Sunday, 15 February 2009


Title: First Battle
Format: Cassette tape and CDr, both released on De Profundis (Ukraine), 2005 (Npax005)
Edition: Tape limited to hand-numbered edition of 222, CDr hand-numbered edition of 50
Track Listing:
01. Elfcrusher
02. Winterheart
03. Ode To The Hobbits
04. Orc Dawn

This project was a collaboration between Hugin and Padre Adamo that produced this one demo in 2005. Alex, per the credits, is responsible for the instruments and fx, Padre Adamo for the vocals and lyrics. For the record, my tape is edition #028 and the CDr is numbered #033.

Following the Tolkein theme of earlier work from Hugin, MANWE was named for "Manwe, the King of the Valar, husband of Varda Elentári, brother of the Dark Lord Melkor, and King of Arda. He was first mentioned in The Silmarillion and lived atop Mount Taniquetil, the highest mountain of the world, in the halls of Ilmarin. The winds and airs were his servants, and he was lord of air, wind, and clouds in Arda. He was the noblest and greatest in authority, but not in power, of the Aratar and Ainur."

A powerful and atmospheric demo, recounted in harsh, spoken-word vocals (in English) from the first-person (if you pardon the pun) perspective of an Orc - most likely a war-torn cynical veteran with the ills of the world on his shoulders and the bitter loathing of the fair races as the core of his soul.

All combines effortlessly into a very listenable piece of music - never descending into trite BM or fantasy-land nonsense but transcending the potential pitfalls of both genres to produce an intelligent and well-crafted demo that is redolent in atmosphere and refreshing original in lyrical viewpoint.

I was fortunate enough in putting this entry together to make contact with Padre Adamo himself, and am thus privileged to share some of his thoughts with you about both this demo and working with Alex in general.

Q1) How did you and Alex come together for the project? Was this your first collaboration, and were there others

A1) Alex and I worked together with the Dragon's Breath Records label before we started the MANWE project. He was a huge help in starting my label. He was able to assist me with artwork and all kinds of advice on how certain things should be done. We had some amazing ideas for Uruk-Hai releases and others that unfortunately never saw the light of day.

Q2) How did the songs get written - did you write/compose separately, or did you have lyrics already written to which the music was added, etc?

A2) I based the songs on a central theme that I wanted to convey and I started from that point. I always wrote the music first and Alex would come up with a vision for the song title and it would just from there! We had great chemistry in that respect.

Q3) My interpretation of the songs is as written from an orc-ish perspective - is this correct?

A3) This is absolutely correct. The songs for the demo were supposed to be from an Orc-ish perspective. I wanted the themes to be similar from the old Hobbit cartoon movie. I really enjoyed the music to that and wanted to portray a mix of the way that was done with Alex's amazing music style. I think the vocals and Alex's music allowed us to see that vision of what we wanted. I really like concept albums and that is what I believe we were both after. I think we succeeded with the demo 'First Battle.'

Q4) Actually, building on that, I don't suppose you have a copy of the song lyrics that you might be able to let me have?!

A4) I do have all of the songs I wrote for the project which total to over about 30 songs. However, I would rather save them in-case the project ever gets resurrected! I don't have the material protected so I would rather wait to see if it ever sees the light of day. I do apologize!

Q5) From what you say it sounds like you have a lot of written lyrics that were capable of being used for other songs. Linking that to Q2, was that because you anticipated more MANWE demos being made, or because you are a natural writer anyway and used some of your past work for the project?

A5) Alex and I had great hopes for MANWE. I think for the demo it was amazing. It was the first time I had ever did vocals of that nature for anything! I'm not a natural writer at all but I do love writing lyrics. It is a true passion of mine to write songs based around themes that I find fascinating. I try not to reuse lyrics - but if I'm stuck, I will to keep the flow of the song. However, I tend to write my lyrics as stories, not as songs and I think that's why me and Alex fit so well.

Q6) A cheeky question - the vocals sound suitably 'gruff' but also sound a little Irish-American in accent to my ears! Have I got your nationality totally wrong?!

A6) I will be honest with you - the microphone that I used to record the lyrics was really bad. I had no experience in 'cleaning' it up but I did my best and Alex did what he could to help with it. Yes, I can understand how I sound Irish-American. However, I'm actually Native American Indian mostly. I grew up in an Irish/Italian neighborhood and I tend to have that 'sound' to my voice. I'm surprised you heard it with that terrible microphone I had! haha!

Q7) A final question - are there any comments or thoughts you'd like me to reflect from your side of the project ?

A7) There are very few people on this earth that you can call your friend. Alex was not only a great friend of mine - even though we never met in person - he is also a great musician and I will always be a fan of his music. He has an amazing family too! The MANWE project was a reflection of that friendship. It was a true dedication to honour and respect. It was one of the best experiences I had in my life and would very much like to get back in-touch with Alex to continue what we started. I have put the Dragon's Breath Records label behind me. It was a great learning experience and it taught me a lot with the business side of the music industry. I hope that for those people that have listened to the MANWE project can close their eyes and escape from this world for just a little while. That was the purpose of the project from the start. I really do appreciate you getting in-touch with me. I haven't heard anything regarding the MANWE project in years and this was a pleasant surprise. Cheers!

A really nice guy, and my thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

This is still available in some distros around the world, so I'd recommend unhesitatingly that you seek one out immediately. And who knows, in time perhaps a "Second Battle" might be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world....I for one hope so.

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