Saturday, 16 May 2009


Title: Orchish Battle Hymns
Format: Cassette-only release on the Chanteloup Creations label (France), catalogue reference AWE65, released in 2000.
Edition: Limited to 200 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
1. Thangorodrim 3.20
2. Shadow Of The Orcs 5.20
3. Ea – The Secret Fire 16.36
4. The Dragonslayer 12.21
5. Battle March (Outro) 1.34

Firstly you'll notice that I've kept the original title of the tape for this entry with the spelling as "Orchish" rather than "orcish" as it usually seems to be attributed/corrected elsewhere online. Frankly, I think it could probably be spelled either way but I'm not going to assume like most others that the title must be a typo. This Chanteloup Creations release from 2000 is one of the early Uruk Hai demos (the third, to be precise) and is a real swine to find now. This one - hand-numbered #31 - is the only copy I've ever seen for sale in years of looking for one, so you might reasonably conclude that this tape is a pretty rare collectable now.

Great cover art on this release too by the way (try expanding the photo by clicking on it for a better look), with the main cover panel showing a storming of the walls of a stronghold with scaling ladders, collapsed brickwork and breached walls.

Musically this is less in the ambient vein of later Uruk Hai releases, for reasons previously covered in this Blog - this was still a time when the battle-music of Hrossharsgrani (from which Uruk Hai sprang) still was a mighty influence on the direction of the band. As such, it's a pretty raw and primeval recording in some respects (although well produced, I would add) and features much in the way of black-metal influences on the vocals and guitars, and some militaristic pounding drumming a la contemporary Hross' demos.

A brief review of this demo appeared in the online postings of and read as follows:

"On this demo from Uruk-Hai is presented some kind of Tolkien influenced ambient which from time to time is evolving into a soft kind of black metal. There are five songs here including two epics "Ea-The secret fire “and "The dragon slayer". There are also some samples here that make you feel you are near a river somewhere in a forest..."

Less an analysis and more of a description to be fair, but still - good to see some other press about one of Alex's releases! I've also seen this release described as "Mystic pagan ambient with battle atmosphere and black metal touches" which I suppose is a good summary overall too.

If you do enjoy this genre of music there is much to enjoy here - from the thunder and cawing of ravens that opens "Thangorodrin" (in the works of Tolkien, 'Thangorodrim' was said to have been the piles of slag from Morgoth's furnaces and rubble from the delving of Angband, or three volcanic peaks in the Iron Mountains, depending what you read) to the subsequent (and rather good) medley of frenetic drumming and bell-like synth 'chimes' finale ends that ends the second song "Shadow of the Orcs" it's a bright start to the demo.

Third track "Ea - The Secret Fire' is a bit of an epic, but well constructed and keeps your interest throughout. "The Dragonslayer" is a mesmerizing mix of samples and music, with a guttural spoken chorus that lends the piece some real atmosphere right the way through to the sampled finale where medieval fighting scenes will spring into your mind's eye. You may also be interested to know, by the way, that according to the cosmology of Middle-Earth 'Eä' is the Quenya name for the universe, as a realization of the vision of the Ainur. The word comes from the Quenya word for to be. Thus, Eä is the World that Is, as distinguished from the World that Is Not. Both an educational Blog as well as fun, Nazgul is delighted.

Closing outro "Battle March" is a straightforward rhythmic march led by 'parping' keyboards (think of those large trumpets that announce royalty) underpinned by a steady drumbeat, overlain with a light melody on keyboards.

As a final thought, the inlay notes from Alex record the tribute "The songs are dedicated to SKOGEN" and without going into any specific detail I'd like to take this chance to echo this tribute too, and hail the hard work and dedication behind the scenes (and, indeed, behind the UG 'scene') of this mysterious, shadowy form....

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