Wednesday, 14 February 2018

BLIND NATION [V/A]

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Blind Nation  [V/A]
Format: An online MP3 compilation on the Morphic Field Resonance label (Germany) released on 31st January 2009.  Compiling bands in the vein of dark ambient, power electronics and abstract sounds, this was a release to raise awareness/funds against child abuse.
Edition: unlimited

Track Listing:
01. E.I.D  *  Blind Nation   
02. 2Young2Die  *  Nightmare VS Awakening   
03. Aggressionslevel 4.0  *  Sexual Violation   
04. Flat Affect  *  As We Must Be (Revision)   
05. Embersreich  *  Dirty Bombs   
06. Narkotika_Rus  *  Raping Young Kids CPN   
07. Letzte Ausfahrt Leben  *  Die Spieluhr   
08. Tanaros  *  Lazarus Effekt   
09. Phalanx Feat. The White Rabbit  *  Es Ist An Der Zeit Aufzuwachen   
10. Xebox  *  Bolzebub / Krachbube   
11. Hrossharsgrani  *  None Of You   
12. Tourette  *  (Alp)Traumsequenz   
13. Mind Project  *  Millick Schatten   
14. Nervenlaehmung  *  Haunting Memories   
15. Storfaktor  *  Leben Oder Sterben   
16. Snoww Wwhite  *  Crows Fly   
17. Effets Secondaires  *  Iris   

Nazgul could have sworn that this digital online-only compendium had previously been covered in Honour and Darkness, but finding absolutely no trace of it whilst searching the records it would seem not.  Either that; or my eyesight is failing badly and you’ll have read all this before.

Anyway, let’s assume this is something exciting and new and press on regardless. 

Morphic Field Resonance [MFR] was a Netlabel working under a Creative Commons Licence. During the years the concept behind MFR turned more and more from a pure Netlabel to a Collective of Musicians, working together to get the music they make heard and spread to a wider audience. Their musical spectrum ranged from "classic" industrial stuff to more "modern" styles like IDM.

This is written in the past tense as MFR appear to be no more: their releases stopped around 2013 and the website in their name is now defunct.

“Blind Nation” was an early online compilation in their timeline, designed to raise awareness of issues around child abuse.  Very timely, given events in the British press at the moment ranging from recently convicted football coaches to the behaviour of Oxfam aid workers in Haiti.  Plus ca change, and all that…

From their titles, many of the tracks here appear to have been recorded specifically with this theme in mind (either that, or an awful lot of bands write songs about child abuse, so one assumes it must be the former or I’m getting worried).  The Hrossharsgrani contribution, however, looks instead to be a straight lift from the 2009 outing “Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est”, which as you may recall was something of a transitional album moving the Hross’ sound away from Viking Black Metal into more refined martial/neofolk-ish territories.

Also interesting about this release is the reappearance at track 9 of Phalanx Featuring The White Rabbit.  Long-time readers may remember that this was a band that did an online collaborative release “S.P.Q.R.” with Hrossharsgrani back in 2008, which was quite an oddity if Nazgul’s memory serves.  And looking at the Discogs page for Phalanx releases there’s a veritable treasure trove of oddities to be found, with titles far too risqué to be repeated in a family-friendly blog such as this.  Explore at your own peril…

As with most of these net releases, it’s entirely possible to download the whole thing to your computer, print off some decent quality covers from the images provided and burn yourself a physical copy if you really need such a thing in your collection.  Not that Nazgul did at the time, which is a shame as now the MFR website has gone it will probably mean a bit of hunting around those dubious Russian file-sharing sites is needed should such a plan come to fruition.

What it has prompted though, is for Nazgul to dig out his physical copy of the “S.P.Q.R.” release to give that another spin one evening, as it’s probably getting on for a decade now since that had any airtime in the Castle library.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Hexenreich sampler February 2015 [V/A]

 
Band: URUK HAI
Title: Free Sampler – February 2015 [V/A]
Format: Silver CDr in paper sleeve, released in February 2015 as a three-way collaboration between the labels Hexenreich Records (Estonia), Arhailised Helid (Estonia) and Black Devastation (Germany).  Featuring extreme metal bands from Estonia, Mexico, Austria, Nicaragua, Russia, Iran, Argentina, this was a promotional free giveaway disc from the labels concerned and thus not commercially retailed.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing
01. Bestia  *  Tüdinud Tühjusest (Promo)   
02. Urt  *  Manala Vasar  
03. Ragnell  *  Ritual Of Blood   
04. Kabalah  *  Kabala   
05. Sõjaruun  *  Surmkülmast Mullast   
06. Urt  *  Luupaine   
07. Mass In Comatose  *  Control The Masses   
08. Bestia  *  Tasumise Päev   
09. Lucifuge Rofocale  *  Demonic Transfixion   
10. Vanad Varjud  *  Tumm Rongkäik (Cut)   
11. A Premonition  *  Despertando Al Amanecer   
12. Battle Royal  *  Land Of The Dead   
13. Sorg Innkallelse  *  Sundown, Fall Into Oblivion   
14. Urt  *  Me Kurjuse Seeme   
15. Grom  *  Reign Of Plague   
16. Uruk-Hai  *  Orc   

You have to give Hexenreich Records some credit – for years they soldiered on releasing free promotional CD’s like this one every few months, bringing together bands from their roster and occasionally – as in this case – those from other similar labels too.  Many, many of these promo releases don’t include any of Hugin’s bands hence they’ve not appeared on Honour and Darkness despite being out there, lurking in the shadows.  No, the last time we encountered such a beastie here was back in December with the Free Sampler from March 2009.  Skip forward almost exactly 6 years and here we find them at it again, with a track from Uruk Hai included at the tail end of the 16 on offer.

And the track in question is called ’Orc’, which I’m sure you recall was the self-titled song (in two parts originally) released by Hexenreich in tape format in 2012.  Don’t remember?  Check out the original review!

One assumes that the version of the song on this CD must be an edited one, as the original cassette version ran to nearly half an hour per side.  Nazgul has to presume, as this is another one of those items yet to actually find a home in the Castle collection (usual plea, therefore -  if you have a copy for sale let me know?) so the actual track running times is unknown.  I don’t even know if it’s an edit of ‘Orc (Part 1)’ or ‘Orc (Part 2)’ to be brutally honest, or some weird mash up of the two. Lack of ownership also accounts for the slightly wonky photos used for this piece, which generally manage to be of even worse quality than Nazgul’s own poor efforts.  Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers.

I dare say in the fullness of time a copy of this release will eventually float to the surface of those parts of the internet where strange music resides, so Nazgul will just have to keep his eyes open.  Until that time, consider this item catalogued for posterity at least.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

AUDIBLE WAR #2 - update

Band: BONEMACHINE (a split release with Gruuthaagy)
Title: Audible War #2
Reason for update: Through sheer chance an opportunity for an update on variants of this release presented itself to Nazgul, and even more improbably an independent online review was located.

Coincidence; chance; synchronicity.  All concepts that have occasionally found their way into Honour and Darkness when the stars aligned in a fortuitous way to produce a particularly timely post, or some review of especial relevance.  And so – sort of – it happened again at the beginning of this week:  Lady Nazgul and I were flicking through the channels looking for something intelligent and wholesome to watch on tv and determined that ‘Jeepers Creepers 3’ was just the sort of intellectual feast for the eyes and mind that was required.  Whilst that was on, Nazgul took a big stack of CD’s and tapes from his collection to mull over, all previously reviewed and much loved items.  Within the batch was the white covered copy of “Audible War #2” that you see here.

The next evening, we turned on the Castle telly and lo and behold ‘Jeepers Creepers 2’ had just started, on a different channel.  ‘Well’, we thought, ‘why not?’  And so Uncle Nazgul went back to the library and took another stack of bits and pieces to look at, this time from the pile of unreviewed material (yes, there is some still left despite Hugin’s recent quiet spell).  And within that grab-bag of goodies what should come to light but the blue-cover version of “Audible War #2”, also pictured. 

Now, Nazgul has had these two items kicking about in the library for quite literally years without them coming up on the radar as the likely subject for a Blog update.  But in checking the original Honour and Darkness post for "Audible War #2" an interesting fact came to light: that post, from 2010, has been written exactly six months to the day after the review of tape split release "Audible War #1".

And in a similar coincidence of timing, this chance re-acquaintance with two long forgotten items from different parts of the collection falls exactly 8 years to the day after “Audible War #2” debuted here.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and for those yet to be wowed by this sign from the heavens then I suggest that you pour yourself a stiff drink and just try to grin and bear it…

Anyway, on with the update.  We know from past interview with the mad, bad Keegan Irvine of SkullFuckingMetal that although officially only 23 numbered copies of this CDr were released into the world, there were a quantity of unnumbered copies without the number-sash also released.  At the time of the original review of “Audible War #2” this was rather politely described by Nazgul in the comment, “you'll appreciate that a number of unnumbered copies have been traded around the globe over the years to spread the good word about both of these projects”.

Realistically, however, a limited edition status was rendered fairly pointless by the printing up of lots of other unrestricted copies to be sold as demand required!  Yes, these later copies were slightly different in format (coming in a slim-line plastic case rather than a coloured wallet) but to all intents and purposes it’s the exact same release.  I have no idea whether the retail price for the two variants was the same as this was all in the distant past (well 2006 feels pretty distant to me now, in any event). 

Anyway, at some point between 2010 and now Nazgul obviously found and bought one of these 'generic' copies of the CDr to feature in the Blog, and then promptly misfiled it and forgot all about it.  So here it is, catalogued and accounted for.

So let’s jump to the blue copy, and the first thing to note is that it’s errr, well, a blue copy.  In fact, that’s pretty much all there is to note about it – it’s one of the original limited edition (being #5/23) as opposed to my red/pink sleeve copy being #17/23 – but otherwise it’s exactly the same other than having lost the rusty wire that held the numbered sash in place.  No, the interesting thing about this is that it hadn’t really ever occurred to me that Keegan would have used different coloured external wallets to put the CDr in!  So for all we know, there could be yellow, green and aquamarine colours out there. 

As usual, this sets Nazgul off on a mission of discovery!  It’s highly doubtful 23 different coloured wallets/sleeves were used, so one assumes there must be batches of at least two colours and possibly more out there.  With 23 in the edition being a rather odd number, one can deduce there won’t be an even split of different colours (and to be honest, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the edition number was driven entirely by how many coloured sleeves Keegan could lay his hands on that afternoon!)

So – do you have a copy of this release in your collection, and if so does it come in a coloured wallet with numbered sash?  Nazgul would love to know the details, and if you could send a photograph that would be great.  Let’s see if we can piece together how many varieties there are out there!  Usual contact address please for photos, details etc: honouranddarkness@gmail.com

In the spirit of investigation I found that there were 4 copies of this release for sale on Discogs, so fired off a question to each seller to see what versions they had.  Of the 2 who have replied thus far, one had a generic slipcase version but the other had an interesting ‘hybrid’: an unnumbered generic copy but in a yellow coloured slipcase (not a wallet, but hard case).  Now that may not be the original case, of course, but if it is then clearly there’s going to be some multiple colour versions of the second edition doing the rounds as well.  I don’t know about ‘audible war’ but there could be some fairly discernible swearing in the Castle trying to keep a track of this lot!

Now for a bonus treat: as you’ll know it’s rare for reviews of Hugin’s material to pop up online or in magazines.  You could, therefore, have knocked me down with a metaphorical feather when I found an independent review of this pretty obscure split release online though, courtesy of fellow blogger Kent Manthie.  Sadly, no photo of the item accompanied the review to aid our new quest!

But here is that review in full to digest and enjoy at your leisure:

“This is an interesting disc.  Audible War #2 is a split CD by two similar bands that have transcended the speed/death metal genre as well as metal machine noise and have dove into experimental, esoteric “anti-music”.

I really dig the first track (the 1st 3 tracks are by Gruuthaagy and tracks 4-6 are by Bone Machine), which, because of the gothic script it’s written in on the back of the CD sleeve, makes it difficult to read, but it looks like it reads “Crne Zastave”, which looks like it could be a Slavic language of some sort – the kind where they use a lot of consonants and fewer vowels. 

Anyway, this tune that starts off the album is about 12 minutes long and is just a slowed down repetition of a series of progressive guitar chords, with no other instruments backing it.  Even though it may have a somewhat redundancy and go on and on, there’s something quite hypnotic about it – it’s not headbangingly monstrous, a la Cannibal Corpse, but more reserved, relaxed, although at the same time, there is an ominous vibe to it – one, if you’ve never heard it before, will keep you guessing whether it’s going to suddenly explode into a bloody screaming murder scene, but, they don’t do that, they just, or rather, the guitar player, just stands there, trance-like, crunching those chords.  The second tune is even longer – “Robija” is a 15 minute jam, with the whole band chiming in – drums, bass, guitar – to a slowed down, horror show of dark matter.

When I first put this CD in, to listen to it for reviewing, I expected a really experimental, rip-roaring, Gothic machine-noise CD, but, boy was I surprised, when, instead of typical death-speed-metal fashion, they played their nonetheless scary anthems in a slowed down pace; one you’d never hear on a Slayer album, et al.

While only containing 6 tracks, it showcases two independent, underground metal bands:  Gruuthaagy and Bone Machine.  The former is a “one man band” that came on the scene in 1992 and was influenced by “total noise” bands, 7 Minutes of Nausea as well as ATTA.  Unlike the 2 aforementioned bands, Gruuthaagy were not about making “noise for noise sake”, instead they’ve evolved from the “noise” metal of their heroes to “no-fi”, home-made “audio terrorism”.  Throughout their first 10 years Gruuthaagy spanned the distance from “total noise pollution” to what they’re doing nowadays, which is a unique, experimental and sometimes esoteric “anti-music”.   Over that time they’ve released numerous demos, singles, they also peppered several compilations with their music.

In their second decade Gruuthaagy really developed even more occult-inspired darkness, using much digital soundscapes and uncompromising sonic intensity.  Their ingenious craft does not fit neatly into any “box”:  they run the gamut from speeding, aggro, Teutonic gigantism to avant-garde ambient metallic drones which often touch upon both mysticism as well as sarcastic blasts at the huge amount of hypocrisy in the world (so much to throw stones at, etc.)

Bone Machine is another great band who has the same style as Gruuthaagy does on this release.  The three tracks they contributed were also atmospheric, layered ascetic dark grooves.  Their second and third tracks, “Babiy Jar” and “Dark Matter”, respectively, both featured sampled voices, some just distorted, hard to understand rambling and on “Dark Matter”, there were samples of George Bush I giving a talk on TV, back in 1991 talking about the just-commenced “war” on Iraq, due to Saddam’s disobedience by invading our friendly, oil-rich pals in Kuwait, which turned Saddam from a friend to whom the US gave lots of arms and money in order to crush the hated Iran in the long, drawn out Iran-Iraq war that, basically, lasted throughout the 80s – from about 81 until 89.

But when Saddam crossed that line (literally) by invading Kuwait, he became Persona Non Grata per the US Govt. and GHW Bush sent the troops to Iraq to kick this former ally, now PNG, Saddam & his ragtag army out of the emirate of Kuwait – no bastion of democracy, itself, but a big repository of oil.  Anyway, Bone Machine deftly utilizes samples of Bush I’s speech and played it over there droning, aggressive cool music.

Needless to say, Audible War #2 is the type of CD that is such a pleasant surprise to find – 1st of all, you aren’t going to find it at your local independent record store (I think just about all the corporate, chain record stores (Tower, Sam Goody, Wherehouse) have all gone out of business – unless you consider Best Buy, which besides selling just about every type of electronic item – from computers to washing machines, also has a surprisingly decent selection of music at their stores; in fact, I don’t even know if you can find it on Amazon, which is such a great marketplace – it’s amazing what you can find there and how cheap some of the prices are for certain CDs, so, even though I haven’t actually checked Amazon.com, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were up there.  But for now, you can go to http://www.geocities.com/skullfuckingmetal to get this disc.”

Monday, 29 January 2018

MIT STÄHLERNEM BLICK


Band: B-MACHINA
Title: Mit Stählernem Blick
Format: Transparent one-sided lathe-cut 7” vinyl release on the Beverina label (Latvia) on 13 May 2016, housed in a white paper sleeve inside a colour cardboard cover.
Edition: Limited to 21 signed copies

Track Listing:
01. Mit Stählernem Blick  4:42

You can almost count the number of vinyl releases across all of Hugin’s bands on the fingers of two hands, which is quite something to ponder given the prolific nature of his release schedule and his love of a good vinyl record.  Elisabetha still lead the way with the most releases for any of the various bands and projects, but here’s a welcome addition to this little sub-set of the collection: a new (and transparent!) B-Machina 7” release.  And it is, indeed, a welcome return for B-Machina too, which has languished in the wings for far too long in recent years.

The single was released on the Beverina label, run by our old friend Juris Silders, and as the promotional blurb from the time reads it is a “special limited 7" single sided transparent lathe-cut release by Austrian Industrial project B-Machina (Bonemachine) featuring member of Uruk-Hai, expect a haunting journey back to the times of WWI.”

A single song in its duration, what we seemingly have here is a rather Uruk-Hai sounding piece of core music given a light remix through the B-Machina war machine.  The principal melodies and flow really do sound like ‘modern’ Uruk Hai of the 2016 period, and left to my own devices I’d probably have attributed it to something from an album of the time had I heard it cold.  The clever bit, tying it all back to WWI and a bit of an industrial vibe, lies in the hijacking of the percussion part to replace a snare beat with a drilling machine gun beat, which does lift the song into a somewhat different dimension (a field trip into Mirkwood, by way of Passchendaele?)

Given only 21 of the things were released, all signed (well, initially on the back in gold marker pen, which you have to look pretty hard to spot at first!), you’d be forgiven for thinking that they would all be long sold out and lost to history nearly 2 years after initial release.  You would be wrong – the Beverina label itself still has 5 physical copies left to sell, for €20 each should you be interested, or you could stream it for a more modest €5.  Hell, you can play it for free on the page in question, so why not give yourself a four minutes and forty two seconds treat and head there right now to give it a whirl?  Once there, you can also admire the pithy review left by customer Brad Abar, who cogently noted “I set it to Replay, and I listen to it Repeatedly”.  Much better and to the point than the drivel that Nazgul comes up with…

Oh – here’s a quick news flash, for those on a budget – the Steinklang online shop also has a copy in their current sale, at an attractive €14.50.  Gosh, at a price like that, perhaps even the tight-fisted Maximus might be tempted to fork out for a proper copy…?!

I have to say, I rather like the format of this release.  A transparent piece of vinyl still seems something of a novelty to me, not being a big player of vinyl (as you’ve probably gathered over the years if you’ve been a regular reader).  Indeed that accounts for one of the reasons this review has been a while in coming given the single came out nigh on two years ago: Castle Nazgul still doesn’t possess a turntable so Nazgul had to cheat slightly and request a CDr copy of this song from Hugin to play it (before realising, of course, that the Beverina Bandcamp page allowed for one to hear it!)

And of course to end we can’t really leave without a quick translation of the title: “Mit Stählernem Blick” in English would read something like “With A Steely Look”.  Whether that be in the eye of the hunter, or the glassy-eyed stare of the unfortunate but presumably pissed-off prey, is perhaps left unanswered.

Friday, 19 January 2018

THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS MIST THEY CAME - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Through The Mountains Mist They Came
Reason for update: To feature the cassette pressing of this release, but chiefly to honour the memory of Marco De Rosa

A rather sombre little update for you today, I fear, as last year saw the unexpected death on November 16th 2017 of Marco De Rosa from the Italian band Skoll, of an unspecified illness.  Marco was just 43 years old.  He was well known in the Novara area and in addition to Skoll, Marco had put his signature on projects such as Emortualis, The True Endless and Opera IX.

The original CD pressing of this split album between Uruk Hai and Skoll featured in Honour and Darkness in December 2015, having been released a few months preceding that on Aphelion Records.  Some two years later came this tape version, on the Werewolf Promotion label (Poland, cat ref WP414) with exactly the same track listing and running order, and with the same artwork (less the gold lettering for band logos and the album title).  It's in a limited edition of 500 numbered copies, as you will see from the photos.

It remains as good a listen now as it was then, though for the vast majority of people it will be the CD pressing that is the convenient choice of course.

I never had the pleasure of knowing Marco, though of course he had many friends across the world through his music, not least our very own Hugin.  A tribute on the ‘Metal In Italy’ website reprinted a comment from the Facebook page of The True Endless, in which Marco also played, which is reproduced below:

“On November 16th 2017 we lost everything. I created with M. this family that, between ups and downs, between discussions and deep love, was born to exorcise everything that was not accepted by the masses, back in 1997, in a city that did not look favourably at the ‘diversity’ or being outside the box. We have carried on our music, ignoring all the prejudices that have always surrounded this lifestyle, expressing ourselves simply, often breaking the clichés, always consistent with ourselves. But now the backbone of The True Endless is no longer among us.  Many talented musicians have been part of this family, some for years, some for a short time.  Until Algol joined us, helping us to continue our dream, confirming that we are a unique and special musician.

No one will ever replace you, M., with you everything ends. But I promise you, and I promise to all those who have loved our music, that "The True Endless" will never die, I will honour your memory forever, as long as I live.  The flame will burn forever. I promise you.”

Into the mists, with Godspeed…

Marco De Rosa - RIP

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

WHW - update

Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: WHW [Winterhilfswerk]
Reason for update: Here’s one of the 64 box-sets for this 2007 release

Christmas is famously the time for giving, and amongst the presents littering the floor of Castle Nazgul this year was this little box, bought by Nazgul for himself and saved until now as a treat to temper the January blues.

The original review of WHW pretty much said all that needed to be said about this compilation, released in 2007 on the German SkullLine label.  It’s a 2CD set of various remixed and unique songs in the neofolk/ambient/industrial/dark folk categories, and was released to celebrate the label’s first birthday.  The title “WHW”, if you’re interested, stems from the Winterhilfswerk which as far as I can gather was a charitable organisation in the Third Reich era that collected food and fuel for the poor and needy.  Their slogan was ‘none shall starve or freeze’, which still has currency in many parts of the world over 80 years later.

And as that review noted there were a total of 200 copies of this release issued by SkullLine, of which 64 only came in this box-set format.  Now, to be brutally honest, Nazgul hadn’t really been looking all that hard to find a copy of the box given that the slim-line 2CD version plugged the necessary gap in the Bonemachine side of the Castle Nazgul collection.  But then, whilst idly browsing online for something else entirely, this copy appeared for a good price (partly because there's a bump/hole in the box, as you can see from the photos) and that, as they say, was that!  A short hop over the Channel from Belgium and here it is, scratching the itch for the completist in me but otherwise destined to sit on a shelf for a long time I suspect!

I was initially tempted to do a photo montage of unwrapping the parcel and revealing the contents, until common sense took over and the conclusion was drawn that (a) it would be far easier to show you a stock image of the contents, as they are the same from box to box, and (2) the value will be greatly retained if I don’t start mucking about with it, for re-wrapping it with brown paper and string and stickers/stamps is a recipe for disaster if Nazgul has a hand in it.

So what we have in the image below is SkullLine’s own photograph of the insides of the set (hence the garish red background!) and I can tell you that as well as the same 2CD slim-line release you also receive a handmade shirt (available in sizes Large and XL only I think, so the size within this set remains a mystery), a traditional old style parcel box with stamp + string (presumably as you see in war films of the period), plus an ear of corn (obviously) and an insert card.  The stamp, as you will notice, has the mock value ‘64’ to represent the edition number, which is a nice touch.

You could, if suitably inclined, purchase your own copy as I notice that SkullLine still have a couple left in their online shop.  

And a belated but nonetheless sincere Happy New Year 2018 to all Honour and Darkness followers!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Uruk Hai > Earshot interview 2004


Band: URUK HAI
What’s this, then: It’s an interview that Hugin did with Austrian online magazine Earshot, published on 28 August 2004.  Follow this link if you’d prefer to read it in the original German.
Interesting?  Very, it has some contemporary references to then-new releases across his various projects, and some insights into his influences and interests.  It also mentions one of the long ‘lost’ releases in the extensive discography of his bands, the semi-infamous “American Graveyard” compilation tape!

"Interview with Uruk Hai: Traveling through Middle-Earth"

On the occasion of the release of the debut album about Drama & Sin from Spain, I asked Hugin, the man behind Uruk Hai, to find out more about this interesting project and his numerous other bands like Elisabetha and Hrossharsgrani.

Hello Hugin! Please tell a little bit about the band history of Uruk Hai. When did the project start, and have there been any changes over time?

Hails Michael!

I launched Uruk Hai in 1999.  Actually everything started with the fact that I was working on a new Hrossharsgrani demo, which I wanted to title "Uruk Hai".  When I had the demo recordings I did a pre-release in an edition of 6 copies passed to my friends, and as I let the material play a few times it became clear to me and my buddies: this cannot be brought out under the name Hrossharsgrani.

This became the first Uruk Hai demo "In Durin’s Halls", which has just been remastered via Eclipse of Live Promulgation (EoLP) and re-released with bonus tracks! At the time of the "In Durin’s Halls" recording, I also worked on the one-hour song "Quenta Silmarillion" (also still under the banner Hrossharsgrani), which I have now remastered in 2004 and want to publish as a strictly limited CDR version.  I need to find a suitable label!

In the winter 1999/2000 I did the first ‘proper’ Uruk Hai (rehearsal) demo "Elbenwald", which appeared shortly afterwards on Latvian Beverina Productions/ Elven Witchcraft label, limited to 500 copies. The theme remained the same: Orcish Battle Music!

Other rehearsals ("Darkness" + "Orcish Battle Hymns" - both on Chanteloup Creations in France) followed. Then the split EP with Grimthorn came out on CCP Records in 2002; unfortunately the title "Schall & Rauch" was not primarily intended for Uruk Hai but instead for my side project Bonemachine, so this EP is not really an Uruk Hai release since the music tends to be in the industrial metal direction.  It was a band/label misunderstanding, so to speak...

In 2003 the "Lost Songs" of the "Elbenwald" session were released as CDr with the name "Elbentanz" on Odium Records, followed by a demo and rehearsal compilation ("Battle Yells"), published by the Italian label Werwolf Productions - again Orcish Battle Music!  This year (2004) all rehearsal sessions, which I have recorded over the last five years should now find their way to the public: "Battle Magic" (Ltd.22), "Honour" (Ltd.40) and "Long Forgotten Tales "(Ltd.50) all on Werwolf Productions, then a split with Arkillery (Ltd.250) on EoLP.

Then a pro-CDr with 2003 songs titled "Barbarians (Orcish Battle Hymns Pt.II)" will soon be released by the Eisenwald Tonschmiede, as well as the split tape with Vinterriket. In July 2004 the debut CD "A Night In The Forest" came out on Drama & Sin - a mystical journey through the Fangorn Forest. One Song, 72min.  Pure dark forest mood! In the autumn, Part II of the Arkillery/Uruk Hai tapes should follow. The first ideas for the succession album to "A Night In The Forest" called "Misty Mountains" have taken shape, and a split EP is still in the planning stage!

Uruk Hai was supposed to be a musical accompaniment to various landscapes of Middle Earth, or to give a gloomy insight into various characters of the world JRR Tolkien - epic sound landscapes or ‘ork-musik’. A description of the music of Uruk Hai itself a little difficult. Actually this should be an ambient project, but occasional incursions into black metal is also possible. Also, the music of Uruk Hai is always considered through sound f/x, in order to create even more atmosphere. There are always natural noises, speech samples and such like in Uruk Hai’s musical world.

Changes will probably happen again and again, but there will always be Uruk Hai - the split EP with Grimthorn notwithstanding!

In the last few weeks there have been four tapes and the debut album - a real flood of releases from Uruk Hai. What can you tell about the individual publications?

Regarding the re-release of the debut demo "In Durin’s Halls", the original version came out of my own label "W.A.R." in 1999 and was limited to 33 pieces. The 2004 version includes a new intro and outro and was totally remastered as a tape. The demo is now released via EoLP with new artwork (a fantasy colour cover) and limited to 300 hand-numbered copies!

Next came "Long Forgotten Tales" - as the name suggests some older material, rehearsal sessions from 2002, which I have mixed and re-mixed in 2004. It is published by the Italian underground label Werwolf Productions as a tape and limited to 50 copies.

"Battle-Magic" was then next, again on Werwolf Productions and again a tape release, this time limited to 22 pieces. These are the outtakes of the "Barbarians" session and thus again unpublished material!

EoLP also participated in the Uruk Hai/Arkillery split cassette "From Blinking Swords in the Realm of the North": two bands, two songs ("Nebelberge" and "Gondolin Falls" by Uruk Hai) over different continents - limited to 250 pieces with a fantasy colour cover!  At the same time, this tape (which will later also be a CDr, but only in the USA) is also the first part of the "Sign of the Hammer Brotherhood" - under this banner, Krom and I will create further joint productions. For the next release I have already recorded two tracks ("Minas Morgul" and "Isengard"). This time I have played the drums and keys and Krom will contribute guitar and vox!

Drama & Sin was the godfather of the debut album "A Night In The Forest". The album consists of a long (72min) song, which is divided into four chapters and is a "journey" through the forest. It was less epic this time, because I wanted to put something at the forefront of mysticism and in the ‘spirit of the forest’ at Fangorn! A small side detail: the first edition of 500 pieces was sold out in the first two weeks, so Drama & Sin are re-pressing 500 more copies in October!

All of these releases were recorded in the WAR studio.

Why was "A Night In The Forest" released on Drama & Sin from Spain and not through CCP, who have already released your albums with Hrossharsgrani and the Uruk Hai/Grimthorn EP?

CCP is not a label for pure ambient music. Spanish label Drama & Sin (incidentally the sub-label of Battlefield Records) are specialists in this kind of music and are exactly the right partner for Uruk Hai. In addition to the debut CD, a split CD will be released at the end of 2004, and album number 2 will be released via Drama & Sin in 2005.  As already mentioned, the Uruk Hai/Grimthorn split was quite different music, which I would not like to associate with Uruk Hai today!  There are still a few recordings from this period, which will be released under the Bonemachine project.

"A Night In The Forest" leans very much to the Ambient/Neoklassik/Neofolk corner. Were you trying to capture the mystical atmosphere of the forest Fangorn from the Lord of the Rings, or why did you choose this style for your debut album?

It was just a coincidence, I'm sending all my recordings to different labels including "A Night In The Forest". So in the spring of 2003 - shortly afterwards I got the offer from Drama & Sin. It left me a little time to do the cover design and in the spring of 2004 I mixed the album again - and went to the press shop! So it was not the typical "Ork-music" for Uruk Hai but a gruelling journey through Fangorn Forest, which fits well.

Hrossharasgrani, Hrefnesholt, Elisabetha, Ravenclaw: are you doing anything else besides music? You have so many projects running and publish with them regularly - how do you do this?

Hrossharsgrani is a ‘real’ band in that the tasks are shared by all members, so not much work for me.

Here is the 2003 biography:

In the cold winter of 1998 Anno Bastardi the combat machine Hrossharsgrani formed the first blow in the form of the rehearsal demo CD "Blut". In the early ages, we roamed the worlds of dark ambient music to announce beings who were wandering through the night; the undead, the vampires. It was tribute to the bloody legacy of Lord Byron and Bram Stoker's tribute. Other demo CDs soon followed, but the battle this time was beaten in the form of barbaric to hymns of black metal.  "The Path to the Gate of the Dead" and "Ancient Tales" demanded blood and at the same time formed the end of the first period.

At the beginning of the year 2000 a further, gigantic step was taken; the halls of the CCP Studios were booming with the creation of the debut CD/LP "... Of Battles, Ravens and Fire". Battles and choirs guided the listener through long past times full of myths and legends. Fylgja, Munin and Hugin laid the foundations for a new epoch. A musical journey away from the already well trampled paths of metallic art formed the basis for a deal with the label CCP Records. An alliance that has been successfully conquered for Hrossharsgrani in every battle!

At the beginning of the following year, Hrossharsgrani’s work on "The Secret Fire", based on J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and "The Silmarillion" created a concept that was a refuge from dreary everyday life into a better, glorious world full of magic and miracles. Classical melodies, paired with the hardness of steel, led a crusade through the world of Middle Earth. Fylgja, Munin, and Hugin went out to proclaim mystical magical forests, fire-fuelled dragons, the wings of which conquered the clouds, the blinking swords in the north's realm, and the power found in dark battles.

In the year 2003 the blood rises again in the veins of the blades, and a further, more powerful battle is won. The path of the warriors is sealed, made of flesh and steel, baptized in fire and ice, the warlord Hrossharsgrani rises with an iron force to beat his battle in the land of the shadow. Symphonic metal anthems, mystical-bombastic chiming-chasers, led by death-tufts, rise high into the air and chase dark beings through ghost forests.

Powerful guitar riffs, war drums, timpani and fanfares form a symphony like a Walküreritt!  Hrossharagrani's third work is once again a skilful symbiosis of heroic slaughterhouse tongues and character-like radio play passages, an epic that can break the boundaries of what is conventional and lead into worlds where flesh, steel, and heroism were not yet hidden in the shadow of fear. “Shadow Warrior" is another ode to the fight, a vast manifesto of the violence of the sword, an album that will immediately captivate every Metal Warrior.

With Hrefnesholt I only sporadically record music every few years. Demo # 1 "Hrefnesvinter" came out as a tape over on the Hallucination label, demo # 2 "Wolf" as a CDr on W.A.R. and a rehearsal tape called "Heidensturm" came out in 2004 on Werwolf Productions. There is also a button limited to 100 pieces!

Elisabetha is actually the band of my friend Blutgraf, Neon Aesthet and I help out there sometimes. "Vampyr" was released on EoLP in 2003, and in 2004 the second "And Reality Revealed The Soul Again" came back on Black Attakk came out.

Ravenclaw is the project of Ruslanas from Lithuania, here I act only according to his wishes, by the way. There was a change of name: Ruslanas now calls his project Folkearth, where musicians from about 10 different countries participate! By the way, Ruslanas regularly brings out the Atlantida Compilation series!  After the 2 demo CDRs ("Where Mighty Ravens Fly" in 2002, and "Zalgirio Musis" in 2003 as a split with Svarrogh) comes this year the debut CD (working title: "Folkstorm")!

Then there is still Bonemachine, my industrial project - demo coming soon!

And in terms of grind I still have the project Guts For Dinner: The demo "Demo 1" came out 2001. And a song was included on the 2003 “American Graveyard” Compilation tape!

By the way, I also go to a job where I am always at home, so I can devote a lot of time to the music next to my small family!

Musically, Uruk Hai is the only one of your bands that you easily cannot pigeon-hole to a single style; industrial, then ambient / neoclassic, then underground metal. Is Uruk Hai your catch-all for ideas that do not match the other bands?

As already mentioned, the journey into "Industrial Metal" was a small naming error on the split EP with Grimthorn. Neo-Classical Heathen Folk and the rough black metal can be heard all year round in Uuruk Hai, depending on the mood. Ork battles, sometimes a "walk" through Fangorn Forest, then again a ride on the dragon's tail ...  And there will have been musical development over the years too, so Uruk Hai is just different, and it will definitely remain so!


What other bands or musicians influence you in song-writing? What recent releases have particularly impressed you? Is there any musical direction that you absolutely cannot stand?

When it comes to song-writing, it is more images that influence me very strongly, be they from movies or mental pictures that arise when reading stories. Musically, I would suggest Valar, Druadan Forest, Bathory or Summoning - but that changes constantly. Soundtracks belong to my range of influences - I was certainly impressed by the "King Arthur" soundtrack, a successful mixture of the "Lord Of The Rings" and "Gladiator" soundtrack!  And of course the new Exodus disc - killer!!

With almost all of your bands in 2004, you are still releasing stuff on tape. Where do you see the target group for good old demo cassettes in the age of demos on CDr with glossy covers?

So for me, tapes still have high interest. Unfortunately, the tapes themselves are already pretty much extinct, with us at least, but in the more eastern countries they are, thanks to Satan, still available! By the way, an Uruk Hai demo CDR will be coming soon with a poster - the second part of "Orcish Battle Hymns" titled "Barbarians". It's coming out of the German label Eisenwald Tonschmiede.

What about live shows?  Something was planned with Hrossharsgrani?

So Uruk Hai will most likely never see live gigs, but if it did then it will be a battle!!!  With the Hrossharsgrani gig so far, unfortunately, nothing has gone ahead - let's see ... Maybe next year !?  There was talk of an Elisabetha gig, but we have to discuss that in more detail.

You're also quite a film freak. Which films do you prefer?

I wouldn’t say freak, but I like to see everything between fantasy, science fiction and horror.  Of course Peter Jackson's adaptation of the "Lord of the Rings" saga belongs to my favourites, but also the "Friday of the 13th" parts I find ingenious, as well as Star Wars or Halloween ...  I could go on forever, but it would fill the interview space and I would never get to bed.  Though I still have one: Conan – it was really awesome!


What can we expect from Uruk Hai and your other bands in the future?

As already mentioned, a split cassette with Vinterriket and the "Barbarians" CDR, the "Honour" Tape, the part of the "Sign Of The Hammer Brotherhood" with Arkillery, a Split EP (possibly with Heidentum, etc. .  I also just finished a new deal with Uruk Hai for a split CDr + tape (ltd.100 + 80) with Woodlands Edge (USA). The release would still be released this year via Subterranean Surreal Records in the USA. Two new songs from Uruk Hai can be heard on that one.

Elisabetha are currently working on the succession album to "On The Principle Of Innocence", the basic framework already exists. A split EP with the German Nachtmahr also comes in the autumn on Black Attakk!  A double CDR will come this autumn with older rehearsal recordings ....


A new Hrossharsgrani album will be released by CCP Records in 2005 at the earliest! In the talk is a re-release of the first album "... Of Battles, Ravens And Fire" with a demo as bonus and new cover artwork ....


The Bonemachine debut demo "Destination: Hell" will be released in the fall as a CDr over on Misantrophic Propaganda in Belarus!


Hrefnesholt's debut demo "Hrefnesvinter" has been remastered.


Ravenclaw, (now Folkearth) are just at the "final mix" to the debut album, which should come out over a Russian label this year. 

Thanks for the interview, would you like to give our readers anything more?

Thank you for your support - May the Valar be with you!

And there we have it, a lengthy interview (and the usual apologies for ropey translation at any point in that – you can blame me for that!) but with some interesting facts and trivia from the period that helps to flesh out the ongoing development of Hugin’s bands at that time – some 13 years ago now3 years ago now!