Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Hugin interviewed in Obliveon 'zine

 
What's on offer today, Nazgul?  It's an interesting snapshot in time: an interview conducted with Hugin circa 2010 (this time with his Uruk-Hai hat on) about the "Black Blood, White Hand" release, and associated matters.
Who is the interview with?  German site Obliveon [sic], "the Metal and Gothic Magazine".
So it's not recent?  No, but it's all interesting stuff for the obsessive fan!  And it also came with a review of that album too, which is reproduced below for good measure.  Nazgul is good to you.

A double-whammy today, brought to you by the combined powers of Google Translate and good old fashioned elbow-grease.  It's both a review and interview conducted by German online magazine Obliveon around the time of the release of the epic "Black Blood, White Hand" release by Uruk Hai. 

Due to the lengthy review of that album by Nazgul at the time, there wasn't really any space for alternate reviews and critiques, and by the time this article and review had been published it had rather disappeared off the radar.  Let's amend that, therefore, and take a trip back in time 6 or so years, when Drachenfeuer was but a twinkle in Hugin's eye and new Hrefnesholt demos still stalked the earth.

Firstly, the brief album review: somewhat mangled in my translation, but you'll get the gist (or you can check out the original German language version should you prefer), but it received a received a favourable review and a commendable 7/10 score from reviewer 'MG'   

"Tolkien once wrote, ten years after the publication of the English original edition of The Lord of the Rings, that allegory would be confused too often with applicability. Thus the applicability of a possibly unfortunate choice of name in the case of Uruk Hai against the background of the many parallels at the time which the author has actually experienced leaves me with my own interpretation or, as Tolkien concludes, freely interpreted: the discretion of the beholder. Amon Amarth was already forgiven.
 
“Black Blood, White Hand”, quite unbound by the Middle-Earth universe, moves clearly, based on that epochal work in itself, but not to the last detail. The "chapters" have their own life; Galadriel's mirror comes from the Fantasy shop next door and does not show the future, and cover model Lucifera, splendid with her dark lustrous hair. Nothing for purists and Silmarillion lovers, then.
 
“Black Blood, White Hand” is, in a way, something like an alternative soundtrack to the literature, equally dark, mystical, full of acoustic references not only to the Lord of the Rings, but perhaps also unconsciously through the generous interpretation to what was once Tolkien's presumptive templates - The Norse mythology, Edda, etc. Hugin uses keyboard sounds and samples to create a cinematic portrait of a new epic about a this story, which many people believe more than know what it really is.
In the end, this record is the right sub-text for an interactive storyline and somehow a companion to the motif of the Ents: 'not so hastily'."
 
But it's the interview that's more illuminating, covering the background and vision that Hugin has for this album in detail, plus some interesting philosophising about the nature of Tolkien's work in the context of revisionist history.  The accompanying photographs were published with the original narrative.  Enjoy.

URUK HAI – ‘Between the Inner Sea and Belegaer’*  
* Tolkien mapped Middle-Earth as existing between the Inner Sea in the east and the great sea of Belegaer in the west.
 
What a comparison!  Compared to this rather geographical description of a well-known continent of fantasy literature, this next sentence may be of the greater relevance: Beethoven once said of Bach, "It was not Bach, but the sea, because of its infinite, inexhaustible wealth of tonal combinations and harmonies." Less known but no less powerful analogies are also to be found in Tolkien.  On the other hand, Tolkien’s literally almost inexhaustible wealth has certainly inspired countless artists of all kinds. 
 
One of them is Hugin – who in addition to many other fields of action is the mastermind of Uruk Hai – who has devoted body and soul to this substance, and especially within the Uruk Hai project - is always ‘on the road’ albeit in a somewhat different cinematic setting than the fictional mythology from the pen of the British Grand Master.  Whoever knows and appreciates this subject could listen and read in detail Hugin’s thoughts on occasion of the publication of "Galadriel's Mirror."  
 
 
Hi, how are you?  What are you currently doing?
At the moment, I'm working on the cover artwork for the Uruk Hai album "Into The Mines Of Moria", which is the first demo of 1999 to be released in a new form.  The material is now over 11 years old. I have also rearranged all tracks from the original master tape. Pr. Sergiy von Moloch has now sung the songs, and we have also co-edited a cover of the Summoning title "Over Old Hills" and in addition there is also a video clip as a bonus.  The CD is supposed to come out at the end of 2010 in a slim DVD case on the Bleichmond Tonschmiede / WAR Records & Alpendivision Sturmklang as an example of communal label publishing. 
 
I shot the pictures for the new artwork in the mountains of Carinthia, part of it at the Freikofel, where there are old military positions (Schützengräben, Minen, etc) from the First World War from the Austrian / Italian border. These reminded me of the mines of Moria, so it fits perfectly with the design of the cover.  Also the short video clip "In Durins Halls" comes partly from material that I filmed at Freikofel (1757m)! 
 
Next up, I will be doing the vocals a new Manwe song, which is part of the compilation CD/DVD "The First Ring Vol. II", including Uruk Hai and many more bands. Uruk-Hai and Manwe had to play the Uruk-Hai video clip on the DVD of Vol. II, but I'm not quite sure if we'll make it in time to finish it, since this time all the visual material comes from the US: Michele Britany will compile this for me from her recordings that she recently filmed in the Joshua Tree National Park.
 
What has happened since the release of the new album?  How is “Black Blood, White Hand” doing?
 
Yes, since the "Black Blood, White Hand" album (which was finished in July 2009 but was only released in April 2010) there has been quite a bit happening!  A split CD with Sieghetnar from Germany just came out of Nordsturm Productions, and the split LP "Iron Age" with Moloch was released as a beautiful green/white marbled vinyl with posters after a 2-year delay with Aphelion Productions.
 
The front cover artwork has been made available to us by leading Tolkien illustrator John Howe (www.john-howe.com), with whom I have worked for several years! Another Split CD with Funeral Fornication will be released by mid-September 2010 at Hypnotic Dirge Records, and Tryby Records from Poland released a wooden box with the following demo tapes on CDr: "Die Festung", "Balrog", "Morgoth", "A Dark Force Shies Golden"; “After The War” & “At The End Of The First Age”, each limited to 15 copies.
 
As far as I am aware “Black Blood White Hand " went down quite well with fans & critics, although some of the fans look back on purely ambient sounds such as Uruk Hai created around 2004/05. Somehow, in the last 2-3 years, more and more black metal sounds have been added to the ambient sounds of Uruk Hai, but this does not mean that Uruk Hai will be a pure Black Metal project. It can just as well make a quiet ambient album as well as a mix of both styles - I just do not want to set myself in one direction! 
 
We had a great release party at Sturmklang/Steinklang, the new Nebelkorona (Vinterriket Nebenprojekt) album came out at the same time, so we had Cz (the mastermind behind Vinterriket) and a whole bunch of nice people in the mountains of St. Koloman, the Sturmklang headquarters. It was a lot of fun together, and there was a huge amount of Zirbenschnaps to celebrate the two new albums! 
 
Sometimes I read reviews and wonder if the reviewer had ever heard the same "Black Blood White Hand" album as the one I recorded?! It sounds strange to me, but that's exactly the point, I think, as everyone hears music with their own ears and spins his own world of feelings and thoughts.  So it happens also from time to time that after a criticism of a song it brings it very much to my mind, and I gain a completely different perspective of it.

 
 
What was the idea behind the album?
 
The idea behind "Black Blood White Hand" is actually very simple. I have looked at some parts of the "Lord of the Rings" story through the mirror of Galadriel, so the album may not sound like a story that should exist, since there are different events in different places at different times, but they are all viewed from one place at a time.  Many things can only be perceived as something blurred by this mirror of water; some much clearer and more present. A certain free space is created which is offered to every listener, and which was also granted to me during the recording of the album. 
 
What does the title mean?
 
"Black Blood" stands for the black blood of the Uruk Hai & Orcs. "White Hand" is the sign of Sauruman under which the Uruk Hai and some Orcs marched against Mittelerde - we look again at this from a careful distance through the mirror Galadriel, but all too often this distance is also a danger!  First of all, this album was supposed to be a pure concept album on the subject of ‘Orcs’, but the music was simply too different and not really suitable for a concept album. During the recording so many other passages from Middle-Earth ghosted their way through my head I was just not really ready for this concept. I kept the title, however, since I had already announced this album some time before.
 
How did this relationship with Middle-Earth all start?
 
Tolkien's world has occupied me since my youth when I first read "The Silmarillion" and "The Lord of the Rings".  I'm also very interested in Nordic mythology, and I always find strong parallels to the world of JRR Tolkien - somehow both find their way into my music.  Uruk Hai's music is very much fantasy-oriented, because within this mother of all fantasy stories that Tolkien has created it is easy to do; not only because of the fact that several other groups in the black metal sector have done it, or because I like it myself, I think this theme just demands I play it and water my child Uruk-Hai from its source!
 
My personal reference to this topic is complemented by my musical reference Middle-Earth, where I do not come to Moria in ‘real’ life. In my music, I flee to these places in my imagination and thus make them into significant part of my reality.
 
Can you take us through the album?
 
‘Fresh Meat’, the introduction to the album - an orc-march, or a hymn to the "carnivores"
 
‘The Fate Of Man’ - as the title implies, a look in the mirror, in order to catch a short but fierce look into the future of the companions.
 
‘In Mordor Where The Shadows Are’ - Sauron will see you when you look briefly in the mirror!
 
‘Farewell We Call’ - a sad ode to the farewell
 
‘Under The White Hand's Flag’ - the Orcs and Uruk Hai are marching destructively through Middle-Earth under the banner of the White Hand
 
‘Black Blood’ - Orcs can also bleed!
 
‘Hidden Path’ - on secret paths through the land of the powerful enemy...
 
‘The Dark Lord’ - the dark ruler Sauron, shouts and shakes all of Middle-Earth - a breath of death extends to the Shire.
 
‘Does Not Glitter’ - whether the gold of the ring really shines.  My Sweetheart, My Sweetheart, My Sweetheart, My Sweetheart, My Sweetheart...
 
‘Tales From the Misty Mountains’ - Over the misty mountains far, to deep caves from ancient times, there we go, lured by profits of gold, silver and jewels.  Where once the realm of the dwarfs lay, where the sound of the hammering of the bells, and the wonders of the bells, slept soundly in the vault under the day (part of one of my favourite poems from The Silmarillion, which I have frequently read).

 

 
The band name also interests me – why did you choose it?
 
The Uruk Hai are a brutal, ugly and strong breed, begotten by Sauruman.  They are stronger and bigger than other Orcs and are not weakened by daylight. They also retain the upper hand over the Orcs.  In fact, a perfect name for a Black Metal project, as well as many other "dark" names from the Tolkien world.
 
The fact that I chose Uruk-Hai as the name for this project is actually a coincidence:  I worked on a new Hrossharsgrani demo in 1999, based on Tolkien's tales.  After I finished 5 songs (‘Uruk Hai’, ‘Nordhimmelstag’, ‘Moria’, ‘Kortirion’ and ‘Durins Halls’), I send it as a cassette, limited to 6 pieces, under the Hrossharsgrani name to a couple of good friends.  After the tape had been received and the songs had listened to a few times, they, like me, came to the conviction that this music sounded different to that far released so far by Hrossharsgrani.
 
One of these friends gave me the tip to start a side-project;  I did not hesitate and took the ‘Uruk Hai’ title as the project name.  I used the songs on this demo, recorded two more songs (‘Luthien’ & ‘The Unknown’), and the debut demo "In Durins Halls" was ready!  So this project came about in a somewhat bizarre way to reach - I think – a perfect name.
 
What are your musical inspirations?
 
Metal or ambient projects decorate their cover with just such pictures of mountains, dark mountain forests and the like.  But a walk through a moss-covered forest is inspiration for me!  Musically it was probably the Bathory album "Blood Fire Death" that caused me to start a project myself!  The cover artwork as well as the title song itself attracted me in the 80’s, and still does to this day.  Of course I did not stop at that time; there were a few other albums that inspired me and had a strong influence on my musical path, but I cannot remember another album that I heard with such a consistency and joy as "Blood Fire Death".  I think I also know every millimetre of the cover art, I looked at it so often while listening to the music - it really is pioneering!
 
Also I still find inspiration in:
 
LAIBACH - Opus Dei
 
GRAVELAND - Immortal Pride
 
VENOM - Welcome To Hell
 
SUMMONING - Dol Guldur
 
MORTIIS - The Stargate
 
NICK CAVE - The Good Son
 
And certainly more besides...!

 


 
I felt “Black Blood, White Hand” was extremely cinematic, and also very free in its interpretation.  How was the album made?  How did you write the songs?
 
The album has been created over a longer period of about one and a half years, which also makes the individual songs often sound very different!  With Uruk Hai, I am always thinking on the lines of a soundtrack, I always try to create something like a film without pictures. The pictures should form in your head - it is best to enjoy the music of Uruk Hai with your eyes closed. Try it - also I find it better with candle light for!
 
On "Black Blood White Hand", a couple of different guest musicians have participated for the first time, which certainly stands out from the previous Uruk Hai releases!  The structures, which could have sprung from a radio play, owe not only to the soundtrack-like music but also to the sound effects (natural sounds, battle scenes, samples, etc), all of which makes it easier for me to recreate the musical world of Tolkien.
 
Before I start recording a song, I have a certain scene, in this case Middle-Earth, in my head, while I float a lot of sounds and melodies in my mind, which somehow seem to fit precisely to this theme, and so it emerges. I also very quickly create a basic melody; then it becomes somewhat more complex: is this melody usable for the idea in my head?  Should I fit different sounds to it, or not? Then starts the actual writing of the song, always with Middle-Earth in the back of my mind. Tolkien always keeps his hand about me during the recordings!
 
I would be really interested in what JRR Tolkien would think of my interpretation of his Middle-Earth - would he listen to music from Summoning, Valar, Battlelore or even Uruk-Hai?
 
Where would you put the album, genre-wise?
 
Ambient Black Metal I would call it!  Where could this album stand? Perhaps beside Summoning although the music sounds very different, and possibly also beside Vinterriket because of the ambient passages. But somewhere in the metal area of the shop under the letter "U" would be good!  And the limited edition "Black blood, White Hand" wooden box with T-shirt and bonus CD belongs in a showcase!
 
It's noticeable that you have essentially renounced the hectic life!
 
The hustle and bustle I leave to other bands as it just does not fit with Uruk Hai, and if it does only in very small doses!  Such things don’t reconcile to the idea of listening with closed eyes, and would completely destroy the overall concept.  I love to have a very long song and build an immense arc of tension; an ‘epic’ is exactly what I want to produce with Uruk Hai, not in all songs, but in most of my work.
 
The reason for this disc is somewhere between sadness and hope. When I think about it, it is exactly what I find in almost every Uruk Hai release.  I also often use these sounds to show the beauty of Middle-Earth, but most of my music sounds very sad, I think.  It is precisely this kind of music that very much depends on one's mood when listening to it, so these sad sounds intensify the feeling of sadness in a bad mood, and in good spirits the music ripples more positively.
 
What personal things do you associate with Uruk-Hai?
 
The music in and of itself is already very personal, it is part of my soul; moods that would otherwise eat into me. I can scream out and they give me air so as to conquer the dreary everyday life somehow.  Uruk Hai is a kind of escape from this world into an endless universe of possibilities that I would never otherwise have, but it is also a curse that drives me somehow, even if I lie on the ground and do not want anymore.  Without my music I would be no more!
 
What does the future hold for Uruk-Hai?
 
A new one - let's call it "Zwischenalbum" - is already finished, it consists of only a single song, which has a length of 1:18:30 - a truly epic title.  Also "Cirith Ungol", which as the name suggests changes from ambient to heavy metal (though only the vocals of Pr. Sergiy of Moloch are reminiscent of black metal) a different but also typical Uruk-Hai album - it will appear again under the banner of Nordsturm Productions towards the end of 2010. It should also give a limited 1st edition in a neat box!
 
I've been approached a lot lately to make an album like "The Battle" or "A Night In The Forest", with those very quiet, sad ambient songs. I'm still thinking about how I would best to transfer these 6-7 year old albums to today's world of Uruk-Hai; there should be a clear reference to these older albums, but also very "modern" sound.  The best of both worlds, as it were.

 
 
Well, one thing I would be interested in knowing. Of course, it is not alien to you that in the Tolkien universe the events of its time can be purely and selectively interpreted - the Allies, the Third Reich ... the whole programme.  I myself consider Tolkien himself (as mentioned in a review at the time) to deny any reference to WW2, and whose basic idea was to create a mythical, if fictional, "British" mythology.  If you do not know this, there is a danger that Uruk-Hai will be personified accordingly?  You can already imagine where that leads - black uniforms, skulls, etc?  Have you ever been confronted with this half-knowledge?
 
Yes, the tormented topic, which has just been stirring up in the Black Metal / Neo Folk and Martial area as rarely before.  After "The Hobbit" was released in the later 30s Tolkien immediately afterwards began with the "Lord of the Rings" epic, which then went far beyond the Second World War up to 1954, so surely the at that time, into the work, went parts of Nordic or Germanic mythology.
 
So the Edda inspired Tolkien certainly, but since at this time the powerful Nazi war and propaganda machinery also took over this theme and symbolism (see Runes, for example), this is often misinterpreted into a totally the wrong light.  Tolkien, like CS Lewis, was part of the Christian discussion group "Inklings", who also criticized the works of present authors.  So a war-glorious work would hardly find any appeal to this Christian circle! CS Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" were, for example, very much based on biblical narratives, but also on Greek and Roman mythology, but I have never heard of or read about a reference to WW2 events there.
 
Groups from the Black Metal genre, using material from Tolkien's stories or just a few Tolkien-derived names, are subject to a sort of trend where there’s a hunt to seek out bands that are not 100% politically correct.  But what is now politically correct? Implicated in this are runes, which have been there for thousands of years, the sun wheel which has existed also for nearly 6000 years on almost all continents, Thor’s hammer, which seems to be lacking any reference to the Nazi period, and now Tolkien - what will be attacked next?
 
I'm sure there are enough childish NSBM bands that use a Tolkien name as a band name, often to compensate for their musical incompetence. But once we are honest, it was once that you needed the inverted cross, 666 and the Lord Lucifer to be able to appear evil’. So now these attributes do inflame like before, you have to start with ‘big guns’ like the Holocaust, Hakenkreuz (Swastika), the Final Solution and so on to be a really angry band - such nonsense.  But because a few bands have prevailed and are now seen as cult in the scene, every 13 year old must now record his own NS-Black Metal demo with his little sister’s Winnie the Pooh cassette recorder! Tolkien's works are the cornerstone of all fantasy stories today, there is almost no way around the fact.  I won’t let this other nonsense spoil them for me.
 
What else would you like to tell us, which we’ve not covered yet?
 
Uruk-Hai is underground and only meant for this - anyone who expects more should not take this path!  It is also the scene in which I have dedicated my lifeblood!  The word "True" is already more often as not untrue, but I like to use it orientate the position to the real underground scene.  In this scene I have all my comrades, my role models as well as fans; from this source I draw my strength and I feed this source!  In this movement there is still honour, and true camaraderie, support and sacrifice.  Thank you for your support and the opportunity to present Uruk-Hai here!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Seasons Greetings from Nazgul


'Tis the season to be jolly, and all that.  Once again the Christmas season is upon us, and untold numbers of tightly wrapped presents containing Hrossharsgrani demo tapes, Bonemachine wooden treasure chests and WACH digipaks are doubtless piling up under Christmas trees all around the world.  Or they would, if your old Uncle Nazgul had anything to do with things...

Wishing all of my readers a peaceful Christmas time where ever you are and what ever you're doing, and a prosperous New Year rich with good health and additions to your Hugin collection!

Nazgul is now about to slip off to the Castle kitchens to see where the good Lady Nazgul has hidden the stock of mince pies and Drambuie, so I'll catch you sometime next week with another post of Hugin-related goodness before the New Year is upon us.

All together now, "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la..."

Thursday, 22 December 2016

VOGELFREI - update II


Band: BONEMACHINE
Release: Vogelfrei
Reason for second update: A promotional poster for the release of the "Vogelfrei" albums and box-set has come to light

It's been ages since the Bonemachine release "Vogelfrei" was reviewed by Nazgul, in all of its wooden box-set glory.  An astonishing  6 and a half years, to be exact, with only one other update (for alternative album artwork) being posted since.

So given the passage of time it seems appropriate to add something new to the history of the piece, and today's entry comes courtesy of the Israeli label T'an! Kaven!! Ash!!! who released the album back in 2007.

It's simply a promotional flyer/poster advertising the various iterations of the release: the three, individually coloured CDr discs each sharing five core songs and adding a pair of unique bonus tracks to each version.  The three colours in the issue, you will recall, were black, red and blue.  Then there was the deluxe edition wooden 'treasure chest' version which added a bonus 3" video CDr inside the box-lid.

In fact, it has long been Nazgul's intention to do a special post for that little video disc, to grab some screen images to post up on Honour and Darkness to share with you all.  Perhaps that might be a nice little job to do over the Christmas break...

T'an! Kaven!! Ash!!! (also known as tka-subdivision) is the independent subdivision of Israel label The Eastern Front, and was established in 2006. The label releases experimental, avant-garde, industrial, noise music in limited editions and small quantities of copies.  Vogelfrei is now long sold out, though copies still come to light on Discogs occasionally and is well worth checking out.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

WHERE MIGHTY RAVENS FLY - update

Band: RAVENCLAW
Title: Where Mighty Ravens Fly
Format: What is presumed to be an unused design for the cover of this album, that was eventually released on the Atlantida Productions label (Lithuania) in 2002.

#26 From The Vaults Of W.A.R.

Now here's an album we've not had occasion to dust off for many a moon.  Aaah yes, the relatively obscure Ravenclaw release, "Where Mighty Ravens Fly", 14 years old this year and thus entering puberty with a wobble in its voice and a downy coat of stubble on its chin.

And, as always, a rummage through the vast and uncatalogued vaults of W.A.R. Productions in deepest Austria has unearthed something previously unseen about this particular release.  For it is alternate album artwork, and something quite different that the final design that was used (courtesy of an illustration courtesy of Mike Schindler of Dragon Design).

Most likely carved from tusk or horn, the Viking figure with cape swirling around him is a fittingly manly figure for this robust of musical ventures, bringing together Hugin with the late Ruslanas Danisevskis for a few demos and albums of bludgeoning music.


Whilst the exact origin of this figure is yet to be established from online sleuthing, those forays into the dark parts of the Internet did at least identify some previously unrecorded critiques of this album from various sources, so a timely moment perhaps to see what the world's underground metal fans made of this release back in the day. 

We start in Italy, with a 2003 review by Hellvis in the online Shapeless Zine:

"Ravenclaw was born in 2002 with the aim of creating a kind of Viking music, totally innovative for the underground.  Not always does the ambition correspond to actual capabilities.  In fact the style of Ravenclaw is not totally subjective but it is a set of various influences.  But one feels that the band at least tries to do something non-trivial. 

The duo consists of the label's Lithuanian owner Atlantida Productions, Ruslanas Danisevskis, and Austrian Alex Wieser, already a force in Hrossharsgrani and Uruk Hai.  "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" is their debut album.  It was recorded on four tracks.  The cover, professional, shows a crow [Nazgul's note: a raven, surely?!] with its snow capped mountains in the background.

Including wind, thunder and the cries of a crow, here resonates a relaxed introduction.  It is titled 'In Battles' and is one of the first songs composed by Ravenclaw.  In fact, it has already appeared on the compilation Atlantida Vol. 13, together with another track on "Where Mighty Ravens Fly": the bonus track 'Atlantida (Fighting for Atlantis)'.  'In Battles' is a short instrumental, with repetitive and soft tones.  The melody is played only by synthesizers.  The battle noises in the background create an alienating effect, opposing their violence to the melancholy notes.

The following 'Fenriswolf' is not an unreleased track as stated: it also appeared previously on a compilation of Atlantida, the fourteenth to be exact.  After the first graceful arpeggios and the narration, Ravenclaw try to be violent with a barrage of drum machines and a high-pitched voice.  Maybe 'Fenriswolf' should have been a strong song, but in fact it seems rambling and disappointing.  The recording quality is really tinny.  Better to leave.

"Shores Of Heaven" is nothing more than a basic piano tune with the sound of the sea in the background.  As with the introduction, again the theme is repeated in an obsessive manner.  This way of composing I think was inspired by the last two works of Burzum ( "Daudi Baldrs" and "Hliðskjálf") and the first albums by Mortiis ( "Til Fodt Herske A" or "Andes Som Gjorde Oppror").

The same atmosphere of the preceding instrumental introduces the next song 'Valhall (Der Rabenwinter)'.  In short, the drum machine intervenes to support the shrieks of the singer.  The pace is slow, the atmosphere is tense and disturbing.  The song is certainly a thousand times better 'Fenriswolf'.  It is strange, black, and extremely primitive, but able to create a certain charm.  Shame about the frequent fast sections, which proves that the duo are at its best in the mid-tempo and ambient situations.

The gurgle of a fountain introduces 'Ravenclaw'.  It is another minimalist track, which adds nothing to what previously heard.  It's still listenable.

'A Vikings Jouney' has a medieval melody of exquisite workmanship.  The ubiquitous sounds of battle are the background to the cold and epic sounds of yesteryear.  The long final section is repeated in agony.  The major influences are those already mentioned above, and in fact, we are bestowed with the cover of 'A hermóðr Helferd' whose original version is on "Daudi Baldrs".

"Power & Might" is another essential track, intimate, with narration.  Too bad that at one point the colder, irritating drum machine that should instead create a climate of violence.  If the song were accompanied by a dot matrix printer the result would be the same!  These parts are not at all satisfactory and dilute the mysterious tension, and the darkness and cold crafted from parts of the synthesizer.

A fight with bayonets announces the next 'Sword Of Honour'.  We give credit where credit is due:  When Ravenclaw create certain atmospheres, as in this instrumental, their compositions are all strong.  Of course, towards the end we again have the drum machine and singing but, oddly, things seem to work a little better.  Moreover, the part played by the piano is very evocative.

'Set Sail (A Vikings Journey Pt.II)' takes us back between sea and melancholy.  Feelings of nostalgia are communicated to the soul of the listener.  The track is long and monotonous as it could be a long sea voyage, eager for land that never seems to be in sight.  Too bad the final part, with its battle and the 'outbursts', both detract from what is heard in the previous ten minutes.

'Weltenbrand' is a short outro with strangely cheerful tones, and is relaxed.  

"Where Mighty Ravens Fly" ends here.  However, 'Atlantida (Fighting For Atlantis)'  was added as the previously mentioned bonus track.  This song is considered to be, chronologically, the first song ever composed by Ravenclaw.  The elements are all here, for better or for worse - mysterious voices, narration, laughable drum machine (though in this case it is better than usual) and redundant synthesizer steps.

What to say in conclusion?  Ravenclaw have yet to mature.  The ideas are there but the implementation is not yet up to par.  I think the band should focus on ambience, a genre in which it seems fairly creative.  If the black metal parts are just essential then it is necessary to improve the recording quality.

 Overall, a debut with some talent"

Also on t'Internet was a much shorter review in the Brutalism zine, which reads as follows:

"Ravenclaw is a project between Ruslanas from Lithuania and Alex from Austria.  What do they play?  Hard to say but it has all to do sith the old Vikings.  The songs are more like an extended intro with sound effects of water, lightning, raven cries etc.  Sometimes there is a part with instruments.  The lyrics are like spoken words sometimes.  Or black metal parts.  Or the use of medieval instruments.  After listening to the 12 tracks I still don't know what to make of it."

The tough life of a reviewer: you can almost feel his pain!


Now largely remembered for having provided the inspiration to J.K. Rowling in naming one of the four school houses at Hogwarts*, the Ravenclaw legacy is sometimes forgotten about in the overall scheme of all things Hugin.  How nice, therefore, to still be able to dredge up something new about the project after all these years....

* ok, not entirely true...

Monday, 12 December 2016

ARCHIVES


Band: Moloch (featuring Bonemachine)
Title: Archives
Format: A double CDr compilation released in January 2008 on the Acclaim Records label (USA), cat ref AR016/ALP004, with a coloured cover on heavy paper.  Comes in a DVD sized box.
Edition: 12 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
Disc 1
01. ...  0.25 (instrumental)
02. Berkana (Bonemachine version) 07.28    
03. ...  0.25 (instrumental) 
04. Die Sehnsucht (Alt version) 05.34  
05. ...  0.24 (instrumental)
06. Nebelklang (Alt version) 02.12     
07. ...  0.24 (instrumental) 
08. Todesstille der Vorhersagen (Alt version) 04.30     
09. ...  0.25 (instrumental)
10. Algiz (Part ll. Alt version) 01.53     
11. ...  0.27 (instrumental) 
12. Dornige Ewigkeit (Alt version) 02.06     
13. ...  0.24 (instrumental) 
14. Forest tragedy 04.20    
15. ...  0.25 (instrumental)   

Disc 2 
01. Hail Black Metal Krieg (Part II) 03.14   
02. Rotten Armful of Grey Thoughts (alt version) 05.23   
03. Rotten Armful of Grey Thoughts (alt version II) 02.39   
04. Throught Halo of Fire-brands (alt version) 07.27   
05. In the Woods... 02.32 (instrumental)
06. Sturm of Aryan Winds (alt version) 02.33   
07. Ruf aus dem wald (alt version) 05.58   
08. Pest aus Gefühlen der Traurigkeit (alt version) 01.11     
09. Pest aus Gefühlen der Traurigkeit (rehearsal) 02.46     
10. Pest aus Gefühlen der Traurigkeit (rehearsal II) 03.24    
11. Morast (rehearsal) 01.23   
12. I See the End of This Wormhuman Swampworld 06.08 

The never-ending quest to document all of the various appearance, influences and releases of our favourite Austrian hero does occasionally take us to strange and murky waters.  In a rare event in today's post, the featured release is not one that actually resides in the Castle Nazgul collection.  This is for a very good reason: the release only came in an edition of 12 copies and was long sold-out before Nazgul got a whiff of its existence!

The reason Nazgul features this somewhat obscure Moloch compilation is solely down to the very first proper song on CD1, track 2: 'Berkana (Bonemachine version)'.  Now, you may recall that the song 'Berkana' was one of the Moloch songs featured on the "Schicksalswinde" split tape with Bonemachine, that was recently revisited earlier this year. 

In that June post, Nazgul mentioned the fact that the origin of this split tape had been in the monstrous "Traumklänge und Klagelieder" box-set, in which were a number of CDr's with Bonemachine-related content.  One of those discs, CDr3 'Unreleased Tracks', contained the song 'Berkana (remixed by B-Machina)'.  I do hope you're still with me, as I'm buggered if I'm explaining all that again.

Now, it would be Nazgul's educated guess that the version of the song on "Archives" is the self-same version as the one on CDr3 in the "Traumklänge und Klagelieder" box.  If nothing else, we know the original version on "Schicksalswinde" has a running time of 6.46, whilst the advertised duration on the Acclaim Records compilation is a longer 7.28.  Of course, interesting as this all is the actual song still eludes me as neither of the box-sets are to hand to actually play the wretched thing!

Ah well, at least the Honour and Darkness archive is up to date still ... sort of.  Hugin's contribution to this track, incidentally, is described as "Additional Ambient Modifications", which sounds terribly grand!  

Even Acclaim Records' own promotional blurb for the "Archives" release has a whiff of despair about it, in their acknowledgement that 'unreleased' in Moloch's world is a relative concept: "Double CDr with 'unreleased versions' (at least at this time, some may appear in many other releases as usually happens with Moloch) of Moloch tracks, also contains some rehearsal versions.  One ambient CDr and one CDr with raw Black Metal poison.

This is one of those releases to keep an eye out for whilst browsing online, though given the likely exorbitant price that might accompany such a limited edition it's one for the 'nice-to-have-but-not-essential' pile.  

Friday, 9 December 2016

ELBENGLANZ


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Elbenglanz
Format: There are three versions of this compilation: A professionally released CD on the Aphelion Productions label (UK) from July 2016, cat ref AP091 with colour covers and picture disc is the most common.  There are also 2 cassette versions, one on the W.A.R. Productions label (Austria), cat ref WAR 087 with 3 photo inlay cards, and a second on the French Wulfrune Worxx label, cat ref ULV 921.  Both tapes come in hand-numbered editions with colour covers and stock tapes, and add the same bonus song.
Edition: The CD comes in an edition of 500 unnumbered copies.  The W.A.R. tape is in an edition of 50 copies; and the Wulfrune Worxx pressing in an edition of 33 copies.

Track Listing:
01. Far Away (2013)  6.01  
02. Gil-galad (2007)  11.00
03. The Fate Of Man (2009)  3.57  
04. The Unknown (1999)  3.56  
05. The Valley Of Gorgoroth (2013)  5.41  
06. Lebenin (2005)  10.28  
07. War Magic (2014)  4.55  
08. Farewell We Call (2009)  6.41  
09. Into The Mirror (2006)  3.18  
10. Shadow Of The Orcs (2000)  6.13  
11. Men Of Straw (2014)  3.41

Tape-only bonus track (at track 9)
Gondolin Falls (2003)

On the face of it, a brilliantly simple idea.  An Uruk Hai compilation album, chock-a-block with Hugin's finest moments: a no-brainer, for sure!  Is there's a market for a best-of Uruk-Hai release: well, yes, there is!  Always one of Hugin's more popular projects, there's little question that a release bringing together around 15 years of the project's output would be a popular one with the fan-base.

And strangely enough compilations (as opposed to anthology box-sets, which are a slightly different beast, tending as they do to group themes of releases such as the 'Darkness' tapes) are a bit thin on the ground.  You can put the "Battle Yells" tape into that select category, and the CDr compilation "Blutreich" too for that matter, but thereafter you'll be struggling a bit to find an equivalent career-spanning release.


Until now, that is!  "Elbenglanz" fills that void, though with a twist.  Instead of the songs being selected by Hugin himself, they've been chosen by us, the fans!  This creates something of a strange end result, as the diversity of age and era of the songs chosen have spawned rather an eclectic beast.

Indeed, it would be an interesting exercise to find an innocent victim previously unfamiliar with this band and have then listen to this collection to see how many different bands they think are featured.  For in truth, given the large diversity in musical output from this project over the last decade and a half, the collection of songs could easily be misjudged as the output of several different groups.

The primary reason for this diversity is where songs have been chosen that feature a 'guest' vocalist.  Consider, if you would, opening song 'Far Away' in comparison to 'The Fate Of Man' and also to 'Men Of Straw'.  You could hardly get three more different sounding songs, largely due to the influence of the different vocal talents on display within them, and this does make for a rather bewildering experience depending - I suppose - on what your mind-set is regarding the 'Uruk Hai sound'.

Now don't misunderstand your old Uncle Nazgul: each of these songs I like, but for different reasons and at different times.  I've never actually sat down in one sitting and thought to myself, 'Oh I know, I'll pull some random collaborative songs from the band's discography and see how they compare back to back', hence my relative surprise in hearing them in this manner on "Elbenglanz".

Such head-spinning tactics ramp-up across the rest of the collection as old songs are thrown into the mix as well ('The Unknown', 'Shadow Of The Orcs' and 'Gondolin Falls' - if you've snapped up one of the tape versions - being but three), and as what I would call classic middle-period band songs such as 'Lebenin' and 'Gil-galad' make an appearance at the party.  I think even Hugin was surprised by the range of songs chosen by his loyal following!

W.A.R. Productions tape version

What it does demonstrate very nicely, however, is that we all have different moment's in the band's lengthy history that appeal the strongest.  Such diversity within the fan-base can only be a good thing, but boy - do we all make for strange bedfellows!

There is, by the way, a nice review of this compilation on the Spirit of Metal website from WinterDemon, who scores the piece 17/20 marks (calling it 'a perfect compilation from Austria), and who notes:

"Well here it is the new release of Austria's most famous Ambient and Dungeon Synth one-man project Uruk Hai. This new release is the first part of a series of Best of songs from 17 years band history and the special thing on the compilation is that all songs are chosen by us, the fans. Elbenglanz is the first part of and later this year a second one will follow and I guess it's called Elbenstolz. 

Some of the songs of Elbenglanz are re-recorded and with featuring of the underground guitarist Joe Matera. 

Elbenglanz was released by the label Aphelion Productions and is limited to 500 copies only. I have to say this release is perfect for everyone who didn't have the chance to collect the whole Uruk-Hai releases because their are to much and the next problem is the limitations some of the most famous recordings in the early years of Uruk Hai are hard to find and when you find it they are very, very expensive. 

All the tracks and melodies are very wise choose by the fans and of course all songs are about the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and his books The Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion or The Hobbit. Uruk Hai is for me like a soundtrack for this whole Tolkien stuff and is so exciting. Each Uruk Hai record has its own feeling, this own spirit and passion in every melody and it never gets boring and sometimes it has this horrifying effect when you are alone in the dark and you just listen to a song for example 'Shadow of the Orcs' or songs like that. 

So at last I have to say this record is a must have for every fan of Dark Ambient and Dungeon Synth and also everyone who's a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and his epic and legendary mystical book's. It's a perfect release for everyone who want's to look inside this genre all songs are good chosen for this release and I can't wait the second part of this compilation series. So be fast and get you your copy before they are all gone. Don't forget their are only 500 copies out there and yes I got my CD already in my CD-shelf. Elbenglanz is very well compiled album and is another proud member of Uruk-Hai's and Alexander "Hugin" Wieser's album discography"

Wulfrune Worxx tape version

Ultimately almost anything that provokes a varied reaction of this sort is probably a good thing, as it does tend to act as a clarion call to revisit those less frequented parts of a band's output.  For my sins, the majority of Nazgul's favourite pieces of Uruk Hai-ness tend to fall in that period from circa 2003-2009, where they were predominantly lush keyboard instrumental recordings.  This is not universally the case though, so as some of the modern recordings have been superb too.

A quick word on the excellent artwork too: the CD has a fabulous rear tray inlay showing all of the Uruk Hai band logos of yore (deja vu moment there, as Nazgul once did a post on something rather similar...!) and in the credits on all of the inlays are the musicians who helped create these songs, and a list of the dedicated fans who have helped support the project over the years.  More power to your elbows, one and all!

Juxtaposing songs from my favourite era to those from other periods has certainly been eye-opening, and a timely kick in the pants to go and grab "...And All The Magic & Might He Brought" from the shelf again to give it another spin...