Friday, 22 January 2010

LOTHLORIEN






Band: URUK HAI
Title: Lothlorien
Format: Originally a CD pressing in 2006 from Othal Productions (Russia), catalogue reference OLP-019 with a tape reissue on Valgriind (Russia) following in 2009 with bonus tracks, cat ref vg35. Both releases with full colour artwork, but featuring completely different designs. Tracks feature vocals from Hildr Valkyrie.
Edition: CD came in a numbered edition of 500 copies. Tape in unnumbered edition of 300 copies

Track Listing:

CD version:
1. The White Trees Of Minas Ithil 00:40
2. Enter Mordor 03:06
3. Rohan Riders 03:13
4. Lay Of Leithian 19:26
5. Into The Mirror 03:21
6. Galadriel's Message 13:46
7. Keeper Of Nenya 03:13
8. May It Be [Enya cover] 03:14
9. Gates Of Summer 04:32
Bonus video clip: Enter Mordor
Tape version:
Moved 'May It Be' to track 10, and added the following bonus songs:
9. Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun 9.10
11. Precious 6.04
12. Umbar 4.55
13. Blood Of Stone 1.47

Perhaps representing the pinnacle of Tolkien influenced ambient metal yet recorded by Uruk Hai, this substantial release is dominated by two separate things: the ethereal female vocals of Hildr Valkyrie, which elevate the already esoteric melodies to ever new heights, and by the two lengthy tracks surrounded by (in the original CD version at least) relatively short pieces of what could be termed 'pseudo-soundtrack music', so carefully crafted are they.

Nazgul knows very little about Hildr Valkyrie save that she was a member of Greek band Nocternity and that she has appeared on a number of other projects too, not least Folkearth. Her vocal performance on this album does give the traditional Uruk Hai sound totally new levels, however, and whilst the songs without her presence stand up quite happily as good tracks in their own right there can be no doubt that the otherworldly feminine dimension that she adds to the album really does elevate it in the memory. Definitely a collaboration made in heaven!

The Othal CD pressing (of which Nazgul has #94 of the 500 pressed) is a nicely put together affair too, with quality colour inlays and a rather fun video clip for 'Enter Mordor' (an atmospheric track of snarled vocals and distinctly ominous music) featuring Hugin in the woods demonstrating authentic Middle-Earth swordsmanship! Also of note is the quality of inlay on the tape reissue, with some excellent illustrations care of the Rita/Juris Silders partnership.

The album has received relatively little coverage online, which is somewhat surprising given the quality of what's on offer. One review that Nazgul did unearth gives a little independent perspective on the piece, and comes courtesy of megester_efenstor on the Metal Archives pages:

"This one seemingly has been made by a true Tolkienist. "Lothlorien" is a very special piece of work that's worthy of listening, but only for ambient folk lovers (like me), everyone else will find it boring [!] ... In words, it's beautiful. Beautiful and that's it. Stunningly beautiful. The 14-min track "Lay of Leithian" (yes, it's from Tolkien's works, like everything else) is really the work of art. Other tracks accurately follow their intended mood: dark and gloomy "Enter Mordor", bombastic "Rohan Riders", museful and a bit sinister "Into the Mirror"... The very poetic, sensible, atmospheric and true symphonic ambient music. Maybe it's a little bit repetitive, but like for the Mortiis' early works any diversification would only ruin the whole atmosphere which is vital in such kind of ambient. Old true Tolkien book fans (not the Jackson's movie fans!) will appreciate it for sure."

The decision to use the Enya cover 'May It Be' is perhaps an odd one, given it was only the year before that it was recorded for the "Northern Lights" album, but a good song is a good song I suppose. What is good value - and typical of Hugin's tape releases - is that the 2009 cassette version carries with it a few bonus tracks which are well worth having. Two of the tracks (albeit it in slightly different versions) appeared on "The Dark Force Shines Golden" split album with Saltvind, previously covered in the Blog - namely 'Beneath The Moon, Beneath The Sun' and 'Precious', which leaves us two new songs to consider. 'Umbar' is as good a piece of ambient Tolkien-esque music as appears on the main album, so it's a surprise addition really and who knows where it's been hiding all these years?! 'Blood Of Stone' is a shorter instrumental piece, and a fitting end to what is a very strong album.

Delving into the Tolkien Legendarium, Nazgul discovers that Lothlórien is the fairest forest realm of the Elves remaining in Middle-earth during the Third Age. Early in the First Age some of the Eldar left the Great March and settled in the lands east of the Misty Mountains. These elves became known as the Nandor and later the Silvan Elves. By S.A. 1200 Galadriel had made contact with an existing Nandorin realm, Lindórinand, in the area that would later be known as Lothlórien, and planted there the golden mallorn trees which Gil-galad had received as a gift from Tar-Aldarion.

It's albums like "Lothlorien" that have turned so many Tolkien loving music fans towards the music of Uruk Hai and should you have the chance to purchase a copy of this release - CDs often come up on online auction sites, and the tape is available still from http://wotanjugend.com/valgriind - then you really should, as it defines the genre and the quality of this band in one, simple and highly enjoyable package.

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