Saturday, 14 February 2009

BARBARIANS





Band: URUK HAI
Title: Barbarians (Orcish Battle Hymns Part II)
Format: Picture-disc red CD on Eisenwald Tonschmiede (Germany), EW003, and cassette tape on AMF/Pagankrieg (Bulgaria), AMF021/Pagan02, both released in 2004
Edition: CD in hand-numbered pressing of 222, cassette believed to be unlimited

Track Listing:

CD and Tape both contain:
1. Awaken the Dragon 03:11
2. Deep Dark Forest (In Fangorn) 02:48
3. Mithrandir 05:30
4. Kampf Und Krieg 03:36
5. Battle-Signs 02:46
6. Gollum 02:28
7. Thousand Lightnings Strike 02:43
8. Menegroth (Was Einst So Glorreikh War) 02:46
9. The Unknown (Re-Mastered) 05:29
10. Durins Halls (Re-Mastered) 05:19
11. Dark Riders (Rehearsal) 05:44

Tape adds the following bonus tracks on Side B:
12. Varg-Riders (rare track 2002)
13. Eternity (advance track 2005)
14. Battle-Magic (rare track 2002)
15. Shadow of the Orcs (new mix 2005)
16. May it be ( Enya cover 2005)

Firstly a word about the formats: the CD comes with a nice colour fold-out inlay that effectively turns into a double-sided A5 'poster', is hand-numbered in silver pen (mine is #140), and the disc itself has a nice picture cover (the same picture as on the 'Songs From The Woods' demo tape) and is red in colour on the playing side, a nice touch for a blood-tinged Barbarians theme. The tape, with different art on a b&w inlay, features no less than 5 bonus tracks on Side B (including 2 songs - 'Varg Riders' and 'Battle Magic' - which formed part of the super-rare 3 track 'Battle Magic' demo tape on Werwolf limited to just 22 pieces), making it something of a must-have for fans!

Uruk-Hai at this stage has developed into the more ambient keyboard-dominated band that we know and love, distinct from the Hrossharsgrani hard-edged BM influences that were present on some of the earlier demos. To that end, the tracks on this release are mostly percussion and synth driven, with some spoken word vocals, some use of samples, and a healthy smattering of brooding, dark tracks reflecting the subject matter.

There are some nice moments across the album - the children's choir that makes an unexpected part of 'Mithrandir' in a pseudo-Jerusalem chorus is nothing short of inspirational, the furtive whisperings on 'Gollum' and the background howling entities on 'Varg Riders' being three good examples. My problem with this album, however, is that despite it being a pleasant listen whilst in progress it's really hard to find anything that particularly sticks in your memory once you've left it for half an hour or so. To that extent, it's the sort of an album you can have playing in the background whilst doing other things but not the sort that you're going to be whistling on your way to work some days later ('Mithrandir' being the one exception).

So is it worth tracking down? - Well yes, it is: there are plenty of quality moments on it and you'll enjoy the journey through the music. The tape bonus tracks are definitely worth having as the Battle Magic demo is virtually impossible to find anywhere so to have those is certainly a good thing. The standard of presentation and production also makes this a worthy additional to the Uruk Hai canon.

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