Saturday, 22 August 2009

NORTHERN LIGHTS




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Northern Lights
Format: Release comes in both tape (cat ref hxnrch010) and CD format (cat ref hxnrch008), both released in 2005 on the Hexenreich label (Estonia). Tape version contains 2 bonus tracks.
Edition: CD in a limited (unnumbered) edition of 166 copies, tape version in hand-numbered edition of 188 copies

Track Listing:

CD version

01. Ancient Pride 21.36
02. Northhammer 10.45
03. Mount Doom 20.53
04. Iceland 6.53
05. May It Be (Enya cover) 3.12
06. Moria (Covered In Black Fog) 7.07

Tape version

Side A
01. Ancient Pride
02. Northhammer
03. Moria
04. Iceland
Side B
05. Mount Doom
06. May It Be (Enya cover)
07. Dark - tape only bonus track
08. Pagan Spirit - tape only bonus track

A slightly odd release this one, in as far as (and some comment has been made about this elsewhere online) the track listing repeats songs contained on another Uruk Hai release from the same year ("War Poems), and also elements of one track ('Ancient Pride') repeat within another ('Mount Doom') on the same album!

Indeed, if you really wanted to get into it, 'Mount Doom' also made a reappearance in 2006 on the Polish "Ira Deorum Obliviorum' compilation release, the Enya cover comes up again on the "United" tape release of 2006, and tape-only bonus track 'Dark' appears with the extended title of 'Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)' on the "Enslaved In Evil Darkness" split release with Valar from 2005.

But what the heck! As many of these releases are limited in pressing and pretty hard to find, a dedicated fan won't mind a bit of repetition in the hunt for all of the releases whilst a casual fan is unlikely to be buying more than one or two anyway, and probably wouldn't notice! Given the number of different labels distributing Alex's releases (just accounting for those above, we have labels from Estona, Poland, Bulgaria and the USA) it's hardly surprising that newly recorded tracks that were available at the time found their way onto different releases in different markets.

What is nice to see on "Northern Lights" is the return of collaborative working with Krom, the guitarist from one-man band Arkillery, with who Alex worked previously on a couple of split releases in 2004 (see Nazgul's Blog coverage of one of these elsewhere, dated 5 March 2009). Krom brings a guitar presence to the album that is not present on most other Uruk Hai releases, and also brings a different vocal style as evident on the 'Iceland' track. All in all, a good guy and one who compliments the Uruk Hai style well - where is he now, Nazgul wonders...?

Back to "Northern Lights". The "Moria (Covered In Black Fog)" track was covered earlier this month in the Hexenreich August 2009 compilation CDr review, and hasn't changed since then. Quite why the titled was abbreviated on the tape version to just "Moria" is unclear, although given the odd typo on the CD inlay ('My It Be' anyone?!) then it may just be a simple error.

'Mount Doom' is still the lengthy piece that Nazgul covered in the "Ira..." blog, and a great track for conjuring images of this awesome volcanic peak in Middle Earth. 'Northhammer' is interesting in as far as the lyrics (a paean to Thor) are written by our old friend Padre Adamo (Manwe), and are reproduced in full on the tape inlay. A worthy hymn for warriors of old! The Enya cover was unexpected (albeit the song is from the Tolkein films, and thus isn't a million miles away from the mojo of the project) and this version - sans vocals - is actually something of an improbable triumph, redolent in atmosphere and emotion.

The tape only bonus tracks are nice to have - 'Dark' is a lengthy track with a memorable keyboard refrain and numerous teased endings, whilst 'Pagan Spirit' (unique to this release, I think!) is shorter, more delicate in nature and a pleasant synth piece to end the album with.

Ironically whilst the CD release is sold out (at the label at least), the tape version is still available in some distros and I'd recommend you to get one!

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