Saturday, 5 March 2011

GIL-GALAD (THE WHOLE STORY)

Band: URUK HAI
Title:
Gil-galad (The Whole Story)
Format: Tape only release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) in 2010, cat ref WW182. There was also a tape-only version of this demo released with the same cover (in colour) on Depressive Illusions (Ukraine), cat ref cut163, with 2 fewer tracks under the name "Gil-galad". Both are covered in this post, along with a little history...
Edition: Wulfrune Worxx demo limited to 60 hand-numbered copies, Depressive Illusions to 100 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
Both versions contain:
01. Gil-galad (remastered version) 10.44
02. The Fall Of Gil-galad (first take collaboration track with Golden Dawn) 5.37

"Gil-galad (The Whole Story)" adds:
03. Gil-galad (original version) 10.47
04. Hymn of Gil-galad (previously unreleased) 3.53

Tolkien's story of Gil-galad - last of the High Kings of the Noldor-in-Exile in Middle-Earth - was convoluted and complex. In the closing years of the Second Age the reappearance of Sauron with a newly formed army led to a war against the kingdom of Gondor, close to his old home of Mordor. Gil-galad formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men with Elendil, High King of the Dúnedain-in-Exile and the armies of Elves and Men, victorious after the Battle of Dagorlad, laid siege to Sauron in Mordor. At the end of the siege, both Gil-galad and Elendil aided in the overthrow of Sauron's physical body yet perished themselves in the assault - a record left by Isildur in Minas Tirith implies that Sauron himself slew Gil-galad, with the heat of his bare hands.

The history of 'Gil-galad' the song is no less convoluted, but thankfully has yet to end up with any deaths being associated with it. It may be prone to giving the occasional Uruk Hai collector a cold shiver down the spine, however, as the history of this song through the band's discography is itself a complex tale worth reciting. So let us delve back into history to see what our research uncovers....

The first Uruk Hai release to bear a song named 'Gil-galad' was not, as often supposed, the 2008 split with Moloch but a much earlier release: "Elbentanz" in fact, from 2003. Here the track is purely instrumental, and only of 1:24 duration. A simple keyboard refrain with regular war-drum like beat behind it, it was nothing more than an early rehearsal track committed to CD by an early incarnation of the project. Interesting enough, but with nothing whatsoever in common with later songs of the same name.

The legacy as we recognise it now came with the release of an entirely different song by the same name as half of the "Vereint Durch Die Kraft Uralter Wälder" split release with the aforementioned Moloch. A triumph of enchanting female choral vocals and memorable keyboards, the song immediately elevated the Uruk Hai ambient art-form to a new level and in so doing became a major part of the contemporary sound that the project was moving towards in the last years of the decade.

This 3"CDr split release was a relatively small one, however, with only 50 copies out in general circulation. Perhaps inevitably, therefore, the lure of a good song was too good an opportunity to miss and the track started to crop up on more and more releases as time went on. Indeed, it became almost impossible to pick up a CD from Uruk Hai in 2010 without the blessed thing being there in one form or another! But first things first: the next official time the track was to be found was in remastered format on the split tape release "Bounded By Blood" with Hugin's self-titled Hugin project. This again was a pretty limited release (66 copies) and so, with some predictability, the track appeared on a number of CD's thereafter including (in no particular order) the split albums with Sieghetnar and Mhnunrrn, and the multi-disc "Angband" compilation.

You can imagine Nazgul's face when news came out that the song was due for yet another tape release at the end of 2010 and not just once, but on two separate labels simultaneously!
However, as can so often be the case all is not what it seemed and these two tapes offered something a little extra in their composition. Whilst both have the same cover illustration, the colour version on the Depressive Illusions release looks far more the impressive of the pair with some striking blue and green tints in the main image. both tapes have the re-mastered version of the song as their first track, and then both have a bonus track recorded with Austrian act Golden Dawn as track two. Golden Dawn were originally part of the Austrian 'Black Metal Syndicate' along with Pervertum, Trifixion, Pazuzu, Summoning and Abigor, although they now have a more extreme gothic metal style. Nazgul will attempt to track them down for a future mini-interview to see how this collaborative track come about.

This second track - 'The Fall Of Gil-galad' - is presumably based on the poem translated by Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring, detailing the last days of this enigmatic individual. This song starts with a couple of metallic clanks (for a moment, it seemed like a re-recording of 'Schall & Rauch" was in the offing!) before it moves into a very pleasant and harmonic song that is distinctly different to your standard Uruk Hai tune, courtesy of the input from Golden Dawn. Well worth tracking down, this one. Incidentally, the last verse of Bilbo's poem read:

"But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are"

To which one is tempted to add, with apologies to Tolkien:

"But now he's back, and here to stay
His name with time won't pass away;
He's on CD and tape cassette
Just waiting for his own box-set"

Ahem. Anyway, that brings us to the end of the Depressive Illusions tape release but wait - for there is more on the Wulfrune Wroxx version! Now, in honesty when Nazgul placed his order for these two cassettes he assumed it was the same track listing on each, but in order to support both labels placed an order for both anyway. It was a very pleasant surprise therefore to find the Wulfrune Worxx expanded edition - the 'Whole Story' - with two more songs on it.

The third track is billed as the original version of 'Gil-galad', which did lead Nazgul to wonder if this might in fact be the original 2003 version raised from the depths of obscurity for this collection. "No", was the short answer to that. It is in fact the 2008 version from the "Vereint Durch Die Kraft Uralter Wälder" split CD, and to be honest it's not a whole heap different from the re-mastered version save for a sample of Gandalf at the outset of the newer version. Still, it's nice to have them together in one place, especially for those who might have missed the split album the first time around. The final track 'Hymn of Gil-galad' is purely instrumental, and if one might dare to venture such a view not that different to many other recent Uruk Hai instrumental outings. Nothing offensive about it whatsoever, but it comes and goes rather fleetingly with no real 'hooks' to drag you in...

When all is said and done, the quality of these two releases shines through, and as a now familiar friend the song doesn't outstay its welcome by appearing again on these two tapes, particularly with the attendant bonuses. Wrapping things up, here's a photo of the Gil-galad 'family' of releases to date. Although a CD release of the 'Whole Story' saga might not go amiss, here's hoping 'Gil-galad' keeps a lower profile in 2011 than he did last year!

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