Sunday, 13 February 2011

The many faces of Uruk Hai

In a recent email conversation with a friend in the States who follows and supports Honour and Darkness the subject of the latest Uruk Hai 'logo' came up for discussion, with the relative merits of its predecessor being debated against the current design. This chance conversation inspired Nazgul to take a brief look through his collection of material to look into how the Uruk Hai logo has changed over the years. As the following images will attest, there have been a number of different versions and iterations over the years!

The recognition that a well-known image or logo affords a band cannot be disputed, nor should it be underestimated for the potential lucrative merchandising that follows. Consider, as a single example, Iron Maiden: their angular typeface has remained largely unaltered since the debut album back in 1980, and the image of Eddie has been synonymous with the band from day one. You can spot an Iron Maiden t-shirt or piece of merchandising from a goodly distance without necessarily knowing what tour or album it promotes, and this holds true for many other rock/metal bands including Motörhead, Cradle of Filth, Judas Priest, Metallica, et al.

Bands in the underground scene also rely on the strength of their image, and integral to that is the band logo. Nazgul is hardly an expert on the subject, but I can't immediately think of any other band that has had so many different ways of presenting its name/logo as Uruk Hai. Reinvention is not necessarily a bad thing, of course, and as these are not products generally found on the high street shelves the same brand-recognition doesn't perhaps come into play as strongly.

So let's take a ramble through a selection of Uruk Hai logos, past and present. This assortment does not pretend to be definitive, nor is it necessarily in strict chronological order, but it does capture a number of strikingly different examples from the 11 years history of the band.

1999 saw the release of Uruk Hai's "In Durin's Halls" demo, and with it a hand drawn band logo courtesy of Hugin. It resembles quite strongly the typeface of the Hrossharsgrani demo "Uruk Hai", which shouldn't be surprising as that was the demo that led to the ambient Uruk Hai project being formed. This curvy and fairly basic logo was used on the original "In Durin's Halls" demo tape and nowhere else thereafter.

By the time Hugin had decided to run with this new project and put out a few CDr pressings for friends - for example, the "Uber Die Nebelberge Weit" rehearsal from 2000, illustrated above - the logo changed once again, to this more Burzum-esque version

The first Uruk Hai compilation came in 2003, and yes we've jumped a few titles and years to bring you this logo early in the list. A function of some cunning on Nazgul's part you might think, but no: actually Nazgul simply put the "Orchish Battle Hymns" logo in the wrong place on the list. Ah well, even Dark Lords are human: or were, once... Anyway, back to "Battle Yells" and the more rounded, less gothic typeface used on that cover.

We're in "Darkness" now, from 2001, and another stylised logo for the project. If I were a graphic designer or artist I could probably tell you all sorts of interesting things about the font or style, but sadly you're on your own on that score.

In the same way that it's said for the actors who played James Bond, the old maxim states that the first one you saw tends to be your favourite. This angular logo - the only one for the band that has no recognisable lettering - was used actually first used in 2001 on the split vinyl single "Schall Und Rauch / Infernal Winter 666". However, it came into its own in the 2003-04 period when some classic demos were released with this image on, including "Elbentanz", "Nazgul" and "Land Of The Shadow". The first demo that Nazgul purchased was "Honour" where it also features, and the rest is history. There's something quite enchanting about this logo to Nazgul's mind, and it remains his favourite to this day.

Ah yes, "Orchish Battle Hymns"! We got there eventually. This demo was released in 2000 and had yet another style of logo attached to it. Interestingly, not only was it a pretty mature image for the early years of the project, it has also been reinvented for recent (2011) tape releases on the Depressive Illusions label, as we shall see later. It also introduces us to runes for the first time, linking the Tolkien-themed music to the imagery of Middle-Earth.

And speaking of runes, here's a swordful for you, courtesy of Uruk Hai circa 2004. One of the earliest examples of this logo was on the original (promo-only) 2CDr set of "Upon the Elysian Fields", but it is perhaps best remembered from demos such as "Barbarians", "Dragons Of War" and "Northern Lights". This logo was extensively used in the period through to late 2005.

And here is an excellent example of something that spans the years. In the preparation for this post, Nazgul was pulling examples of this weapons-based band logo from releases such as "A Viking's Journey" and "Across The Misty Mountains" from 2006, and it seemed a fair guess to say it was derived in this period. Indeed, it was extensively used throughout the period 2006-2008, with later releases utilising it including "Lost Songs From Middle Earth" and the "Vereint durch die Kraft uralter Wälder" split release with Moloch, and appeared as late as 2009 on the Valgriind reissue of "Upon the Elysian Fields". Fascinatingly, however, the actual debut of this logo was way back in 2000 on the "Elbenwald" tape demo, where it promptly lay dormant for 6 years before its subsequent resurrection.

The year is 2009. Another style of Uruk Hai logo hits the decks, in the form of another gothic-style typeface. Few people got to see it though as it was on the "Nachtkrieg" release, and longer-term readers of this Blog will recall the various issues surrounding the release of that album. Again, something of a one-off style for this release...

...as was the logo used on the disc itself, different again and actually rather good. Personally I like this one more than some of the others, but whether we will see its use again remains to be seen.

This black and green logo Nazgul has plucked from the front of the band's 'Legacy Of The Tyrant' t-shirt, just to illustrate the point that it's not just the tapes and CD's that sport a variety of band logos.

Award yourself a gold star if you recognise where the logo above comes from. A clue, you say? Well, it's from a 2010 release, and is the design on the disc itself rather than the album artwork. To that extent, it's stretching the theme of this post a little, but what the heck! Oh - and it's the "Angband" compilation release, by the way, where this is used.

This epic and complicated design has been the most recognisable of recent years, not just for the striking quality of the artwork but also because there has been a veritable explosion of releases from Hugin in the 2009-10 period, most of which bear this design on their cover. One of the first to use it must have been the "Lebenin" and "Zeitzeichen" tapes from autumn 2009. If you've bought anything from Uruk Hai in the period since then, chances are it bears this logo in either the black and gold print shown here, or in a black and white version.

But like all things, change is ever-present. No sooner had we got used to the flowing lines of the last logo when demos in late 2010 started to use this design, which bears a striking resemblance to the "Orchish Battle Hymns" logo from ten years earlier. Examples of this new design can see seen on "Elves & Men" and on both versions of the "Spirits" demo tapes from the excellent Ukrainian label Depressive Illusions.

And last but by no means least, the inside inlays of these late 2010 / early 2011 demos bear yet another style of design, shown here.

What does it all mean - well, not a lot quite honestly, but it's been a pleasant way to reminisce through some much loved demos on a wet, Sunday morning here at Castle Nazgul. I dare say there may be the odd design that has failed to hit this list, and if you know of it by all means drop me a line to let me know. What 2011 and subsequent years will bring we can only imagine...

With thanks to Morax Draug for the original inspiration

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