Sunday, 26 April 2015

An Interview With ... Bruder Cle


An Interview with ... BRUDER CLE 
Who's this then, Nazgul?  Bruder Cle is one of Hugin's friends from the early days of Hrossharsgrani and Uruk Hai, and is thus uniquely placed to comment upon the man and his music.

Who is Bruder Cle?

 A quick search on Google will reveal all manner of interesting photographs, magazine interviews and eulogies, many highly entertaining!  One thread - which you can find if you delve into the Internet, describes Bruder Cle as "the coolest man in the world" and amidst the inevitable debate and abuse that this statement causes we learn that Bruder Cle 'drinks Radeberger, Aventinus, Dab, Julius Echter, Warsteiner Dunkel, and Dinkel-Acker; he eats rueladen, sacher-torte, rindfleisch mit apfel, robber-steak, and Schwabisches stewed-fruit' and that 'He haunts the terrifying forests of Thuringia and the Harz Mountains.'  Sounds like quite a guy!

For most of us Huginophiles, though, the name will resonate because of numerous appearances on the credit list of early Hrossharsgrani and Uruk Hai releases in the 1999-2003 period.  As a collector of Hugin's material for many, many years it's a name I recall seeing time and time again, always being remembered and honoured in the "Hails to" list on Hugin's latest demo.  Yet until recently - and it's rather odd this, given Nazgul's natural curiosity - the thought of having a chat with the man never really crossed my mind.

To illustrate the point, here are a few of Hugin's early releases - respectively; "Ancient Tales" (tape), "Sagen & Gedichte" (CDr), "Gone With The Wind" (CDr) and "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten (CDr)" - for you to play 'spot the Bruder Cle' with... 


And then the catalyst - Hugin had mentioned that Bruder Cle had written a book ("Höllenkreis" - Circle of Hell) for which he had asked Hugin to compose a musical score.  The book - and the accompanying CD - are now imminent arrivals at Castle Nazgul and we'll examine both in the fullness of time.  The point here was that the discussion about Höllenkreis put Nazgul in contact with Bruder Cle, and an opportunity for the collection of anecdotes, stories and funny photographs about Hugin was far too good to miss!

But let's begin, if we may, with Hugin's own recollection of how the friendship came to exist:

"I met him first time in the late 90's as a result of a shared friend of ours, Karl from Napalm Records. Karl gave me his address because Bruder Cle wrote for German Ablaze Magazine in those days and I had sent him "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten" for review.  He liked it and from that day on we were friends!  He always supported my music and in late 2013 (or was it early 2014?) he asked me to do a 'soundtrack' to his book Höllenkreis. I was deeply honoured that he asked me to do this because he knows so many musicians in the metal scene: he has been part of the Austrian scene since the very early days and he played/plays in bands like Angry Angels and Siegfried."

And so, honoured readers, with the scene now set and the ale flowing freely, let us meet Bruder Cle himself, starting with his recollection of the early days of meeting Hugin...

"Well, Alex and I we met where metal heads are meant to meet each other: in the front row of a Destruction show in 1999. We head-banged, talked, found out about our similar views about metal and music in general and we stayed in contact. This contact evolved from there and we wrote to each other regularly, phoned even more often and visited each other. I can remember, when Alex visited me in Innsbruck and we had an extremely cool weekend with metal, beer and great self-cooked meals (the beer drinking was definitely on my side!). We both enjoy good food and cooking, so we cooked a typical Austrian dish: Schweinsbraten mit Knödel - a pork roast with dumplings. I remember that Alex made the dumplings (which can be a bit tricky) and he made them perfectly. It is definitely slow food because it takes hours to prepare everything."

At this juncture Hugin intervened, recalling that the Schweinsbraten mit Knöde day became known as "Doom Food Day", and culminated with a double-screening of Kill Bill 1 and 2!


Bruder Cle continues: "At that time we also started both of our active music careers and became fans of each others work. I loved his work with Hrossharsgrani, Elisabetha, Uruk-Hai and all his other projects and he liked what I did with Siegfried and Angry Angels at that time.

What can I say - we both shared the same humour, liked the same music and food. So we were friends instantly. I always admired his creativity and always wondered how fast he came up with new ideas and projects. He is the living antithesis of Def Leppard, ha ha ;) !  His fast way to work on his projects has certain effects that reflect in his music: his compositions always sound inspired by the creative moment in which he creates them. He does not stay too long with one idea or theme. You can feel that spontaneity and inspiration in all his works. Maybe the best example is the soundtrack to my book - he wrote it within days (!) only. But if you listen to it, the compositions are round and well composed. All the arrangements are in place and to me it is almost incredible how someone can come up with such high-quality compositions in such a short time. He is simply amazing.

The biggest difference between now and then is simply down to age - we all grow as personalities and the view towards life changes quite a lot. I've known Alex as a music fanatic all my life but now it is less the aspect of hunting for collectibles and music and more about the creative side and also publishing music of other artists.

The contact via Ablaze was also around that time. I was writing for that mag for a couple of years and joined Peter Schramm for issue 2. After the end of Ablaze I was writing for Rock Hard for another 10 years and now I write for Deaf Forever. I also write for Darkscene (online) mag and 'That's Metal' Mag. Before all this I issued my own mag called Paternoster and wrote for a local metal mag called Alpenfreak. So basically my writing career started in the late 80's and continues up to now. I am a metal fan though since 1979 and was a tape trader for many years, starting from around 1985 up to the mid-90's.



My other activities included being the singer and founder of the bands Siegfried and Angry Angels. With Siegfried we signed a deal with Napalm Records and issued three albums (Drachenherz, Eisenwinter, Nibelung). The lyrical content was dealing mainly with local legends and - as the name indicates - the song of the Nibelungs [Nazgul's note: 'Nibelungs' was the name given to northern dwarfs whose king had once possessed a great treasure of gold and precious stones but had lost it. Whoever got possession of this treasure was followed by a curse. The 'Nibelungenlied' tells the adventures of those who possessed the treasure].

We had three singers (clear male, dark male = me, female vox) and played a kind of epic metal. Angry Angels released two demos and were more of  a traditional metal outfit - true metal with thrash metal influences. We toured a lot in the day with bands like Jaguar, Goddess of Desire, Majesty, Wizard through Austria, Germany, The Netherlands and Italy and played quite a few festivals. A record deal was signed with Undercover records but due to financial reasons the album never materialized.  Both bands are inactive right now due to a lack of time of some members. I also was owner of a heavy metal bar in Innsbruck for several years (aside to my regular job as a bank clerk) and for a couple of years I have been the president of an organisation called Alpine Steel, which does mainly metal shows in our area."

 
It seemed a timely moment to understand a little more about Bruder Cle's own musical tastes and habits:

"Mainly I am not a collector but a lover of hard rock and heavy metal music. Of course after all those decades of tape-trading, buying records etc. I own quite a considerable collection of CDs, vinyl, tapes, books, shirts....everything metal fans normally hold dear. I listen to everything from AOR to black and death metal. Regarding any embarrassing audio-skeletons in my closet ... I don't really have any!  Items that you might thing unusual include a few (really, only a few!) CDs out of the ordinary like diverse soundtracks (Dracula, Conan, Last of the Mohicans....) and a few pieces of electronic music like Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk and also a few industrial/ambient-pieces like MZ 412, Archon Satani, In Slaughter Natives, etc.

I have a few 'normal' rock bands of the 70's and 80's in my collection like Alan Parsons Project, Bryan Adams, Tina Turner and those sorts of thing, but all in all maybe only 50 CD's that don't fall under Hard Rock or Heavy Metal. I know Alex has quite a few "unusual" pieces for a metal fan and musician, but hey, in the end it is just music and if somebody enjoys a wider variety of music: fine with me.

When it comes to rarities - of course there are numerous CDs and LPs that are quite rare. I own quite a few rare records of Mercyful Fate, Burzum, Mayhem, Slayer etc etc. and a lot of stuff from smaller bands, that are extremely rare or even unique. But I own them because they were given to me by the band itself or because I bought it when it was released. Many records came out in limited editions of 100 copies or less and I own many of these editions. But I would never collect a piece of vinyl or a CD just because it is rare. In many cases I even prefer later editions which contain bonus tracks, liner notes, rare photos etc. than original editions with only a small booklet or just a sheet like those Pricekillers CD's e.g. from the late 80's I am an metal archaeologist at best, ha ha!" 

Bruder Cle on stage with the Angry Angels at the Wögel Club, Koma, back in the early 2000's

Nazgul asked Bruder Cle about the relative lack of online coverage of Hugin's work:

"I think that Alex's music was never really meant for the mainstream underground (if such a thing exists). There are a number of reasons why you would not find many reviews of his music, especially his earlier works: His distribution net evolved throughout the years and was not so vast in the beginning. He traded many releases and the sheer number of projects and releases who were issued in very limited editions add to that scarcity as well. He also was never a man who looked back or rested at all. Sometimes I have the impression that his thoughts are always with his next project and his head is always full of fresh ideas and inspirations, so he did not spend too much time promoting his releases."

And what of the modern day music scene, of MP3-this and download-that?
 
"Back in the day when you were younger, everything was more challenging and more exciting, but that has to do with the nature of youth - your teenage years and your first musical love will always stick with you in one way or another. I remember a time even before a hard rock or the metal press even existed. You had to go to the record store to find out if, for example, a new Manowar album was out. You could not read about that anywhere.

Later in my tape-trading days it was so exciting to read fanzines or flyers, put a few dollars in an envelope along with 1-2 International Reply Coupons and wait for the package to arrive. The excitement when the parcels arrived was great!  It was so much fun and with trembling hands you opened it and put the music on. Just great! You can't get that feeling now anymore. People trade whole MP3 collections, just gigabytes of music. Only a few people buy CDs or vinyl anymore. This is pretty sad, especially since musicians don't get paid anymore for their art.

It became much cheaper to produce and publish music over the years but since most music is available as a free (mostly illegal) download no one wants to pay for music (or films) any more. As a musician you only have the chance to see your art as a hobby. I expect that more and more professional musicians will give the MP3 version of their albums away for free as a kind of advertising for their live concerts, merchandise or limited 'fan editions' that generates a bit of money. But making a living is very difficult these days. I know bands that manage to do it, but there are only few.

On the other hand, MP3 and downloads are sometimes the ONLY was for some fans to get hold of music they can't simply buy in a shop or can never afford to own. I am talking about countries in the Middle-East or Africa where it is impossible for fans out of political or economical reasons to buy stuff."

 
Sobering but fair thoughts.  It's surprising really how many visitors to Honour and Darkness come from Africa and the Middle-East, actually, but let's get back to Hugin's work:

"My favourite releases from Alex are maybe Uruk Hai "Black Blood, White Hand", all the early Hrossharsgrani-stuff and of course the soundtrack to Höllenkreis, which he wrote for my book.  My all time favourite releases would probably be:
 

  • Mercyful Fate - everything from the early days 
  • Sortilege "Sortilege"  
  • Venom "Black Metal" 
  • Possessed "Seven Churches"  
  • Manowar "Hail To England" 
  • Manilla Road "Mystification" 
but many more of course....!"
 
And of course we couldn't carry on without reference back to this new book that's in the offing...
 
"When I chose the stories for Höllenkreis out of my story collection, I picked the most horrible and gory and bloody ones!  I wanted to publish a real brutal book of blood. They are all inspired by Clive Barker, Marquis De Sade and HP Lovecraft.  It is definitely not stuff for the faint-hearted - it is dirty, gory and very disturbing stuff...."

Well, we'll enjoy a read of that in due course, and Nazgul will put some thoughts up about the book and Hugin's soundtrack to it in a future post.

Let Bruder Cle have the final words then, both to you - the honoured readership of Nazgul's Blog, and to Hugin himself:

"To all fans of Alex - keep supporting this great artistic soul!  And to Alex: keep up the good work, my friend!  Valhalla!"

Hails and thanks to Bruder Cle - definitely one of the good guys!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

ATLANTIDA COMPILATION V [V/A]


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Atlantida Compilation V  (Various Artists)
Format: Cassette tape release with professionally printed glossy cover and stock C90 tape, with an Atlantida sticker as a label.  This release is on the Atlantida label (Lithuania) as the fifth instalment in their lengthy series of compilations.  No date of release, thought to be possibly circa 1999-2001 based on the period in which songs on this tape were released, and no catalogue reference.
Edition: As for all Atlantida releases, number of actual copies unknown

Track Listing:
Side A
01. FOREFATHER  *  These Lands II
02. ARRIVAL  *  Thou Borne All Sins
03. ETERNAL DEFORMITY  *  Salvation
04. ARCKAN OBSCURA  *  The Blessed Virgin's Whoregasm
05. METAL INQUISITOR  *  Resistance Is Futile (R.I.F)
06. UNKNOWN SERENITY  *  Ode To Isis
07. ENSOPH  *  Chapter II: My Gloomy Glare
08. FLAUROS  *  Monuments Of Weakness

Side B
01. VINTAGE SOLEMNITY  *  Oiablera
02. FATAL PORTRAIT  *  Rapture...
03. HAIMAD  *  The Horned Moon
04. VALE OF TEARS  *  Where Dead Dreams Live Again
05. CRUENTION  *  Aratare
06. AMAZEROTH  *  The Arrival Of The Infernal Comet
07. AZATHOTH  *  Love Breed Hate, Sometimes
08. ETHEREAL PANDEMONIUM  *  The Children Of The Carpathian Woods
09. HROSSHARSGRANI  *  Hel - Goddess Of The Underworld

You'll need nerves of steel (or a fast-forward button on your cassette recorder) to reach the Hrossharsgrani track on this Atlantida compilation tape, being the last song of a 17 track aural assault guaranteed to leave your ears bleeding and mouth agape.

Once again Atlantida had scoured the world of metal (well, the European part of it at least!) to bring together an assortment of bands and styles, with contributions from hailing from diverse locations including Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Malta, Finland, Sweden, Austria, France, England, Turkey, and Portugal.  Some of the bands do suffer a little from the genre-wide failing of trying to have a two-word name imparting gravitas but instead generating something that only raises a chuckle - Vintage Solemnity / Fatal Portrait indeed - but there's no denying you get a bang for your buck through the 17 songs on offer.

Hrossharsgrani's offering is their 'Hell - Goddess Of The Underworld' song, the fifth track from the "Ancient Tales" album of 2000.  Immense synths at the start (sampled, most likely, from the Conan soundtrack), thundering drums, Hugin in fine mead-fuelled Viking vocal form, it's a song likely to launch a fleet of longboats and lead to pillage and despoiling on an epic scale, much like the rest of "Ancient Tales" to be fair.

In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead.  Hel is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by the wonderfully named Snorri Sturluson. In addition, she is mentioned in poems recorded in Heimskringla and Egils saga that date from the 9th and 10th centuries, respectively.

In the Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, and Heimskringla, Hel is referred to as a daughter of Loki, and to "go to Hel" is to die.  In the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Hel is described as having been appointed by the god Odin as ruler of a realm located in Niflheim.  In the same source, her appearance is described as half blue and half flesh-coloured and further as having a gloomy, downcast appearance (well, you would be with colouration like that, I suspect; one can't imagine her being asked out on many dates). The Prose Edda details that Hel rules over vast mansions with many servants in her underworld realm and played a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.

A lady worth dedicating a song to, I think it fair to say.

This early tape in the Atlantida series offers us two new pieces of information that are both interesting in their different ways.  Firstly, we have (finally!) a credit for the artwork, shown as being the creation of  Michael Schindler of Dragon Design, Germany.  Now, as Nazgul has commented on in the past, there is quite a consistent design theme throughout the totality of Atlantida compilation releases so it's not too much of a leap to suggest that Mr Schindler might well have had a hand in a great number of them, if not all.  Hailing from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria (yes, Nazgul is a font of knowledge) Michael has been responsible for many band logos and artworks since 1992 including Folkearth, who you may recall was the project founded by Atlantida label owner, Ruslanas Danisevskis.

And speaking of Ruslanas, the inlay also reveals his former contact address, being Alytaus 4, 4120 Ukmerge, Lithuania.  This seems somewhat surprising for a man who protected his privacy quite stringently, but I suppose bands had to be able to get hold of him somehow!  It transpires that Ukmergė District Municipality is in Vilnius County, Lithuania and thanks to the marvel that is Google Earth you can have a good look at where Ruslanas (presumably) once lived if you feel so inclined!  

Yes, that is a bit weird but that's the danger of sharing personal information in this fully connected internet age!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

...AND ALL THE MAGIC & MIGHT HE BROUGHT - update II


Band: URUK HAI
Title: "...And All The Magic & Might He Brought"
Reason for second update: Jewel-cased second pressing of this album on CD, with different artwork
Format: Released in September 2013 on the Fallen Angels Productions label (South Korea), catalogue reference AngeL004, as part of their 'AngeL' series.
Edition: Unnumbered edition of 500 copies

Track Listing:
01. From the Ashes 03:37
02. Far Away 06:00
03. Ancient Wisdom 05:13
04. Rise & Fall 04:57
05. Fallen Leaves 03:42
06. The Door to the Paths of the Dead 07:06
07. Valinor 02:28
08. Immortality 14:04
09. Wrath 04:07

Today's short post is to update the Blog with the third version of Uruk Hai's epic "...And All The Magic& Might He Brought" release, following our previous contemplation of the limited edition digipak pressing and the cassette tape version, which shared the same artwork if not the complete track listing.

This jewel-cased pressing has the 'standard' 9 song track listing (e.g. without bonus songs) from the first pressing, but is wrapped in artwork of an entirely different nature to the fantasy themed cover of the first album.  Indeed, the artwork here is by Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton, the English painter and sculptor.  The picture in question is his 'The Fisherman and the Syren', which he painted in 1857.  If you're keen on such things, you can see the original oil on canvas picture displayed at the Bristol City Museums and Art Gallery, in Bristol, England.  The image in the centrefold of the inlay booklet initially looks to be a different one but is actually the same picture, which has been turned sideways and then flipped over.

Leighton's works mainly depicted historical, biblical, and classical subject matter. On a note of pure trivia, Leighton was bearer of the shortest lived peerage in British history - he was created Baron Leighton of Stretton on 24 January 1896 but died on the following day, with the peerage became extinct after a life of only one day.  Mind you, if you consider that unlucky then ponder the sad cases of the two peers who 'enjoyed' their title for the shortest time: Firstly, Wilfred Carlyle Stamp, 2nd Baron Stamp, who was killed in a German air-raid on London on 16 April 1941. His father, the 1st Baron, was killed by the same bomb. However, it was assumed that the son had died after the father, even by a split-second, and on that basis the 2nd Baron was held to have succeeded to the title albeit for milliseconds!  

Alternatively, take the case of Charles Brandon, 3rd Duke of Suffolk, who succeeded to the title on the death of his brother on 14 July 1551 and died half an hour later, aged 23, of the same illness that killed his sibling - sweating sickness, also attractively known as "English sweate".  This was a mysterious and highly virulent disease that struck England, and later continental Europe, in a series of epidemics beginning in 1485. The last outbreak occurred in 1551, after which the disease apparently vanished, so our poor Duke was amongst the last of its victims.

Anyway, enough of the high and mighty and back to the 'Magic & Might', a release certain not to mysteriously vanish without trace.  Indeed, since Nazgul's original posts about this release the album has garnered a little more attention from other online sources, so this seems like a good moment to consider what a couple of other reviewers made of Uruk Hai's anniversary magnum opus:

Seance Records said, albeit rather succinctly:  

"This is what would happen if Steve Vai joined Summoning. Tolkien & Scandinavian mythology inspired ambient heavy metal which ranges from neoclassical passages to soaring guitars all blended with progressive rock, spoken word tales and clean vocals in a dark baroque rock opera."

Whilst a longer review in the German online magazine Amboss-Mag.de opined:

"Now that Uruk Hai has been deleted from the Encyclopedia Metallum because not enough 'metal' was present in its discography, it is relatively difficult to obtain comprehensive information about this project.  But following my review of "Cirith Ungol" in 2010 I do remember that the Austrian is extremely prolific.  In 2010 alone, Uruk Hai published 3 albums, 12 demos, 3 EP's, 13 split releases, 2 box-sets, 1 single and 1 compilation, with yet other bands active. That this still leads to such professionally produced music always amazes me.

The 78 minute 'Special Extended Edition' of "Cirith Ungol" I quite liked.  With "... And All The Magic Might & He Brought" Hugin does not quite match my taste. The "one-track" record of 2010 was leaning much more toward Black Metal,  roughly produced and "garnished" with typical BM screaming. "... And All The Magic Might & He Brought" has much clearer production and is different musically.  A little less guitar and more strings and synth sounds would more push this disc into the bombastic corner. In addition, in the first half there are predominantly clear vocals that do not always sit well with me. The song that impressed me most is the 14 minute "Immortality", which is with distorted guitars, a woman's voice, groovy mid-tempo double bass lines, sweet chimes and a 'children's choir'.  

On my limited-to-300 digipak version of the album, I have 4 additional bonus songs. The two and a half minute 'Legolas' interested me the most because of the title. And, unfortunately, disappointed me the most - artificial sounding folk rock that breaks off at the most interesting point. 'The End Of The Road' saves the bonus tracks though!

Although this disc to my mind is not as packed as the last Uruk Hai album it is really good, even though I was expecting something else. Once again I bow to the Austrian's productivity and quality. I am looking forward to the next release."


Somewhat mixed sentiments expressed there, which in many ways tallies with Nazgul's original review of the album.  It's one of those 'fine wine' releases I expect: if you drink it too quickly in anticipation of a classic vintage then you're almost certainly not going to enjoy it as much as leaving it to mature quietly for a few years to revisit when the time is right.

This particular pressing seems relatively common at the moment, based on a quick look at the usual places to buy these sorts of albums, so there's really no excuse for not adding it to your collection.  After all, there was a time when the "Honour" demo tape was relatively common on eBay, but time inexorably moves on and the commonplace is soon the 'hard-to-find' item of the future....

Thursday, 9 April 2015

SHORES OF HEAVEN


Band: HUGIN
Title: Shores Of Heaven
Format: 2 x CDr on plain silver discs with hand-written titles, accompanied by bespoke cover artwork.  Created by Hugin at W.A.R. Studios in 2014, no catalogue reference or other details.
Edition: Only this 1 copy believed to exist

Track Listing:

CDr1:
01. Relax I  57.23

CDr2:
01. Relax II  33.03

Almost buried at the far end of the formal gardens at Castle Nazgul, overgrown with vines and creepers, sits a small wooden outbuilding.  Surrounded by mouldy rat-gnawed bones, moss covered, and shrouded by the perpetual gloom of twilight, this building is home to some to some of the most gruesome of activities witnessed within the feared walls of Nazgul's abode.  Occasional screams of a heart-rending nature are emitted from within its shadowy depths, dispersing into the misty night air like ghostly wraiths.  It is a location of pain and fear for some, and only entered by those few with the keys to its mysterious inner sanctum.  It is the lair of Lady Nazgul, whose skills as a professional beautician are in high demand from the local gentry's womenfolk....

But joking aside, the work place of Lady Nazgul does sit within the grounds of Castle Nazgul, and is a lovely place to be pampered.  To aid with the ambience of this profession, the good Lady is in the habit of playing appropriately relaxing music to her customers to set the right mood amongst drapes, candles and hand-crafted items of furniture.

And who better than Hugin to assist with this relaxation process?!  Very kindly, Hugin created two CDr packed with ambient noises, natural and ethereal soundscapes, and enchanting melodies and sent it to Lady Nazgul for use in her work.  And very well received it has been too, with more than one customer enquiring about the music during the course of their treatment.

You would be correct in your identification of the cover image as being from the 13th century Burgruine Waxenberg in upper Austria, which has featured on a number of Hugin's releases over the years.  And what could be more appropriate than using a location that includes the prefix 'Wax', given some of the terrifying activities that occur around the most sensitive of feminine areas involving that particular medium...!

You'll not be surprised to learn that neither of these discs features harsh black metal 'vokills', heavy percussive attacks or raucous guitar riffage.  No indeed, instead the pair of songs gently carry you off into a personal reverie of relaxation and calm, with gentle melodies mixing with chimes, ambient sounds of water and wind, and comforting passages of peace and tranquility.  And - very thoughtfully - Hugin has provided one song of about an hour and one of around half an hour to fit in with Lady Nazgul's treatment lengths.  Cunning as a fox, that man...

It's not a million miles away from some of the gentler tracks that might pop up on an Uruk Hai album, although if you heard this music out of context (say, walking through a garden centre) you'd not necessarily pick up on the fact immediately that this was Hugin's work.

"Shores Of Heaven" is not available in the shops, nor is it likely to appear anywhere else for the foreseeable future (that said, there's every chance that some of this music may find it's way onto other releases as we know Hugin is an inveterate recycler of his material). The music has been heard elsewhere though - at a health convention at the Elia church in Linz, the programme for the day being our final photograph in this post!  For the time being, however, if you yearn to hear these archaic tunes for yourself then feel free to book yourself onto a package at Castle Nazgul and let the good Lady deal with you accordingly.

Countess Bathory, eat your heart out....! 

Elia's programme of activity for the health convention - spot Mr and Mrs Wieser...
Don't break the circle of trust...

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Happy Birthday, 2015!

Mummy, when I grow up I want to be a tattooed rock star...

What's all this then, Nazgul?  Why, it's our annual birthday celebratory bash for Hugin...

Once again we've reached the point in the year to celebrate the birthday of Alexander "Hugin" Wieser, born 46 years ago this very day.  As the readership of this blog spans the four corners of the planet, feel free to shout "Happy Birthday!" in the language of your choice to help the man celebrate his big day!

In past years Nazgul has marked this anniversary in a variety of ways, and this year it seemed like a good plan to raid the photo archive to have a quick resume of Alex's interaction within the rock and metal community: yes, it's 'lifestyles of the rich and famous' meets Honour and Darkness in a mash-up too good to ignore!  

Let's dive straight in with some rare pictures - some probably never published online before - of our hero amidst a motley crew (no, not that Motley Crue) of rock stars past, present and (possibly) future....

...and here's a snap of Alex with M:Pire Of Evil, hanging out on the streets after a blitzkrieg gig in some unsuspecting European town.  The characters here are Alex, the Demolition Man Tony Dolan, the enigmatically named 'Merch Girl' (!) and Marc Jackson (the former drummer).  No Mantas in this pictured, sadly, but maybe next time....


And speaking of Tony Dolan, we don't need an excuse to post another picture of Alex with him alongside the many we've shown in the Blog previously, so here they are again in a recent selfie, with Tony practicing for a visit to his dentist:


Now, moving into some darker and more mysterious waters, the next couple of pictures feature our hero with people who have been named (though not pictured, from memory) in Honour and Darkness historically, and who are long standing friends of Alex's: the first shows Alex with Gerhard Hallstadt of Austrian folk-metal band Allerseelen, and the second quite extraordinary pose feaures none other than Dimo Dimov from Svarrogh (who have done split releases with Ravenclaw) and Miel Noir (ditto, with Bonemachine).  Always nice to put a face to the name, and in that pose not a face you'd forget in a hurry....

Strange things lurk in the storeroom of Steinklang Industries
Moving on, and as Monty Python were prone to say, "and now for something completely different". Who is this well travelled rock star sharing a thumbs-up moment with our Austrian hero?  Flowing white locks, expensive watch, posh-looking hotel bar location - any guesses....?


Why, it's none other than Terry Uttley from Smokie!  You know Smokie, they did the "Living Next Door To Alice" single, amongst a host of other hits. Funnily enough, the Yorkshire Evening Post (Smokie being a northern band, you know) said once, "Terry Uttley is the frontman of one of the world's most successful bands – Smokie – but you probably wouldn't recognise him in the street" so you'd be forgiven for not knowing him, to be fair.  They've been around since 1964 have Smokie, which pre-dates Alex's birth by a good few years!

Here's a blast from the past, in the sense that you'll have seen some of these pictures before.  But we could hardly celebrate Alex's rock and roll lifestyle without these 3 geezers, variously seen at gigs around the UK in years past during some high jinks on tour.  So without further ado, let's welcome back to Honour and Darkness Joe Matera, Trevor Sewell and Steve Harley all of whom are perfectly splendid individuals and would join with us wishing the main man the best for his birthday:


But for all of you looking for that world exclusive picture, here's a corker for the history books: Alex with Schmier from German thrash legends Destruction.  Apparently, the cameraman was under instructions not to shoot the picture until he could see the whites of Schmier's eyes....


And to finish, here's a picture to dispel the long-standing myth that Alex/Hugin has never performed on stage. Clearly incorrect, as the evidence of your own eyes will now demonstrate:


What's happening here, you ask?  It's 2002, and Alex and his friend Pepo are on stage at a Medieval Festival singing the medieval song 'Männer mit Bärte' ('Men With Beards' - probably best not to ask...), having been picked from the audience and asked to sing with the band - at least Pepo was actually sporting a beard for the occasion!

Earth-shattering stuff, you'd have to agree, and a quite ridiculous way to end another year of birthday celebration shenanigans!

Happy birthday, Alex!

Friday, 3 April 2015

THE SWORD OF REVENGE


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Sword Of Revenge
Format: There are 2 versions of this release: The first, a professional CDr package with picture disc self released on Winterwolf Records (Germany) in December 2014.  The second and more limited edition version was self-released on W.A.R. Productions (Austria) as a cassette tape with colour cover and three special photo inlays, cat ref WAR 089.  Both versions contain the same songs, which were recorded in November 2014.
Edition:  The CDr pressing is limited to 100 unnumbered copies.  The tape version is limited to only 10 hand-numbered copies.

Track Listing:
01. The Sword Of Revenge  8.21
02. King Elendil of the Dúnedain  14.15
03. Narsil  2.47 

We begin the month of April with another visit to that most fertile of musical pastures - Uruk Hai.  Since the end of 2014 there has been quite the deluge of Uruk Hai tape and CD/CDr releases coming out of the bowels of W.A.R. Productions, many in extremely limited editions and formats.  Of these, some contain songs later compiled onto releases of larger edition numbers, so there's a good chance you'll be able to hear all of the songs if you keep your eyes peeled, but not such strong odds that every variant of the physical copies will find their way into your possession.  The cruel fickle hand of fate and collecting...


"Sword Of Revenge" falls somewhere in the middle of this continuum: it's not the most limited edition of the latest releases, and indeed at the time of writing this copies are floating round in the usual online auction haunts, so one might imagine that obtaining a copy won't be such a trial.  So let's assume that you'll be able to lay your sticky fingers on a copy; what will it look and sound like?

Well for starters there's a new style font for the band logo, which is replicated in the overall text of the title and track listing.  It's called 'Across The Road', Hugin tells me, and looks rather stylish in a modernist, chic sort of way.  Hugin is at pains to note that this is not a new logo for Uruk Hai, but merely the result of his artistic experimentation!  As is increasingly the case, Hugin hasn't just composed the music here but has also created all of the artwork himself too, which is certainly striking and entirely in keeping with the epic feel that Uruk Hai should impart.  It reminded Nazgul of something he'd seen before, which eventually came back to me as being the cover of the debut album "Out Of The Silent Planet" by Kings X!

This forms something of a mini-concept album, as the story of the 'Sword of Power' is based on that of Narsil, from Lord of the Rings.  As a Tolkien aficionado you will recall that Narsil is the famous sword of King Elendil from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Elendil was the first High King of both Arnor and Gondor. He was a friend and ally of Gil-galad, and together they formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men in the Second Age. Together they marched upon Mordor and at last Sauron was overthrown.  

The Last Alliance had the victory, but both Gil-galad and Elendil were slain during the war.  Elendil’s sword, Narsil, was broken, and the One Ring was taken, but not destroyed. Sauron was for a time vanquished and Isildur - who cut the the One Ring from Sauron's finger with the remnants of the hilt of Narsil - became the High King of the Dúnedain.  Narsil's shards were used to forge into a new sword, Anduril, which was used by Aragorn.

Now, this was an album that had been playing on Nazgul's death-deck for quite some weeks ahead of this post being drafted.  In part, this was to allow the music to properly soak in and be absorbed by Nazgul's tired old brain cells, as on the first couple of airings I'd get to the end and think something on the lines of, "Hmmm - I enjoyed that" and then find my mind a total blank when it came to writing something about it.  The music does grow on you over time, however, much like the mildew that creeps up around the hem of Nazgul's tattered cloak.  Pervasive and persuasive in equal part, this is a very good representation of modern Uruk Hai and packs a lot of punch into what might seem like a rather short track listing.


The tail end of 'The Sword Of Revenge' itself finds some harsh vocals making an appearance in what had otherwise to that point been an engrossing instrumental track, which takes a little getting used to and doesn't quite seem to gel with the song as perhaps it should.  But then, aside from the introductory sounds of battle and swordplay (almost reminiscent of early Hrossharsgrani demos, though rather better in sound quality!) the rest of the song, conversely, is packed with lush instrumentation and classic Uruk Hai touches, so it's an odd juxtaposition that doesn't quite come off to these ears.  Lose the last minute or two, however, and you're back on track again!

The best song on this release by some margin is the longest one - 'King Elendil of the Dúnedain'.  It's an absolute blinder, with everything you could possibly wish to hear from Hugin's most popular project.  Titanic guitar riff - check.  Fabulous melodies and spooky keyboard sections - check.  Multi-part song structure that does integrate effectively, despite containing two very different styles of song at either end of this track - check, and mate. The best 14 minutes listening you'll experience this year.  At times haunting, at times galloping along like a Elven raiding party, there's so much going on here you'll need a good few listens to fully comprehend just what Hugin has achieved here.

And finale track 'Narsil' is no slouch either, despite being a mere sub-three minutes in duration.  Plenty of atmosphere and interest packed into that time-frame, and an upbeat way to conclude what has been a cracking little album.