Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Tribute to Ruslanas Danisevskis

Ruslanas Danisevskis
What's this then, Nazgul?  A little something to mark the anniversary of the sad passing of Ruslanas Danisevskis (ex-Ravenclaw) at the end of June 2013.


So today's post brings together a few disparate elements into a tribute to a fallen comrade: Ruslanas Danisevskis, former partner in crime with Hugin in Ravenclaw but better known for his involvement in Folkearth and associated collaborative projects, and for running his own Atlantida Productions label.

It was through Atlantida that Nazgul first became aware of Ruslanas; this small Lithuanian label would periodically issue a tape or CD collection of various bands in which the occasional song by Hrossharsgrani or Elisabetha would feature, along with a host of bands from all around the world.  Over time, Ravenclaw songs became something of a semi-permanent fixture, being a newly formed project featuring the prolific pairing of Hugin and Ruslanas.

Truth be told, in Nazgul's limited experience in trying to contact the man, Ruslanas didn't seem the easiest person to get on with: approaching him with an interview request back in the day produced an entirely negative response and a demand (it's the only way to put it) that his name be removed from Honour and Darkness reviews - despite it being in the public domain already elsewhere online - hence some wonky looking editing of older Ravenclaw posts where 'R******* D**********' still appears in a few places!

Notwithstanding his views on Nazgul's humble mission, there's no question that R******* - sorry, Ruslanas as we can now refer to him as - certainly had the passion and drive to keep more than a few prominent musical projects on the go simultaneously, and clearly worked in partnership very effectively with his peers.  We all have our off days, and as we know Ruslanas was not a well man, so Nazgul is perfectly willing to be guided by the general feeling in the metal community about Ruslanas' passion for music and overall bonhomie. So in the spirit of international cooperation and as a tribute to one of Hugin's former band mates, Nazgul has put together a few things for today's post in honour of the man and his label.

Firstly we have the long-promised and finally delivered pictures of the complete Atlantida compilation collection.  Secondly, we have what might well amount to a world exclusive interview with the man who created the Artwork for these compilations and for some of Atlantida's other releases, Mike Schindler of Dragon Design.  Mike has gone out of his way not only to respond fulsomely to Nazgul's questioning, but has also shared some previously unseen material that makes for a great interview. Next, Nazgul has unearthed a rare interview with Ruslanas from way back, in which you'll have a chance to read the words of the man himself about his passion for music.  I told him that he'd get interviewed in Honour and Darkness eventually....!  And finally, we end with a tribute to Ruslanas paid by his former Folkearth colleagues in the form of their 2014 release "Balder's Lament". 

So let's kick it all off with.....

The Atlantida Compilation Series:  

The Atlantida series volumes 1-22
As featured in Honour and Darkness posts over the years, a series compiled by Ruslanas to showcase pan-European metal and make it accessible to the masses.  Firstly being on tape only, and then in CDr format from Volume 9, it's a real mish-mash of music spanning virtually every metal genre.  Inevitably some of it is of lower quality than other contributions, but hey - he could only work with what he was sent!


Occasional odd volumes do come up for sale online, though not every one contains a Hugin-related band so fans of our Austrian hero should tread with care.  One of these fine days when he's got the time, Nazgul intends to update the Discogs site for the complete collection of tracks (to do so here would be unnecessarily time and space consuming, and we've much to fit in anyway).


Here, however, are some pictures of the complete Volumes 1-23 for your interest and edification.  I've not seen a complete set pictured before, so if nothing else it is something of an appropriate moment to gather them all together.  You can clearly see a similarity in the artwork on these releases, and that's specifically because there was one man responsible for the covers - one Mike Schindler, who worked on a few projects with Ruslanas over the years.  So let's meet him....


The Mike Schindler / Dragon Design interview:

Mike Schindler
Nazgul was thinking - given the focus on Atlantida Productions - that it would be interesting to hear from the man who created the very recognisable artwork for this series.  With a little diligent research Nazgul tracked down the man behind the airbrush as Mike Schindler, of German based Dragon Design.  We were briefly acquainted with Mike in the update post for Ravenclaw's "Zalgiro Musis" release.


Can you tell us a little about yourself - how you came to work as an artist in this area, and your background as an artist?  What inspires you creatively?  

I have actually studied at a School of Graphic Design for 3 years, but at this time computers weren't a current part of designing, so I started out by drawing everything by hand.  But, I've since met somebody there who showed me to work with an airbrush and I still use this technique.

At this time I was a 'Metalhead' already, I loved bands like Rainbow (with Dio), Iron Maiden, King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, that performed not only fantastic music but also had the cover artworks I loved.  I think the first cover I was inspired by was Rainbow's 'Rainbow Rising', drawn by Kelly as far as I remember!  Furthermore, when I was in school I was already one of these guys who painted on everything I had, schoolbooks, envelopes etc....just any piece of paper I found!

During the years I got inspired from more bands and visual aspects of course, like nature, movies, other artists and so on.  About my taste in music, I still listen to the old bands and Dio or Maiden will be my all-time faves, but I like a lot epic Black Metal, folk with heavy guitars and Swedish Death Metal, so it’s a mixture of the 'old school' Metal styles.

How did you first become involved with Ruslanas - did he come to you for some cover art or a band logo, was it for the Atlantida series or another project, etc?

Well, I don't remember the year exactly, but computers weren't around to use for the usual email exchange at this time, so I received  my first letter from Ruslanas by snail-mail.  He knew my address from the Norwegian Oskorei Magazine for which I did 2 covers at this time, so he asked me whether I could help him with a logo and a magazine cover in exchange for advertising space in his 'Zine.  I agreed and so a quite long cooperation started, beginning with the Atlantida logo itself, and 2 black and white drawings for his magazine, which you can see below.


What were your impressions and memories of your contact with Ruslanas?

Well, of course it was by snail-mail… I was in contact with many underground bands, fanzines etc. at this time; some days I wrote 4 or 5 letters by hand including flyers etc. and so did the others too, there was no time to exchange any personal matters, it was more on the lines of "I want to feature this band in my 'Zine" etc. etc.  If you liked that style and the letter sounded friendly (and Ruslanas indeed wrote very politely and friendly letters), an agreement was made, more or less… although, of course, only if people liked my drawings for their project!!

How were the  designs for Atlantida compilations created?  Were you given free reign to do as you wished, or was there a brief from Ruslanas about what he wanted?

It was as free as I wanted, because I didn’t charge any money from Ruslanas …  he liked them all, but some day he came to a point where he was more focused on the Folk-Metal style and I tried to go a bit more in this direction, so that’s why at last the Folkearth albums have this Celtic orientated style.

Do you have any particular favourites from the covers you did for Ruslanas?

Well, I think it was the last cover art I did for him, for Folkearth's "Fatherland", because it was a picture mixed from a photo and a hand drawn illustration.  The photo shows the view out of the window where I work, directly in front of my house. The view has a bit changed since that time, two of the trees aren't there anymore and it was taken in October or November so the fog and the image kind of represented our style of living over here, it's like of a piece of remembrance for me. The hand drawn head in the sky above also became a shirt-motif for Folkearth, so I think it was quite suitable for the whole project.


If you had to show a stranger just one of your cover artworks as being the best example of your work, which would you choose (for any project you've worked on) and why?

That's kind of a difficult question, because usually I most like the picture I'm currently actually working on.  A better question would be which pictures are most known by people, so I show those around to get more clients, ha, ha…!

I think cover art for Cryptopsy, X- Wild, Witchfynde, Soul Demise,Thrudvangar or Violation had spread my name pretty well and also shirt- designs for Mystic Circle or Crematory.  I don't know -  maybe people should decide by themselves which one the like most, just visit my site

What do you consider to be the best album cover you've ever seen, and also the best band logo you've ever seen?

Also not easy to answer, there are so many awesome artists around and all of them have their own amazing style!  I like  the Giger covers a lot, also the work of Dan Seagrave, Mark Riddick, Kris Verwimp (also their logos), Kelly of course  (because as I told you, his work inspired me a lot), but there would be so many more I could mention.  Maybe at least one example though, the cover of Iron Maiden’s "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" is amazing, and also their Live LP "Live after Death", that kind of style!
 
Tell us a little about what Dragon Designs is up to now:  what projects you are currently working on, where can people go online to see your work, etc?

Well, besides some shirt designs I offer here and there to some companies I finished 2 CD's last year for the Brazilian Band Iron Woods, well 3 if you include the layouts for them. Great Band, and a very nice and serious cooperation, I like this project a lot!

Then there's my current lay-out- work for Einheit Produktionen, and G.U.C., 2 German labels involved in the underground, but also with great bands like Sorgsvart, Thrudvangar, No Mans Land, Andras, Demogorgon, and so on.  There's a new project planned which I can't tell anyone yet, but it will be an honour to work for them.  Besides of that we run our own little label Medusa Productions, you should check out our releases, there are Bands like Dead Emotions, Burn My Shadows, Abrogation or Scared To Death, you can order those CD's directly from our homepage and find out all the relevant information about them there.

Here again are our contact details:  
dragoninfo@dragondesign666.de   
www.dragondesign666.de  
info@medusarecords.net  
www.medusarecords.net

I would be glad if you visit our sites and to you Nazgul, many thanks for your interest and the interview!

Be nice to Demons
Mike/Dragon Design



The Ruslanas Danisevskis interview

This vintage interview with Ruslanas has been retrieved from one of those long forgotten parts of the Internet, dusted down, spruced up and recycled for your enjoyment.  Originally conducted by Nick  "William_Kidd" Parastatidis for the Greek AzrielKris site, it might help give us an insight into the mind of Metfolvik himself and how some of what he envisioned as the future for what Ravenclaw might sound like morphed into other projects. It rather nicely leads off with reference to our old friend, Hugin....

HELLO!  FIRST OF ALL I'D LIKE YOU TO TELL US THE REASON FOR CREATING RAVENCLAW.  IS IT JUST A 'FUN PROJECT' OR DO YOU WORK TO PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS?
At first I got proposal from my friend Alex (of Hrossharsgrani) to create one track for my compilation.  After that we liked result and had an idea to release a full album. I can't say that we are professionals but we like what we do very much!  And I hope that people like Ravenclaw.

YOUR MUSIC BROUGHT TO MY MIND BANDS LIKE IN THE  WOODS AND BATHORY - DO YOU AGREE?  CAN YOU NAME SOME OF YOUR OTHER INFLUENCES?  DO YOU USE ELEMENTS FROM THE MUSICAL TRADITION OF YOUR COUNTRY, LITHUANIA?
I can't say that we have influences from other bands, we have our sound I think.  We don't copy other bands, and our influences are a little different: firstly Viking metal, secondly pagan/folk (with all lyrics in Lithuanian).  We don't choose Lithuanian music motifs because all of the music is created by Alex, who lives in Austria.  And on our second album we have a new member Dimo Dimov, a Bulgarian living in Germany!  But it's possible in the next album fans can hear some Lithuanian music motifs, I have some ideas.....

YOU ALSO OWN A RECORD LABEL UNDER THE NAME ATLANTIDA PRODUCTIONS.  WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO CREATE THIS LABEL AND WHAT CAN YOU OFFER TO THE BANDS?
Yes you are right!  I started with Atlantida releases in 1999 and started release compilation tapes. 7 volumes were released in tape form and from volume 8 I release on CDr.  At this moment I am collecting bands for volume 23, with volumes 1-22 featuring more than 300 bands!  If you are interesting in more information then visit www.brutalism.com/atlantida  Also I re-released black metal band Empty some years ago and in 2003 I started to issue split releases: Primal Dawn/Outrage; Ravenclaw/Svarrogh.  Anyone interested in those releases can contact me by email.

ATLANTIDA ALSO RELEASES PERIODICALLY COMPILATIONS WITH METAL BANDS. HOW MANY COMPILATIONS HAVE YOU RELEASED SO FAR AND WITH WHAT CRITERIA DO YOU SELECT THE BANDS THAT WILL PARTICIPATE? WHICH COMPILATIONS OF YOURS SOLD THE MOST? DO METAL FANS BUY COMPILATION CD'S?!
Yes. And when I started with compilations I never thought that one day I would be looking for bands for volume 23!  I'm happy that these can help and give support for underground bands.  All bands welcome, ask me for more details for putting your tracks on future releases!  I support all kinds of metal, except grind, core, noise.  Each volume from Volume 8 onwards were released in an edition of 1000 copies and have sold around 500-800 copies.

ARE YOU PREPARING ANY NEW RELEASES FROM ATLANTIDA?  IF YES, COULD YOU GIVE US SOME INFO ABOUT THEM?
I am working with Primal Dawn (death metal from Ireland) and on a split with Outrage (death metal from Austria), and also with black metal band Empty.  There is also a split release between Ravenclaw (pagan/folk from Lithuania/Austria/Bulgaria) being a split with Svarrogh (Pagan metal from Bulgaria). And more releases will be out soon!!

YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC AS PAGAN/VIKING METAL AND MY QUESTION TO YOU IS WHAT IS THE CONNECTION  BETWEEN YOUR COUNTRY AND THE VIKINGS?
We can't find a connection...the reason was that I and Alex like history, old times, Vikings, etc.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE OTHER BAND THAT PARTICIPATES ON YOUR SPLIT CD?
If you mean Svaroggh I like this band very much (Dimo Dimov plays in this band and he has also been a member of Ravenclaw since 2003).  Great band with some folk influences!!!

HOW DID THE FANS AND PRESS RECEIVE RAVENCLAW'S MUSIC?  DID YOU HAVE ANY OFFERS FROM OTHER LABELS FOR AN OFFICIAL RELEASE?
We don't do what we do for it to be popular ... but what can I say.... many peoples like our band!  But - there are people who don't like our band!  You know it never will be good for everyone. Our first album will be re-release on tape in Portugal.

I THINK THAT YOU ALSO RELEASE A FANZINE?  TELL US A FEW THINGS ABOUT IT. ARE YOU STILL RELEASING IT OR HAVE YOU STOPPED?
Yes I released "Atlantida" in 1998-99, with two issues printed.  But I had some problems, also some peoples ripped me off so I stopped with my 'zine.

DO YOU KNOW ANY GREEK METAL BANDS? IF YES, WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE ONE? CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK OF THE GREEK METAL SCENE?
Of course!  I know a lot of about Greece and other metal scenes!  I know about 50 bands form your country:  Bands like Septic Flesh, Thou Art Lord, Varathron, Dark Vision, Wolfcry and many more! I like Greek bands very much - you have a distinctive sound, I think.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR LIVE SHOWS?  WHAT SHOULD FANS EXPECT FROM A RAVENCLAW LIVE SHOW?  SHARE SOME OF YOUR EXPERIENCES FROM YOUR LIVE SHOWS WITH US... ?
I think that it is impossible for our band - although we are only 3 members everyone live in different countries...

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE THAT DOESN'T KNOW YOU, IN ORDER TO INTRIGUE HIM?  WHAT IS YOUR MOST APPEALING ELEMENT WOULD YOU SAY?
I'm in metal since '85, and if someone is interested in my releases they can contact with me without problem!

IF YOUR MUSIC WERE AN EMOTION, WHAT WOULD IT BE?  IF IT WERE A PAINTING, WHAT WOULD IT SHOW?
Hard questions :0)

IF YOU HAD AN OFFER  TO DO A VIDEO-CLIP, WHICH SONG OF YOURS WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND HOW DO YOU VISUALISE IT?
I can say only my opinion. Probably it would be a track from the split CD, I think the track about victory (this album is about one of the biggest battles that Lithuanian soldiers participated in). If you don't know, Lithuania is the last pagan country in the world...

IF WE ARE ALL JUST A WORD IN THE GREAT BOOK OF CREATION, CAN YOU SAY WHICH WORD COULD DESCRIBE YOU BEST?  CAN YOU ALSO IMAGINE WHAT KIND OF AUTHOR WOULD BE THE CREATOR OF THIS BOOK AND WHY?
I think that the most important words for me are 'Metal Music'. I think that music helps you have many friends around the world.

LET'S SUPPOSE THAT WE LIVE IN A WORLD WITHOUT MUSIC.  WHAT WOULD YOU DO IN SUCH A CASE?
I can't understand life without music. However, besides music I like sports a lot, I train in body-building, and play basketball and football.

WHAT MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE COMPOSED?
In a historical movie or a movie about the battles of the ancient  times...

THANK YOU!  HAVE I FORGOTTEN TO ASK YOU ANYTHING AND YOU'D LIKE TO MENTION?
Thank you very much for the great questions!  I hope that my answers will be interesting for your readers!  I want to send my regards to all metal-heads, and if someone is interested in my releases he can visit my webpage and/or he can contact with me by email: atlantida@takas.lt


and finally, to end our tribute:

"Balder's Lament"

Metfolvik had the idea to create an international Viking folk metal band, gathering various musicians around the world. His plan became reality in 2004, when he founded Folkearth. After their first releases, he decided to form a second band, with many former band mates from Folkearth, as he wanted to expand beyond the Viking theme. So Folkodia was born in 2007, giving the opportunity to its band members to add elements from their local folklore, both in music and lyrics. Folkodia (by this time hosting 11 musicians from 7 countries: Greece, France, Lithuania, Italy, Monaco, Argentina and Germany) released their final album "The Fall of the Magog" in May 2013, just one month before Ruslanas' death.

Back to Folkearth however, who in 2014 released the album "Balder's Lament", which was dedicated to Ruslanas. There is a unique version of this album, only issued to friends and colleagues of the band, which comes with a special slip-case around the standard CD as illustrated below:


A very nice touch, and a fitting way to end this tribute post to a lost brother.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

THE ABYSS


Band: When We Live (featuring Alexander Wieser)
Title: The Abyss
Format:  Available as a physical CDr release on the Smell The Stench label (Australia), no catalogue reference, and as downloadable tracks on Bandcamp.  Both were recorded as collaborative pieces between Russian project When We Live and our old chum, Hugin.  The song was recorded in Autumn 2014 and released in 2015.
Edition: Limited to 24 hand-numbered copies in CDr format.  The download version remains unlimited in availability.

Track Listing:
01. The Abyss (promo version)  2.14

When we last encountered the collaboration between When We Live and Hugin we were "Frozen In Time" and quite literally in the middle of a December cold snap here at Castle Nazgul.  And it can get very chilly at the Castle, perched as it is on a rocky crag at the highest point for miles around and blasted by Arctic winds that shakes the very tiles from the roof-tops.  Since that time, however, a Spring thaw has taken place, raising the water levels and leading us deep underwater, into "The Abyss"...

Formally released online on 18 May 2015, and a bit before that by Smell The Stench for the physical copy you see pictured above, this is a short track and very much in keeping with the style of music composed by these two projects in the past.  When Nazgul says a short release, this is one of those strange CDr discs that - on my car stereo at least - loops around again and again, meaning that on first listen it seemed like a repetitive and ever-cycling song until I realised what was going on.  In some respects it works quite well in that format though, becoming almost trance-like and hypnotic in nature, which adds a new dimension to it.

Credits for the work are shown on the Bandcamp pages, but can be summarised thus:  

"Music by Kirill Makushin, Alexander Wieser and Jerry Norton
Sounds and Effects by Jerry Norton and Kirill Makushin
Alexander Wieser: Electric Guitar / Keyboard / Final Mix
Jerry Norton: Synth / Mixed / Mastered
Kirill Makushin: Synthesizer / Accordion"


An abyss, generally speaking, can be defined in a number of ways: physically it is a vast chasm: a deep, immeasurable space, gulf, or cavity; more esoterically it is anything profound, unfathomable, or infinite.  It's also a popular word in the medium of television, film and music, with more than a few metal bands having used the word for their own song-titles - Stratovarius, Sepultura and Lionsheart being but three.

Due to the 'trilling' nature of the instrumentation at the song's outset this very much gives me the impression of being set in a rain forest rather than under the oceans, but whatever the setting it's a lovely little piece vibrant with colour but tranquil at one and the same time.  Assuming you play the thing through just the once (as opposed to Nazgul's seeming never-ending version!) it's short and sweet, leaving you wanting to hear it again - always the sign of a decent tune.

Let's finish off with a quote from the movie, The Abyss, and if you've never seen it prepare to be flummoxed: "So, raise your hand if you thought that was a Russian water tentacle..."

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

SCHATTENKRIEGER - update

Spot the newest member of the Schattenkrieger family....
CD Maximum pressing on the right

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Schattenkrieger
Reason for update: To acknowledge a (very) slightly different pressing of the album, on CD-Maximum, catalogue reference CDM 0403-1349.

Cast your eye over the original review of Schattenkrieger and you may recall the somewhat strained relations that existed between Hugin and CCP Records by the time the album was finally issued.

The reason for today's short post is to acknowledge another entry in the discography of Hrossharsgrani, albeit one likely to throw petrol onto a simmering fire as Hugin wasn't aware of it's existence until Nazgul mentioned it to him, and I only found out by chance whilst pottering around on Discogs one afternoon.  The inevitable questions surrounding royalities etc are murky and probably best not mentioned here...

It's a CD-Maximum release, and if you're aware of this Russian label you'll know their licensed releases are for the Russian and Baltic State territories only.  Indeed, the online blurb for the label states:

"Based in Moscow, CD-Maximum is one of the leading Russian labels. Unlike many of its contemporaries, their label adheres to a strict policy of complying with both International and Russian copyright laws.  When signing exclusive manufacturing, marketing& distribution deals with foreign labels in Europe, Asia & North America, CD-Maximum agrees to sell their legally licensed, re-packaged, re-labeled merchandise within Russia, CIS and the Baltic States only and will not export their moderately priced products abroad.  CD-Maximum's A&R department has signed numerous Russian bands to their label, and promotes and distributes those works internationally."

There's a reasonable amount of online debate about this label (and others like it) who release cheaper albeit licensed material, as whilst not a bootleg it generally has inferior printing quality and the discs are alleged to degrade faster than 'Western' pressings.  True or not, it's not hard to come across meterial on CD-Maximum online, and often they will come packaged with another album or additional songs from EP's or singles to make a 2-in-1 style package (Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath being two bands who have had releases in this vein). 

Looking at the two releases there's a few obvious differences between them on the back, although the cover is exactly the same.  The CD-Maximum pressing has no barcode, and adds the label logo next to that of CCP Records on the rear tray inlay.  It also replaces the CCP copyright and publication details with their own blurb, part Cyrillic and part English (the latter stating, 'This CD must not be sold outside Russia, CIS & Baltic States').

The disc itself is a more yellowy-golden colour than the CCP Records original, whilst the inner circle of the disc itself has both the CD-Maximum label name and catalogue number (it's plain silver on the CCP original).  Apart from these small differences in design, it's the same throughout.  The date of release on the back says 2003, which is only a year after the original was released, which does seem odd as this has only just surfaced as far as I'm aware.  Perhaps it was the date CCP licensed the album to CD Maximum even if the latter only chose to release it sometime later?

Strictly one for the completists, the 17 songs here are exactly the same as on the CCP version (no additional material here, then!) and if you've already tracked down the original Austrian pressed version then you really don't need to source this one.

Friday, 19 June 2015

ODIUM / URUK HAI split

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Untitled split with Odium
Format: Professionally released CDr in DVD size case, released on the Aschefruehling Records label (Germany) in 2014, no catalogue reference.
Edition: 33 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:  
All songs are untitled
Odium: Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13
Uruk Hai: Tracks 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12

Ye Gods - run for the hills, it's a split release featuring Odium!  The 'musical' output of this band is quasi-legendary and has seen a whole load of negative criticism and vitriolic abuse thrown at it, mostly by solitary band member Phil Knight himself!  You may recall the interview with Odium from December 2013, a terrifying process for reviewer and reader alike, and one that probably lowered tourism figures into Wales for many months afterwards.  

The Ungodly One, Mr Knight, alluded to this split release in that very interview, noting that:


"It was a planned split. The label at the time was interested until they heard my contribution. The label owner then had massive and unsightly anal leakage, passed out and had his eyes eaten out by a leprous badger. I then released my contribution as Odium 'Solitude'. It's nice to see the original plan come to fruition."

Good to know that the Aschefruehling label has a sufficiently strong stomach to release this split unto the world!

It's on the basis of that interview that the identity of Odium's songs have been pieced  together in the track listing shown below, as there's no detail whatsoever in the packaging as to what music is from either band.  All we know from the rear inlay is that - for both bands - they were songs recorded circa 2005, which ties in with the fact that the "Solitude" demo crawled from the festering pits of hell in February 2006 and - conveniently - the song durations all reconcile nicely too.  

Attributed Odium songs:
01. Solitude      
03. Voices of the Dead      
05. As I Die      
07. Descent     
09. Mind  
11. Come and See...    
13. Satan's Prophecy  

It's an unusual format for a split release, alternating the songs between bands rather than having the first half as one and the second with the other, but there you go.  However, there's something deeply satisfying about being able to write that all of the 'odd' songs are by Odium....!

What's actually quite surprising - even to someone who, in the spirit of research, has listened to more Odium demo's than is strictly healthy for one individual to bear - is that buried deep in the muddy mix of these clattering black metal songs are some *gasp* quite nice melodies, and, *heaven help us all*, some things that could even be called 'songs'!  It's as improbable as discovering that Jack the Ripper used to knit woolly hats on the side, but greatly lifts the potential replay value of this half of the split from zero to 'occasional', which believe you me is an unexpected triumph!

When we come to the Uruk Hai portion of the split, the tracks are equally as mysterious in being untitled and thus unattributable to any previously released songs, or parts of demo tracks reworked and recycled.  Hugin himself was a tad hazy when Nazgul asked him, only recollecting that 'I do not remember the song titles but I think they are from the "Enslaved In Evil Darkness" period' !

You know - and I know - that this means we're all set for another round of head-scratching and "now where have I heard that song before?" moments. Nazgul has chosen to defer the long (if enjoyable) task of pinning down the exact song list to another day, otherwise quite frankly this post will never get finished and then the whole Honour and Darkness review schedule will grind to a standstill!

If that sounds a bit of a cop out, bear in mind the prolific nature of the Uruk Hai project: assuming the songs to be from that 2004-2005 period, then just off the top of my head that would require re-listening to the relevant releases would encompass "Enslaved In Evil Darkness"; "Barbarians (Orcish Battle Hymns Part II)";  "The Battle"; "Dragons of War"; "War Poems"; "Northern Lights" and given Odium's tracks leached into 2006 then arguably one might also have to cast the net wider to include Uruk Hai releases from that year that were recorded in earlier periods, including "Across the Misty Mountains (...Far, Far Away)"; "Tawantinsuyu"; "United"; "Lothlorien"; "Valkyrian Romance" and "A Vikings Journey" !  And I dare say there are a few recordings I've missed from that list too.

For what it's worth, however, Nazgul strongly suspects that 'Mount Doom' and 'Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)' feature in the line-up somewhere, or at least elements of them, and whilst there is a familiarity in many of the tracks it's not universally the case: I imagine that this is a good example of Hugin's modus operandi of reworking and recycling demo material between releases, leading to a mix of finished songs and works-in-progress being featured.

Anyway, just because you don't know their name doesn't mean you can't spend an enjoyable night with them, as the actress said to the bishop....

It's fair to reflect that when this release first came crashing into the Castle library Nazgul was a little wary of it, as the prospect of a compilation of early raw and/or unfinished demos (particularly from the Odium side) had the potential to fall flat on its face in the context of the lush orchestration of modern day Uruk Hai.  Surprisingly, however, it has actually proven to be a very listenable set of songs, and the juxtaposition of the noxious black metal of Odium (biscuit tin drums and spiky guitar) and the keyboard driven ambience of Uruk Hai works as nicely as a hunk of strong cheese with your Christmas cake.  And there's a turn up for the books....

Nazgul's collection of sanity blasting Odium releases - "Solitude" top left

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

DESTINATION: HELL - update



Band: BONEMACHINE        
Title: Destination: Hell
Format: A plain silver CDr in a white paper envelope within a single sided colour cover, re-released in 2015 by the Smell The Stench label (Australia), no catalogue reference.
Edition: 22 numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Sympathy For The Devil (Let Me Please Introduce Myself...) 77.03

There's an odd parallel between the world of Agatha Christie books and the world of Bonemachine releases, and it's nothing to do with waxed moustaches or being Belgian.  

No, it's all to do with reissues and remakes.  You see, if you have read the assembled detective fiction of Ms. Christie then you'll appreciate that there are many novels and short stories of hers that would make brilliant television programmes or films, yet they have been consistently overlooked in the continual churn of remakes and re-showings of a smaller core list of classics: "And Then There Were None" being an excellent example, having been made into 5 different films and numerous television adaptations since 1945.

Similarly, there are many Bonemachine songs that languish on strange compilations or lurk on very limited edition releases that would greatly merit reissue - the songs on "Burn Down Psychosis" or "Triangle" springing immediately to mind.  And yet - as is often the way - it is a relatively common release that gets the reissue treatment.  And here it is -  "Destination: Hell".

This is the third official time the song has been released: the original pressing was in fact the original Bonemachine release, back in circa 2001/02 period, whilst the second appearance came as part of 2008's "Erste Rotation" compilation album.  With the third pressing coming out in 2015, that's almost exactly 7 years between variants, so we might expect a deluxe reissue sometime around 2022 to keep up this pattern....

The original review in 2010 was so thorough Nazgul doesn't have a whole lot of words to add to it, save for the fact that the artwork on the Smell The Stench pressing is certainly the best of the three versions and gives a real sense of battle and mayhem to the album.  Great stuff.

And speaking of artwork, it transpires that in conversation with Hugin another promotional-only version of this release exists, which is actually referenced on the W.A.R. Productions blog page as WAR036, bearing a fourth and different cover illustration.  This proposed release was scheduled for 2006 in an edition of 12 copies but never was formally issued.  Hugin is adamant that he's sent the copy to the Castle Nazgul collection and he's almost certainly right - for once, the Castle library filing system has failed, however, hence there's no accompanying picture to show you!  Suffice to say the Castle monkey is hard at work scouring the shelves to identify this lost gem and restore it to its rightful place.

So - as this is quite a short post, let's get some thoughts from the mighty Hugin himself on "Destination: Hell" and other matters in a timely mini-interview:

Nazgul: Why did you choose to re-release this album again on Smell The Stench?
Hugin: I thought it's time because a lot of people were asking about it and I still think it is one of the best Bonemachine tracks so far, it has such a creepy atmosphere!  This is again a very small run, so I think the best chance for people to get it is still the "Erste Rotation" DoCD!

The cover art on the latest version is very cool - can you tell me anything about it?
I like statues a lot and I think they fit well with the whole Bonemachine concept – this one especially fits great with the satanic “Sympathy For The Devil” lyrics I've used on that track!

Do you think the song still reflects musically what the Bonemachine project is all about, given it's 14 years old?
Yes, I'm also thinking about doing music again in that vein for Bonemachine – the other day I found sound F/X I used for this recording and I'm sure it will be a lot of fun to play with such F/X again after such a long time!

Are the days of Bonemachine songs lasting 77 minutes a thing of the past...?!
Who knows ... Bonemachine is always good for a surprise!!!!

Are there any new Bonemachine releases to come?
So far no, but since I found these F/X and I definitely wanna use them again!!


Saturday, 6 June 2015

MORIQUENDI


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Moriquendi
Format: There are two versions of this short demo existing at the time of writing: the first is a 3" CDr release from Smell The Stench (Australia), no catalogue reference, released in 2015.  This comes sandwiched between two colour inlay panels, and comes as a plain white 3-inch disc.  The second version is a cassette tape on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) also released in 2015, cat ref WW466.  This comes as a standard C60 style tape with a  black and white copied inlay.
Edition: The CDr is limited to 15 unnumbered pieces; the tape comes in a hand-numbered edition of 44 copies

Track Listing:

Both formats contain
01. Moriquendi  14.54

Tape-only bonus track:
02. Radagast  6.14

There's nothing as traditional as the old Uruk Hai one-two punch: one strike coming in CD format, with a parallel hit from an old school tape.  So it's a welcome return to the 'good old days' when releases came in dual format with bonus tracks and we can sit back and jaw about the ever-evolving style of Hugin's most popular musical project.

"Moriquendi" (more about the odd title momentarily) comes as a single song CD EP in a tiny edition of 15 copies, befitting the tiny disc that's housed within.  There's a whiff of magic about the old 3" disc format, one that Nazgul has always been partial too but which we seldom see anywhere now.  Remember the days in the 1980's when major bands routinely issued their CD singles in this format, or where the bonus disc on a limited edition album in the old 'fatbox' style case might come in this reduced size.  Aaah, the halcyon days of yore!  

If you were to invest your funds in the Wulfrune Worxx tape pressing then you'd add a bonus song to the mix in the shape of 'Radagast', but you'll lose out on the colour covers present on the CDr version.  Of course you could buy both, thus swelling the coffers of the labels concerned and generally making Hugin a happy man, and that surely is the elegant solution to such a format-based conundrum?


Before we touch upon the music, let's consider the titles of the songs in question.  

The Moriquendi (which is the plural, fact fans, with the singular being Moriquende) were the Elves of Darkness, those who did not behold the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor.  The term usually referred to the Avari, the Elves that did not join the Great Journey over the sea and remained in the East, or passed the Blue Mountains and lingered on the shores of Middle-earth. However the term included also the Úmanyar, the Eldar who originally started on the journey but for various reasons did not finish it.

The Silmarillion is a good place to get the required Tolkien reference:

"Those Elves the Calaquendi call the Úmanyar, since they came never to the land of Aman and the Blessed Realm; but the Úmanyar and the Avari alike they call the Moriquendi, Elves of the Darkness, for they never beheld the Light that was before the Sun and Moon." 

So, put simply, Moriquendi are Dark Elves.

'Radagast', on the other hand, is the name of one of Middle-earth's wizards, who came from Valinor around the year 1000 of the Third Age and who was one of the Maiar.  His original name was Aiwendil, meaning 'bird-friend' in Tolkien's invented language of Quenya. The Vala Yavanna forced the wizard Saruman to accept Radagast as a companion, which, Tolkien says, may have been one of the reasons Saruman was contemptuous of him, to the point of scornfully calling him "simple" and "a fool". However, he was an ally and confidant of Gandalf, who describes him in The Hobbit as his "cousin".

Radagast lived for much of his time in Middle-earth at Rhosgobel in the Vales of Anduin, on the western eaves of Mirkwood, between Carrock and the Old Forest Road, near the Gladden Fields.  Radagast had a strong affinity for – and relationship with – wild animals, and it seemed his greatest concern was with the flora and fauna of Middle-earth. He was wiser than any man in all things concerning herbs and beasts. It is said he spoke the many tongues of birds, and was a "master of shapes and changes of hue". Radagast is also described by Gandalf as "never a traveller, unless driven by great need", "a worthy Wizard", and "honest".

And do the two songs respectively convey the darkness of the elves and the birdiness of the wizard?  And, for point of reference, is this 'Moriquendi' song different from the one that appears as the third track of tape release "Felagund", as previously reviewed in Honour and Darkness?  Read on, dear friend, and we shall find out as Nazgul places the disc into his death-deck for an initial listen....


The striking thing about the title track is that it is hauntingly familiar, yet Nazgul can't immediately place it to a specific album or demo.  It is not the "Felagund" song though, Hugin assures me, so it may just be that the rolling waves of keyboards and gently ambient undulations are classic Uruk Hai melodies and thus broadly familiar to these ears.  There's rather an odd bit at the end though, with a knocking on wood effect that fades to silence, a little like someone being locked in Gandalf's outdoor toilet banging away on the door until being overcome by fumes....

'Radagast' on the other hand is utterly bird-free in its construction , and is a panoply of ambient effects and sounds that piece together into a moderately long song of noble intentions without, perhaps, achieving any lasting impact.  

A strange little release, though fittingly so given it's a strange little label that issued it. Almost certainly long sold out, it's not one that will garner a huge amount of attention in the overall sphere of all things Uruk Hai yet at the same time it does no disservice to the name of the project that spawned it.  

Monday, 1 June 2015

Uruk Hai interview in Atmosfear #15


Band: URUK HAI
Item: An interview with Hugin/Uruk Hai in issue #15 of Atmosfear Zine, a printed Ukrainian magazine about extreme music running since 2006.  The interview would have been conducted in late January 2015 for June publication.

Keeping up with all things printed in the world of underground zines, websites and other nooks and crannys is a fraught business.  THere's just so much out there, in terms of interview, reviews, adverts etc. that it is an impossible task to have sight of everything that's relevant to Honour and Darkness.  Thankfully Hugin came to the fore by highlighting this recent interview for Nazgul, which is reprinted here for reference.

Go and visit the Atmosfear site, though, and buy a copy (and a few back issues, maybe) to show your support for the cause?  And it's nice to see Uruk Hai mentioned on the cover too, on the far right of last but one line of text listing the contents!

As ever, the translation of the interview into English utilise online translation software so will not necessarily be as accurate as Nazgul would like, but you'll certainly get the gist!


Atmosfear: Hello! What news in the Uruk Hai camp?

Hugin: Hello! The new  Uruk Hai album "Elbenstahl" has just been released (on January 22nd) – this time it is a solo/ instrumental album without any guest musicians but it is still epic as hell!!! Also, the new mini CD "The Sword Of Revenge" was released back in late December 2014.  A trilogy about the wars of Beleriand will be released in February 2015 called: "Die Kriege von Beleriand Vol. 1", "Die Kriege von Beleriand Vol. 2" and "Glaurung".  This trilogy will be available on CD in a DVD case, and the first copies of "Glaurung" come with an A3 size poster.


Last year's album "And all The Magic And Might He Brought" became perhaps the most unusual work in extensive discography of Uruk-Hai. It became the most diverse in terms of sound and composition, and moreover, contrary to your habit to record alone, for this album you invited a lot of guest musicians. Was it a one-off experiment or do you plan in the future to use a similar approach?

I did the same kind of work back in 2009 on the "Black Blood, White Hand" album too, using a lot of guest musicians there too.  Therefore it was not the first time on ".. And All The Magic & Might He Brought" and for sure it will not be the last time!  I have so many great friends in the music scene and it is always a pleasure to work with them together.  At the moment I'm working on a song together with Joe Matera (ex Geisha) and János Krusenbaum (Seeking Raven) – it will be a very rocking track, not typical of Uruk Hai but still epic!  But you are right about "“..And All The Magic & Might He Brought..." being a really unusual work in the Uruk Hai discography and I'm still proud of it because of the armada of great guest musicians like Tony Dolan (M-Pire of Evil, Atomkraft, ex Venom), Trevor Sewell (ex Tygers Of Pan Tang), Rich Davenport (See Red, The Blackmail Snaps), Bart Piette (Dead Man's Hill), and many more. The song-writing and various recordings took me more than one and a half years to finish!


Probably due to the work on "And all The Magic ..." you seem to have had new creative ideas that were....ummm,  unusual for you before?  

As I commented I did the same on "Black Blood White Hand" but not to the same intensity.   ".. And All The Magic & Might He Brought"” opened many doors for Uruk Hai and showed me a new way of working on my music. I learned a lot from those guest musicians, especially Joe Matera who gave me a lot of ideas because he is a perfectionist and a very good musician too, and he did a REALLY great job!


What is the main goal of your art?

The main goal of my art is to export fantasy stories into music; to create a soundtrack without a movie. I call it a 'soundscape' – people should close their eyes and follow my music through a journey to a world of mystery, dragons, battles and the beauty of all that what fantasy means. Uruk Hai plays Fantasy Ambient Metal and the goal is to make it sounds like that!


What situation is the most suitable for listening to your music? After all, your music in many ways is contemplative and, I think, requires a special approach and attitude from the listener?

The best would be to listen to it at night by candlelight and a glass of wine, but I love to listen to it with my headphones with eyes closed sitting in my hammock too: in my opinion everyone should find their own way to enjoy it.


A stupid question -  given the huge amount of releases under the Uruk Hai name, could you from memory immediately list ALL of your albums in chronological order? Not here of course, but in principle for you it’s possible?

Sure, the Albums I could list in the right order, that's not a problem.  The demos and rehearsals and split releases I could not list in a chronological order – but it would be fun to do that someday!


It seems to me, you're constantly in a process of creative self-realisation. How can you explain this continuity of the creative process?

That's my way of life, I cannot live without doing music.  I'm working each day on new music, not only for Uruk Hai as I have different other bands I'm involved in like Eismond, Ceremony Of Innocence, ILL, Hrossharsgrani, Hrefnesholt, WACH, Elisabetha, and Bonemachine.  You see, I'll never get bored, there are many ways to make different kinds of music from ambient to metal, from industrial to neo-folk, or from neo-classical  pop.  Most of my inspiration I get from nature and the main inspiration for Uruk Hai I get from J.R.R. Tolkien's wonderful books, a never ending source of great fantasy characters.


Do you ever rest? Are there times when you say to yourself, 'That's enough! I need a break!' or are your vacations also somehow connected with music?

Oh yes, mostly in summertime I try to have a break: I vacation in the mountains of Austria (which is a great inspiration too) and I also love to travel to United Kingdom to visit my friends there!  Without these breaks I could not do that much music, but always after a vacation I'm more than hungry to do new music :-)


What is the attitude of your family to what you're doing - do they support you in this?

My family remains strongly behind me and they support me in every way!   Thanks to my beloved wife Elisabeth and to my 2 lovely kids, Birgit & Erik!!!!


Is music your only employment and source of income, or you have to work at a 'normal' every day job?

I run a record label called W.A.R. Productions too, so yes, music is my only income: it's very hard to live from it but it works and I don't wanna miss this chance to make my hobby my job – not many people have the opportunity to do that!


When did you start to be seriously interested in music and realise that you wanted to be a musician too? And tell us about your first favourite bands?

It was back in 1981 when I started to seriously listen to pop and rock music, and from 1982 I started listen to Metal music.  I started with bands like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Saxon and Venom (Venom are still one of my fave bands ever, and I have a huge Venom collection with more than 600 items). Soon after that I started to listen to the more extreme music of the day like Bathory, Sodom, Destruction, Kreator, Celtic Frost - the harder they were, the better!  In 1984 I played bass & vox in a band called Schlaganfall (the first band I played in – it was a Hardcore/ Punk band) and I played in different bands before I started my first solo project Hrossharsgrani in 1998.  One year later I founded Uruk Hai.


There are words in Dio's song called 'I Could Have Been A Dreamer' that say, 'We take away tomorrow  and never see the end of today...' and another lyric that reads, 'I always could have been a dreamer, 'cause dreamers never die.'  So, what do you think, how relevant are these words in today's world? And how far can dreams lead you, in your opinion?

It is so important to dream, NEVER STOP IT!  But there are also some very important words to be taken from the Rocky Horror Picture Show: 'Don't Dream It, Be It'!  Both things are very important in modern life – you need to always have a dream, a goal you can reach for but you also need to try to live your dream as well as you can.  Dio was great, by the way!


Tell me, Hugin, is your creativity for you is some alternate reality, a sanctuary, an escape from reality? Or music for you is some kind of addition to everyday life that allows you to look at familiar things from a slightly different angle?

Yeah, music offers a possibility to flee from reality – it always takes me away to another world.  I'm deep into this fantasy world when, for example, I am doing music for Uruk Hai.  I really enjoy it, it is like a trip to Middle-Earth.  Music describes everything much better then words as it is pure emotion.   In everyday life music helps me to make get through it – it is a bit like when you close your eyes when you're on the subway and just listen to the sound of the train on the rails – everything seems so different in such moments and nothing seems to be important...


By the way, tell me more about the new album and your new trilogy about Beleriand before we end?

The new album is a mix of instrumental songs recorded during 2014, there is no special concept behind it, except the Middle-earth theme I always do!  The trilogy about Beleriand, is about the great battles of Beleriand: The first great battle; the second battle (Dagor-nuin-Giliath); the third battle (Dagor Aglareb); the fourth battle (Dagor Bragollach);  the fifth battle (Nirnaeth Arnoediad); and the sixth battle (War Of Warth).  They are split over 2 CDs (first 3 battles on CD1, second 3 battles on CD2) and the trilogy's third and final chapter is about the dragon Glaurung who came the first time at the battle of Nirnaeth Arnoediad - I thought this character was something cool, which is why I gave him a special part of this trilogy!


Well, what final words from you to those who have yet to discover your music after reading this interview…

Thanks for the interview my friend!  Uruk Hai will release a 'Best Of 15 years' release in April through Aphelion Productions in the UK where all the songs were chosen by the fans – expect something cool.  It would be nice if you could give Uruk Hai a like on Facebook too: