Monday, 30 April 2012

NORTHERN LIGHTS (Part II)


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Northern Lights Part II
Format: Currently a cassette-only demo released in 2012 on the Wulfrune Worxx (France) label, catalogue reference WW316, and released with a black and white single-sided copied inlay.
Edition: Only 25 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. The Shire (featuring Phil Knight of Odium)  3.08
02. The Uruk Hai (Part VII)  12.15
03. Gollum (Bounded In Eternity)  3.29

Nazgul was rather excited when this demo tape arrived at the Castle.  Firstly, it was not a release that he had anticipated and as a result it came as a very nice surprise.  Secondly, being a short demo of three separate songs, it carries a different feel from the more recent 'one-long-song' style Uruk Hai demos, far more in keeping with the sort of releases the band was known for back in the 2003-05 period: the "Battle Magic", "Honour" or "Ea" type recordings, coming in very small quantity with short, dynamic songs.

Speaking of "Ea" as we just were, the inside of the inlay for "Northern Lights (Part II) carries an illustration of trees on a hillside that surely must be from the same part of the world as those shown on the reverse of the "Ea" inlay?

Only 25 copies of this short demo are being produced by Wulfrune Worxx, and given the doubtful economics of the tape trading world you have to wonder if the label actually make any money at all from the enterprise after taking their costs into account?  However, the murky world of finance aside, thank goodness Wulfrune continue to support Hugin's work in this manner, as without wonderful labels such as this the underground scene would surely vanish and we'd never have a chance to share such good music.

'The Shire' starts the ball (or, more accurately, the tape) rolling, and with a melodic introduction played on synthesized flute you may be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a gentle walk through the Baggins' estate, admiring the flowers en route to Bilbo's birthday party.  Not so!  A scream and crisp military drum beat soon follow and floating into the mix comes the unmistakable sound of Odium's own Phil Knight on guitar.  In short, a brief, atmospheric instrumental piece (allowing for the screams!) and a very pleasant way to kick things off.

The meat and potatoes of this demo, however, is the middle song of the three, 'The Uruk Hai (Part VII)'.  Much like the Halloween saga whose protagonist Michael Myers refuses to die, so the Uruk Hai series continues unabated, armed to the teeth and rampant with bloodlust!  A slow-paced and progressive song (in as far as it builds nicely using melody and repetition, as opposed to going all Rush-style 'prog' on you) it's a majestic piece, and if you had to create an image to accompany the music you could imagine a band of Uruk Hai slowly trudging through the snow-filled passes of the Misty Mountains, presumably on their way to drop in unexpectedly on that birthday party in the Shire, the immense walls of rock and deep chasms of snow all that lies between them and their prey!  Lots to absorb here, including some excellent piano passages that generate a tranquil moment in the heart of the song.

For those keeping notes and using Honour and Darkness as a source of reference, the first five parts of 'The Uruk Hai' are compiled onto the 2010 split with Vinterriket "Nachtschwarze Momente / The Uruk-Hai", having been drawn from various releases including "Valkyrian Romance", "Elbenmacht" and "Black Blood, White Hand" to name three.  Part VI in the series was a more recent release, appearing on "Elbentraum".

'Gollum (Bounded In Eternity)' finishes the demo off neatly, and has an unusual and catchy hook at the outset, descending into a more gloomy place as it progresses, mirroring the life of the unfortunate creature himself.  Something of an eerie song, and at times it comes across as sounding rather like a vintage Elisabetha recording.  Not your standard Uruk Hai fare, and that's why we like collecting these odd demos!

There's not a whole lot to ostensibly connect this tape to the original "Northern Lights" album save the indirect Tolkien themes, although whilst Arkillery's Krom made his presence known on the original album Odium's Phil Knight makes an equally effective cameo appearance on this one.

An edition of just 25 copies suggests that Hugin/Wulfrune Worxx weren't exactly expecting this to be a best-seller, which in a way is a shame as there's much to enjoy here and inevitably very few will get to hear/own it in this format.  However, as recent years have taught us, the likelihood of this material reappearing on successive releases is pretty high so I don't imagine we've heard the last of these songs (and, of course, if you're the proud owner of compilation box-set "Angband", some will already be familiar to you anyway).

Highly recommended!

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