always want to show the differences clearly !

Is there a chance that you can even see Eismond perfoming live? If so, will it also give a chance for visual treats in addition to the music?
Alex: Clearly no - the distance between Canada and Austria is just too large ....

Before we get to the end, you should also tell the folks a little bit about your other music projects and, of course, also tell us about your label!
Alex: I have my own little label : WAR Productions, which has just released a blues album by Trevor Sewell. Yes, blues! I cover everything at W.A.R. Productions which I personally really like, so from black metal to melodic rock to blues and even ambient and industrial genres.  In January Joe Matera's album "Terra Firma" was released, an Australian melodic rock guitarist and a review should be in this issue :-)   My number one project, however, is Uruk Hai where I can live out my love for fantasy.  The new album "... And All The Magic & Might He Brought ... " also just came out on my label as a limited edition digipak!  

Furthermore I work with Piette of Dead Man's Hill in the project Solid Grey. With Rich Davenport  I have the project Manwe  ('Epic Metal') though unfortunately we really do not often get a chance to record and thus there are only 2 tracks from this project, both on compilation CD's!  There are still other projects I'm working on though:  Hrefnesholt ('Doom Folk'), Bonemachine (Industrial), Ceremony Of Innocence ('Dream Pop'), Elisabetha (vampyric avant-garde) , and WACH a project that I run jointly with Chris Huber, in which we try very dark ambient with great sound quality to make it worth a listen :-)

I think I have taken more than enough of your time. As a busy musician you have much more important and better things to do than spend hours toiling with answering questions!
Alex: 'Bye and thanks for your previous reviews and tireless support!

Friday, 20 June 2014

CROSSING THE BORDERS [V/A]


Band:  URUK HAI
Title: Crossing The Borders [V/A]
Format: An online compilation available to purchase through Amazon and iTunes
Edition: Unlimited download

Track Listing:
01. EPICA  *  Mother of Light  5:56  
02. ORPHEUS OMEGA  *  The Deconstruct  4:03  
03.  TURNING THE TIDES  *  Re Growth  4:15  
04.  OPTIC PERCEPTION  *  Doom  6:40  
05.  BRUTAL HOMICIDE  *  No Remorse, No Redemption  4:00    
06.  GREEN ARMY  *  Psycho Maniac  3:20  
07.  STAKATO  *  Yang  7:00  
08.  ARCH ANGEL  *  Annihilation  5:43    
09.  ABANDONED WORLD  *  Madness From Within  3:30  
10.  THE END  *  Across the Ocean  5:40  
11.  A SHIPMENT TO SPAIN  *  Known As David  2:51  
12.  URUK HAI  *  Far Away   6:00  
13.  OBSCENE OPTIONAL  *  Siblings  3:47  
14.  APONTOKATION  *  Human Chaos  3:32    
15.  GURTHANG  *  My Darkest Corridor  7:26    
16.  SCARS OF TOMORROW  *  The Last Supper  2:30  
17.  COSHISH  *  Raastey   4:46  
02.  BRIGHTHAVEN  *  I'm Not Like You  3:08
03.  SUICIDE SEASON  *  The Liberation War 71  3:45  
04.  GODSIRE  *  The Crossed Out God  4:06
05.  SACRILEGIOUS  *  The G.O.D God of Defile  3:56  
06.  DOMINANT APPREHENSION  *  Omonushotto   4:17
07.  BRIANA  *  Dream Catcher   6:14  
08.  ABSENTIA  *  Not Alone  3:40    
09.  CONFUZONE  *  Chaotic Fusion  4:06  
10.  ZENITH  *  Gospel for Nimokharam  4:24  
11.  RINGBEARER  *  The Road that Leads Us  5:59  
12.  CHAINSAW  *  Juddher Golpo 2013    5:32  
13.  ROMAN SACRIFICE  *  Nishtha   4:45  
14.  RAGING INTO SLUT  *  Crime Against Humanity   1:52  
15.  NIBURU  *  Infested Virgin  11:37  
16.  AGGRONYMPH  *  Aadhar   5:02  

Like buses, Nazgul's posts come thick and fast after long periods without any to be seen. Or, somewhat more cruelly, in fallow periods they come along as frequently as England wins in World Cup tournaments....

Here's another for Uruk Hai related activity, this time to promote something new and only available since 30 May 2014.  Called "Crossing The Borders (An international band compilation by Tazwar Hossain)" it's a download-only one man labour of love venture by the look of it, containing an interesting range of genres and material.  It's truly international too, as the subtitle implies, as it features bands from all sorts of improbable places: No less than 11 from Bangladesh plus others from Mexico, Sweden, Singapore, India, Canada, Germany, Australia and - most unusually - Nepal (being Raging Into Slut, allegedly the Dalai Lama's favourite band).

You can check out the purpose and history behind this self-proclaimed 'biggest international underground band compilation ever' through Tazwar's Facebook page

As an online compilation the songs themselves are for sale via iTunes and Amazon, and features Hugin's pet project amidst a horde of other thrashing, banging and general walloping.  Inspired to commit a song to the project after being approached on Facebook, the Uruk Hai track in question is 'Far Away' and was the second track on the 2013 magnum opus "...And All The Magic And Might He Brought".  If you've forgotten what this epic sounds like, point your browser towards the featured Youtube clip and enjoy it all over again!  

Looking at the Amazon page was a source of much mirth for Nazgul's childish sense of humour.  Clearly there has been a mistake in linking old reviews of completely different releases to this particular page, as evidenced through one such review from User rainsong_1643 heaping praise (apparently) on the compilation, concluding:  "I LOVE this album. I originally bought it for bellydance purposes, as it has my favourite dance song ever. but I find myself listening to it all the time, it's an eclectic mix of ethnic sounds with a modern edge. I highly recommend this album to anyone, it's a great listen."   Belly dancing to the likes of Brutal Homicide - alas, if only....!

Prices per song work out as cheap as chips, so even though you doubtless have the Uruk Hai song tucked away in your private stash of all things Hugin there's no harm in downloading another copy, as one hopes that a modest amount of revenue might be shunted Hugin's away as a result.  Alternatively, you could have a little dip into the rest of the material to see what might tickle your fancy.  Will there be physical pressing of this compilation?  Stranger things have been known, and although no news on that front as yet keep watching those borders....

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

UNRUAHNOCHT


Band: HREFNESHOLT
Title: Unruahnocht
Format: Previously unseen cover artwork for an unreleased split album with Lousberg, proposed for 2010.
Edition: None - unreleased

#12 From the Vaults of W.A.R.

Do you remember the Uruk Hai / Lousberg split release, reviewed back on Honour and Darkness on 23 December last?  That made reference to this very item, noting:

"It's not the first time that Lousberg have come to the attention of Honour and Darkness.  The band were supposed to have been on the other side of a split release with Hrefnesholt about 4 or 5 years ago - the split tape "Unruahnocht / Lousberg" - which never actually came to fruition." 

Well, this is the cover artwork for the demo that never was.  As you can see as plainly as Nazgul can, it was clearly advanced to the point that the Wulfrune Worxx label had allocated it a catalogue reference (WW116) and was supposed to be part of that label's Split Series in an edition of 66 copies.  Beyond that, not much is known, significantly about what the proposed track listing was to have been.  It may be that the Lousberg songs were the same ones as appeared subsequently with Uruk Hai.

It's also reasonable to suppose that the Hrefnesholt tracks would have been of the period around their "Uraungst", as the song 'Unruanocht' was the sixth song on that release, later to be found on the "Trostlos" box-set.

Nazgul rather likes the artwork for the Hrefnesholt side of the split, simplistic as it is: you can't beat the sight of the moon part covered by scudding clouds to quicken the pulse.

Oh - and about that odd title?  Apparently, according to our source of knowledge in deepest Austria, 'Unruanocht' broadly translates as 'Unsilent Night / Night where something evil will happen'.

File under: 'what might have been'.

Monday, 16 June 2014

GORTHAUR / URUK HAI split


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Gorthaur / Uruk Hai (an otherwise untitled split release)
Format: Released on professional CDr in larger DVD size box by Aschefruehling Records (Germany) in January 2014.  The split release features tracks from Uruk Hai and German black metal horde Gorthaur, who formed in 2003.
Edition: 33 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
GORTHAUR
01.  Snow  1.36       
02.  Warwolves  3.12      
03.  The Great Shadow from the Eastern Kingdom  4.29      
04.  Alte Feinde Neuer Hass  3.26      
05.  Darkness  0.57   
06.  Frostking's Realm  3.55      
07.  The Dark Lord's Tower  6.59      
08.  Dusk  1.00  
URUK HAI
09.  The White Tower 6.06      
10.  Flucht  3.19      
11.  The Iron Doors of Angband  8.10      
12.  Numenor  6.20      
13.  In A Dream  3.23  

Nazgul did something quite unusual after playing the Gorthaur tracks on this release for the first time.  He stopped the CD before the Uruk Hai tracks could begin, and replayed the whole lot of Gorthaur songs again.  It's uncommon for Nazgul to forgo an initial blast of new Hugin material for any other band, but on this occasion I was glad to make an exception as the black metal on offer over the first 8 songs of this split release are really rather good.  Sure, opener 'Snow' does sound a tad like the background music for a 90's tv police drama series and is rather out of place here, but otherwise there's a vicious yet melodious mixture of songs here ('Dusk' excepted, being a calming little outro piece) that raises hairs and hackles as one.  Excellent.

 
If the band name is vaguely familiar to you, it's most likely from literature rather than music given their relative lack of released material.  Gorthaur, you may not be surprised to learn, is a name taken from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.  During the First Era and shortly after the return of Morgoth, the Noldorin Elves also left the Blessed Realm of Valinor in the Uttermost West, against the counsel of the Valar, to wage war on Morgoth, who had stolen the Silmarils. In that war, Sauron served as Morgoth's chief lieutenant, surpassing all others in rank, such as Gothmog, the Lord of Balrogs. 

Known as Gorthaur the Cruel, Sauron was at that time a master of illusions and shape-shifting; werewolves and vampires were his servants, chief among them Draugluin, Father of Werewolves, and his vampire herald Thuringwethil.  Blimey, there's a name to wrestle with after a few pints of Middle-earth's premier ale, Old Gothmog's Throat-Shafter!

If you're in the mood for a quick blast, you could have a listen to 'The Dark Lord's Tower' and see what you make of it...  

The Uruk Hai material, in contrast, is not black metal nor - arguably for much of its duration - could it really be called 'metal' at all.  It undoubtedly retains a full-on Middle-earth atmosphere about it, as much of Uruk Hai's music does, with interesting little influences of almost middle-eastern music going on in there.  The pieces are instrumental for the most part, lengthy and sinuous as is Hugin's wont, with the exception of 'Flucht' which contains some utterly bizarre vocal effects and peculiar music and is as incongruous in this company as it would be watching Gandalf in a naked foxy-boxing bout with Galadriel.  Not a pretty sight (well, not the first half; I suppose I could drag my blackened eyes towards a naked Galadriel if opportunity arose...)

'The Iron Doors Of Angband' gets things back on track with some effective female choral style vocals (courtesy of Asche) and some uplifting keyboards of the type that fill the soul with thoughts of gallant deeds and epic quests. 'Numenor' (a large island in the Sundering Seas, which was brought up from the sea as a gift from the Valar to the Edain, the Fathers of Men who had stood with the Elves of Beleriand against Morgoth in the War of the Jewels) continues the good work, throwing in some almost New-Wave style synthesisers and a rather COI-style club beat for good measure ... and manages to get away with it!  

The split ends with 'In A Dream', a very pleasant and wistful way to conclude with some nods in the instrumentation back to the classic release "Across The Misty Mountains (Far, Far Away....)" for good measure.

Other than the strange thing that is 'Flucht', there's much to admire here for Uruk Hai fans and with the nicely put together nature of the release it's certainly one worth seeking out whilst they are still out there for sale.