02. Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor) 13:42
03. Underneath The Stars 08:20
02. Deadwood Burning 02:46
03. The Wind From The Sea 05:45
04. At The Grey Havens 07:58
Well, Nazgul's followers have spoken. In the poll due to end today, the overwhelming majority of you have identified Uruk Hai as the band that you most enjoy reading about in this Blog. As such, here's an unscheduled bonus entry to celebrate the fact that (i) Uruk Hai are a popular project amongst my faithful readership, and (ii) some of you actually took the time to complete the poll. Nazgul thanks you.
This release on the After Man's Funeral label is a belter, and one of my favourites in truth. Part of the reason for this is the quality of the 3 Uruk Hai tracks on offer, part is because it also features on the other side of the split release Valar (a Tolkien ambient / black metal project of Tomi Kalliola of Azaghal), who I rate highly and would encourage casual symphonic BM listeners to seek out.
Indeed, in a break with tradition Nazgul will pass comment on the 4 Valar tracks offered here, and declare that they are very similar to the mighty Summoning in feel in as far as they are harmonic, layered fantasy black metal. Somewhat typical high pitched gurgling black metal vocals, with baritone spoken parts for theatrical effect (in the former, it sounds like he is trying to sound like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movies) but the end result is a most pleasing blend of music that I will be investigating further.
Back to the main theme of this post, let us consider the 3 Uruk Hai tracks on offer. Opener 'Out Of The Shire' manages in its short time with us to convey the happy-go-lucky nature of the Shire itself (home of Tolkein's hobbits, of course) whilst providing an undercurrent of brooding atmosphere near to the end of the track that hints at the dark and troublesome journey ahead for some of the Shire's inhabitants. to do this in under two and a half minutes is some going, yet Alex has successfully given us a feel of the Shire at the very cusp of the great changes that rent Middle Earth.
'Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)' is to all intents and purposes a film-score without a film, augmented by a very catchy synthesizer refrain that repeats throughout the song - teasing many a false ending - and leaves you humming it for hours after the track has ended. Whoever said you couldn't hum one of Alex's releases....? Something of an epic in length, it passes by very quickly and would make a superb accompanying song to a fantasy themed film.
The final track on this short split release is 'Underneath The Stars', which is to Nazgul's ears the least accessible track on the tape. It's a solid piece of ambient atmospheric music though - absolutely nothing wrong with it - just not as 'immediate' as the preceding two songs. That said, it works wonders with the lights down low and immersed in a hot bath, so perhaps you just need to be listening to it at the right time. Come to think of it, a balmy night outside underneath the stars might be just the thing....
A review of this split is to be found at the Metal Archives website, courtesy of BloodIronBeer, and as so few independent reviews of Alex's material seems to be out there I thought you might like to read a little of what another listener made of this release:
"This stuff [Uruk Hai's tracks] is much more atmospheric than the stuff just before it [Valar's songs]. Relying heavily on sound effects, even to the point of them being as or more prevalent as chords and melodies. The first track is extremely atmospheric. Pure ambience. No drums, guitar, vocals or bass. Just mystical, dark, wondrous sounding keyboard. A great opener. The rest is more of the same, but with actual music weaving it’s way in and out. It sounds like that’s a derogatory remark, but it’s actually not. The ambience and music flow together back and forth. The music itself is the essence of darker sounding "fantasy" music - really it sounds to me like what you’d hear on a video game. A fantasy based role playing game, if you’re familiar. Sounds nerdy, but it is well executed, and dramatic. If only the volume would be brought up and the instruments could be brought to the front, it would sound like a true soundtrack to an epic movie. This, upon first listen, would seem not to be my style, but metal taste aside, I have been in the mood for something like this. Enchanting, dark, ambient music that takes you away to another world.
All together, I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. Both bands brought enormous atmosphere that I certainly wouldn't have expected having read the other review by these bands.I would have to think fans of this genre would like this a lot. For casual fans, I’d say if you’re in the mood, certainly give it a try."
The great thing is you can still find this tape fairly readily in distros out there on the Internet so there's no excuse not to pick this one up and give it a whirl. It's certainly not one of the rarer releases of Alex's many projects, but it's one of the good ones so find yourself a copy and immerse yourself in Middle Earth - and don't forget to give Valar a listen too!