Thursday, 24 November 2011

MIDDLE-EARTH (PART I)



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Middle-Earth (Part 1): The Hither Lands
Format: Cassette release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France), cat ref WW173. The standard black and white photocopied inlays accompany this release. A later CDr pressing of this demo is only available in the "Gorgoroth" box-set (2011).
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 66 copies

Track Listing:

Side A
01. The Hither Lands (part 1)
Side B
02. The Hither Lands (part 2)

A true story: On April 18, 1930, during what should have been a 6:30pm radio news bulletin, a BBC presenter announced "Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news." It had been apparently judged that nothing newsworthy had happened. Piano music was then played instead of the current affairs update for a couple of minutes, before normal scheduling resumed.

Events of little or no consequence happen all of the time (although for a whole day of global affairs to fall into this category means that it must have truly been a stupendously dull day to have been on Planet Earth, except presumably for those being born or dying). For another example of events of little consequence, each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy, but that is an annual event deemed to be of little importance in astronomical circles.

And, of course, consequence is relative - God is said to exist outside of time, so it is thus of no consequence to Him (although rather pressing to the rest of us).

All of which is a roundabout way of contemplating "Middle Earth Part 1 (The Hither Lands)" from everyone's favourite Austrian project, Uruk Hai. Now, whilst it's not at all bad in any way, it's not outstanding in any way either, and as a result becomes an inconsequential sort of demo that seemingly leaves little lasting impression once finished. In Nazgul's general experience such things lead to one of two avenues of action: (1) the album in question is filed quietly away, unlikley to be played again, or (2) it gets another spin with more attention to ensure that it's not being dismissed too early.

Of course, this being a demo from Hugin the only possible option is for repeat plays so back into the death-deck said demo went whilst Nazgul went about his daily routine (today's chores: exhaling the black breath onto the servants and planning a winter vacation to Minas Morgul). And, after repeated playback it has to be said that despite having all of the hallmarks of the Uruk Hai sound and being pleasant enough in nature, it still does come across as a little vapid in comparison to many of the bombastic and memorable Uruk Hai releases of the past. In a sense, it's a little like walking through the foothills on the way to enjoying the mountain scenery - perfectly respectable in context, but not quite in the same league as the lofty heights ahead.

Oh - and a word or two on the title as 'hither lands' is an unusual phrase, it has to be said. It transpires that the word 'hither' is an archaic part of the English language - derived appropriately enough from Middle English - and in essence means nearer, or close, or more specifically 'of a side or part (especially of a hill or valley). Originally Nazgul had wondered if it was a mis-spelling of 'hinterland' (the land directly adjacent to and inland from a coast), only because the more common use of the word 'hither' is in the context of giving someone a 'come-hither' look in an alluring or seductive manner. This brought to mind all sorts of odd images of doe-eyed Orcs milling around the Misty Mountains in search of passing hobbits to seduce, but happily it's nothing of the sort!

The cover is rather tasty though, with an erupting volcano spewing forth lava. This must have looked positively spectacular in its original colour version....

Overall, rather a transitional piece of music in the overall canon of Uruk Hai releases: It's typical of the lengthy, almost beyond-epic releases of this period (of which there were quite a number) and perhaps suggests that some rigourous self-editing should sit alongside the ever-flowing creative thinking that wafts almost daily from the bastions of W.A.R. in Austria. Then again, it could equally be argued that as a non-musician Nazgul should keep his opinions to himself and knows nothing of the dark arts of recording such things! The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, and goes to demostrate the high standards attained by Hugin through his releases as a whole when a demo as good as this one just fails to keep pace with those classic releases that have gone before.

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