Saturday, 22 April 2017

END OF TIME


Band: GUTS FOR DINNER
Title: End Of Time
Format: A recent song recorded by Hugin, scheduled for inclusion on an upcoming new GFD release!
Edition: N/A

Track Listing:
01. End Of Time  2.17

Ah those three little words which epitomise the heart-warming, spring in your step feeling of true first love: 'Guts For Dinner'.  Or is it 'I Love You' I'm thinking of there?  Oh well, no matter (more splatter) because as a treat at the tail end of 2016 Hugin had recorded new Guts For Dinner material, and here it is reviewed for your delectation!

Clearly this is an alarming development.  GFD is most certainly not for the squeamish, and any attempt to handle material from this malevolent entity usually ends in tears.  Almost banished from Castle Nazgul for unnecessarily traumatising the castle monkey, the head-spinning, projectile-vomit inducing pummelling that a GFD track entails is more than sufficient to cause local seismic activity and kick-start riots and unrest.  And just downright annoy the gorgeous Lady Nazgul, who already has to put up with a lot god bless her...

What's more, this isn't just a one-off song you know.  Oh no, Hugin has only gone and created a limited edition re-issue of the original demo with this new song (and one other) bolted onto it - you'll find out more about that as 2017 unfolds.

But for now, let us revel not only in the new GFD logo that proudly adorns this post (and which will be used on the upcoming release too, which - it must be said - has some excellent artwork of its own), but also dissect the new song: it's not long and it's not pleasant!

Spiky black metal guitar meets raspy-burpy-drowning-under-water vocal style in a dark alley in a broken beer bottles death match is how you might fairly describe this.

I'd like to leave you today with an unusual thing: a rare flash of brilliant insight from your old Uncle Nazgul.  Let's take a parallel between the world of film and the world of music.  Hugin, as we well know, has a string of musical projects to his name of differing genres and styles, from the majestic Middle-Earth musings of Uruk Hai to the splatter/gore world of Guts For Dinner. Akin to this is film producer Peter Jackson: who would ever have guessed that the man responsible for gore-tastic Bad Taste in 1987 and Braindead in 1992 would, a mere decade later, be responsible for bringing Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings to the silver-screen with such style and panache?  Absolutely no one, that's who!

So who's to say that such an improbable turn of events could not befall our Austrian hero, catapulting his music from the underground into the realm of fantasy film (and yes, before you remind me, I do remember "The Nebula Dawn"!)  So don't be surprised when Hollywood does come calling, cheque book in hand, earning Hugin sufficient loot to build a huge chateau in the heart of Linz and elevating him to the dizzy heights of super-stardom...!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

THE ASHES OF BATTLE - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Ashes Of Battle
Reason for Update: This is the tape version of the split album between Uruk Hai and Balrog, previously reviewed in CDr format in September 2016.
Format: Professionally produced tape with full colour j-card cover on the Out Of Season (USA) label, released on 6 November 2016 catalogue reference oos25.
Edition: 100 hand numbered-copies

Track Listing:
Uruk Hai
01. Eagles
02. Elbenklang
Balrog
03. Spirit Of Fire
04. Wild Warriors
05. Eye Of Smaug
06. Grey Heavens
07. Outgoing Of Flames

Nazgul jumped the gun a little back in September when he reviewed the CDr of "Ashes Of Battle" as the tape release for that particular release had not yet appeared.  A couple of months later, however, out it popped from the Out Of Season label with the same track listing and artwork (somewhat truncated, by necessity) but in loveable cassette format.

And of course, for reasons of obsessive completeness, here it is featured in Honour and Darkness so that you can set your own personal collecting radar in its general direction and press the 'seek' button accordingly.

Nazgul stands by his previous comments on this album, especially regarding the excellent of opening song 'Eagles'.  This release did prompt me to rush out and buy a range of other demo releases from Balrog too, which proved most invigorating and excellent in their own right.

Indeed, there's a common misconception that the crenelated vaults of Castle Nazgul house only the world renowned 'Hugin' collection.  But that would be far from the truth, as various other lesser compendiums and collections litter the various dusty castle rooms, all quite varied and remarkable in their own right.

As a treat, Nazgul will share you one of these side collections in a future post (coming soon, I promise!), which has a tenuous connection with a recently reviewed release in this very blog, but which is something a little different that even our Austrian master himself won't have seen...

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

REALM OF LIGHT ... (it lives!)

Band: DRACHENFEUER
Title: Realm Of Light
Format: There exist two versions of this release, both on Dark Age Productions (America) and both with catalogue reference DAP031.  The cassette version was issued first in December 2016, and comes in a ‘Grey Mountain ‘coloured cassette shells, with a lamp black imprint and six panel full colour ‘J-card’ plus exclusive badge/pin.  The double CD in 6-panel digipak format followed on in 2017, and bears an additional bonus track and its own exclusive badge/pin.
Edition:  Cassette release limited to 100 unnumbered copies.  The number of copies of the CD version is unknown.

Track Listing:
CD version:
Disc 1
01.  All Shall Love Me and Despair  7.36  
02.  Helm’s Deep  5.36  
03.  Flight of the Nazgul  10.58  
04.  Do Not Touch the Water  7.32  
05.  So Far Like Never Before  6.40  
06.  Father of Dragons  9.12  
07.  Valar  21.31 (CD only bonus track)
Disc 2   
08.  The Black Gate  8.17  
09.  Beren and Luthien  17.19  
10.  Nightfall at the Edge of the Old Forest  5.18  
11.  Dol Guldur  11.27  
12.  The Desolation of Smaug  10.18

Cassette version:
Side 1
01.  All Shall Love Me and Despair  
02.  Helm’s Deep  
03.  Flight of the Nazgul  
04.  Do Not Touch the Water  
05.  So Far Like Never Before  
06.  Father of Dragons  
Side 2
07.  The Black Gate  
08.  Beren and Luthien  
09.  Nightfall at the Edge of the Old Forest  
10.  Dol Guldur  
11.  The Desolation of Smaug

Back again - claws ripping, fangs rending the very flesh from your bones... No, not Nazgul (though I am back, and very pleased to be so), but long dormant collaborative project Drachenfeuer.  You remember I'm sure - the joint venture between UK ambient synth maestro Jim Kirkwood and Hugin, which spawned a promo-only CD almost 7 years ago to the day that was feted in Honour and Darkness ahead of what was hoped to be a swift formal release on a label ... of which these tremendous looking releases are the long anticipated result!

The artwork's different for sure, but the track listing remains intact and with a updated and refreshed trip through the recording studio it sounds as wonderful as ever.  This is the very epitome of ambient Middle-Earth Tolkien metal!   As the promotional literature from the label attests:

"Howard Shore may have shown us the beauty of Middle-Earth with a grandiose score but it is time to forsake the golden fields of the Riddermark, the silver eaves of Laurelind√≥renan, and majestic pearl of Minas Anor. 

Through the collaborative efforts of masters of the genre, Jim Kirkwood and Alexander Wieser as Drachenfeuer, we are given an opportunity to explore Middle-Earth in a way we never have before. We can travel to the fells of Angmar, the haunted home of the Witch-King, the long dark of Moria where the Balrog awaits in the shadows, or the spider ridden forest throne of Dol Guldur. With choirs, synths, guitars, and drums, explore the lands of Arda with new eyes, a new sense of wonder and danger. 

Heart rending melodies ready to carry you off to war, into a darkness that one can never escape. Hear the piercing wails of the Ringwraiths and cower in dreadful fear, hear the wrathful roars of the ancient dragons and feel the heat of their monstrous breath, hear the trumpets of the Valar, piercing the morning with the very music of creation.

Bear witness to the mightiest collaboration in all of dungeon synth as two masters mould folkish melodies and militant harmonies, adding terror and pain with beauty and love. Look upon the face of “Realm of Light” for none shall ever bear its like until the world is remade. Reach the heights of the firmament and the depths of the abyss. Watch as the world comes to life with smoky, shadowy melodies that no orchestras or symphonies could control."

It's great that this almost forgotten about album has finally been given a proper release, and in such high quality too.

In terms of what the thing sounds like, there is a monumental review of this album at the Archaic Triad website, which is so utterly all encompassing you'll forgive Nazgul for quoting it verbatim I'm sure:

"Underground atmospheric music has a long history of existing as a complement to metal, and black metal in particular. The 90s were full of “side projects” performed with varying degrees of competence, usually with an ambition to convey occult, spiritual or Fantasy inspired themes. Sometimes this musical sub-subculture took on a life somewhat separate from the metal milieu that spawned it, as was the case when Bard Algol founded Dark Age Productions and published a long line of both metal side projects and other atmospheric works. Well over twenty years later, the memory of these bands, as well as the early works of Mortiis, the synth albums of Burzum and a host of other classics, gave birth to the notion of “dungeon synth”. This subgenre now thrives, with new projects launching monthly, and releases – mainly online, but also in physical format – dropping weekly.

 The re-establishment of Dark Age Productions is yet another step in this momentous development (I’m not a native English speaker, and do not know the meaning of the word hyperbole). After a fantastic reissue of the early works of Bard Algol’s own project Cernunnos Woods, the time has come for the first original release. Drachenfeuer and Realm of Light marks Dark Age Productions’ re-emergence as a proper label, in a sense. It is an utterly ambitious project from the minds and fingers of Jim Kirkwood and Alexander Wieser. Kirkwood has released more than 80 albums since the 80s, and the two men have spent quite a lot of time working together in bands such as URUK HAI, Solid Grey and numerous others. Realm of Light was recorded back in 2009, and now finally sees the light of day.

Being one of the harbingers of the new age of dungeon synth carries certain responsibilities, even while the actual band could never have seen this peculiar context coming. Things could go awry in two specific ways: the recording could be too lo-fi, good for what it was and duly awakening feelings of nostalgia and old school tape trading. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is not the sort of release most of us would expect from Dark Age Productions at this point (in particular since there will plenty of time for nostalgia when the various re-issues of old D.A.P. classics are released). 

On the other hand, it could also have made too much use of the musical technology available these days, creating a perfect emulation of a philharmonic orchestra and ending up sounding like the soundtrack of some blockbuster Fantasy movie. That would not be right either; such music can be found in most any modern video game or indeed movie. We are happy to report that Drachenfeuer have navigated perfectly through and beyond this Scylla and Charybdis of dungeon synth’s Strait of Messina.

The two hour epos is based on various aspects of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, ranging from the creation myth of the Silmarillion to the Black Gate of Mordor in the Third Age. This is of course nothing original, but it works very well together with the music, which consists of long – often very long – tracks of evocative, High Fantasy instrumentation.

At times the album borders on ambient, but almost always the songs include lucid and expressive melodies, as well as choice percussion and dramatic sound effects that serve to move this outside the realm of, say, dark ambient. It is often dream-like, transcendent and indeed suggestive of a realm of light, rather than something more black and brooding (though there are exceptions – “The Black Gate”, for one). To reconnect to the initial ramblings above, the quality of the synthesizers are top notch, the music is well written and executed, and in a technical sense it goes far beyond anything which could reasonably have been accomplished by black metal-affiliated underground musicians back in the 90s. At the same time, it is unashamedly synth based, even while retaining the right to utilize several acoustic instruments, choirs and sound effects, as well as the odd articulate vocal part.

The tracks are almost all utterly epic, though some are calmer and some more bombastic. It isn’t all mighty strings and rumbling timpani, though. In “Father of Dragons” Drachenfeuer offer up some synth pop with industrial notes, while the preceding “So Far Like Never Before” is a slab of 80s synthesizer dreaminess. The effect achieved through insertion of old school synth voices we recognize from way back when in many tracks may or may not be intentional, but it is to create a great dynamic with the more professional sounding modern synthesizer melodies and chords.

To say that the full two hours of music featured on this double CD convey constant bliss would of course be an exaggeration – there are parts which feel somewhat directionless, and while they didn’t cause any track skipping, the thought was there at times. Still, these meandering passages also contribute to reducing the aforementioned problem with an overly slick and “commercial” product – this is raw creativity, even if it is rather professional sounding.

Attempting to list influences would be perilous, given Jim Kirkwood’s long history with atmospheric music, but several comparisons can still be made. Summoning’s non-metal tracks, the more epic works of early Mortiis (though this has a far more ambitious production) and certain movie sound tracks could surely be mentioned without stepping on any toes. The massiveness of the album is fairly unique, though. The only dungeon synth release with a longer playtime would be Chaucerian Myth’s debut.

Realm of Light is epic both in the literal and the internet teenage slang sense of the word (kids do still say “epic”, or was that ten years ago?). It is a worthy second release for the new Dark Age Productions, and a great addition to the growing body of dungeon synth extant today. Archaic Triad sincerely hopes it finds a market, so that the inexcusable vulgarity of the mob doesn’t condemn it to a glorious but tragic fate of splendid, forgotten marginalization.

The album is out pretty much right now, and can already be ordered from Dark Age Productions. You’d better do so."

Phew, hardly anything left to say after that, I'd wager.


All in all there's absolutely no excuse not to venture forth, sword aloft and flame-resistant underpants at the ready, to explore and enjoy the delights of this magnificent release from Hugin and Jim.  A long time in the making, and even longer in the gestation, but so worth the wait.

And, as usual, here's the 'family picture' complete with the original 2-disc promo-only edition.