Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The 500th post!

500 posts old today

It's taken about 3 and a half years to get to this point, but today's post is the 500th in the short history of Honour and Darkness!  From an idea conceived in 2009 beside a swimming pool in Mauritius (with the inspirational assistance of a few glasses of export strength Guinness) to the heady heights of inhabiting its own little part of the internet, it's been a fascinating trip from this side and - I hope - from yours too.

To celebrate this auspicious event, Nazgul is going to take a little wander down memory lane and revisit some of his personal highlights from the last few years. 

And to begin with, of course, we have to start with Alex "Hugin" Wieser himself: the Middle-Earth maestro, the Austrian archer and other such alliterative nom-de-plume.  There's no doubt in my mind that one of the reasons that this Blog has prospered and gained a small yet loyal following is because of Hugin himself.  Part of being a success in any venture comes in part from being willing to be hands-on and looking after your customers/fan-base, but Hugin really cranks up this philosophy to the max and has been doing long before Nazgul was fortunate enough to become friends with him.  

One simple illustration of this comes through the number of individualised editions of releases that he's made.  They are quite amazing in both number and quality, and I'm sure there will be many readers of Honour and Darkness who prize their own personal one-off edition of a particular demo or album.  Occasionally Nazgul has been able to feature these editions, where the owners have kindly shared their items (for instance, you may recall the Eismond example) and even more rarely such an item has actually managed to find its way into the Castle collection: the odd one or two have appeared online for sale over the years, whilst very occasionally Nazgul has been able to purchase one from the owner.  

Nazgul has also been extremely lucky to have received some amazing items from Hugin over the years, and it never ceases to amaze me the time and effort he puts into this sort of enterprise, especially as he is plenty busy enough with his bands as it is. Here'sa photo of a few of these unique items, some of which have yet to be covered in detail on these pages.  Mouth-watering stuff to be sure....

There are some other extraordinary items in the collection yet to be featured on these pages, let me tell you, and as time allows over the summer Nazgul will try and slip a few into the schedule to show you.  And we're not just talking straightforward CD or tape releases here either, but other large and substantial pieces that have a very close link to Hugin himself.  In fact, to kick off the next 500 posts Nazgul will share with you in his next update a truly remarkable item that is a highlight of the entire collection, and which deserves a special post of its own...

On the other side of this equation, it's not all a one-way stream of traffic into Castle Nazgul, oh no! Occasionally the odd nugget finds its way to W.A.R. Productions too!  This has included a copy of the rare Bonemachine "Vogelfrei"wooden box-set (it turned out Hugin didn't have one), and a specially commissioned solid silver badge depicting the Uruk Hai logo, which Nazgul forged in the furnaces beneath the Castle (well - commissioned a goldsmith to make, in fact, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story!) of which only two copies exist: one made for Hugin, and one for one of his fiercest underground supporters, Skogen at Wulfrune Worxx.

A particular area that's been really good fun over the life of this Blog has been making friends online with a variety of fans, bands and record label owners during the course of researching posts or responding to emails.  Of course there have been some real characters encountered on the way: the ever-crazy Keegan over at SkullFuckingMetal in Canada, the equally crazy Leigh Stench down-under at Smell The Stench, gentleman Jim Kirkwood, the darkly vampyric Neon Ă„sthet, prehistoric Klat Ba, plus a host of other (sometimes) weird but always wonderful folk.  It's been a genuine honour to have been able to swap emails for the interviews undertaken with Vinterriket, Dysonsphere, Orcrist, and many others!  

And, of course, gigantic hails of greeting to all of you, my honoured readers,with thanks to all of you who drop me the odd email of encouragement orsimply just pop in to look at the pages from time to time.  It never fails to give Nazgul a warm glow to see on the world map icon that someone is viewing Honour and Darkness from a far flung part of the globe, be it the USA, Mexico, Europe or further afield.
There have been some significant finds for the collection that never would have happened without this network that's built up over time. Let's remind ourselves of some of these: the rare split promo CDr "Eine dunkle Symbiose von Blut & Nacht" that came through Azazel of Nachmahr; rare artwork for releases on the AMF Productions and Wulfrune Worxx labels courtesy of Alexander and Skogen respectively; the split CDr between Uruk Hai and Forgotten Land supplied by Lord Tetrarch; and a yet-to-be-reviewed DVD for Uruk Hai's "Felagund"song, produced by fellow fans Michele and Nick from Orange, California. The list goes on and on, and it's hard to look at a shelf in the library without seeing items with such connections.

And Honour and Darkness can even claim to have played a small part in the ongoing legacy of Hugin's music in as far as it became a catalyst in the reconvening of the professional relationship between Hugin and Skogen during the early days of the Wulfrune Worxx label, effectively reinvigorating the business link that existed during the Chanteloup Creations days and helping in the rash of Uruk Hai (and other) demo tapes that came onto the scene circa 2009 and onwards.  One might also reasonably hope that through reading Nazgul's meandering prose the odd soul out there has been tempted to part with some of their own money and buy a release or two, which is also a bonus in my book.

As part of these 500th post celebrations Nazgul has been busily gathering together a few genuinely rare pieces to auction on eBay, giving one lucky person the chance to collect some really desirable items and a choice opportunity to replenish the retirement fund for old ring wraiths.  The photo below shows what's up for grabs, and I've focused upon Uruk Hai as the band of choice given the popularity of this project.  The auction will include a copy of the impossible-to-find "Blutreich" compilation, an original vinyl split 7" pressing of "Schall Und Rauch", some early rare tape demos including "Orcish Battle Hymns" and "Battle Yells", and more besides.  Frankly you'll not find these items offered for sale anywhere else, certainly not as a group, and they would grace and enhance any collection of Hugin's material.  The auction will start after Nazgul has paid a trip to darkest Wales next week, and I'll post an update when it goes live.

With a collection spanning in excess of 500 pieces, a question often asked is what Nazgul's favourite items are.  And the answer will come back that it's virtually impossible to choose just a handful given the wealth of material on offer.  However, as it's a special occasion and since we've not done a post like it for some time, here is something slightly different: Nazgul's Top 5 most expensive items from the extensive Castle vaults, based upon items already featured in the Blog (this caveat becomes relevant when you understand that Nazgul recently dropped over 450 Euros to collect a particular set of items from Hugin, but as I've not posted about them yet I'm holding them for future updates, hence their exclusion!!)

Slightly inhibited by an imperfect memory (some of these purchases were 4 or 5 years ago now) and a need to protect any remaining tatters of my credibility by not recording the actual prices paid, let's just say that the items are featured in ascending order and each piece will have cost in excess of *gulp* €50.  It may be that the odd item should have crept into this list and has been temporarily forgotten, but what the heck, let's roll the dice anyway and see what comes up:

#5 - Dieu Du Tonnere [Bonemachine]
A lot of money to pay for a card-shaped 3"CD in a large cardboard box, but as a limited edition of 5 copies this was quite a pricey thing back in the day.  To be fair, it's the one and only copy that I've ever seen so that in one sense justifies the premium unless, God forbid, that this is ever re-released!  The title refers to the God of Thunder, who in Germanic mythology is of course Gene Simmons...oh no, hang on, I mean Thor!

#4 - Vogelfrei wooden-box [Bonemachine]
A second Bonemachine item in this list, you cry - Nazgul, what gives!?  Well, look at the quality of this box-set, and it's hard to deny that it certainly is worth a good price for the work that's gone into it.  Being a band unlikely to sell a lorry-load of copies you can also see why the label upped the price on this one too, just to cover costs.  Comparing this to equivalent box-sets that you see on the internet for other obscure bands this probably works out as pretty fair value at the end of the day, and you end up with a four-disc set of material to enjoy as well.

#3 - March To War 12" vinyl [Uruk Hai]
This was another die-hard collectors release of just 5 copies, but as the songs were readily available across a number of Uruk Hai releases the incentive for purchase is less the content and more the concept.  It's rare for Hugin to make vinyl releases, and rarer still for them to be Uruk Hai related.  Worth the money? As an investment for the future probably not, but as a way to support the artist - definitely!

#2 - Darkness box-set [Uruk Hai]
Another box-set, and Uruk Hai once again. Containing the entire Darkness saga (or is it.....a new box-set reissue rather casts doubt on this?!) plus some goodies from the fertile imagination of Mr Wieser.  I know of at least one fellow collector who rues the missed chance to have purchased this item, deterred by strict Californian legislation prohibiting the importation of fruit, vegetables and the like into the State and the prospect of his purchase being impounded if discovered. Bummer!

#1 - Another Time wooden-box [Bonemachine]
Bizarrely, given the extensive range of releases in the collection, this is still the single most expensive item purchased.  Additionally, the cost was compounded by the expense of having to get it shipped with recorded delivery from Brazil, with extra import duties to pay on it once it had cleared Customs & Excise (bah!) on it's way to the Castle.  The things you do to maintain a collection. Again, however, Nazgul has yet to see another for sale although we've been lucky enough - through the goodwill of Blog readers once again, plus the splendid folks at The Eastern Front label - to see some of the other unique badges that each of the 7 boxes contained.

Of course, having taken the trouble to compile this list it's now a certainty that some other desirable release will appear with an even higher price that blows a hole in the order above,but if nothing else it keeps collecting interesting!

To finish, the big question: can there possibly be enough to keep Honour and Darkness busy for another 3 and a half years?!  Well, assuming that it's 'business as usual' at W.A.R.Productions and Hugin maintains his voracious release schedule then it's entirely possible, and I hope that you will continue to join me on the journey.  Of course, Castle Nazgul may well go bankrupt in the interim trying to keep up with it all, but it's a risk worth taking!

In the meantime, to spread the good word still further, if every current reader recommended this Blog to just two friends then between us we will generate yet more interest in Hugin's music, which has to be a good result.

Thanks for reading, thanks for your support, and see you in August for post #501...

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