Thursday, 4 November 2010

IRON AGE



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Iron Age
Format: Vinyl-only split release issued in June 2010 by Aphelion Productions (England), catalogue reference AP051. The record comes in a 350gsm heavy card sleeve, pressed on green and white marble vinyl. There is a poster of the cover painting, drawn by the worlds leading Tolkien artist, John Howe. The second part of the split is with Ukrainian band Moloch.
Edition: Limited to 500 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

Uruk-Hai
1. Riding Through Green Fields With The Sun On My Face 10:17
2. Who Is Waiting For The Heroes 09:57
Moloch
3. Die Alte Essenz Einer Inzwischen Toten Welt 05:26
4. Skuld's Tränen 08:16
Uruk Hai / Moloch collaboration
5. Isengard 07:52

This spectacular vinyl release from Uruk Hai and Moloch is not the first time these two bands have worked in collaboration with one another: the 2008 split 3"CDr release "Vereint Durch Die Kraft Uralter Wälder" is one such joint venture, whilst the sessions screams of Pr. Sergiy from Moloch have appeared on the credits of a number of recent Uruk Hai demo tape releases. Suffice to say, these two artists have developed a very effective working relationship and no where is the fruit of their artistic labour more evident that on the "Iron Age" release.

To begin, let us consider the packaging. The illustration by John Howe is another classic, combining the Tolkien influences with an armoured warrior mirroring the theme of the album title. The marbled vinyl looks like a million dollars, and together with a free poster of the album art you can't fault Aphelion for having pushed the boat out for this release. The runic inscription around the reverse of the cover, incidentally, narrates Tolkien's 'Ring-Verse' - the full run of the "...one ring to bind them all" element of said prose.

The Uruk Hai tracks are credited as having been recorded in 2005, although suitably spruced up with 2010 production standards they sound as fresh as anything that's come out of W.A.R. in the past year. The opening track - not to be confused with the older Uruk Hai track 'Elysium', which contained a sample of Braveheart with narrative similar to this title - is a mixed affair of intimidating booming drums, eerie keyboards and snarled vocal effects (which immediately put Nazul in mind of being chased by Balrogs through the Mines of Moria) juxtaposed with extended gentle periods on the synthesiser. These latter parts are incredibly beautiful and restful, and also sound like the echos of choirs of angels throughout subterranean crystalline caverns. The more Nazgul listens to this the more the song brings to mind a long journey through dark and enclosed spaces under towering mountains, with the proximity thrills of lethal terrors and hidden beauty. Clearly the green fields of the title must be directly above me...

Second track 'Who Is Waiting For The Heroes' kicks off with a sampled piece of narrative from the film Gladiator, with Proximo's speech, "Ultimately we are all dead men. Sadly we cannot choose how but we can decide how we are to meet that end in order that we are remembered." There follows a very tranquil and meditative instrumental track of gentle, ambient keyboards with strings and other synthesised effects providing some counterpoints and aural diversions. Reminiscent of what it must be like to be wandering a battle-field after the conflict has ended, with smoke drifting across the land and the bodies of the dead and dying littering the cold ground.

Both Moloch tracks are excellent, recorded in 2008 and very much playing to the strengths of the artist: diabolical, cold screams in a keyboard-generated atmosphere of frosty nihilism. One online comment on these songs was that they were "raw ambient black metal reminiscent of Striborg or an extremely low-fi Burzum", which is an apt description I think.

The final track 'Isengard' is a collaborative track between the two bands that is simply superb - the towering, bombastic keyboards and war-drums of Uruk Hai complemented by the unimaginable loss conveyed through the screams of Moloch's Pr. Sergiy is a joy to behold and a must-hear for any fan of ambient black metal. The sense of futility and pain alongside some tremendous melodies (particular after the 4 minute mark) makes this song a firm favourite on the Castle death-deck. Stunning.

So there you have it - yet another Uruk Hai release in 2010, but maintaining the quality of the output to a degree that any fan of the band really ought to go out and purchase this straight away. The good news is that copies are readily for sale, through the label and all the usual online retailers for this sort of release, eBay included. It's not particularly expensive, it is in a fabulous format, and it will reaffirm your love of the unique music of Uruk Hai all over again. One of the best Uruk Hai releases, ever.

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