Wednesday, 11 February 2009

ACROSS THE MISTY MOUNTAINS




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Across The Misty Mountains (Far, Far Away)
Format: CD in DVD box issued by Stuka Sound (Estonia) 2006, cassette version by Skullfucking Tapes (USA) also 2006
Edition: CD in hand-numbered edition of 500, cassette unlimited as far as I know

Track Listing:

CD version:
01. Asenheil (Intro)
02. The Misty Mountains
03. Into The Passes Of The Mountains
04. The Forge
05. Covered In Black Fog
06. Something Evil
07. Through The Majestik Fields
08. Weltenbrand (Outro)

Tape Version:

01. The Misty Mountains
02. Into The Passes Of The Mountains
03. The Forge
04. Covered In Black Fog
05. Something Evil
06. Through The Majestik Fields
07. Leber Die Nebelberge Weit

An epic journey across the Misty Mountains of Tolkein's epic Lord of the Rings is the essential theme of this 2006 release from Uruk Hai comprising material recorded between 2002 and 2004, with the exception of the cassette-only track which dates to a rehearsal session from 1999.

As you might imagine, a journey through one of literary fictions most famous mountain ranges should be (and is) full of atmosphere and the individual tracks do much to generate images in one's mind when listening to the album.

After a short introduction (which has an almost Aboriginal feel to it) we are into the two lengthy tracks on the album, "The Misty Mountains" and "Into The Passes Of The Mountains", and interwoven with natural sound samples (winds, rain and thunder) the carefully structured synth passages carry you through fertile valleys and into dangerous mountain passes. Great stuff this, ambient in nature but with enough going on in terms of percussion and rhythm to keep you interested and maintain the mental imagery.

"The Forge" gently hints at ringing steel being struck behind the music (you get the feel that were Bonemachine to remix this we'd be up to our ears in anvils and sparks!) before a swirl of keyboards introduces us to being "Covered In Black Fog", which has an initial chime-like melody that underpins the subsequent curtains of cymbals and booming percussion but is a very short piece (obviously fog lifts quickly in these parts). Simple, deep strikes on a vast, distant drum herald "Something Evil" whilst a mournful, almost militaristic percussion rhythm is the key to the penultimate track "Through The Majestik Fields"

The tape version loses both the bouncy intro and melancholic outro segments but adds in a lengthy bonus track "Leber Die Nebelberge Weit" by way of compensation. It's an interesting track - growled vocals and with a very much more sinister feel than the preceding tracks - but quite whether it's suited to the overall theme of the 'journey' is open to question. When you listen to this album on CD you drift happily through the whole piece until soothed by the outro ... on the tape version you'll enjoy the same journey and then be startled back into reality as the devil himself has apparently arrived at the end destination to wake you up a bit...!

Still, the concept of alternative bonus material being available on tape releases of Hugin's work is not unusual and if you want the smoother ride I'd recommend the CD! By the way, my copy of the latter is numbered #50 of the pressing of 500 that Stuka Sound made.

Definitely a winner overall, and one album that I will come back to time and time again.

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