Wednesday, 28 September 2011

SPIRITS (FROM ANCIENT WORLDS)





Band: URUK HAI
Title: Spirits (From Ancient Worlds)
Format: Cassette tape release from January 2011, which comes in two versions. The first, with full colour cover, is on the Depressive Illusions Records label (Ukraine), cat ref cut182. The second version, in a smaller limitation, is on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France), cat ref WW184, and comes with black and white cover and with a bonus track on the second side, the remastered 'Songs From The Woods' from 2011.
Edition: Depressive Illusions version limited to 111 hand-numbered copies, whilst the Wulfrune Worxx version come in only 22 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:


14.51


9.01

Wulfrune Worxx version-only bonus song
03. Songs From The Woods

First off, your dilemma: do you purchase the Wulfrune Worxx version and benefit from that extra track (previously released, of course, via Depressive Illusions as covered by the post of 18 January 2011), or is your heart's desire the glossy colour version lavishly created through the Depressive Illusions label? Well, you could always 'do a Nazgul' and purchase both, and see such dilemmas slip away into the ether....

And it would be well worth supporting both labels by laying your hands on dual copies of this release, not least because you'd have the opportunity to own one of the more modern recent - and most excellent - recordings by Uruk Hai. There's not been the deluge of releases from our favourite Austrian horde so far this year as in prior years, but this tape from early 2011 contains two lovingly composed tracks that demonstrates the varied repertoire in the current sound of this project, complete with epic percussion and detailed sound mixes but with no vocal parts at all.

In many respects dwelling on individual aspects of this release is likely to be a moot point: those of you keen on the project will most likely have a copy to hand already, whilst those yet to be converted may struggle to find a copy for sale at this late stage anyway, particularly the less common Wulfrune Worxx version. But in the interests of completeness, let Nazgul just note that the tracks on offer are of cinematic quality in terms of their grandeur and expanse. If only someone would send a tape to Peter Jackson for one of his Tolkien-related films then surely Hugin's music would be a shoe-in for the soundtrack!

The first track is by far the more 'upbeat' of the two, thanks to a quirky and at times funky drum pattern and a catchy synthesiser that ebbs and flows like tide on distant shores. Elements of symphonic Uruk Hai of old appear in this track (think of some of the more epic and orchestral parts of "Black Blood, White Hand") yet there is a definite dance-vibe present throughout the whole of this song that elevates it from some mere dark ambient performance into an entirely separate realm altogether. If Uruk Hai were to dance around their camp-fires there's a good chance it would be to this...

The second song is a far more sombre affair, composed largely on piano and definitely a more downbeat experience after the previous tune. That said, there's bags of stuff going on in the mix and whilst it is a slower, more atmospheric track it certainly grabs the listener by the scruff of their neck for the duration.

Both song titles are depicted by runes rather than by a name. The runes in question most probably come from Futhorc (or fuþorc), a runic alphabet used by the Anglo-Saxons, in turn descended from the Elder Futhark of 24 runes. This alphabet was used from around the fifth century onward, for recording Old English and Old Frisian. There are competing theories as to the origins of the Anglo-Saxon futhorc. One theory proposes that it was developed in Frisia and from there spread later to England. Another holds that runes were first introduced to England from Scandinavia where the futhorc was modified and then exported to Frisia.

I say 'most probably come' as different runic alphabets exist that use similar characters in their composition. However, in J. R. R. Tolkien's novel The Hobbit the Anglo-Saxon runes are used on a map to emphasize its connection to the Dwarves and they were also used in the initial drafts of The Lord of the Rings, but later were replaced by the Cirth rune-like alphabet invented by Tolkien.

The symbol to the first track is the Algiz, often equated to the modern day 'x' yet traditionally pronounced 'yr'. The letter has come to symbolize many neo-pagan religions and is often worn as a pendant. When casting rune stones it is most commonly determined to represent refusal to move on, or one's family and heritage.

Guido von List's 'Armanen Futharkh' were very loosely based on the Younger Futhark. List's runes were later adopted and modified by Karl Maria Wiligut who was responsible for their wide useage on insignia and literature during the Third Reich, notably in SS-obituaries (of all things). Various forms of the Algiz rune are still commonly used by various Germanic Neo-pagan groups as a symbol of their religion.

The second track utilises the 't' rune, named after Tyr, which was identified with this god; the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is Tîwaz (the rune is sometimes also referred to as Teiwaz). According to the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, at one stage the gods decided to shackle the Fenris wolf (Fenrir), but the beast broke every chain they put upon him. Eventually they had the dwarves make them a magical ribbon called Gleipnir. It appeared to be only a silken ribbon but was made of six wondrous ingredients: the sound of a cat's footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, bear's sinews, fish's breath and bird's spittle. The creation of Gleipnir is said to be the reason why none of the above exist. Fenrir sensed the gods' deceit and refused to be bound with it unless one of them put his hand in the wolf's mouth.

Tyr, known for his great wisdom and courage, agreed, and the other gods bound the wolf. After Fenrir had been bound by the gods, he struggled to try and break the rope. When the gods saw that Fenrir was bound they all rejoiced, except Tyr, who had his right hand bitten off by the wolf. Fenrir will remain bound until the day of Ragnarök. As a result of this deed, Tyr is called the "Leavings of the Wolf"; which is to be understood as a poetic kenning for glory. According to the Prose version of Ragnarok, Tyr is destined to kill and be killed by Garm, the guard dog of Hel.

Incidentally, in researching this post Nazgul has discovered that an image of this act - Tyr sacrificing his arm to Fenrir - forms the cover to the split release between Uruk Hai and Walpurgis, and is a 1911 illustration by the artist John Bauer. There's still much to learn from this collection.

Nazgul is very proud to own edition #1 of both pressings of this release, both of which have been signed and dedicated by the great man himself (Hugin, of course, not Tyr!)

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