Saturday, 31 January 2015

DER PFAD ZUM TOR DER TOTEN > original artwork

Artist's monogram (see text)
"Honey, I shrunk the kids...."
Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
What have we got today, then?  The original artwork for the 1999 CDr demo "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten"

Another delve into the curious mixture of items Nazgul has stashed away in the Castle Library reveals this interesting piece of original artwork, as used for the cover of the 1999 Hrossharsgrani demo "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten".

A strangely unsettling image of vast misty mountains and red-hued sky, it has almost a Lovecraftian look to it, evoking thoughts of Lovecraft's favourite Cyclopean architecture, albeit in natural form.  The term broadly refers to the masonry style characteristic of Mycenaean fortification systems, and describes walls built of huge, unworked limestone boulders which are roughly fitted together with odd angles and perspective.  The term comes up again and again in Lovecraft's stories, usually connected with various cosmic horrors that are beyond human comprehension, and these mountains would surely give most readers a cold shiver or two if encountered in real life?  

So who is the artist behind this image.  Step forward Nikolaus 'Nick' Resch, pictured below, who - it transpires - was a work colleague of Hugin's some 16 years ago and who clearly had a talent for strangeness!  Not a well known artist, Nick has conjured up an image here synonymous with this early period of Hrossharsgrani recordings and which has successfully endured since then.

Nikolaus Resch
The original plan for this demo was to grace it with a cover from esteemed Tolkien artist John Howe, but to be honest Nazgul opines that the actual cover is probably perfect for the time and content of this dark and demented demo. 

The more artistic Lady Nazgul has taken a look at the piece and is of the view that it is acrylic paint on card, and given the size of it the plan is now to frame it accordingly and pop it on the Library wall.  A shame there is a crease across it (not guilty, M'lud, it was like that when I got it) but under glass it should smooth out pretty well. 

It's one of Hugin's favourites too, which probably explains how it came to be preserved for such a long time after the demo was released.

Incidentally, there is a pencil sketch on the back of the card of a naked woman reclined on what might be an altar in front of some form of entrance or doorway.  It looks quite likely to be the work in progress for an Elisabetha cover, it has that sort of look about it, though Hugin has no knowledge of it so perhaps the most likely explanation is that it's a doodle of Nick's from some other project?  Oh well - even if entirely unrelated to this post an entirely gratuitous image is pictured of it below!

We don't know either!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

UPON THE ELYSIAN FIELDS - update

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Upon The Elysian Fields
Reason for update: Proposed alternative artwork for a tape release for this 2004 demo, never released
Edition: No copies issued

Track Listing:
Tape 1: Chapters 1 & 2
01. Return To The Sea Of Flames 23.26
02. God Tears (Oh Rain, Rain, Rain) 25.09
Tape 2: Chapters 3 & 4
03. On An Evening In Autumn 20.04
04. Under The Cold Stars Before The Rising Of The Moon 24.03

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

Another interesting glimpse into the early workings of W.A.R. Productions - the images you see here were proposed as the artwork for a cassette version of the epic "Upon The Elysian Fields" demo, originally released in 2004 under the Uruk Hai banner and subsequently reissued in different formats through to 2009.

Indeed, were you to revisit the original review on Honour and Darkness (which combined all three versions into one handy post) you'll notice that the thing that all 3 variants of this release have in common is the CD format: the original 2004 release was self-released in paper sleeve as a promotional double CDr set; in 2008 the first reissue (and first commercial release) came in a box-set from the Israeli T'an! Kaven!! Ash!!! label, with a revised running order and each track coming on its own 3" CD, and then in 2009 another reissue was pressed through the Russian Valgriind label in a  DVD style case with bonus video track.

Not a tape to be seen, which makes this unreleased version of particular interest.  The proposed running order of the songs was the same as that on the 2004 demo (the running order changed on the 2009 reissue), which makes it likely that this design was contemporary with the original double-disc self-released demo from W.A.R.

The images on the inlay will be familiar from past Hrossharsgrani releases that have also used the same location - they depict the 13th century Burgruine Waxenberg in upper Austria, which lies about 30 minutes away from Linz.  Burgruine, incidentally, translates simply as 'castle ruin', and as can be seen it's a brooding and atmospheric sort of place when the lighting is right!  A more panoramic photo of this castle is shown below.

As this occasional series continues to rummage around in the W.A.R. archives, yet another unused design for this same demo has been found!  It was for another proposed tape release, but featuring very different artwork.  One for a future post, then...!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

TEARS IN A BURNING EYE



Band: MANWE
Title: Tears In A Burning Eye
Format: Cassette tape release on Wulfrune Worxx (France) in 2014, cat ref ULV500.  Black and white copied inlays, and a standard C60 style cassette with recording on one labelled side.
Edition: Hand-numbered and limited to 22 copies

Track Listing:
01. Tears In A Burning Eye
02. Tears In A Burning Eye (Radio Edit)

The arrival of new Manwe material is about as regular an occurrence at Castle Nazgul as the passing of Halley's Comet, so this small offering might just have to sustain us for another 75 years or so before something else crosses our orbit!

Released by long term supporter of Hugin - the inestimable Skogen, of Wulfrune Worxx fame - it is as fun to listen to as it was unexpected to receive.  The song had originally been a one-off collaboration between Hugin and Rich Davenport, the English guitarist/vocalist who was part of the line-up for the Joe Matera mini UK Tour of 2012, and it had principally been recorded for the proposed second part of the compilation "The First Ring".  

Incidentally, this latter 2-disc compilation is now out and quite stupendous it is too, both in terms of the quality of the presentation and of the music on there.  More of that one in a future post....

Longer term readers may recall Manwe's original demo "First Battle" being reviewed back in 2009, in which a 'troll metal' approach was the order of the day with vocals (from the refreshing perspective of an orc in Middle-Earth) being provided by Padre Adamo.  That demo still pops up for sale online, in both tape and CDr format, and for the low amount it will cost you is well worth seeking out.  Absolutely no relation in style to this latter tape, however, except for the tenuous bloodline of the band name.

Oh no, 'Tears In A Burning Eye' is a far more polished affair with 'clean' vocals from Rich (to quote Hugin, "he really did a good job!") and a melody/chorus you could pick up on and quite happily hum for the rest of the day. Nothing mentioned whatsoever about splitting hobbits in half, or the trials and tribulations of a day in the life of a hard-working orc!  

Revisiting the song again after a good few years shows it to be undiminished in terms of its overall catchiness and quality, and as well as the main version you get Hugin's 'radio edit' thrown in for good measure too as a different mix.  It may seem a bit funny to consider any radio play would be made of a Manwe song, but when you consider the amount of online radio shows (not least, Rich Davenport's own podcast of a very good rock show, and other places like Radio Rivendell) then perhaps the concept of Hugin on your wireless isn't so strange after all...?

What else can Nazgul tell you about this release?  Well, in an edition of only 22 copies you're not likely to find one easily now is a sad but true fact of life.  Skogen has done his usual quality black and white artwork for this release, which features on the cover the same British model - Elisabeth - who starred in the artwork for Uruk Hai's "Black Blood, White Hand" CD.  

The catalogue reference on this tape is interesting too, as it differs from the standard 'WW' prefix for Wulfrune Worxx releases of old.  Asking Hugin the significance of the "ULV500" reference revealed ... well, nothing actually, as Hugin had forgotten what Skogen had told him it signified.  Poor old sod, keep taking the fish oil!  Not wishing to leave his valued readers in the lurch, Nazgul aimed his black breath in the general direction of Skogen's French lair and discovered that ... errr, well nothing either, as we've not had a reply as yet. But as soon as I know, you'll know! *

* UPDATE FROM SKOGEN!

"Back in the day, with Chanteloup Créations (CC), catalogue numbers were "awe" for tapes and "woe" for CD's (a few of which have been released), which are the actual English words, not acronyms. 

Then CC ended in terms you probably know. I gave birth to its follow up which was Oakenshield, sub label of Adipocere who printed the CC CD's to honour the plans of scheduled releases. The 3 letters at the time were supposed to be FDG ('Fucking Degenerated Generation' from the W.A.S.P. song). Adipocere misunderstood (as usual) and the FDG turned in FPG. 

When I came up with Wulfrune Worxx, I wanted to keep up the 3 letters word tradition but nothing came up in my mind at this time so WW was chosen. Then I thought of the Swedish/Norwegian word 'ulv' (linked to the name of Wulfrune) but i was uncomfortable with changing the catalogue WW so late in. 

And then I decided: WTF, i can do what i want!  So from #475 ULV replaces WW. So this is all the story ..." 

Monday, 19 January 2015

WELCOME TO ISENGARD


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Welcome To Isengard
Format: Plain silver CDr with single-sided colour paper sleeve released in 2014 by Smell The Stench (Australia), no catalogue reference.
Edition: Hand-numbered to 16 copies

Track Listing:
01. Welcome To Isengard  6:48
02. Elven Might  8:30

Just before Christmas a large parcel arrived at Castle Nazgul from W.A.R. Productions.  The contents were - quite frankly - stupifying!  So many new demos, tapes, CDr's and other material that it was clear that Nazgul would have plenty of items to chew over and digest well into 2015.  And here is the first from that particular batch, "Welcome To Isengard".

As common with Smell The Stench releases, there's more than a whiff of DIY about this one: the paper inlay is a simple single-sided piece of paper folded to produce the cover.  The CDr itself is plain silver and unmarked with the band name or title of the release.  It sits within a plastic wallet, not a jewel case, and has no rear cover.  It comes in a strangely limited number of copies - 16 to be exact - all hand-numbered.  It is - in essence - exactly what we've come to love and expect from Leigh Stench and God bless him for doing it.

One imagines that if this very limited edition release is true to past precedent, the two songs featured will make another appearance on an album or more widely produced release in the months to come.  And this would be a good thing indeed, as both songs are far to good to languish on such an obscure CDr!

Pick of the pair is the title track 'Welcome To Isengard', which bangs along with a rollicking beat in the middle section yet retains plenty of keyboard nuances as well.  Really very catchy - is it just me, or has Hugin suddenly found an ear for a good melody!? - this song kicks off with a strange sound (rather like the scraping of a sword across flagstones) before hitting us with a titanic guitar riff and some chanted voice.  Follow this with a dollop of prime-time Uruk Hai synth, one which sounds so familiar it's almost certainly been reused from a past song somewhere in Hugin's vast back catalogue?  Then we get the swash-buckling rip-roaring part, with keyboards sounding like accordions and all manner of other instrumentation that you might get at an annual pirate convention.  A couple of quiet parts intermixed with some more of the catchy stuff, and that's the song in a nutshell.

If the title of the song had been 'Welcome to Rohan' or something of that ilk the music would have successfully created an image in your mind's eye of weary warriors returning from battle to a raucous feast hall back at their hallowed halls.  However, given that Isengard is practically the most miserable place in Middle Earth  it seems highly unlikely that such a party-charged atmosphere would exist, given it was where Saruman gathered his armies of wolves and orcs and existed in a desperate pit of doom and gloom amidst black pits and vast forges.  

A bit like Morecambe Bay, then, basically.  

Extending the analogy to this environment, one almost feels that the ebb and flow in the song represents Saruman walking pasts various camp fires as groups of orcs enjoy an impromptu hoe-down, forcing them to 'keep the noise down' and look fittingly miserable....at least until he's far enough away to let it rip again!

'Elven Might' comes across as a bit more ponderous by comparison, although given the benefit of repeat listening it proves to be a more subtle song with plenty to commend it: some nice piano touches, bags of character and more than a hint of majesty and splendour.  Mere words can't really do a song if this complexity and composition justice, so Nazgul's advice is to take it on trust that this is a corker, and move right along....

Once again our favourite Austrian wizard has woven his magic, and if these two songs are representative of the likely output from Uruk Hai in 2015 then it should prove to be a vintage year for all...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

GORE VS. WAR - update


Bands: BONEMACHINE and GUTS FOR DINNER
Title: Gore Vs. War
Reason for update: This copy of the CDr release on Smell The Stench (Australia) comes in a previously unseen green paper sleeve.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
Bonemachine
01. Süss Wie Stahl 15.04
Guts For Dinner
02. Butcher XTC 2.43
03. Let's Kill 2.26
04. Ballad Of A Gore Angel 2.05
05. Torture 1.38
06. Holyday in Frostland 2.25
07. Death F*ck Armageddon (bonus track 2002) 1.49

So here is an odd one for you.  Step forward once again the "Gore Vs. War" split release, this time resplendent in a lurid (though fittingly nauseating) green paper sleeve!

The history of this release is pretty well established from past posts - check out the original review here.   One lengthy Bonemachine song paired with 6 blasts of gore metal from the one-off project Guts For Dinner, and that's yer lot!  And, as far as Nazgul was aware, that was indeed that for this release, with no other versions or variants of it kicking around.

So imagine the surprise when this copy with a green inlay appeared, courtesy of our old friend Alexander at AMF Productions in Bulgaria.  No difference to the red Smell The Stench release in terms of tracks listing or indeed layout/cover design or illustration, just a simple but radical change of colour from red to green.

Now it could be the case that somewhere in the world a few dull moments have been passed by some heinous individual busily xeroxing a few randomly coloured covers for this demo, just to spice things up a bit.  This peculiar green variant might therefore be a product from such an exercise, though one can't imagine such a bootlegging activity generating a huge amount of income given the demo chosen?!  A worrying thought though, in so far as Nazgul might end up chasing blue, yellow, rainbow and god knows what coloured versions popping up as enterprising individuals go mad with their printers.  

Or - possibly - there was a 'green edition' formally issued by Smell The Stench, although there's no evidence yet discovered that suggests this is the case (though green is a colour used by that label on other releases in their history, so there's a distinct possibilty that this could be the case).

Who knows?  Official, bootleg or occupying the limbo between, Honour and Darkness' unceasing quest to bring you all things Hugin turns up another anomaly for consideration!

Just for 'fun' (I know what you're thinking, if that is what passes for fun in Castle Nazgul....) below is a picture of the Guts For Dinner collection to date, incorporating the original CD demo (limited to 13), CDr reissues and bespoke tape version.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

DRACHENFEUER > coffee mug


Band: DRACHENFEUER 
Item: Coffee Mug
Edition: 1 made!

With the onset of colder weather and freezing fog over Castle Nazgul - a frigid and frosty place at the best of times - the need for a winter toddy or two has become a seasonal imperative.

And what better way to enjoy a quenching brew of Old Hobbit's Winter Warmer than in this bespoke Drachenfeuer mug, resplendent in white with a fiery design and band logo to enjoy?  This highly collectible mug - the only one made  - is the perfect item to complement such imbibing, especially as it has been specifically forged to withstand the scorching heat of a dragon's fire and is thus impervious to any mere mortal brew that Nazgul can throw at it (or, indeed, in it).

It's been many years since we've had a mug featured on Honour and Darkness (fill in your own pun at this point!) but this splendid addition to the collection sits alongside similar band offerings from Hrefnesholt, Uruk Hai, Bonemachine and Hrossharsgrani.  Who knows, one day the entire family of Hugin's weird and wonderful projects could end up here, with oddly shaped Guts For Dinner tea-cups sitting proudly next to improbable offerings from ILL and Manwe.  Stranger things, and all that.

Speaking of strange things and Drachenfeuer as we were, this is a timely moment to update you a little on the project as Nazgul's original review of their "The Realm of the Light" demo was quite a while ago now, way back in May 2010.  Well, the good news is that the release will finally see the light of day this year as a double digipak release on the Austrian Talheim Records label, and well worth the wait it will be too.

As we venture boldly into 2015 we are very close to the 6th anniversary of this humble Blog, which is some achievement really and currently encapsulates some 663 different posts, including this one!  And you'd be amazed to see what items still sit on the Library shelves, patiently waiting their turn for the spotlight of fame and fortune to be shone upon them.  Items new and old, from bands very much in the forefront of Hugin's mind to some not so obvious: another interesting year awaits you, and Nazgul thanks you in advance for tuning in and being part of the fun.

Closing with a few statistics, as of today's date there have been 105,569 Flag Counter views of the Blog in total and over 146 countries around the world have now visited the site, the latest of them being Zimbabwe.  Apologies to those of you who used to enjoy the 'Year in Review' posts for yet another year ending without one: the demands of time from 'normal' life have simply meant a curtailing of the free time to regularly post entries here, as the falling trend in the number of annual posts will clearly show!  Nazgul managed just 53 new posts in 2014, which is still more (just!!) than one per week throughout the year on average, but a far cry from those heady days of 2009 (188 posts - where did the time come from?!)  

However, let's hope that we can reverse that trend and get a few more posts up on Honour and Darkness in the year ahead....