Thursday, 10 February 2011

DARKNESS

Band: URUK HAI
Title:
Darkness
Format: Cassette-only demo released on the Chanteloup Creations label (France) in 2001, catalogue reference AWE82. The tape comes as a numbered edition, with black and white photocopied inlay. Tracks were recorded in the period 1999-2000. The demo has resurfaced in 2010 as part of the very limited edition 5-part "Darkness I-V" box-set released on W.A.R. Productions.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 300 copies

Track Listing:
01. Kör 02:15
02. Of Thingol And Melian 21:05
03. The Thousand Halls 01:18
04. A New World Was Born 05:31
05. Ghost Of The Ring 01:12
06. Then The Gloom Gathered, Darkness Growing 10:09
07. Over Dead Sea And Withered Land 01:38
08. Lenore 04:50
09. Moondance 02:09
10. March Or Die (Motörhead Cover) 06:28

Today celebrates the second anniversary of Honour and Darkness. When Nazgul first put online his miscellaneous thoughts about the various works of Alexander "Hugin" Wieser it never really seemed that likely that the Blog would still be running today, as the clever money would surely suggest the material would soon dry up and nothing more would be left to review. After all, surely even Hugin's prodigious output could never keep pace with an online commentary posting up to 20 items in any given month?! Well, as things turn out, the regular broadcasts from Castle Nazgul show no sign of slowing down, and with every month the audience tuning into these strange emanations continues to grow. Long may this happy state of affairs continue

To mark this second anniversary, Nazgul has plucked from the Castle library the "Darkness" demo. When Nazgul originally named his Blog the title came from two Uruk Hai demos - "Honour" which formed the original review article back on 10 February 2009, and "Darkness", which Nazgul had fondly supposed might prove to be the final instalment in this online record, and a fitting way to end his endeavours. Happily for all, the library shelves are still packed to groaning point with more material from your favourite Austrian composer, so rest assured both Nazgul and Honour and Darkness intend to be sticking around for a while longer yet...

This 2001 demo was one of the earlier pieces to come into Nazgul's collection, this particular edition being #17 of the 300 tapes released. The "Darkness" tape that forms Part I of the "Darkness I-V" box-set is also an original pressing, incidentally, and in Nazgul's case is tape #76. The musical style shown on this demo is very keyboard based and creates many instrumental and lightly ambient passages, quite different in nature to many of the other demos that Hugin was putting out at this time. It is also heavily influenced by the works of Tolkien - to begin the demo is the short but strident instrumental piece 'Kör' (in J. R. R. Tolkien's Legendarium, Tirion upon Túna was the city of the Noldor in Valinor, when Finwë and then his sons ruled).

There follows the epic second track 'Of Thingol And Melian': Thingol was one of the three chieftains of the Elves who departed from Cuiviénen with Oromë as ambassadors of Valinor and later become Kings. Thingol encounters Melian the Maia in the woods of Nan Elmoth and, enchanted by her, he falls in love with her. They remain entranced together for some 200 years. Twenty-one minutes to depict a 200 year love affair seems only right, really, and the breathless vocals displayed here are stylistically different from anything Hugin had recorded beforehand and add a certain romantic poignancy to the song.

The demo has a number of very short instrumental tracks, which are as much as anything examples of the development of the much-loved Uruk Hai keyboard style as they are songs in their own right (much like tracks on the 2003 "Elbentanz" CDr demo). 'Kör' falls into this category, alongside third track 'The Thousand Halls' (Menegroth, perhaps?), the regal 'Ghost Of The Ring', 'Over Dead Sea and Withered Land' and the final original composition 'Moondance', which is a rather fanciful title suggesting gossamer-thin threads of musical beauty but which, in reality, shows a much harder and more ominous edge than one might imagine from the name alone.

The second long track on this demo is 'Then The Gloom Gathered, Darkness Growing', a slow and piano-driven song with more of the ethereal 'breathless' vocal style seen previously and some simple chord progressions to keep things moving along. Very relaxing, and you can see why from recordings like this the nature of the music did not comfortably fit within the Hrossharsgrani project that was prevalent at the time, hence the formation of the Uruk Hai project. The demo nears its climax with another literary-themed song, this time 'Lenore', which must presumably link to the 1843 Edgar Allan Poe poem rather than any Tolkien work, unless it is an oblique reference to the daughter of Samwise Gamgee! The German spoken word part at the outset of the song does have a somewhat poetic ring to it, so until further information comes to light Nazgul will assume it comes from Poe and, in so doing, anticipates and pre-dates the Elisabetha "Über das Prinzip der Unschuld" album by a good 8 years!

To end this most excellent tape comes a rare Uruk Hai cover song - 'March Or Die' no less, from the apparently immortal Motörhead. The original song came from the band's 1992 album of the same name (which had the nigh-on impossible task of following their fantastic "1916" opus), and whilst it's not one of Nazgul's favourite Motör-moments it is a refreshing change to see a cover version from such a band as this on the end of one of Hugin's demos! It's recorded in a distinctly Uruk Hai fashion, with sampled movie battle-sounds at the outset - from Gladiator: the "strength and honour" section with hell unleashed shortly thereafter - and at the end. It's an good way to end this tape, and is an interesting curio too with its largely spoken lyrics. I wonder what Lemmy would make of it all...?

Overall, a fine demo and one that any true fan of the band should really seek out and make theirs: A defining moment in the development of the early Uruk Hai sound, and integral to the approach taken on many of the subsequent demos released by this project. Repeated plays makes for a fitting way to help blow out the candles on Honour and Darkness' second birthday cake!

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