Thursday, 28 April 2016

TRANSILVANISCHER HUNGER - update


Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Transilvanischer Hunger
Reason for update: 5 mispressed discs (4 calling birds, 3 French hens, 2 turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree...)

The world of collecting is a strange one.  There are people out there who will specialise in seeking out items in their areas that are incorrectly printed or made and pay well over the odds for them, far in excess of the value of the item proper.  Two fields of collecting are particularly prone to this niche market - stamp collecting, and coin collecting.

One of the best examples I can give you of this is the Inverted Jenny (also known as an Upside Down Jenny), a United States postage stamp first issued on May 10, 1918 in which the image of the Curtiss JN-4 airplane in the centre of the design appears upside-down. Only one pane of 100 of the inverted stamps was ever found, making this error one of the most prized in all philately. A single Inverted Jenny was sold at a Robert A. Siegel auction in November 2007 for US $977,500. In December 2007 a mint never hinged example was sold for $825,000.  A block of four inverted Jennys was sold at a Robert A. Siegel auction in October 2005 for US $2.7 million.

Of course this is a volatile area for valuation like anything else in life: in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, prices fetched by Inverted Jennys have receded. Between January and September of 2014, five examples offered at auction sold for sums ranging from $126,000 through $575,100.

So unusual is good, mistakes can be valuable, weird is king.

And music collecting is no different in some regards, as all sorts of peculiar cock-ups happen when humans get involved in the process of pressing CD's and records.  You get the wrong labels being affixed to vinyl, the wrong artwork or colour scheme appearing on the sleeve, misprints in the text (I'm sure I recall a story where Venom's legendary "At War With Satan" release was incorrectly written up as "At War With Stan" on one release!?), and even the wrong music on the release.

This latter mistake is where some collectors find the most value in errors: there's a Judas Priest picture disc from 1984 with Neil Diamond songs on it, due presumably to a boozy Friday lunch-time balls-up at the pressing plant.  It sells for around US$30.  I  bought a Grateful Dead CD once (only once, obviously, that was more than enough) and it actually has Sonic Youth music on it.  Value? Ooooh, around $1 I should think...  On the other hand, The Beatle's 'Love Me Do/PS I Love You' 1962 7-inch single in demo format (250 copies) contained the misspelling, 'McArtney', making it now worth a staggering £3000.  Go figure...

All of which is rather a rambling way to bringing to your attention these 5 Elisabetha CD's, which Hugin threw into one of his highly anticipated parcels years ago.  It's basically a misprinted version of what proved to be the last ever Elisabetha release in May 2010, a cover of Darkthrone's "Transilvanischer Hunger", with the text printed on the wrong side, as you will have seen from Hugin's narrative on the back of the sleeve they came in.  How this happened I dread to think, knowing that boozy Friday lunchtimes are probably not that common in the W.A.R. studios, so we will have to assume that someone other than Hugin was responsible for this heinous travesty!

Of course, as uber-rare Elisabetha collectibles of the future they have to be worth ... well, let's say $10,000 apiece, conservatively, though as you're a good looking person with obvious good taste in music you can have one for the knock down price of $5,000 only, or two for $7,500.  Go on, you know you want to.

You'd be quite right in thinking that there's not a lot you can do with such items, really, other than to nod sagely for a little while as you look at them before returning them to the library shelves. However, with a burst of creative thought and enthusiasm, Nazgul has realised that with a bit of manipulation they can be turned into a fairly realistic likeness of our old bootlegging cyberpunk friend, Kenji Siratori....

Monday, 25 April 2016

ATLANTIDA VOL. 17 [V/A]


Band: RAVENCLAW
Title: Atlantida Vol. 17 [Various Artists]
Format: You know the drill by now - a compilation CD on the Atlantida Productions label (Lithuania) with professional cover artwork courtesy of Mike at Dragon Design, and plain silver disc.  The 17th compilation of bands contributing to this endearing series from the late Ruslanas Danisevskis. Released circa 2002
Edition: 800-1000 unnumbered copies (see text)

Track Listing:
01. MIDGARD  *  Controller Of Dimension Error
02. DIVINUS  *  All You Need
03. DEATH SILENCE  *  Prelude For A Fall
04. ALEPH  *  Hallowed Hatred
05. ROHBAU  *  Kopfschuss
06. FLESH MADE SIN  *  Tormentor
07. IRREDEMPTION  *  Sacred Light Of The Hidden Sun
08. ANATRIZ  *  Balder's Death
09. DAYNIGHT  *  Tomorrow
10. DEATHLESS  *  Under Fear
11. HUMAN PESTICIDE  *  Horrid Pain
12. VALHALLA  *  Legion Of Doom
13. THEMSELVES  *  Time To Rise
14. NOSCE TIEPSUM  *  Witchcraft By A Picture
15. INFECTOR  *  Nunca Mas
16. BERSERK INC.  *  Recollection
17. VICIOUS CIRCLE  *  Vampire Princess
18. O.D.O.  *  Dominator
19. EXECRATUM  *  Fatherland
20. RAVENCLAW  *  Unreleased Track  1:19

Slowly but surely the pile of unreviewed Atlantida releases has dwindled down to the final handful of releases, of which Volume 17 is one.  The end of an era, really, as once they've been covered then that's it ... we know that there are no more to come, and sadly there will then be nothing new to add to an ongoing series that has graced Honour and Darkness for more years than I care to mention.

It's also one of the last hurrahs for any Ravenclaw material too, unless some previously undiscovered demo or recordings come to light.  Oh dear, it all feels rather sad....

Well, onwards and upwards Nazgul... 

Unusually for an Atlantida compilation, all but one band on this edition originate in Europe, and award yourself a gold star if you knew that Nosce Tiepsum were from Australia.  Award yourself a further 5 gold stars if you knew that 'Nosce Tiepsum' was a philosophical poem published in 1599 by John Davies of Wiltshire, England, which is mostly about the immortality of the soul and which stoutly defended contemporary Elizabethan beliefs.  Whether the band's contribution 'Witchcraft By A Picture' concerns spell-casting whilst in an art gallery, or is literally about an actual picture that is responsible for witchcraft, is currently unresolved....

Whilst we're on a theme of discovery and enlightenment, let Nazgul also answer your as yet unasked question by revealing that the meaning of the name of the band O.D.O. at track 18 is 'Odio, Distruzione, Orrore' ('Hate, Destruction, Horror' in their native Italian); that Rohbau's song 'Kopfschuss' translates to 'headshot'; and that yes - there is something oddly prescient about Ruslanas' inclusion of 'Baldur's Death' at track 8, given the tribute album released in his memory by Folkearth in 2014 was called "Baldur's Lament" (different spelling, same Norse god, same sentiment....)

Also of minor interest, but included for the sake of meticulous completion, is the credit in the inlay booklet to both Mike Schindler of Dragon Design and Thomas Hammer of Hammer Graphics for the artwork.  That's the first time we've come across a collaborative credit for Atlantida artwork, so duly mentioned for your edification.

As usual, part of the due diligence in putting a review together for you is to undertake a little light Googling after dinner to see what - if anything, which is seldom - comes up about specific releases. Other than a passing reference to Atlantida Volume 17 on a website reviewing the Aleph album from which their contribution came.  But then, lo and behold, an article was found on a Romanian chat forum (the places I visit for you, honestly) which came from the virtual pen of none other than Ruslanas himself.  

I've quoted the whole thing for you below, exactly as it appeared on the forum, as it answers one of the enduring questions of our time about these releases (namely, exactly how many copies each volume released in) and provides a bit of context about how Ruslanas used to look for material to publish.

It starts, however, with one of the oddest salutations I've ever read:  

"Hi, In mute nostril agony,  [seriously, it does say that, I'm not making this up]

I found info about your band on www.bandpromo.de

I'm from ATLANTIDA Prod.
I collect bands for ATLANTIDA compil. CD Vol.17!
If you interesting put track - ask more details!
On vol.1-16 are more than 200 bands!  A lot of from all the world!  You can see some artwork of last volumes on www.dragondesign666.de (look at Medusa prod.).  All artworks for compil. done by DRAGON DESIGN!
Each volume release 800-1000 copies and spread around the world... Played on some radio-shows too!
I'm in metal from '85 and in underground from '96.
I hope that you saw flyers of ATLANTIDA Prod.?
I have more than 1500 contacts from more than 50 countries!
I hope that you will be on vol.17!  If interesting - ask more details!
I hope to hear from you soon!
Your friend Ruslanas

Alytaus 4,
4120 Ukmerge,
Lithuania"

And, you know, it must have worked for him as you don't put out over 20 compilations with around 20 songs on each one without some people responding to you.

And if, like me, you can't pass up on anyone putting their address online without putting the details into Google Maps to see what their house is like then the inclusion of Ruslanas' previous home address is a real boon here too!

Now, as entertaining and thrilling as this waffle may be, the question yet to be answered here is simply this: what does the 'unreleased track' by Ravenclaw sound like?  Will it be the expected heavyweight thud of percussion and guitars, or an interesting diversion into Boney M cover songs?  The world holds it's collective breath expectantly as Nazgul selects number 20 on the death deck, adjusts the volume to 'certain death' and presses play....

And slap me in the face with a wet halibut if it's not a short and sweet synthesizer piece with a restrained drum beat behind it, kicking off a little melody that builds in speed and comes to a shuddering climax before it's really got going.  And I'd bet a Pound to a pinch of salt that this self-same piece has been used on a longer song somewhere else in the Ravenclaw discography too at some point, as it sounds hauntingly familiar...

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

h.e.a.v.e.n. & h.e.l.l.


Band: ILL
Title: h.e.a.v.e.n. & h.e.l.l.
Format: A professionally produced CDr in larger DVD size case, with full colour covers, released on the Winterwolf label (Germany) in 2015, no catalogue reference.  The music was recorded by Hugin at W.A.R. Studio in December 2014.
Edition: 100 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Heaven 11:21
02. Desert 9:19
03. Aries 41:38
04. Hell 9:52

It's sounding more and more like a broken record I'm afraid: a poor excuse for ongoing disruption, and a litany of disasters one after the other.  No, not this ILL album, which is actually rather good.  No, Nazgul is referring to the sporadic nature of posting to Honour and Darkness this month.  

There have been endless and complicated reasons why the last few weeks have been so quiet: the recent spread of plague that ran virulently through Castle Nazgul, the pressure of work at the end of the financial year, the complexities of family life (gardens are all well and good, but take a lot of upkeep and the orcs can't be trusted to know one end of a rake from the other, frankly).  

Oh it's endless - the next excuse to be trotted out will be that I'd written a piece last night, honest guv'nor, but the dog ate it.  Well, actually, the next excuse in fact is that the family Nazgul will be off to the Caribbean for a holiday, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it!

Pah!

Anyway, mini rant over and back to the topic at hand, ILL's 2015 release "h.e.a.v.e.n. & h.e.l.l." on Winterwolf.  And do you know what?  It's a classic ILL album, fully instrumental but bringing in elements of sound that we've encountered with this project before (yes, the 'Rush' guitar sound is back - yippee!) but blending them with new experiences, such as the distinctly Egyptian vibe in 'Desert'.  

In fact, whilst we're on the subject of that song, the middle eastern rhythms and sound that are overlaid by a crisp guitar sound do put me mind of what it would be like in Nintendo's Mario Kart were Waluigi to be zipping around the Dry Dry Ruins course with Rush blasting out of the kart speakers.  Great stuff, and currently my go-to track on this release.

'Aries' is a long bugger through.  41 minutes plus for a song is probably pushing it a bit, even by Hugin's standards, good as it is.  It's one of those songs that is so long you sort of tune out occasionally and are surprised, when your focus returns, to find that the same track is playing.  For me the moment came in the long commute home from work, where concentrating on the traffic meant that I 'lost' a bit of time when the song was playing (dodging psychotic cyclists, errant dogs and Audi drivers is a much overrated pass-time).  Imagine my surprise, about 20 minutes later, in realising that track 3 was still playing and that the riffs and melodies were looping around and around.  Make no mistake - it's a loooong song!  

At times, 'Aries' comes across as a little bit like an unscheduled jam between Deep Purple and our Canadian friends Rush (again), but has a load of other stuff going on at the beginning and end to give it a bit of variation too.

The album is topped and tailed with the 'Heaven' and 'Hell' songs.  Speaking of Heaven & Hell, 'Heaven' itself has a few riffs that Tony Iommi would be happy to use, and whacks along at a fair old pace in inimitable ILL style.  Some choral interludes gives it an angelic sort of feel, and balances out the synth and guitar nicely.  

Closing track 'Hell' - on first listen at least - sounds peculiarly discordant, with a nice guitar riff paired with what seems to be a deliberately off-kilter keyboard counterpart.  Hellish indeed!  But over the course of the track it all comes together, and either Hugin has subliminally brainwashed us into submission or something quite clever has happened.

Like all odd combinations (Christmas cake and cheddar cheese, for example) it's worth persevering with, and rewards will follow.

Overall you'd be a mean old sod not to find something to enjoy on this release, even if 'Aries' is a tad draining due to its sheer length.  As is the norm for side projects such as this one, the number of copies is pretty small but then demand is probably pretty low too, so you'll doubtless be able to track a copy down through the usual online haunts or from the label directly.  

And, frankly, you should!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

AUFRECHT IM TRUBEN SCHLAMM DER ZEIT - update


Bands: BONEMACHINE / N.STRAHL.N.
Title:  Aufrecht Im Truben Schlamm Der Zeit  
Reason for update: Master CDr from N.Strahl.N with songs for this split release

Coughing, spluttering and dragging himself from his death bed for you, Nazgul has been delving back in the archives for today's post, which was originally published in September 2009 as a review of this split release between Bonemachine and N.Strahl.N.

Essentially, as we've seen evidence for before, artists contributing to split releases often would send CDr's of their intended content through to Hugin, either because he was releasing it through W.A.R. Productions or, presumably, as Hugin would compile the bits and pieces (artwork, liner notes, songs etc) for the label involved.

Sometimes these master CDr's come in quite nice formats, with a little letter or some stickers or pictures on the case/cover.  In this instance there's none of that - a plain silver disc and a plain white card sleeve is your lot.  Mind you, fair enough - who knew that one day such an innocuous item would be featured for the world to see via the raving lunacy that is Honour and Darkness...?

The 3 songs we are familiar with from the original review, namely 'Im Trüben fischen', 'Bergen und Brechen', and 'Halten und Walten'.  Which, when translated into English using online software give us some fairly mad meanings; the first being 'Fishing in Troubled Waters' (so far, so good); the next 'Mountains and Breaking' (no, I don't know either); but the final one is my particular favourite, being the bizarre and literal 'Holding Managing Thing' - yes, I'm pretty sure something has gone awry in translation there too, so if you've got a better answer then let me know!

N. Strahl N. are a post-industrial outfit and brainchild of German 'sound-artist' Mario Löhr, active since 2005. The project have appeared on a multitude of limited edition releases (tape, CDr, professional CD, you name it, they've been on it!) and compilation appearances DIY labels around the world. They've popped up a few times over the years on Honour and Darkness, normally during the course of Nazgul's review of obscure compilations featuring Bonemachine, so it's a project relatively well known to us now.

There's an interesting interview with Mario at the Tokafi website, which is worth a read, for an insight into the man and his music, but for those of you with less time or inclination the opening paragraph of that interview sets the scene nicely for this enigmatic artist:

"Noise is often regarded as a primitive genre and with its primary focus on immediacy and energy, it often is. On the other hand, artists like Mario Löhr of N Strahl N are demonstrating that it also holds the potential of great depth and a fascinating, impenetrable degree of complexity. In fact, Löhr's elaborate, enigmatic and gracefully flowing arrangements seem to belie their roots in Industrial culture and so does his preference for sound artists like Asmus Tietchens and Esther Venrooy. The noise, however, does come in at the level of sound design, when field recordings and scrambled radio transmissions are turned into distorted blocks of greyish sonics, reworked into beats, drones and layers of crackle and combined into cinematic compositions of many different parts and movements. 

While the years 2006 and 2007 were spent carving out a distinct nice for himself, 2008 has been the year of unlikely collaborations: Löhr has struck deals with acts unknown to many or with artists without obvious outward correlations and published a string of albums which were as impressive as they were heavy to digest at times. It has only served to sharpen the profile of N Strahl N. And while Löhr claims to have "no idea" as to what his magmum opus could sound like, there is a very real chance he may already have written it: His series of EPs centred around modern media of communication, self-released in tiny quantities, is merely awaiting an integral release on a label open enough to see the potential of the tryptich. With its clairity and cleverness, there is certainly nothing primitive about the music of this project."

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Happy Birthday 2016!


Today is: Hugin's Birthday!

Once again our Austrian hero reaches the celebration day of his birth, and dons his armour in preparation for a quick raid on the patisserie counter ahead of an evening's musical interlude at a local gig!

A short and sweet tribute, I grant you, but not without due cause: Nazgul has literally dragged himself off his sick bed to scribe these few words, being afflicted this past week by a malady so unpleasant that it has brought the Castle machinery to a standstill and has left your humble scribe weak and weary.  

It's the last time I sit next to Pestilence at the annual 'Four Horsemen' Easter BBQ, let me tell you....!

In normal circumstances we'd have had pomp, ceremony and a witty and well--planned post.  Today, we have heartfelt best wishes for the big day, and I hope that you might join Nazgul in raising a glass of something appropriate (Lucozade, in my case) in a toast to 'the man', Alexander 'Hugin' Wieser!