Thursday, 2 December 2010

ELBENWALD

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Elbenwald
Format: Cassette demo released in 2000 as a joint venture between two Lithuanian labels: Beverina (cat ref BP023) and Elven Witchcraft (EWC014). The inlay is a professionally printed black and white glossy cover, and the tape has stuck on panels showing the band's 'Pagan Battle Music' logo.
Edition: An unnumbered edition of 500 copies

Track Listing:

1. The Unknown 1.02
2. Durins Zeit 3.27
3. Kortirion 5.56
4. Luthien 10.18
5. Elbenwald 2.22
6. In Durins Halls 4.50
7. The Tunes Of Tinfang Warble 7.43
8. Uruk-Hai 7.29
9. In Times Before The Light 1.37
10. Nordhimmelstag 3.21
11. Over The Hills 3.56
12. The Ring Is Melting 1.10
13. Balaquenta 02:23
14. Moria (edited version) 02:13

And so at last the second formal Uruk Hai rehearsal demo tape - "Elbenwald" - receives its debut in Honour and Darkness!

First alluded to back on 5 November 2009 with coverage of the W.A.R. release "Uber Die Nebelberge Weit", this cassette tape was the version of the demo released to the public at large via the Beverina and Elven Witchcraft labels as opposed to the CDr version that had a far smaller circulation amongst friends. The tape version contained two additional tracks to the CDr pressing ('Balaquenta' and 'Moria (edited version)') and came with a more professionally finished artwork/design courtesy of Elven Witchcraft.

As a point of interest, notes on the inlay from Hugin record that " 'Balaquenta' is for my friend Uwe, without his help this tape would not be done!"

These demo recordings were made in the first half of 2000 (one of the few online Uruk Hai interviews comments that the tape was 'recorded in the cold winter of 1999/2000'). Subsequently, lost songs' from the "Elbenwald" sessions were later released under the title "Elbentanz" as a limited CDr from the English label Odium Records in 2003 - see the Honour and Darkness posts for 3 October 2009 and 2 January 2010 for details of that particular little gem.

This tape, from the very early days of Uruk Hai and over a decade old, is not now representative of the project that most readers probably recognise from releases from more recent years. These were the days where the split between battle metal (Hrossharsgrani) and battle ambient (Uruk Hai) were still being tested and established, and to compound matters the songs on this tape included fairly rudimentary keyboard passages that really did fall under the definition of 'demo' as opposed to a fully fledged song.

Despite this, the tape was released to the wider world in a fairly large volume and as a result can still be found relatively easily today. Indeed, Nazgul's top tip for December for any budding collector of Uruk Hai's early material is to major on looking for this tape as even a perfunctory search via Google tends to unearth a few distros who still have a copy advertised for sale. The problem of releasing it so widely is that it would inevitably lead some purchasers into thinking that they would be in receipt of a perfectly formed debut release, rather than a collection of works-in-progress and early attempts at structured songs. This in turn has led to the odd scathing review of "Elbenwald" appearing online, as an example of which the extracts below are taken:

"Early Uruk-Hai is widely seen, and rightly so, as a source of ridicule being perhaps the archetype of poor Burzum-esque bedroom projects. Sure, it's cheap, underdeveloped, and fairly boring, but there is a certain charm to the simple arrangements and the total DIY aspect to it all, especially when approached from a dark ambient perspective...While Elbentanz had a bit of kitschy charm to it, this just comes off as stupid and boring. Very boring. There is a bit of variety, though not in the melody whenever it's present, and obvious potential, but I suppose he called it a rehearsal tape for a reason, despite being long enough for his first full-length. Really not worth tracking down."

Now, it gives Nazgul no pleasure to repeat this commentary but in the interests of balance it's worth reporting (whilst Nazgul is an ardent fan of Hugin I think some perspective and balance is a healthy thing - Honour and Darkness is not merely a mouth-piece to shamelessly promote Hugin's work without critique, after all). It is a question of perspective, after all: bought as an indicative demo of what Uruk Hai were all about circa 2000 you can't really go far wrong, and indeed the parallels between these early pieces and theeir inclusion within later songs are interesting to see.

In researching this particular post, Nazgul happened across a German-language promotional sheet for "Elbenwald" that has been signed by Hugin himself (below): my distant memory of this is that it came via a German label from whence a few goodies were purchased some time ago, so of which have yet to be covered on these pages. In any event, Nazgul will endeavour to get a translation made of the text for a future update.

Promotional release for the "Elbenwald" demo

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