Sunday, 17 April 2011

URUK HAI / FUNERAL FORNICATION




Band: URUK HAI
Title: Uruk-Hai / Funeral Fornication split album
Format: Professionally manufactured CD-r in standard jewel case with 4 page booklet, released in September 2010 on the Hypnotic Dirge label (Saskatchewan, Canada), cat ref HDR-015. The album is a split release between Uruk Hai and Funeral Fornication (Canada). All artwork, photographs and layout were created for this release by Hugin.
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:
Uruk-Hai
01. Orcish Battle Hymn (Intro) 1.36
02. March to War 12.31
03. Death is Just Another Path 8.07
04. Cirith Ungol (edited version featuring Pr. Sergiy) 11.39

Funeral Fornication
05. The Weeping Tree 5.42
06. Stargates Eternal Beheld My Nightmares 6.45
07. Chamber Below the Abyss 5.35
08. The Keep (Solstice cover) / Obsidian Tarn 7.50

This fine looking split CD is a release on the Hypnotic Dirge label (www.hypnoticdirge.com), which is a label that boasts an interesting array of recent releases (including a split featuring our old friend, Symbiosis) and a very positive attitude in their self-promotion. It's one of the better independent label sites Nazgul has seen for a while, so do check them out and why not put a little business their way if the product appeals? Whilst many of the recent Hypnotic Dirge CDr releases are limited to 500 units their website suggests there is no limitation on this particular split album so there's little excuse not to go and grab a copy.

All of the artwork and design on the glossy booklet comes from Hugin's creative mind, and the split features a tidy four songs from each band to keep the listener entertained. It is an album of contrasting styles through, and there will be few that will confuse the output of each project. In a happy-yet-rare occurrence there are quite a few reviews of this release online, so let's kick off with one that gets to the heart of this stylistic difference right away courtesy of Defiance webzine (www.myspace.com/defiancemagazine):

"The eight track album ( four tracks by each band respectively) is full of contrast on many levels, the first one being the style of music. I was pleasantly surprised by Uruk-Hai as I had not previously heard of them only to find myself engrossed in a style of music that is long forgotten. Music that is inspired on so many levels, if you love your war inspired classical sounding pieces then the first part of this album is for you.
Beautifully produced to a high standard it's almost like a musical play starting with "Orcish Battle Hymn" or if you like the procession into war then "March to War" and then we finish with "Death is Just Another Path" and my favourite piece by Uruk-Hai "Cirith Ungol". It might be different from the previous three but it's a nice touch, almost like peace has broken out and now the happy ending with growling vocals thrown in and some very interesting musical elements. These four tracks are like a beautifully written sonnet to my ears, I could sit here for hours and listen to it over and over. It's a breath of fresh air and for my ears it's also a sound of fresh air.

The second half of the album by Funeral Fornication sees them returning to the Black/doom metal growling and prowling with "The Weeping Tree" with the catchy guitar riff leading you astray from yourself and into something completely different such as "Stargates Eternal Holds My Nightmares" with the harpsichord adding another dimension to this track and all I can say is Funeral Fornication really haven't lost their touch with tracks like "Chamber Below the Abyss" and "The Keep". The music really is a contrasting and complimentary on so many levels. Here you have an album, two different styles and it's on one CD! These two bands really compliment each other well, You have Black/doom metal and you have epic war style music, what more could you possibly ask for on a split album like this?"

Taking a slightly sideways step, this was Nazgul's first exposure to Funeral Fornication so let us explore that band's origin's a little. According to the biography on the Hypnotic Dirge site, Funeral Fornication is a one-man project hailing from BC, Canada which began as a pagan black metal band with thrash metal influences. This project has been in the works for 5-6 years releasing demos and then its debut album a couple years ago on Funeral Moonlight Productions. On the second album 'Paganheart' Funeral Fornication's style has evolved over the years, and a more depressive black metal based album entitled 'Solitude and Suicide' is another label release.

Most of the Uruk Hai tracks will be familiar to most readers of this Blog due to their presence on other releases, notably 'March to War' and 'Death Is Just Another Path'. The intro track 'Orcish Battle Hymn' bears the same name as the demo from 2000 on Chanteloup Creations, but is a feisty instrumental to get proceedings under way, whilst track four ' Cirith Ungol' is a much edited down version of another recent demo by the same name, which will be the subject of a separate post in due course.

In terms of how these tracks sound, let's turn to the Nocturnal Cult webzine (www.nocturnalcult.com) for their thoughts:

"Up first are four tracks of Tolkien themed ambient music from Uruk-Hai. A pounding tribal beat repeats its racing line against a frolicking violin melody for 'Orcish Battle Hymn'. A darker pounding beat cracks like thunder as 'March To War' begins. Samples of Saruman commanding his legions into battle drift into this victorious and inspiring song of horns and thunderous drums. A ghostly voice snakes its way through the song. Light melodies break like dawn across 'Death Is Just Another Path' and Gandalf's wisdom spills forth in samples across the song's landscape.

If possible, the drums become even more forceful as the song explodes like a cavalry charge during its more powerful movements. However angelic choirs dance lightly upon the song's moments of stillness. Finally 'Cirith Ungol' unites peaceful piano and warming horns while they hover above a battlefield of clanging steel and acidic black metal shrieks. The shrieks continue as insistent beats and crystalline xylophones chime through the darkness.

Then the second half is underground black metal, steeped in atmosphere and primitive destruction. A repetitive and methodical beat supports morose atmospheric black metal on 'The Weeping Tree'. Riffs create barren textures while they are paired with slowly swaying synth passages. A mournful melody and romantic synth create a vampyric feel to 'Stargates Eternal Beheld My Nightmares'.

I still really wish Funeral Fornication would get a REAL drummer as it stands out during the cymbal rides on this track. 'Chamber Below The Abyss' begins with haunting and sharp guitar notes slicing down from the stars. The song creeps along at an eerie pace, keeping its true form concealed until deep, horrific vocals drift in like creaking wood in a haunted mansion. The whole song is nebular in shape and disturbing in effect. Finally Funeral Fornication's half is brought to a close as he delivers a pagan epic of clean vocalised Viking chants during a Solstice cover song, 'The Keep.' "

There is also an interesting review at the Doommantia (www.doommantia.com) that's worth a read:

"Check this out - Uruk-Hai, Elisabetha, Folkearth, Hrossharsgrani, Hrefnesholt, Ravenclaw, Raben Nacht, Manwe, Heimatleid, Bonemachine (now know as B-Machina), Ceremony of Innocence, Wach, Solid Grey, Drachenfeuer, Schlaganfall, After Aids, Guts for Dinner and Eismond. Close to 40 demos, around 30 split albums, about a dozen full length albums, 6 EP's, countless singles and a 6 CD box set. This is the staggering resume of ambient musician Hugin, real name Alex Wieser.

His main band though is Uruk-Hai, the name is a reference to an advanced breed of orcs from J.R.R. Tolkien''s Lord of the Rings trilogy. This man is the most prolific songwriter and musician that I have ever heard of and he is showing no signs of slowing down either. Hugin plays all instruments as well as all the electronics and programming on most of his releases including this split with Canada's Funeral Fornication, a depressive black metal band that has is the work of one man also, Vultyrous.

Funeral Fornication started out as a pagan/thrash/black metal act but changed its style towards depressive black metal when it signed with Hypnotic Dirge Records in Early 2009. This split album starts off with Uruk-Hai in a total Tolkien, fantasy based concept. A theme that this musician has kept going through most, if not all of his releases. Musically it is blackened, ambient doomy stuff blended with neo-classical influences, it is bombastic yet kind of nerdy music and I say that with all due respect as I actually like most of it. Because of his incredible recording output, I have only heard a small part of what he has done but I can tell this is a huge step-up from what he was doing a few years ago.

The production is much better, the songs have more direction and dynamics but it still an acquired taste. This is the kind of music you either love or hate or have to be in the mood for. There is a lot of screaming going on and samples from the Lord of the Rings movies so it is an odd blend of different elements but somehow it all works. I can't really see myself listening to this too often but I also find it intriguing material but it is something you have to judge for yourself. No amount of reviews is truly going to tell the story here.

Funeral Fornication is different again but doesn't sound out-of-place next to Uruk-Hai. This is very depressive, bleak black metal that is soaked in doom and gloom. One thing it has in common with Uruk-Hai is the synths, both bands rely pretty heavily on that sound for the atmospherics. Here they are blended with sickly, depressing guitar riffs with abrasive, harsh vocals but it all sounds kind of the same until you get to one song called "Chamber Below The Abyss" which is the only track that breaks the usual formula. It is the only track not really blackened metal but it also one of the best tracks on the entire split for the incredibly dark atmosphere. Overall, I am very impressed with this release from Hypnotic Dirge Records. One of their better releases of the last year."

All in all, a very satisfying release and one well worth seeking out.

To end, seen pictured above is the flyer sent out by Hypnotic Dirge to advertise this album, the text of which reads:

"As a precursor to Funeral Fornication's forthcoming full-length album 'Pandemic Transgression', comes the split album with Austria's legendary Uruk-Hai, a project that Vultyrous has cited as a strong influence throughout his many years as a musician. Both projects on this album carry their own distinctive sound yet the album flows together as a solid entity and each artist's work complements the album as a whole.

Uruk-Hai delivers his brand of epic, LOTR-inspired ambient black metal in the vein of Summoning, while Funeral Fornication continues to grow with each sequential release adding new elements to his sound including a cover song of UK doomsters 'Solstice' with clean vocals! This release comes packaged in a standard jewel case with artwork designed from Uruk-Hai's 'Hugin'."


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