Thursday, 22 June 2017

ENSLAVED IN EVIL DARKNESS - update



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Enslaved In Evil Darkness
Format: A cassette tape release on the Obscure Dungeon Records label (France) in April 2017, cat ref ODR013.  Tape comes with a full colour pro-printed cover, and is advertised as being accompanied by a small poster of album artwork.
Edition: Limited to 30 hand-numbered copies only

Track Listing:
01. Out Of The Shire   
02. Enter Mordor   
03. Orc-March   
04. Beneath The Moon   
05. Morgoth   
06. Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)   
07. Underneath The Stars   
08. Lay Of Leithian

Oh dear, this may take a little untangling both from a content perspective, and from the business side of things too.

Let's do the music side of affairs first, which is by far the happier part of the story.  What we have here is essentially a rereleased and expanded version of the original "Enslaved In Evil Darkness" tape release on AMF Productions from 2005. 

That release was a split tape between Uruk Hai and Finnish band Valar, with both projects contributing 3 songs: in the case of Uruk Hai, the tracks in question were 'Out Of The Shire', 'Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)' and 'Underneath The Stars'.  The three songs are faithfully included on this new tape, albeit jumbled up in running order at track positions 1, 6 and 7 respectively.

You may also recall that back in May 2015 Nazgul included as Part 19 of the 'From The Vaults of W.A.R.' series coverage of a proposed - but ultimately never issued - CDr version of the "Enslaved..." release that had been mooted by US label Lifeless Productions.  This is of interest here as that release had contained 4 Uruk Hai songs, the additional one being 'Orc March' which, as the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted, is included on this 2017 reissue at track 3.

So far, so good - a reissue that pulls together all 4 intended Uruk Hai songs onto one release.  And not only that, it sprinkles a further 4 songs into the mix as well.  You'll be interested to know from whence they come, Nazgul perceives, so let's deal with that next: 3 of the songs are drawn from the "Lothlorien" CD (and, to be fair, appear on a few other releases too but this is the principal source), and they are 'Enter Mordor', 'Beneath The Moon' and 'Lay Of Leithian'.

The final extra track, 'Morgoth', is a product of the 2009 demo of the same title.

So on the face of it, this is a good news story wrapped in some nice artwork and a welcome 2017 release in the Uruk Hai discography.

Except ... there's often a complication on the path to Nirvana, and in this case it seems to be a potential case of 'dodgy business dealings' by the label that has brought a bit of a cloud over proceedings.

Now, I have no reason to unnecessarily besmirch the reputation of French label Obscure Dungeon Records but a couple of interesting facts have come to light since the 'release' (and I say that guardedly) of this tape.  Firstly, Hugin has yet to receive any artist copies of the thing for his own resale, which is a big no-no in this world, especially if the label are selling copies already.

And we know the label have been because Nazgul bought a copy.  Now, my copy came from a dealer trading under a different name on Discogs so I can't definitively connect the seller to the label, but given they are based in France it is more than a coincidence I'd imagine.  And - I might point out - whilst the tape did eventually arrive it was sans the promised 'little poster' and no amount of badgering of the seller has led to its arrival, despite claims it was being posted out to me (it wasn't).

That seller is no longer retailing the tape, and surprise, surprise (not!) the label's own webpage shows the tape to be 'out of stock'

The unavoidable conclusion therefore seems to be that this label has printed off a batch of tapes, sold them all (in whatever quantity they felt like most likely, as would you trust them at this point to stick to a limitation of 30 copies as advertised?) and not given any to Hugin for this own benefit. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, smells like a rip-off to me.

So I'd tread cautiously around this particular bunch in the future, from a buyer's perspective and indeed from an artist's perspective too.

Which is a shame, as in theory this would have been a very nice release to celebrate had all things gone as they should have.  Let's pop on a pair of rose-tinted spectacles then, and postulate the theory that the reason the label reports being 'out of stock' is because they have belatedly done the right thing and shipped the agreed number of remaining copies of this tape over to WAR Productions in Austria. 

Time will tell, and if there is a happy ended then Nazgul will be happy to set the record straight, as he did with the Dungeons Deep label's "Nachtkrieg" CD saga of 2010!

Update:

Nazgul drafted this post about a week ago, but in agreement with Hugin we gave enough time for the label to reply to Hugin's last emails querying the whereabouts of his own copies of this release.  At today's date nothing has been heard from Obscure Dungeons, so Honour and Darkness press on to publish and be damned!

Interestingly, also at today's date, I see another copy of this tape listed for sale on Discogs but this time from a seller in the US who I know has retailed a lot of Hugin's tapes in the past.  That listing also advertises the tape as not coming with the advertised poster, so I do begin to wonder if any other posters were actually printed up by the label at all (apart from the one used in the picture, below)?

Label's own promotional photo of this release with the elusive poster pictured (left)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

ATLANTIDA VOL. 14 [V/A]


Band: RAVENCLAW
Title: Atlántida Vol. 14 (various artists)
Format: Black and white cover, silver CDr disc, it's a traditional Ruslanas home-produced compilation!
Edition: Unspecified (800-1000 copies)

Track Listing:
01. ENORHTED  *  Twisted Fabrics
02. SVARTALFAR  *  Firnwulf
03. ENIGMATIK  *  Enter The Realm Of Enigma
04. FOREFATHER  *  Into The Forever
05. SYLVA MALA  *  Fine Veil
06. LOITS  *  Veri
07. CLAWN  *  Endless Suffering
08. PRIMAL DAWN  *  Cold Hills
09. LITHAM  *  Empire Of Ibliss
10. RAVENCLAW  *  Fenriswolf
11. FAUSTRECHT  *  Impetigo
12. ARCHETYPE  *  Hands Of Time
13. AZAGATEL  *  Atlantis Descendent
14. VALHALLA  *  Gloom Of War
15. DIFENACUM  *  Elemental Disease
16. FREUND HEIM  *  To Be - What A Shame
17. MALEFICIO  *  En La Destruction Creemos

Well, all good things must come to an end as they say, and here it is: the last of the Atlandia releases to be covered in Honour and Darkness.  There are other volumes in the series of course, but nothing that features any of Hugin's many and varied projects so today's entry - "Volume 14" is the end of the line.  A bit of a sad day here for Nazgul, and doubtless for Hugin too (which makes Valhalla's offering most pertinent, being 'Gloom of W.A.R.'...!)

As always, the late Ruslanas Danisevskis compiled a range of the weird and the wonderful for this release, trawling the world for bands to showcase under his label's wing.  On this outing we have bands from diverse locations spanning Brazil, Singapore, Italy, Switzerland, Algeria, Spain, Austria, Lithuania and the United Kingdom, to name but a few.  Quite astonishing really, though very few of them has Nazgul actually ever heard of apart from Ravenclaw: Valhalla is a familiar entity, being part of that vinyl split release with Elisabetha back in the day, whilst Forefather hail from literally just down the road from Castle Nazgul, in sunny Leatherhead.

Ravenclaw's song is, of course, from their "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" CD, which was released 15 years ago this year believe it or not.

Another excellent cover from Mike Schindler (Dragon Design) which is co-credited to a Thomas Hammer too, and that's your lot really: a 'classic' Atlántida compilation where everything is suitably noisy, wrapped up in a stylish black and white covered package.

One of these days Nazgul is going to have to dig around to try to locate the published Atlántida zine that Ruslanas periodically published, as doubtless there are many nuggets relating to Hugin's bands within those pages .... another part of the collection yet to be completed!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

NEVER BOWED, NEVER BROKEN - A REMEMBRANCE [V/A]


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Never Bowed, Never Broken - A Remembrance [V/A]
Format: An online compilation on Facebook to raise funds for the victims of the Manchester terror attack of 22 May 2017
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:
01. Appalachian Winter  *  Miri It Is  4.29
02. Jaron Evil  *  Starfall  3.42
03. VOND  *  Alene I Stillhet  8.27
04. Nam-Khar  *  Sangchod  6.26
05. Ringbearer  *  Men Of Gondor  5.52
06. Caroline Jago  *  Submergence  7.28
07. Mortiis  *  Sins Of Mine (feat. Raison D'Etre)  6.51
08. Anndra  *  She Mourns Amidst The Ruins  6.14
09. Randal Collier-Ford  *  Childhood  2.12
10. Caine Rose  *  All The Leaves  3.20
11. Hoyland  *  Within My Heart  6.53
12. Thaumiel Sonozaki  *  Fear Will Be Your Enemy  4.55
13. Randal Collier-Ford  *  Thinking  3.24
14. Eloheim  *  Du'Wintre  12.38
15. Embers Below Zero  *  Limbo  4.31
16. Gorthorn  *  Days Of Rain  4.56
17. Randal Collier-Ford  *  Resolve  4.24
18. Uruk Hai  *  Far Away  6.00
19. The Dead Soul Communion  *  For You  4.00

Permit me to 'break character' for the duration of this post, and put the persona of Nazgul to one side for just a moment.

Honour and Darkness has never been a platform for discussions or opinions about politics and 'real world' issues, though the occasional passing reference to current affairs has been known to crop up. The reason for this is simply that the primary focus of this blog is on music, specifically the music of our favourite Austrian, Alex 'Hugin' Wieser, and having a bit of escapism away from the nonsense and horrors that the world actually contains is sometimes quite a nice thing to do.

And yet sometimes events out in the real world are difficult to ignore, and occasionally have a very personal resonance too.

Such is the case with the subject of this commendable fund raising project, designed to raise funds for the 22 victims and 116 injured by the suicide bombing during a concert by Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena on 22 May this year by passporting your donations to the British Red Cross and local victim advocacy groups.

My brother-in-law was in the Arena with his daughter that night: thankfully not in the foyer when the bomb was detonated, but in the auditorium nonetheless but - mercifully - safe.  They witnessed the aftermath as did many others that night though on their way out of the building, and you put yourself in the shoes of a father having to explain the scenes of horror that they saw to a young, innocent child.  Yet they were among the lucky ones.

Last weekend we celebrated my birthday, and my good lady wife treated me and our 5 year old son to a weekend in London.  We stayed overnight in the city, and on Saturday had been walking down from our hotel in the evening towards London Bridge area, taking photos of the city skyline as the skies darkened.  The fact that it was getting a bit late for the little lad to be out of his bed, and that it was starting to rain, were pretty much the only reasons we never walked down as far as London Bridge, instead deciding to go back to our hotel.  And there, by the grace of God, we went, given the events that followed only an hour or two later in that part of the city.

And so it goes on.  Back in 1988, my sister had a close friend who had family in Scotland.  Two of them were unlucky enough to be on the ground in the wrong place at the wrong time and were killed by the debris of bombed Pam Am flight 103, wherein another bunch of barbaric terrorists murdered 270 passengers, crew and civilians that night over the town of Lockerbie.

Normal people, doing normal things, but having their lives ended or put at risk through no fault of their own by those who would kill and harm innocent civilians in pursuit of their own warped delusions.

There is simply no place for such demented extremists (irrespective of what agenda they follow) in modern society.  And that's all that I want to say on the matter.

Just for the (musical) record, there's much to commend this collection of songs and not just from a charitable perspective; we can see some excellent contributions here from old favourites Jaron Evil/Ringbearer, together with interesting material from a number of other established and emerging bands.

The Uruk Hai track you may be familiar with already, being taken as it has been from the "...And All The Magic And Might He Brought" album of 2013, and featured as it was on another online compilation "Crossing The Borders" from 2014.

Dig deep, and enjoy the music despite the sad events that has led to its existence.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Nazgul's second collection...


What's all this then?  It's one of Nazgul's other areas for collecting, that of Jim Kirkwood related CDs!
Who?  You remember: Jim Kirkwood, one half of Drachenfeuer alongside Alex
Ah yes, and so....?  Nazgul promised something a little different a while ago, and here it is!

There are a number of striking similarities between our Austrian hero Alex "Hugin" Wieser and UK musical maestro Jim "Crowman" Kirkwood:

  • Both are primarily solo artists, though have been in bands;
  • Both have created and maintained a number of main and side projects;
  • Both have an early background in extreme metal before moving, to varying extents, into more ambient territories utilising keyboards as their main instrument;
  • Both have a prodigious number of releases to their name in tape and CD format;
  • Both are highly regarded 'cult' figures; lauded by many, derided by some;
  • Neither individual's musical output is particularly easy to find or collect;
  • Both individual's musical output can be ruinously expensive to find and collect; and
  • Both men possess strong personal faith, which in Jim's case has led him away from this musical path and he no longer makes, or sells, any of his music.

No wonder then, that the evolution of this collection has happened over a number of years...

Releases in Jim's own name
Let's have a little resume about Jim's career to date though, for those less familiar with his background:

Jim has been writing Electronic Music since the late 1980's when he stepped back from fronting a black metal band to explore a solo career in instrumental music. He has his own unique style of Gothic EM which moves easily between huge symphonic slabs of music, dark ambient and sequencer driven soundscapes.

The music itself, inspired by Gothic and Symphonic Rock and Berlin School Electronica, is quite often a CD in length, moves and shifts in tempo and mood, sometimes dark and sombre, sometimes ethereal and melodic, yet the whole gels perfectly into a single experience that grips the imagination and brings you into a world of dark and exciting beauty.

 In 2012 after completing the 4 hour album A Day in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, Jim took a break from the music industry to concentrate on his art and to reassess his spiritual direction, to look again at the influence of the Christian faith on his early life.

Jim had until recently, embraced a heathen/gnostic philosophy and had been openly hostile toward religious organisations and in particular the Christian faith, a stance which is reflected in many of the titles of his music and comments.

However, according to online sources I've read, certain events in his life forced him to rethink his position and conclude and regret his former position. Jim openly confesses that he believes in the person of Jesus Christ, both historically and spiritually and this will no doubt be reflected in the future content of his art and music.

Lucifaere
I've had the pleasure of a few email exchanges with Jim over the years, at the time of the original Drachenfeuer demo, when The First Ring compilation came out (on which he was also represented with a song), and in more recent times too.  Always a kind soul, Jim expressed some (only partly mock) horror when Nazgul mentioned he had paid actual money for old CD releases of Jim's music, distancing himself from their merit and commercial worth.

Yet Jim Kirkwood releases continue to command high prices whenever you see them, which is hardly ever as anyone who has used the obvious outlets of eBay and Discogs to find his work will be able to attest.  Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that Jim's CD's now rival if not exceed those of even the rarest Uruk Hai releases in terms of price (not accounting for box-sets there, though) with single discs tipping the scales at over £25-30 and double albums nearer £40-£50 apiece now, more in some cases.

Not a hobby for the faint of heart!

Ancient Technology Cult
Jim's music is broadly split into three projects, by the way: those under his own name, those under the Lucifaere name, and those as Ancient Technology Cult.  In total Nazgul has identified around 80-odd releases under his various banners, of which 49 reside in the collection so far.  The full list, surpassing that on Discogs, is as follows:

Where Shadows Lie (1990) (Cassette)
King of the Golden Hall (1990) (Cassette)
Middle Earth (1990)(Cassette)
Tales From A Melnibone Tavern (1991) (Cassette)
Souls That Dance On the Edge of A Sword (1991) (Cassette)
Nightshade In Eden (1991) (Cassette)
Master of Dragons (1991) (Cassette)
Uruk Hai (1992) (Cassette)
Ancient Fields (1992) (Cassette)
Castles of Sand (1993) (Cassette)
Through A Dark Glass (1993) (Cassette)
Lord of the Dreaming (1993) (Cassette)
Tower of Darkness (1993) (CD on the Nue Harmony label)
Celtoi (1994) (Cassette)
Pilgrim On A Crooked Path (1994) (Cassette)
The Serpents Kiss (1994) (Cassette)
Beyond the Fields We Know (1995) (Cassette)
Dancing the Dark Power (1995) (Cassette)
Sisters of the Web (1995)
Weaving the Red Thread (1995)
Haminja (1995) (Cassette)
The Age of the Wolf (1996) (Cassette)
Heljaruna (1996) (Cassette)
Dark Well of Urdr (1998)
Embracing the Dark (1999)
Bones of the Earth (1998)
One Amongst the Fallen (1999)
Bones of the Earth (1999)
An Alchemy of Beliefs (2000)
The Midnight Tree (2000)
This Temple of Strange Lights (2000)
In the Shadow of Angels (2001)
The Dragon of Old Night (2001)
Twilight of the Celts (2000)
Sacred Engines (2001)
Transfiguration (2001)
Bloduewedd (2002)
Blood And Feathers (2002)
Shroud of Many Colours (2002)
Liber Obscularium Praedictionum (2003)
The Blessing of Shadows (2003)
Communion of the Damned (2003)
Decencus Ad Inferos (2003)
Hawksmoor (2003)
Architects of Heresy (2004)
The Darkening Hour (2004)
Voices From the Edge of Night (2004)
House of the Crowman (2004)
In the Deep Places of the World (2005)
Corvis Christi (2005)
Foxhalt Edge (2005)
One Amongst the Fallen (2005) (different)
Hecate Vol. 1 (2006)
Hecate Vol. 2 (2006)
Rituals of Intelligent Design (2006)
Queen of the Golden Wood (2006)
After the Fire (2006)
Canterbury Black (2007)
Nightshade In Eden (2007) (different)
Where Shadows Lie (2007) (different)
We Are Nightingales (2007)
Widdershins To the Way of the World (2007) (EP)
Foxhalt Marsh (2008) (EP)
The Distant Light (2008) (EP)
The Legend of Sam Gangee (2008) (EP)
King of the Golden Hall (2009)
Morningstar Part 1 - Revelations of the Fallen (2009)
Morningstar Part 2 - The World Behind the Mirror (2009)
Morningstar Part 3 - Helmsman On A Ship of Dreams (2009)
Morningstar Part 4 - A Once And Future Heretic (2010)
Morningstar Part 5 - Kings Beneath A Pale Sky (2010)
They Walk Amongst the Stars Like Giants (2010)
Castles of Sand (2010)
Bones of the Earth (2010)
The Bears Withdrew Their Claws In Her Presence (2010) (EP)
The Light Beyond the Hedgerow (2010)
Playing in an Age of Stone (2010)
The Geometry of a Lark Ascending (2010)
Dreaming in Amber (2010)
A Season of Mists (2010)
Tales from the Crooked Tree (2010)
The Cello Tree (2011)
A Day in the Garden of Unearthly Delights Parts 1-4 (each part is 1 hour in length) (2011)

Ultra rare early cassette releases - practically impossible to find!
but I really wouldn't be surprised to learn of others that exist above and beyond this.

All told, another great collection of music and one that I am very proud to own.  You do have to be careful of people trying to sell you copied CDr's and non-original tapes through online shops though, as I found to my cost recently with an unscrupulous seller in the USA effectively bootlegging copies of his collection into slimline cased silver CDr's.  Worthless tat, in other words.

And of course the collection continually expands - 2 more items have been recently tracked down (both CDr's) which haven't arrived in time to make this post (Nazgul thought he'd better post something soon or else you'd all be convinced I'd died or something).  Onwards, and upwards...