Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Uruk Hai > Gone With The Wind poster

Band: URUK HAI
Item: Poster for the "Gone With The Wind" demo
Edition: 1 copy only

May 2012 has rather been the month of Uruk Hai related items, and as alluded to in the last post here's another interesting item recently unearthed by Hugin from the bowels of W.A.R. Productions.

It's nothing less than a full colour poster promoting the "Gone With The Wind" CDr demo, painted in circa 1999 by Adelheid Bagar (thanks to Hugin for this information).

In fact, more accurately, it's not so much 'a' poster as it is the colour poster, as this seems to be the only one known to exist and thus requires some careful handling (hold your breath, given Nazgul's recent inadvertent destruction of the Mystified/Bonemachine split tape!)

The poster adds a little more information to the original CD cover (shown in photo number two), primarily through the visibility of the ominous sky above the figure, and the tree to the left.

As you would imagine, Nazgul is deeply honoured to be the custodian of such a treasure, and when the soon to be built Hugin museum extension is completed then all of the myriad of posters in the collection will need to be carefully framed and displayed upon its walls.  And upon the grand opening you - honoured reader - are cordially invited to come and view the greatest single collection of musical ephemera from Austria's finest export...!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Uruk Hai > untitled promo


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Untitled
Format: CDr demo/promo recorded circa 2000 at W.A.R. Productions (Austria) and not intended for general release.  The disc comes with a hand-written rear inlay tray insert, and a plain white cover.
Edition: unknown, presumed to be very low (possibly 1)

Track Listing:
01. Then The Gloom Gathered, Darkness Growing  10.10
02. Ringgeister  1.32
03. A New World Was Born  5.30
04. ...There Was Fight  7.42
05. To Lenore  4.51

The recent coverage of the expansive "Everlasting Wrath Of The Tyrant" box-set put Nazgul in mind of this promo CDr that had been a gift from Hugin some months ago.  Coming in a plain packaging, one assumes that this was the disc on which were recorded the demo tracks for songs that finally found their way onto the "Gone With The Wind" demo, and thereafter the "Darkness" demo tape.  As such, it's quite likely that this is a unique and one-off item, although that particular conjecture is purely speculative at this time.

This promo contains five songs in total, essentially the same as appearing on the aforementioned pair of releases although two slight changes to titles have ensued: '...There Was Fight' becomes 'In The Beginning ... There Was Fight' on the formal release, whilst 'To Lenore' became 'An Lenore', although these are modest alterations.

Interestingly the style of writing of the reverse of this promo (see the first photo) is very similar in style to that found on the "Uber Die Nebelberge Weit" release from 2000, rather than the "Gone With The Wind" demo (which came with a typed rear inlay) on which the songs actually appeared.

In musical terms, the songs come as an excellent refresher in the mighty powers of early Uruk Hai, and bring back some happy memories of those early demo releases from the turn of the last Millennium.  Of particular note is that evil riff in "..There Was Fight", which still comes as a startling punky interjection and remains as unexpected as a swift kick to the gonads.

This mini-trip back into the past also reminds Nazgul of a unique poster that recently arrived in the collection,  so that would seem to be a likely post to try to cover before the end of May.  The rigours of  parenthood and work haven't left an awful lot of free time for Honour and Darkness in recent weeks, but rest assured there's still plenty to be covered in this online catalogue of the varied works of Mr Alexander Wieser...!

Friday, 18 May 2012

2


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: 2
Format: Cassette-only release, a split demo with US experimental band Mystified, released on W.A.R. Productions in 2007, cat. ref. WAR033.  This demo comes in a colour cover and with bespoke band logo labels on either side of a C90-style tape.
Edition: Twenty hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
Side A: Mystified
01. Burner
02. Verge
03. Revisiting
04. Static Pulse
05. Level Three
06. Idyll
Side B: Bonemachine
01. Friendly Fire
02. Invader

A funny thing happened recently, to be followed by a rather disastrous thing.  Read on for the trials and tribulations of Nazgul...

So, it all began when a month or two ago when Hugin was cataloguing the release history of W.A.R. Productions over the decade or so of its existence, and send a copy of his list to Nazgul for information.  Whilst scanning this formidable list of releases Nazgul suddently realised that this particular tape - the second split demo between Bonemachine and Mystified - had completely passed him by. Not just in the sense of being a tape that had not yet been found for the collection, but in the sense that the very existence of the demo was unrecognised until this sudden and unexpected epiphany!

In an edition of only 20 copies (this copy - that Hugin was able to locate, fortunately enough - is #9 in the series) it's perhaps not surprising that it had slipped off the radar, although as we've seen on many occasions on Honour and Darkness other releases have been released in much lower editions than this.  In Nazgul's defence there is almost no mention of this release online (and only by knowing of it's existence already would you to find it on the Mystified website), so perhaps the grey cells are may not be finally failing after all these years after all...

However, let's be thankful that this little gem has come into Nazgul's possession, as it allows us to catalogue it in our virtual museum and to consider it in the wider context of Bonemachine releases.  And the first thing to note is that the two tracks herein are unique to this tape, which is always a bonus and a welcome change from the recyling of material that can plague compilation and split albums generally.

It was almost exactly 3 years ago (26 May 2009) that the "Mystified vs. Bonemachine" CDr was reviewed, in all of its hand-painted, tin-dwelling glory, and in that particular demo Bonemachine put forward three songs - 'Iron Age', 'Nuke 'Em', and 'After The War'.  Would this second demo - recorded in the same year (2007) - be in a similar vein to those industrially-tinged songs?  Only one way to find out...

Tape duly inserted into into the portable device Nazgul had recently bought to review these releases whilst out and about, the play button pressed, 3 or 4 seconds of music then ... silence.  Hmmm, thought Nazgul, this is rather strange...?  A quick check of the machine reveals it to have (i) not only eaten the tape, and (ii) snapped it clean apart too, rendering the whole cassette - in technical parlance - buggered!

So the sad reality is that this very rare tape is now, essentially, destroyed (pending some ham-fisted attempt at opening the case to re-splice the tape).  Hugin is very helpfully scouring the W.A.R. archives for a possibility of a second copy, otherwise this might be an act of particularly unfortunate vandalism indeed.

Let's dwell on something positive: One nice aspect of this release is the design: in particular, the band logo stickers that are present on either side of the tape, in a format that Nazgul hasn't seen before and which suit both bands perfectly.  The cover design is also rather interesting, and leaves us- quite literally - mystified.  What is the peculiar metal structure, and why is it apparently sitting in the middle of a forest?  Is it an industrial relic, or something more sinister?

For anyone new to Mystified, the project was conceived by Thomas Park (who trained in classical and jazz music as a teenager, and played the trombone and piano).  After several years of writing techno as the band AutoCad, Thomas was fortunate enough to collaborate with Robin Storey of Rapoon. This project helped Thomas to evolve into the ambient / drone band Mystified. Mystified has found considerable success, both through online and physical releases, and is known for being proficient, creative and prolific.

The music of Mystified captured on this tape could be called of a mostly atmospheric nature where less is more, music ideal for listening while working, sleeping or doing other things. The music of Mystified especially explores texture and consistency, and is not the utopian ambient of the typical soundscape artist.

Of course, if only Nazgul to could to the wretched tape he could confirm all this for you at first hand!!

So - consider this a holding position, pending a possible future recovery of the "2" material for a future update.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

FELAGUND - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Felagund
Reason for update: The appearance in 2012 of two new re-issues of this demo

You may have noticed that there has been an increase in the number of updates to past posts in recent months on Honour and Darkness.  This is due largely to the liberal programme of reissues that is seeing both old and new material re-appearing on the scene, particularly from Uruk Hai but also from other of Hugin's various projects.  Not that this is to be frowned upon, as it gives newer fans the chance to experience the aural delights of hitherto unavailable material, and gives old hacks like Nazgul the opportunity to have new items to collect to augment his library collection.

The pattern thus far with these reissues has tended to see lavish multi-disc CDr box-sets being thrust upon us - "The Everlasting Wrath Of The Tyrant" (known fondly around these parts as 'The Everlasting Wait For The Tyrant') being one such example, and there are plenty more where that came from.  Indeed, the world has never seen so many Uruk Hai box-sets as in the last twelve months, mostly (though not exclusively) so far coming courtesy of the TryBy and Kadaath labels.

This update bucks the trend, and for that reason is as good an item to look at today as any.  What we essentially have is the 2011 SkullFucking Metal tape pressing of "Felagund" (as reviewed on 16 January 2012) being reissued in no less than two different versions, one a joint release on the Australian Smell The Stench label (along with Disorderly Domain) and the other on the aforementioned TryBy label from Poland.

However, the interesting bit is that both versions are on tape, making three separate tape pressings in all. Both reissues have full colour inlays and both retain the same songs in the same order as the original pressing.  All of which begs the obvious question, "why?"  A difficult one to fathom really, other than the opportunity to make the release more available.  The trouble with that theory is that with the original SfM release being unlimited (as far as Nazgul could see) then the limited edition versions on Smell The Stench (33 numbered copies) and TryBy (25 numbered copies) really don't make this demo any more available than before.

Still, not Nazgul's place to reason why and I'm sure that a few of you out there have managed to pick up one or other of these three releases (if you also have two or more different pressings of "Felagund" then you are well on your way to being a true Huginophile - and should seek medical attention immediately) so given the quality of the presentation and the music it all seems to be a worthwhile endeavor.

With nothing different musically to consider, let's cast a fiery eye over the artwork.  TryBy have gone for the 'red-eyed evil warrior brandishing red-glowing mace whilst seated on red-eyed evil war-horse' approach on their cover, reminding Nazgul of nothing less than his last trip into the village from the Castle in order to pillage for supplies.  The label reference for this release, incidentally, is 20/2012.



Smell The Stench, on the other hand, have seen fit to plump for the 'red-eyed evil undead warrior desecrating corpses' route instead, which is precisely the sort of unpleasant subject matter you might expect from this excellent label! Quite what said undead abomination is actually doing lurking around the bodies of two naked females is probably best not considered in depth...


And in with the Smell The Stench tape was this paper flyer advertising the album, showing a joint release credit with Disorderly Domain.


All in all, any 'new' release from Hugin's bands is a good enough reason for celebration at Castle Nazgul, reissues included, and with even more product available out there let's hope some of these items find their way to new fans who will follow the work as closely as Nazgul has these past years...

Friday, 11 May 2012

EVERLASTING WRATH OF THE TYRANT


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Everlasting Wrath of the Tyrant
Format: A 6CD box-set released on the TryBy label (Poland) in 2012, cat ref 17/2012.  The set comes in a DVD size box with two colour glossy card inserts, and compiles both old and/or rare Uruk Hai releases.
Edition: Available in a hand-numbered edition of 15 copies

Box-set contains:
CD1  *  Über die Nebelberge Weit      
CD2  *  Elbentanz      
CD3  *  March to War      
CD4  *  Blutreich      
CD5  *  Gone with the Wind      
CD6  *  Thousand Lightnings Strike  

The imminent arrival of a "Tyrant" box-set from Uruk Hai has been a recurrent theme over the years of Honour and Darkness, with various iterations proposed but none existing - until now!  And as is often the way of things, there are in fact two box-sets with "Tyrant" in the title now in circulation, so one can hardly say it's not been worth the wait!

Let's keep a tight focus for today's post, however, and consider this rather splendidly presented outing from the Polish TryBy label.  What Hugin has done her is to compile 6 varied releases from across the years, the majority of which will have been sought-after by fans and collectors for years as the original releases were either very in a limited edition, or effectively impossible to get hold of for a variety of reasons.

Re-releasing this material in box-set format is a real boon to those fans who have been starved of such rare recordings, although it has to be said that the price of feeding this hunger is not cheap: consider the asking price for this box-set on the SkullLine distro site, which is just a whisker under 50€...

Perhaps given the higher than normal costs of the enterprise, TryBy has limited the number of copies of 'Everlasting Wrath of the Tyrant' to just 15 copies, though Nazgul doubts that there will be any problem shifting such a number given the current interest in this project.  After all, the "Darkness" box-set sold out of its run of 5 copies at a price of around 60€ apiece, so in relative terms this is a bit of a bargain considering you'll be getting 6 discs worth of albums/demos that frankly you are just not going to find anywhere else (well, excluding the vaults of Castle Nazgul of course, but on your own head be it if you try to take on the strange and macabre defences littering Nazgul's hallowed halls).

The stories surrounding each of the original releases has already been documented, as the releases in this box-set have previously been reviewed in Honour and Darkness: "Über die Nebelberge Weit" on 5 November 2009; "Elbentanz" on 3 October 2009; "March To War" only very recently on 23 March 2012; "Blutreich" back on 20 November 2009; "Gone With The Wind" on 9 April 2010; and - deep breath - "Thousand Lightnings Strike" on 14 January 2010.  

Where this box-set scores an additional bonus is that there is additional material on some of the discs above that released on the original demos.  This is not the case for all - 'March To War' appears exactly as in original guise - but a quick summary of the differences shows us that "Über die Nebelberge Weit" gains the bonus track 'Moria'; that "Blutreich" gains 'Minas Morgul' as it's additional bonus; "Gone With The Wind" is expanded to include 'Wenn Es Nacht Wird'; whilst "Thousand Lightnings Strike" gains the song 'Land Of Fire & Steel (Rehearsal)'.  "Elbentanz" goes all complicated on us on two occasions by merging a few songs from the original into one longer track on this pressing, and also adds 'Kazad-Dum' as an additional bonus.

Time-wise, the majority of the albums incorporated here are early releases in the Uruk Hai canon, with the exception of "March To War" which is a far more modern release from 2010 (some ten years after the earliest recording on this compilation) that originally came in an uber-limited vinyl edition. Since that time - and yet to be covered in the Blog - a 3" CDr re-release of the release has appeared, so of all of the releases in this box-set this would probably be the easiest to find in other formats.

Looking at the content objectively, the most exciting releases for fans would probably be the earliest two demos - "Über die Nebelberge Weit" and "Gone With The Wind" - that were hand-crafted W.A.R. Production CDr demos back in 2000/2001 and are now impossible to find anywhere.  Early Uruk Hai songs are sometimes quite a shock when you've become accustomed to the more instrumental epics that are now the band's staple fare, and on these two outings the links with Hugin's other contemporary works in Hrossharsgrani are evident.  Also of interest is the "Elbentanz" demo, which showcases the very early keyboard noodlings of our Austrian Hero, and which has received some fairly scathing reviews in some quarters of the Internet but - taken in context - is an interesting insight into how some of the early tracks were constructed.

"Thousand Lightnings Strike" was originally a one-off unissued demo CDr that Nazgul was fortunate to obtain from Hugin some years ago.  Since that time, the album has seen a reissue via Wulfrune Worxx and thus has been available again (in as far as Wulfrune releases are generally available).  Some hard-to-find material appears on this demo, including the principal songs that subsequently made it onto the ridiculously rare "Battle Magic" demo tape, which you will definitely not be finding in your local charity shop or online emporiums anytime soon!

Sitting in the middle of all of this is the 2005 compilation "Blutreich", which brings together some of the standout songs from the 2003-2005 period and adds the unique 20 minute plus epic 'On A Night In Autumn', which you won't find anywhere else.

Completing the contents of the set comes 2 glossy inserts - one showing what may have been an alternate proposition for the cover art, the second our man Hugin.

All in all, a good value release even at the asking price: you'd never be able to find 5/6 of the original versions of these releases, and even limited reissues for some of them are pretty hard to track down.  Not that this TryBy box-set is exactly being made in vast quantities mind you, but Nazgul suspects those dedicated hardcore of fans who are really interested in hearing this early material will own their copy by now.  If you've not got yours, then head to SkullLine with credit card in hand immediately or try the label directly at trybylabel@gmail.com and tell them Nazgul sent you....!



Sunday, 6 May 2012

DAGOR DAGORATH


Band: URUK HAI 
Title: Dagor Dagorath
Format: 2 formats of this release currently exist.  There is a pressing in 3" CDr format, released in 2012 on Smell The Stench (Australia), with glossy colour inserts and plain white disc.  A tape version has also been released on Wulfrune Worxx (France) in 2012, cat ref WW321, with a copied blue-coloured paper cover. The songs were recorded in 2011.  
Edition: The CD pressing came in an edition of 11 unnumbered copies, whilst the tape version is limited to 25 copies.

Track Listing: 
01. Dagor Dagorath 15.15
02. After The Apocalypse (Outro) 1.09

Probably the nearest thing that Uruk Hai has done to releasing a 'single' in recent times, although the odds of this charting in the national playlists are probably as slim as England's chance of winning the European football championships this summer.  Alas, on both counts.

Despite sounding like the arch-villain in a Fighting Fantasy gamebook, the improbably tongue-twisting title derives from our old friend Tolkien: The Dagor Dagorath (Sindarin for 'Battle of Battles' or 'Final Battle') is a fictional battle in the history of Middle-Earth.  As Tolkien's works were conceived as a fictional "forgotten history" of the world, the Dagor Dagorath represents the coming End of the World, and is often referred to as simply "The End".  This is the broadly the fantasy equivalent of Ragnarok in Norse mythology ('Doom of the Gods', also called Gotterdammerung, meaning the end of the cosmos) although the latter carries a pan-Universal connotation that is even more bleak and foreboding.  However you slice it, though, bad news all round.

As Tolkien originally wrote it, The Silmarillion ends with a prophecy by Mandos about the Dagor Dagorath. The published Silmarillion ends instead with the recounting of the voyage of Eärendil the Mariner (not to be confused with the Ancient Mariner, whose rhymes were apparently somewhat better...) due to an editorial decision by Christopher Tolkien. However, references to the final battle remain in the published Silmarillion, such as a statement at the end of the Akallabêth that Ar-Pharazôn and his mortal warriors who had set foot on Aman were buried by falling hills, imprisoned in the Caves of the Forgotten until the "Last Battle and Day of Doom".

Fortunately, despite its gloomy portents, "Dagor Dagorah" shows no sign of being the last will and testament of Uruk Hai, and instead Hugin's characteristic musical interludes provides a vivid diversion from everyday life.

Whilst you might imagine a musical representation of the end of the world to be full of the sounds of earth cracking, the seas boiling and the animals melting - generally the wailing and gnashing of teeth all round - Hugin's version presents a far more dignified end, and frankly if the world ended to the strains of this song, we could do far worse!

The title track begins with one of Hugin's characteristic introductions, gentle melodies and ambient nuances floating around in the air in all directions, like frogs in a tornado.  This all changes at the 6:23 mark, as a spiky guitar riff kicks in the metaphorical door to the song, complete with grim vocals from Hugin.  The buzz of the guitar reminded Nazgul of the same tone heard on the Diabolical Masquerade albums, and it gives this song a real hike in the quality and appeal stakes.  Shortly after the nine mark comes the sound of battle - although a relatively small skirmish by the sound of it, let us go with the flow and assume this to be the apocalypse in full swing! - followed by a final ambient segment of mellow yet spooky instrumentation that leaves you in just the perfect state of mind for the rest of the day.  This song is possibly Nazgul's favourite recording from Hugin right at this moment in time.

'After The Apocalypse' lives up to the billing of being an outro piece, as it's very brief and in some ways adds little to the epic song that preceded it.  Then again, it might well have some literary significance or other relevance in signifying a new dawn after the horrors that have gone before for all I know.  Any excuse to hear a minute or so of Hugin's magic on the keyboards is excuse enough for Nazgul - and a mini symphony of brooding instrumentation is your lot for this song.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine...

Friday, 4 May 2012

HREFNESVINTER - update



Band: HREFNESHOLT 
Title: Hrefnesvinter
Reasons for update: Nazgul's discovery of a different version of this tape release!

Sometimes - admittedly only very occasionally - Honour and Darkness manages to unearth something a little out of the ordinary.  The odd promo-only CDr, a variant of a common pressing, or a bespoke release from Hugin to one of his many fans worldwide, you know the sort of thing - something both collectable and uncommon.  Today's post is in this vein, featuring an update on an old favourite first reviewed back in the very early days of the Blog on the 2 April 2009 - Hrefnesholt's "Hrefnesvinter".

At the time of the original post all seemed fairly straightforward: here was a cassette issued in 2001 through the Portuguese Hallucination 'zine in an edition of 1,000 copies, featuring 5 tracks of ambient mystery from one of Hugin's original projects.  Musically very pleasing, nothing especially unusual about the format or presentation, just a solid and enjoyable Hrefnesholt release.

Imagine Nazgul's surprise some weeks ago, therefore, when a second version of this tape came to light during some random online browsing!  Retaining the original artwork of the Hallucination pressing (and with the same catalogue reference too, HZ013), this particular pressing was released in a very limited quantity of 25 copies on Vinland Winds, which was an American label dedicated to black metal releases.  The label is now defunct, following the death in 2007 of its owner Grimnir Wotansvolk (aka Richard Mills) of Grand Belial's Key.  Presumably, therefore, the total edition for the "Hrefnesvinter" release should now be corrected to be 1,025 copies, allowing for both versions.

In addition to the same glossy inlay as seen in the original release comes an additional paper insert, hand-signed by Hugin, which identifies a bonus track "Trollsturm 88" alongside the edition number. The revised track listing for this v2 pressing is, therefore:

1. Epilogue (Hrefnesholt pt. 1)  2:22    
2. Glorie Draconis  7:12    
3. Hrefnesvinter  14:45    
4. Marsch zu neuen Zeitaltern  3:54    
5. Prologue (Hrefnesholt pt. 2)  1:22
Vinland Winds edition bonus track
6. Trollsturm 88  3.22

The bonus song turns out to be the same 'Trollsturm' that features on the 2005 compilation "Rabentanz", and mention of this discovery to Hugin prompted his distant recollection that this special edition release was issued as part of a trade deal with Vinland Winds, many moons ago.  It makes you wonder how many other as-yet unrecorded variants could yet be out there, waiting to be rediscovered and recorded for posterity?

If you believe you have a unique or rare edition of one of Hugin's bands yet to be seen on these pages, then do contact Nazgul to share your find....