Monday, 22 October 2012

DARKNESS (PART V)


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Darkness (Part V - 'Between The Darkness And The Light')
Format: Cassette release on the Wulfrune Worxx label from 2010, cat ref. WAR BOX002. This particular tape pressing is only available in the "Darkness" box-set (2010), although the song has been reissued on CDr as part of a different "Darkness" boxed CDr release in 2012. In keeping with the remainder of the tapes in the series, this sports black and white artwork and a numbered inlay.
Edition: Only 5 hand-numbered cassettes

Track Listing:
01. Darkness (Part V - 'Between The Darkness And The Light')  45:34

Darkness, as polar to brightness, is understood to be an absence of visible light. Humans are unable to distinguish colour when either light or darkness predominate - in the absence of light, perception is achromatic and ultimately, black. The emotional response to darkness has metaphorical connotations in many cultures: in the Western world, darkness is used to connote the presence of shadows, evil, and foreboding.

The first day of the biblical creation narrative begins with darkness, into which is introduced the creation of light, and the separation of this light from the darkness (as distinct from the creation of the sun and moon on the fourth day of creation). Thus, although both light and darkness are included in the comprehensive works of God- darkness was considered "the second to last plague" (Exodus 10:21), and the location of 'weeping and gnashing of teeth'. (Matthew 8:12)

The use of darkness as a rhetorical device has a long standing tradition. Shakespeare, working in the 16th and 17th centuries, made a character called the Prince of Darkness" in King Lear, and gave darkness jaws with which to devour love in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Chaucer, the 14th century Middle English writer, wrote that knights must cast away the 'workes of darkness', whilst Dante described hell as 'solid darkness stain’d'.

'Darkness' is also the title of a poem written by Lord Byron in July 1816. That year was known as the 'Year Without a Summer' because Mount Tambora had erupted in the Dutch East Indies the previous year, casting enough ash in to the atmosphere to block out the sun and cause abnormal weather across much of north-east America and northern Europe. This pall of darkness inspired Byron to write his poem, telling the apocalyptic story of the last man on earth.

Strange weather and an inexplicable darkness caused record-cold temperatures across Europe following this event, especially in Switzerland. Byron claimed to have received his inspiration for the poem, saying he "wrote it... at Geneva, when there was a celebrated dark day, on which the fowls went to roost at noon, and the candles were lighted as at midnight". The darkness was (unknown to those of the time) caused by the volcanic ash spewing from the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. The search for a cause of the strange changes in the light of day only grew as scientists discovered sunspots on the sun so large that they could be seen with the naked eye. Newspapers such as the London Chronicle reported on the panic:

"The large spots which may now be seen upon the sun's disk have given rise to ridiculous apprehensions and absurd predictions. These spots are said to be the cause of the remarkable and wet weather we have had this Summer; and the increase of these spots is represented to announce a general removal of heat from the globe, the extinction of nature, and the end of the world."

A scientist in Italy even predicted that the sun would go out on July 18, shortly before Byron's writing of "Darkness". His 'prophecy' caused riots, suicides, and religious fervour all over Europe.

And speaking of pan-European fervour and riots (but hopefully not suicides), let's focus upon the subject of todays post: another Uruk Hai offering, the fifth and - apparently - final part of the Darkness series. This particular tape was originally an unique part of the 2010 "Darkness" box-set, and was the culmination of the five-part tape series. Unlike the preceding four parts, it was not subject to a separate release on Wulfrune Worxx and therefore to hear it you would have had to be one of the lucky 5 owners of the big black box that was "Darkness". 

This all changed in 2012, however, with the release of another box-set also called "Darkness", housed in a special DVD-style case on the South Korean Fallen Angel Productions label. This latter release brought the Darkness series together on CDr for the first time (the 2010 box-set providing a DVD-r disc copy of the music), but in so doing added a 'Part VI' to the saga. Consequently this review of 'Part V' is not the culmination of the piece after all, but merely the next chapter - in movie terms, think of Darkness as an unstoppable monster a la Jason Voorhees, coming back time and again for random slaughter and other amusements.

Musically this fits in well with the indescribable events of 'Parts I-IV', and by that Nazgul refers to the impossible to categorise or define aural excitement emanating from the speakers. There are fleeting samples of both female and male narration in the mix, weirdly swirling and ambient soundscapes developing and pulsating like distant lights in a fog bank. Listen to this release on speakers at high volume and you'll feel like you've been dragged from darkness to light and back again, via every obscure avenue.
 
The music mirrors the artwork- somewhat vague and unclear at times, hinting at unfathomable weirdness and mystery. It's certainly not the run of the mill Uruk Hai release, and is therefore an unexpected listening experience when encountered at the end of the box-set. Until 2012, as noted above, you would have struggled to wrap your ears around this as the box was ridiculously limited in availability - the advent of the Fallen Angels version gives an opportunity for a wider audience to be simultaneously enthralled and perplexed.

And so ends the extended review of the "Darkness" box-set - or, more accurately, the black-boxed tape version of the set from 2010. Allowing for the fact that the original 10 song "Darkness" demo of 2001 has very little to do with the successive long ambient tracks contained on Parts II through to V, it's still a pretty monumental set of recordings, augmented by the care with which the box contents have been assembled.

"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell" C. S. Lewis

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