Saturday, 26 February 2011

Nazgul's Top 10 Uruk Hai cover art

As it's nearly the end of yet another month here on Honour and Darkness, Nazgul thought he would celebrate the passing of February with another one of his infamous Top 10 lists. These always provide Nazgul with yet another feeble excuse to have a rummage through his collection, but hopefully entertain at the same time.

Todays list is based around Nazgul's favourite Uruk Hai album/demo covers. Now, in saying that they are my favourite does not necessarily mean that they are the best covers in purely artistic terms. If the list included the definitive range of technically expert covers, then we would be looking at inclusions from "Iron Age" and from "Black Blood, White Hand" which were professionally done and are indeed most excellent. However, Nazgul being the 'square peg in round hole' sort of chap that he is often prefers the more abstract, unusual or not-so-obvious cover illustration and as such this list is a personal compilation of the pictures that I find most entertaining.

You will doubtless disagree, and may indeed end up fuming that your favourite cover was omitted ("how could Nazgul have not included %$&^....!!!") or consider that the top ten choices are just plain crazy ("why has Nazgul included ^£"%....??!"). Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles, of course, and if you'd like to send Nazgul your personal list of favourites then perhaps that could lead to an updated post in a few months time....

What has come out of this exercise is that a goodly number of Nazgul's favourite covers are from the earlier years of Uruk Hai output, although this by no means knocking the quality of more recent covers. It also seems to prove, somewhat unscientifically, that a colour cover is more likely to stand out in the memory banks that black and white ones.

Anyway, enough of the rambling and onto the list, presented here in traditional reverse order:

10. Von Blinkenden Schwertern Im Reiche Des Nordens

And immediately the cry will go up, "and what's so good about this one, then?!" Well, there are some scenes that Nazgul is a sucker for. A good mountain range, forest scene, sunsets and so forth. This image, looking across Middle Earth as the sun kisses the horizon, with Sauron's tower in the misty distance, is just such a scene. Encapsulating the early Tolkien-themed days of Uruk Hai, this split release with Arkillery defines the nature of the beast through this excellent image.
09. In Durin's Halls (Return To The Mines Of Moria)

Not a release that has been formally reviewed on Honour and Darkness yet, but gaining an entry at number 9 on the basis of this atmospheric cover image. Akin to some of the Vinterriket covers of snowy peaks, albeit in hues of blue rather black and white as Cz's covers so often are, this is a striking cover even if the logic of showing a mountain scene instead of a subterranean themed image is a little perverse! One assumes Durin's Halls lie due south of this range.

08. In Durin's Halls (tape re-release)

Another cover for "In Durin's Halls" no less! This time, the limited to 50 cassette pressing from Australian label Smell The Stench. Nazgul always liked this cover, although it is hard to explain quite what the appeal is: perhaps there's a simple naive charm to it, or maybe it's because it's just so different from 99% of other covers out there? Certainly more fitting to the subject matter, one can imagine crossing the threshold between the two columns to explore the caverns and strange depths within...

07. Vereint durch die Kraft uralter Wälder

Trees. you can't beat a good image of trees, and this swirled effect from Hugin's own design proves that even a simple image can be effective with the right treatment. The circular design is inspired, the runic script ties the whole thing back to Tolkien, and the overall impression is of nature and mystery entwining to tempt the listener in. Good stuff!

06. Across The Misty Mountains (Far, Far Away)

In all lists such as this there seems to be one item that unexpectedly hurls itself to the fore and cries, 'what about me, then?' This particular cover - to the CD version of this album, the tape cover being blue and more cropped - is that very item in todays list. It positively screams "Middle Earth" at you, and in a similar way to the previous entry has a certain mystery about it that makes you want to open the cover and see what is inside. Who is the character on the front, and what what exactly is in store? Much to Nazgul's surprise, this cover has really grown on him over the years.

05. Thousand Lightnings Strike

I've no idea where this cover originates, although you'd have to suspect it has a war-gaming / Games Workshop derivation somewhere in its past. However, even in simple black and white it is undeniably a powerful scene and one that you'd quite like to see how it all turned out (badly for the human, one might imagine!) This was the cover to a never released CDr demo as you may recall from coverage on the item some while ago, and it will be interesting to see whether the same art will grace the cover of the formal release of this demo within the forthcoming "Everlasting Wrath Of The Tyrant" box-set.

04. Land Of The Shadow

Another splendid cover, this time combining the awesome mountains with some clever framing of the image using orcs in the browny/red border segments. One of those imaginative covers that was 'cursed' with being used on a limited edition demo and thus disappearing into the vast obscurity of history. A great pity, for what is surely one of the finest Uruk Hai covers of all.

03. Nazgul

A similar theme to #10 in our list, this time showing Nazgul on his way to the inaugural Hugin-fest at Sauron's place. Oh wait, that might not be true. Anyway, what this does illustrate is that Ted Nasmith is an most excellent artist, and that any cover showing clouds illuminated by the moon whilst featuring menacing figures like this is going to feature pretty highly in Nazgul's list.
02. My Favourite...

Oh, the irony - "My Favourite..." was very nearly my favourite. How we would have laughed here at Castle Nazgul. But enough of such joviality: this one-off CDr was an early and much-treasured gift from Hugin to Nazgul, and just happened to have one of the best covers of the Uruk Hai discography. The awe-inspiring and majestic dragon mirrors the nature of the music and is another genius creation from Hugin's own hand.

01. March To War

And the winner is ... "March To War". Well, there really no outright winners here, but this image is perhaps the perfect accompaniment to any Uruk Hai album. Taken from the die-hard vinyl limited edition release (another one yet to find its way into the Blog, but it's coming!) it depicts the seige of Helms Deep in fantastic quality and is one of those pictures that you could gaze at for ages and see something new each time you view it. Outstanding

So there we are, the end of another Top Ten list. It all begs one obvious question, of course, which is "what's the worst Uruk Hai album cover of all time?" Hmmmm, that is a question for another day, methinks....!

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