Wednesday, 25 November 2009

A DARK FORCE SHINES GOLDEN





Band: URUK HAI
Title: A Dark Force Shines Golden / Dreams Of The Ancient Stone
Format: Split CD with Russian ambient project Saltvind released in 2008 on the Front Line Productions label (Russia), catalogue reference FLP-011. Re-issued on Wulfrune Worxx (France) in 2009 with Uruk Hai only tracks, including bonus track on b-side, as part of the Honour & Darkness series (catalogue reference WW-L)
Edition: CD pressed in unnumbered edition of 500, tape limited to 39 numbered copies.

Track Listing:

CD version
Uruk Hai
1. Helms Deep (unreleased track) 09:34
2. Precious (remastered version) 06:09
3. Beneath the Moon, Beneath the Sun (remastered version) 11:24
Saltvind
4. Fire over Misty Peaks 07:55
5. The Land that Sank Below the Waves 07:58
6. Dreams of the Ancient Stone 08:02

Tape version

1. Helms Deep
2. Precious
3. Beneath the Moon, Beneath the Sun
4. Blood Of Heroes (b-side bonus track)

Whichever version of this you seek out (but be quick of you want the tape version) the "A Dark Force Shines Golden" album is certainly well worth adding to your collection of darkly ambient music! Should you plump for the CD version you may be interested to learn that Saltvind are a Russian band who before this release had but one demo to their name, but despite that they convey some superbly atmospheric music through their three tracks and are a promising project for the future. check out their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/saltvind) for more...

Were you to hunt down the more limited tape reissue from 2009 you would lose the Saltvind tracks but benefit enormously from the addition of a real collectors' item in bonus track "Blood Of Heroes" which is, as you may recall, the Uruk Hai track from the impossible-to-find (for all the wrong reasons) "Nachtkrieg" split CD with Forgotten Land from 2009. For this reason alone - the addition of a great yet generally unavailable Uruk Hai epic - I'd commend the tape version to you: well done Wulfrune Worxx/Alex for making this particular song available more widely! Nazgul's tape is #23 of the 39 made.

As a previous posting to the Blog covered the 'Blood Of Heroes' track in more detail, Nazgul will leave those comments to stand and instead focus on the three Uruk Hai tracks on this release. And what better way to start than to quote a review that was written by our old friend and Blog member Durandal1717:

"Helm’s Deep starts things off fantastically, though the atmosphere doesn't exactly fit in with the epic battle at Helm’s Deep, being subdued and beautiful. Perhaps it’s before the battle, or the long winter when Helm first came to it (what, you thought it was named after a piece of armour?) Absolutely beautiful, melancholic acoustic guitar followed by equally emotive piano, and really does give the image of a desolate, winter landscape, and indeed much better than his ambient contemporary Vinterriket, if I may say so myself, especially as a lonely violin and flute plays over howling wind. Quite possibly the best Uruk-Hai song yet, and one of the best ambient pieces I've ever heard. Really.

And what do you suppose Precious could be about? Hugin also has his hands in industrial music as well, and this sounds like his industrial side-project Bonemachine. It isn’t really industrial per se, more like darkwave acid house or something, but it basically sounds like the Hrossharsgrani track Oh Schatz, some programmed drums and dark sound effects, with clips of Gollum going on about his precious, this time actual clips from the movie instead of horrible voice acting. Okay, not really outstanding, but far better than the 3-minute version from his other band.

Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun however, is far too minimalist for its own good. It sounds like the eerie soundtrack strains at the very beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, only instead of building on it like it does in the movie, it just goes on and on for 11 minutes. Very, very eh-worthy.

Overall though, a great release by Uruk-Hai, I give this an 80/100, mostly for the fantastic Helm’s Deep."

Some good observations here, and again worth recording to give a little perspective to these releases from Alex rather than just hearing it all from Uncle Nazgul!

The start of 'Helm's Deep' is a tremendous piece of music, with a haunting keyboard refrain at the start (like a distant, mournful lament) giving way to the guitar and piano elements that were mentioned above, and it certainly is a very evocative piece of ambient music.

'Precious' contains some excellent movie soundtrack extracts featuring Gollum himself, and these really add some weight to the overall song. Who can't be delighted with hearing Gollum's "You don't have any friends: nobody likes you" speech again!? Having been exposed to most of the Bonemachine output over the years Nazgul wouldn't quite go so far as to suggest an overt blurring of the boundaries between the two projects but in truth there are some percussive effects in the song that are not the usual backdrop to an Uruk Hai track, the slower beats representing perhaps the dank caves in which Gollum lurks looking for his elusive precious...

Final track 'Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun' is something of a sentimental favourite of Nazgul's, as it was one of the songs that Alex added to the one-off "My Favourite..." CDr (see Blog post of 5 June 2009). As noted in that review, the track was originally slated to appear on an album to be called "Journey's End" but ended up here instead. It is a lengthy track, and one best enjoyed as background music or in the headphones in the dead of night!

Final thoughts on these two releases: the colour artwork in the CDr pressing by the Russian label Front Line Productions is very good, as is the picture disc design, whilst the artwork on the black and white tape inlay - predominantly showing orcs in various battle formations - is tremendous.

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