Wednesday, 6 April 2011

ASH NAZG...


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Ash Nazg...
Format: Cassette tape demo on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) released in 2010, catalogue reference WW160. The tape follows the standard presentation for this label of being a C60 style cassette with a photocopied black and white inlay. The title of the demo comes from the 'Black Speech', a language devised by Sauron and used in his land of Mordor.
Edition: Hand-numbered in an edition of 77 copies

Track Listing:

01. Ash Nazg... 21.40

As readers of Tolkien will be aware, the One Ring was created by the Dark Lord Sauron during the Second Age in order to gain dominion over the free peoples of Middle-Earth. In disguise as Annatar, or "Lord of Gifts", he aided the Elven smiths of Eregion and their leader Celebrimbor in the making of the Rings of Power. He then forged the One Ring himself in the fires of Mount Doom.

Sauron intended it to be the most powerful of all Rings, able to rule and control those who wore the others. Since the other Rings were themselves powerful, Sauron was obliged to place much of his native power into the One to achieve his purpose.

Creating the Ring simultaneously strengthened and weakened Sauron's power. On the one hand, as long as Sauron had the Ring, he could control the power of all the other Rings, and thus he was significantly more powerful after its creation than before; and putting such a great portion of his own power into the Ring ensured Sauron's continued existence so long as the Ring existed. On the other hand, by binding his power within the Ring, Sauron became dependent on it - without it his power was significantly diminished.

The Ring seemed simply to be made of gold, but was impervious to damage. It could be destroyed only by throwing it into the pit of the volcanic Mount Doom where it had originally been forged. Unlike other rings, the One Ring was not susceptible to dragon fire. Like some lesser rings forged by the Elves as "essays in the craft" – but unlike the other Rings of Power – it bore no gem, but its identity could be determined by a simple (though little-known) test: when placed in a fire, it displayed a fiery Tengwar inscription in the Black Speech of Mordor, with lines from a rhyme of lore describing the Rings. The ring-inscription is in the Black Speech, a language devised by Sauron and used in his land of Mordor.

The inscription embodied the One Ring's power to control the other Rings of Power. The words were evidently also part of the spell that imbued the One Ring with power; for the Elven smiths heard Sauron utter these words during the Ring's creation, whereupon they became aware of his purpose and took off their own Rings to foil his plan. The inscription used Elvish letters because the Black Speech did not have its own script.

"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie"

Those lines inscribed in bold above were translated by Gandalf in Book I, Chapter 2, "A Shadow of the Past" as: "Ash nazg durbatul√Ľk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatul√Ľk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul" And that, dear readers, encapsulates the story of where this 2010 demo derived its unusual name.

The Uruk Hai demo "Ash Nazg..." is therefore as steeped in Middle-Earth atmosphere as a well-roasted turkey leg at Bilbo Baggins' birthday party. It is composed once again as a single, long piece of music rather than a set of individual songs, as is the current way with late-period Uruk Hai. As ever, this can be challenging: settling down to listen to a lengthy song requires time and patience, as opposed to dipping in and out of an album of separate songs. It's also presented Nazgul with more of a challenge too as writing about a single track is far harder, in much the same way that writing about a long-haul flight is more difficult than describing some short, punchy aerobatic displays.

The first observation to make is that this is almost entirely an instrumental demo. The start - and indeed the end - of the recording contains a sinister voice effect of Sauron himself spewing the phrase "Ash Nazg...", thereafter it's keyboard ambiance all the way!

There is an a fascinating atmosphere developed on this track, with underlying cavernous synths setting an ominous tone whilst above them a keyboard melody (sounding not unlike the breathing pattern of a dragon played on a violin) progresses. Against this, some elegant and classy touches on the keys ensure, giving the whole piece a maturity that sines through. The whole song maintains a delicate balance between beauty and evil, and is a real pleasure to listen to. There are some very fitting changes of key and pace in this track, and as an overall listen it evokes all of the airs and charm of Hugin's classic Uruk Hai material.

With the recent glut of demos from Uruk Hai in late 2010 you could be forgiven for thinking that Hugin would run out of ideas or enthusiasm for this sort of material. This demo proudly dispels any such notion, and for any fan who appreciates the subtle and more gentle side of this project Nazgul would recommend this tape unhesitatingly.

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