Saturday, 3 October 2009

ELBENTANZ



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Elbentanz
Format: CDr issued on the Odium Records label (England) in 2003. Photocopied front inlay with insert in slimline case, no rear tray inlay. Catalogue reference OD005.
Edition: Unnumbered pressing of 100 copies

Track Listing:
1. Elbentanz 01:27
2. Der Elfen Tod 01:45
3. Gil-galad 01:24
4. Behind a Great Wall of Stone 01:17
5. Shadow of the Orcs 05:19
6. Der Spiegel 03:30
7. Thangorodrim 03:19
8. A Legend... 00:53
9. The Emperor 01:35
10. The Slave 01:07
11. Die Tausend Hallen von Menegroth 01:17
12. Gimli 00:39
13. Schlachtenepos 06:21
14. Seelenwanderung 07:39

Firstly, let Nazgul give credit where credit is due: this CDr came to be in Nazgul's collection solely through the efforts of the owner of Odium Records (hailz, Phil !) having taken the time and trouble to rummage through his distro collection in March of this year to unearth what would appear to be the very last copy he had, trading it with Nazgul for a Bonemachine release. Thanks too to Alex, for putting Nazgul in touch with Phil in the first place.

Now for the less good news: this is one Uruk Hai release that has garnered a fair degree of criticism in certain quarters, particularly in the reviews section at www.metal-archives.com where some pretty unflattering commentary has been passed. Without wishing to dwell overly on the negative, for some balance here is a summary of the views expressed there:

"Most of the songs are less than 2 minutes, and composed of the same 5 second loop of cheap keyboard sounds over and over again. But it must be noted that however cheap it sounds, it's definitely not bad quality. Sure, the samples are all cheesy as hell, but this is nothing like LLN basement Casio & violin stuff. It's actually recorded at a decent quality, yet its clarity gives it even more of an artificial feel. There's really not much variation between songs either, most being based around simple string arrangements with various other effects added in. The title track has some twangy drumming, Der Elfen Tod has some distant battle drums, Gilrgalad has some flute, Behind A Great Wall Of Stone has choral keys... Really, these are about all there are to distinguish tracks from one another, as not only are they all so short to avoid having any real identity, they really do sound almost identical in terms of melody.

A few tracks switch it up though, with Shadow Of The Orcs being a slow, sparse little dirge with xylophone of all things. It then has a completely different song overlaid, a "black metal" one, with death whisper vocals, digital guitar, and horribly programmed drums, while the ambient one just keeps going. Der Spiegel is more of a song at 3 and a half minutes, but has the cheesiest goddamn synth tones I can't see anything but comedic value in it. Thangorodrim again tries to be black metal and again fails. A Legend is a movie sample, an interesting short exchange of dialogue, but better served as an intro, and pointless in the middle. Schlachtenepos though is completely pointless, a 6 and a half sample from some Greek war movie that does nothing but fill up space. Not much to say about the rest, same repetitive keyboard arrangements, but The Slave and Gimli get special honors for being the cheesiest fucking songs I've ever heard, with fruity drum loops that would've sounded out of place in the early 80's; Gimli especially is inappropriate, with a prancing 40-second xylophone melody supposed to be the theme for the famous filthy drunken dwarf. To be honest, the only really good song here is Seelenwanderung, which isn't an attempt at ambient or black metal, just a nice little piano piece, though there are still some horribly cheap keys present. And even then, it's not really that good, as it hardly ever changes over almost 8 minutes. So yes, this is not a good album at all, but it's not terrible either.

There are some slightly enjoyable moments to be found, even if it's mostly camp value, like a MIDI video game soundtrack. It's certainly nowhere near as bad as it's made out to be though; this is nothing at all like the absolute shit of Heirdrain's demos or the like. Worth hearing if only to gawk at it, but certainly not something to pay for."

(Durandal1717 - a Blog member!)

And that's positively heaping praise on the release compared with this effort:

"Linear songs and tracks that entirely consist of cut-outs from movies can be found on this release. One track follow another one, but there is no coherent framework, no idea in which all of them would fit into, nothing that would enable the listener to understand why the songs have such a short length and what should be expressed in them. One idea passes by after another, but nothing remains. Cheesy keyboards, samples and drums have been used on this album, but the quality is abhorrently bad. This release has not even rehearsal quality. It is a collection of motives that could be used for 'real' songs later or be woven together with some other fragments, but they do not qualify to be called 'tracks' in the normal sense. I am very disappointed and somehow this release fulfils the expectations I had of this band: too many releases in a short row and accordingly do they all lack of quality. This one should have never been released!"

(Oneyoudontknow)

Hmmmm - somewhat negative in their approach to this CDr, I think you'd agree?!

Now, to Nazgul's mind the issue at hand here is based on what the listener might reasonably expect to hear on this release. It is shown on Metal Archives as a "full-length release" but to be truthful it isn't: partly because the total length of the entire disc is only around 37 minutes or so, and partly because this is very obviously a demo rather than a fully fledged album. Hell, even the inlays and Verbatim CDr reflect this status, as opposed to the bells-and-whistles front and rear inlays with factory-pressed silver disc you might expect on a full-length release.

As such, Nazgul is of the opinion that you need to listen to this release in context: it contains a number of very short musical pieces that are in essence ideas from Hugin for future songs (and if you're of a mind to do so you can take a number of these tracks and play "spot the song" as you match them to later songs - fully formed - as they appear on later albums). Equally, there are some tracks that are longer and include the full samples of movie scenes (Gladiator's "on my signal, unleash hell" scene particularly in 'Schlachtenepos') which again have featured in edited form on later Uruk Hai releases.

So if you came to this CDr expecting fully-formed final songs then Nazgul could see why it could prove a frustrating release. Alternatively, as a historic archive of some early Uruk Hai demo material that later became parts of other songs, it's both an interesting and rewarding listen. And old Durandal1717 is right to a degree, there is an element of "game" atmosphere to some of the tracks, and even more bizarrely track 1 'Elbentanz' has a certain early melody about it reminiscent of the old classic "Falling In Love With You"!

Personally speaking, Nazgul is delighted that Odium did release this CDr as it's an insight into the early days of a new band that you just don't often get the chance to see very often. Interestingly, this is one of the few digital (eg CD) pressings from the bands early days, with much other material being committed to tape in the "old-school" style and so perhaps this format led some to expect the compilation to be something that ultimately it isn't designed to be?

The insert makes for fascinating reading too, by the way. Many of Uruk Hai's early tape releases have credits in them to a variety of people that helped Hugin in the early years in one way or other. This inlay identifies the context of many of these individuals, either as band members in other projects, record label/distro owners, friends or 'Zine owners. Most interesting, for the naturally curious amongst us!

Nazgul rather suspects that you'll not find one of these around now - goodness knows, I spent enough time searching in vain for one until Phil and Alex kindly helped me out. Just don't let the online criticism put you off your search for one of the remaining 99 copies that are presumably still lurking out there somewhere - listen to it with open ears and a kind thought, and you'll take much enjoyment from it.

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