Tuesday, 16 October 2012

ANGBAND


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Angband (Metal Fortress)
Format: A 4CDr and tape release on the Runenstein Records label (Germany) in 2010, cat ref RR01. There are two formats for this release: the more limited edition comes as a metal box-set, containing the four discs and cassette of the standard release but with a bonus 3"CDr of additional material, plus a poster of the cover art. Also contained in the release is a plastic figure of an Orc, together with a map of Middle-Earth.
Edition: There are 21 hand-numbered copies of this release in total, of which the first 5 only came in the metal box-set format and the remaining 16 as standard editions.

Track Listing:

Disc 1
01. The Fate of Man
02. Death Is Just Another Path
03. Gil-galad (re-mastered version)
04. Return to the Green Fields
05. The Dark Lord (featuring Cz/Vinterriket& Pr. Sergiy)
06. Lebensende:Winter (different version)

Disc 2
01. Shadow of the Orcs (re-mastered version)
02. In the Green Fields
03. Northhammer (featuring Krom)
04. Iceland (featuring Krom)
05. Isengard (featuring Krom)
06. Minas Morgul (featuring Krom)
07. The Shire (featuring Phillip Knight)
08. Gollum (rehearsal 2000)
09. Angband (previously unreleased outro 2010)

Disc 3
01. Die Gemeinschaft
02. Quenta Silmarillion (full-version 2009)
03. The Mirror

Disc 4
01. Smaug's Destiny
02. Uruk-hai Part V (featuring Dimo Dimov)
03. Back in the Fields (rehearsal 2002)
04. Baggins
05. Orcrist (previously unreleased track 2010)

Cassette:
Side A
1. Metal Fortress Part I
Side B
2. Metal Fortress Part II

Bonus 3" CDr (Metal Box version only):
01. March To War
02. Power Of The Ring (hidden track)

Inner booklet, front and rear
Another very welcome addition to the Uruk Hai discography came along in 2010 with the debut release on Runenstein Records of this expansive CDr and cassette set comprising old, current, and unreleased Uruk Hai material. The very limited edition metal box version sold out quickly as you might imagine, and in a total edition of only 21 copies the avid fan would have had to be pretty quick off the mark to get their hands on this highly limited release in either format.

The map of Middle-Earth
The avalanche of Uruk Hai box-sets that have appeared in 2012 have rather taken away from the scarcity of such prized release, but back in 2010 the a boxed Uruk Hai compilation was a mouth-watering prospect and long awaited by fans.  The multi-format content of this set was an indication of things to come - albeit on other labels - in terms of later Uruk Hai boxed editions, but credit to Runenstein for getting in there first and setting the tone for things to come.

Exclusive 3" CDr for the metal box
Aside from the actual box itself and assorted trinkets inside, the core element of both versions of this release is the 4CDr box of material, plus the tape containing the 'Metal Fortress' track. The one musical bonus offered to the die-hard purchaser of the metal box version is the 3"CDr disc in its small case with previously released song 'March To War' plus hidden track 'Power Of The Ring'.

Incidentally, the artwork for the main four discs is the same in style as for the 3" disc shown above.

But before we embark on an analysis of the material in the set you may well be wondering about the title of this compilation - "Angband" - and from whence it derives...

Exclusive poster from the metal box-set
...So, into Tolkien's Middle-earth we must go. Angband (Sindarin for 'iron prison') was the name of the fortress of Melkor, constructed before the First Age, located in the Iron Mountains in the enemy's land Dor Daedeloth north of Beleriand (the fortress is described in The Silmarillion). It was built by Morgoth to guard against a possible attack by the Valar. Nonetheless, the Valar succeeded in capturing Morgoth and destroying his main stronghold Utumno: Angband, though devastated, was only partially destroyed. 

Over time, the dark creatures in Morgoth's service would gather in its ruined pits. After three ages of imprisonment, Morgoth returned to Middle-earth and set himself up in Angband, raising the volcanic Thangorodrim over the fortress as protection. He came out of it again but once, when challenged to single combat by the Elven king Fingolfin. He reigned there until the end of the First Age, when it was destroyed in the War of Wrath.

Metal Fortress: the cassette
In earlier versions of Tolkien's mythology the fortress was called Angamando, the Quenya form of the name. As Angamando sounds like an obscure Oriental martial art or an anger-management technique, I think Runenstein chose wisely with their title!

With a box-set of this size there's always an issue of knowing quite where to start a review, and there's little merit in going through this track by track as some of the material will be/should be broadly familiar territory already as it comes from a myriad of past releases.


The metal Fortress tape is an interesting medley piece, and one that would benefit from a review of its own in the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled for that one!
Eric the Orc!
The content is interesting, though: the inclusion of tracks from "Northern Lights" featuring Krom are likely to split opinion as they normally do, with some feeling the harsh vocals don't quite sit within the Uruk Hai sound. The four songs on offer take up a substantial proportion of CD2, and are quite a contrast in feel to the lusher, more orchestral (and more recent) tracks to be found on CD1.

This is the perennial curse of any compilation of this nature - if taken over the complete recorded history of a band it's often a problem all of the songs sit happily alongside each other, especially when the artist is likely to capture many different influences in his work! There's no right and wrong in the dark art of track compilation, more a question of personal taste, and the beauty of having four discs to play with is that if a particular song grates with you there's bound to be a more welcome one just around the corner....!

Runenstein promotional card
Where "Angband" scores some bonus points is in its inclusion of previously unreleased songs from the W.A.R. Productions vaults, which still seems to contain rich seams of unmined musical goodness. This release unearths 2 such items: a handily named outro piece called 'Angband' from 2010, along side a second track from that year named 'Orcrist'. Both instrumental, and both very much in keeping with band's style at that time.

What can be said is that the care and attention to detail contained in this release is second to none, from the quality of the metal tin itself through to the printing and final finish of the maps, inserts and discs.

Destined to be a much-sought-after item on many collectors 'wants list', even the standard version is exceedingly hard to find anywhere and Nazgul hasn't seen one advertised for sale for well over a year. The metal box pressing - which became something of a trademark of early Runenstein releases - is naturally even more demanding to find and - quite frankly - I don't think you'd find a copy for love or money now. Originally the item came with a price tag of around 60€, possibly a little more (Nazgul tends to blank such financial matters from his mind to maintain sanity) so it was a fairly pricey item new (although it has doubtless maintained its value over time).
 
An excellent addition to any collection, and one that was a precursor of the vast programme of reissues undertaken by W.A.R. Productions in the years following.  With long winter nights drawing in, this is the perfect companion to listening to the cold winds blowing against the library windows, and it remains a jewel in the Castle collection.

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