Thursday, 8 December 2011

NARGOTHROND


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Nargothrond
Format: Cassette tape demo release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) in 2011, cat ref WW186. The songs are recordings from 2008, with the exception of the final track which dates to 2010. Standard Wulfrune Worxx format for this tape, with copied black and white inlay.
Edition: Hand-numbered and limited to 86 copies

Track Listing:
01. The Fellowship 3.14
02. The Ancient Tower (The Great Underground Fortress) 11.20
03. Nargothrond (Return To The Great Underground Fortress) 8.44
04. A Dragons Destiny 10.13
05. The Sound Of Nargothrond 5.13

That's some word to get the tongue around: "Nargthrond". Not to be confused with the Portuguese black metal band of the same name (who coincidentally had a song called 'Uruk Hai on their 1998 demo!), this reference is a location from Tolkien's realms, of course, and translated from the Sindarin tongue means "The great underground fortress on the river Narog".

Nargothrond was the stronghold built by Finrod Felagund and the realm of Nargothrond consisted of the underground city cut into the banks of the river Narog in Beleriand.

Inspired by Menegroth in Doriath, and seeking a hidden place from which to be safe from the forces of Morgoth, Finrod established the underground fortress of Nargothrond in the early years of the First Age, in the Caverns of Narog beneath the forested hills of Taur-en-Faroth on the river's western bank. The stronghold was carved into the rock beneath Taur-en-Faroth, and could only be approached by a narrow path along the high banks of the River Narog. No bridge was built across the river until late in its history. The lands to the north of the citadel were considered part of its realm, and the people of Nargothrond kept unceasing watch on the grasslands to the north, the Talath Dirnen or Guarded Plain.

The citadel long lay hidden from Morgoth, and was ruled wisely for long years by Finrod. After he was lost in the Quest of the Silmaril, his brother Orodreth expelled the usurping sons of Fëanor, Celegorm and Curufin, and was lord in Nargothrond. When Túrin dwelt in Nargothrond, he persuaded the Elves who dwelt there to change their long policy of secrecy, and openly attack the servants of Morgoth. So the Dark Lord discovered the city's location, and sent out an army under Glaurung to sack and destroy it.

The cover art of this demo shows the aftermath of the seige of 495, when the dragon Glaurung followed up his triumph in the Battle of Tumhalad by sacking Nargothrond, enslaving or slaying its people, making a bed of the treasure of the city and ruling as a Dragon-king. The illustration shows Glaurung presiding over a procession of bound Elven maidens being led away to an uncertain (but presumably unhappy) fate.

The image is taken from a Ted Nasmith illusation 'Finduilas is led past Turin at Nargothrond', which Nazgul has reproduced in its original colour version at the base of this post. The title of the piece comes from the time of the sack of Nargothrond: Gwindor was slain and died in the arms of Túrin, who he told to seek out Finduilas, saying that Finduilas lay between him and his doom. However, when Túrin arrived at the ruins of Nargothrond, he was bewitched by the dragon, and he could not respond to Finduilas' cries as she was dragged past him by the orcs of Morgoth as a slave for Angband.

So, that's the story of the cover - let's consider the musical content!

Firstly, it's wise to note that the songs were recorded in 2008 (bar one), which was a relatively quiet year for Uruk Hai releases. It principally saw a number of split releases: the "A Dark Force Shines Golden / Dreams of the Ancient Stone" (with Saltvind), "Nachtkrieg" (with Forgotten Land), and "Vereint Durch Die Kraft Uralter Wälder" (with Moloch). There was also the full-length "Lost Songs from Middle Earth" release, which incidentally Nazgul must do an update on soon as some interesting new details have come to light about that album.

The songs from the 2008 period were quite varied - 'Blood of Heroes' from "Nachtkrieg" was an early indication of the epic-length Uruk Hai recordings to come with its nigh-on half-hour running time. The split with Moloch introduced us to 'Gil-Galad' for the first time, with its upbeat and less oppressive tones, whilst "A Dark Force Shines Golden" gave us some classic Tolkien influenced works to savour. These previously unreleased recordings could, therefore, have followed any one of a number of routes.

Well, on pressing play you will be greeted with a familiar song in 'The Fellowship' - yes, this is an Uruk Hai song that we've heard before! In fact, it is 'Die Gemeinschaft' from the very limited edition tape "Lebenin" (and which also appears on the compilation "Ein Zeitzeichen von Lebenin") . And what's this - second song 'The Ancient Tower' is in fact the 'Der Turm' track from the "Zeitzeichen" split release with Draumar. Some familiar music to begin with, although given the rarity of the original releases (particularly "Lebenin", which came out in a miniscule edition of 6 tapes only) they are not exactly ubiquitous Uruk Hai songs!

Continuing the theme of things heard before, the fourth song 'A Dragon's Destiny' turns out to be our old friend 'Smaug's Destiny', previously encountered on the 2010 Wulfrune Worxx Split Series release "Dragon War" and another limited edition of only 66 copies. So something of a compilation theme going on here, Nazgul concludes sagely. Indeed, Hugin confirms this notes that the story of Nargothrond had in effect been split across a number of releases in 2009 and hence their repackaging onto one single demo.

Rounding out the tape come two previously unheard compositions; 'Nargothrond (return to the great underground fortress') being contemporary from 2008, the second 'The Sound Of Nargothrond' being a more recent piece from 2010. These two songs carry on in the fine form that Hugin has created elsewhere on the demo, and bring a combination of lush synths and haunting strongs to bear on what is a tragic tale of loss and anguish.

Unusual in the modern era of Uruk Hai for being a collection of short(ish) songs on a tape, rather than an epic sprawling track of thirty minutes duration, this demo works very well indeed and has been a frequent visitor to the Castle death-deck since arriving all those months ago.

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