Wednesday, 28 November 2012

LOTHLORIEN - update

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Lothlórien
Format: 4 x 3"CDr release on the Tryby label (Poland) in 2012, cat ref 28/2012. Two large colour covers house the discs, the front mirroring the original CD artwork but the reverse design being different.  Discs are plain silver 3" CDr.
Edition: Limited to 25 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
CD1
01. The White Trees of Minas Ithil 0:40
02. Enter Mordor 3:06
03. Rohan Riders 3:13

CD2
04. Lay of Leithian 19:26

CD3
05. Into the Mirror 3:21
06. Galadriel's Message 13:46

CD4
07. Keeper of Nenya 3:13
08. May It Be (Enya cover) 3:14
09. Gates of Summer 4:32

A rather unexpected release in truth, but nonetheless a welcome one, 2012 saw the return of Uruk Hai's "Lothlórien" album. Recorded in 2005 and originally released on CD only by the Russian label Othal Productions in the following year, it was followed by a different Russian label (Valgriind) reissued this album on tape in 2010 with 4 bonus tracks. That seemed to be the whole story: in a nutshell, original CD release supplemented by tape version with extra material. 

So the purpose of this Tryby reissue in the grand scheme of things is hard to fathom: the very limited release of 25 copies hardly makes the material more accessible (and, to be fair, the original Othal Productions release came in an edition of 500 copies and you can find copies of that for sale without too much trouble), whilst the bonus material offered on the cassette version is absent on this latest reissue so it can't claim add in the extra elements for the first time on a digital copy. Most curious, and rather a missed opportunity.

It seems to be - whisper it in dark corners - one of those 'diehard edition' thingamajigs for lunatic fans like Nazgul to purchase....

Now, to be fair Nazgul is always a sucker for a new release from Hugin's most popular band, and similarly is happy to entertain nay number of 3" discs in his collection as the format is particularly pleasing to his ravening eye. A four-disc 3" release is a decidedly uncommon format too, and with the exception of a reissue of "Upon The Elysian Fields" there are none others in the collection that immediately spring to mind. The benefit of the larger size covers (measuring about 8" square) is that the original artwork is shown to best effect, and one can also enjoy the new image on the reverse with better clarity than the traditional CD inlay allows for.

Musically this is familiar territory, but that's not to denigrate the songs on offer here: all fitting into that period of Uruk Hai music which many fans hold so dear. A mixture of epic and shorter songs, this works well as a balanced release and allows the listener to dip in and out accordingly, rather than asking you to devote half an hour or more to inwardly digest a truly massive piece of music as some of the later demos did.

A few more goodies inside might have been a nice touch - some colour cards, a map of Lothlórien, something of that nature - but this minimalist packaging style is not uncommon to Tryby, and I suppose at the end of the day there is a benefit in that the price isn't being pushed up to cover the cost of including miscellaneous crap!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

BONEMACHINE / KAELTEEINBRUCH & CATGIRL split CDr


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Bonemachine / Käelteeinbruch & Catgirl split
Format: A split CDr on Hugin's W.A.R. label (Austria), released in 2012, cat. ref. WAR075. The disc comes sandwiched between 2 colour inlay cards, and the release contains various other small card inserts (see text). The gold coloured disc is housed in a plastic wallet, with a sticker showing Hugin's contact details.
Edition: Hand-numbered in an edition of 16 copies

Track Listing:
01. Bonemachine * Knochenwerk (Teil 1)  8.04
02. Bonemachine * Knochenwerk (Teil 2 Rostrausch)  8.27
03. Käelteeinbruch * Commercial! Commercial!  14.53
04. Käelteeinbruch/Catgirl * The Dusty Trucker & The Lady With The Purple Hair  16.49

Certain combinations instill terror into the general public: Jekyll & Hyde, Burke & Hare, Rogers & Hammerstein ... you get the idea. Well, add another to the list for future reference: Bonemachine + Käelteeinbruch/Catgirl. Simply terrifying, and probably a less sensible idea than letting a pyromaniac with a blowtorch loose in a firework factory. In fact, parts of this recording sound very like they might have been made by a pyromaniac let loose in a firework factory, so incendiary are they. So don your best asbestos suit and grab a fire extinguisher as we venture unwisely into another bizarre split release in that oddest of genres: that of industrial, rhythmic-noise experimentalism.

All four songs seem designed to push the listeners tolerance to new limits, with staccato bursts of static and noise sitting side by side with repetitive percussive beats and - in Käelteeinbruch's case - snippets of what sounds like pre-war German radio broadcasts. Taken as a whole it is a bewildering experience; disorientating, occasionally painful and distinctly lacking in accessibility. For seasoned listeners of bands such as Merzbow, Whithouse, Brandkommando, MSBR, and the like this is probably a walk in the park, but for those of us honed on the principles of song-structure and melody it is challenging to say the least. Nazgul recalls that one of his early reviews of a Bonemachine demo likened it to the sound of an orchestra falling down a staircase: on this demo the participants have upped the ante further still and conspire to sound like a staircase falling down a staircase. If, on playing this release at high volume, Beelzebub himself were to manifest and join in the hellish dance then Nazgul for one would not be in the least bit surprised.

The first of the two Bonemachine 'Knochenwerk' compositions (literally: 'bone work') utilises repetition as its medium through a lengthy drawn-out sonic attack - akin to a drawn out cymbal splash- and this forms the backbone of the piece, sounding not unlike the Toy Dolls' drummer Dave "The Nut" Nuttall doing a soundcheck! The second part (translating literally as 'bone work part 2: rust intoxication', though I suspect in its original language it may be more elegant that that!) has more variety of sound, and is all the better for it, although it remains as inaccessible as a military-grade chastity belt and will still loosen all of your teeth at twenty paces.

Käelteeinbruch translates into English to mean the 'sudden onset of cold weather', although Kaltblütigkeit might be more appropriate a name given the cold-blooded way they inflict aural pain on their audience. Catgirl are more typically described online as purveyors of finest porno-noise (and Nazgul remains uncertain if he wants to know what that actually means in practice). The songs titles of their two pieces here (especially the second) draw a vague comparison with those employed by Gothic/doom romantics Autumnblaze but that's as far as any similarities go in that direction. 
 
Their similar approaches- spiky and thunderous static bursts interspersed with odd radio broadcast clips and assorted weirdness - is pretty hard to sit through more than once, which quite possibly may have been their intended aim. However, to paraphrase an early review of Napalm Death in Kerrang! magazine; whilst they may well be addressing great social injustices through their music, if the singer sounds like he's drowning in a bucket of sick and you can't understand the words, what's the point? Käelteeinbruch don't employ a singer per se, but the principle remains valid.

Their track 'Commercial! Commercial!'- and you have to smile at the irony of that title - is described by the band thus: "Manufactured, extinguished and recovered in 2012 by Jack Mountverno at the Old Railway Control Centre after a shopping expedition in Germany". Oooookaaaay then.....?! 
 
The background to the second collaborative song 'The Dusty Trucker & The Lady With The Purple Hair' is more bizarre yet: "The first 50% dieselized, industrial dustized and broadcasted by Jack Mountverno for the Old Railway Control Centre to Shira Tails in her local radio station, predominant[ly] called The Red Tokyo Hotel Lounge in Japan. For creating the last 50% Shira was inspired by her long purple hair twinkling in the sun". 
 
Whatever these guys are on (presumably purchased on that German shopping trip) I want some.
 

The packaging is nicely conceived on this release, as we have come to expect from W.A.R. Productions. There is an attention to detail, some colourful inserts to admire, and an overall impression of quality and care. Bonemachine has a colour card showing our hero A.W. in casual pose somewhere near Vienna, whilst all three bands get a personalised truck for their efforts in a matching style to the decaying images on the cover artwork. There's also an promotional card advertising W.A.R. and a card giving the song information/descriptions detailed above.


With only 16 copies of this release out there (Nazgul's is #1 he is proud to note) there is a theoretically limited scope for this release to terrify dogs and scare small children out in the real world, although in this age of streaming and digital piracy one suspects that accessibility to the music will not prove to be that restrictive in actuality. You could most likely find the tracks online within a few clicks of your mouse, a practice which is not to be condoned (always buy originals and support the artist) but leads to the inevitable closing question: how brave are you feeling today...?
 

Monday, 19 November 2012

ELBENLIEDER

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Elbenlieder (1999-2011)
Format: A 6-disc CDr box-set release in DVD-case by Fallen Angel Productions (South Korea), catalogue reference FAP013. The discs come edged in gold with picture inners. The release comes with full colour covers.
Edition: Limited to 44 hand-numbered copies

Contents:
CD1: Elbentraum Part 1 57:52
CD2: Elbentraum Part 2 48:09
CD3: Elbentanz 40:12
CD4: Elves & Men 59:20
CD5: Elbenmacht 36:54
CD6: Elbenwald 78:51

A surfeit of Elves!

Here, in one rather tidy package, Hugin brings together many of his past Uruk Hai Elf-themed demos from the turn of the Millennium right through to 2011. All have been previously reviewed in Honour and Darkness, but they appear here both with re-mastered sound and in some pretty fine looking packaging care of South Korean label Fallen Angel Productions.

And quite honestly this whole release can be summarised by one word: AWESOME!

On the basis that you're here to read something a bit more substantial than that, here's a more detailed review: BLOODY AWESOME!!

Enough said, surely?

But just in case you're unconvinced, what Hugin has created here is an absolute monster and it will be as unstoppable as Godzilla smashing his way through downtown Tokyo. Superb quality sound, some spectacular aural delights ranging from the sublime to the ... errrr, even more sublime, and in so doing it brings to life demos potentially lost to history such as "Elbenmacht" from 2004, which Nazgul had not listened to for quite a while but was quite blown away by on hearing it again here. You also have the benefit of listening to the interesting juxtaposition of having some very early demos ("Elbentanz") and more sophisticated and orchestral later releases like "Elbentraum".

It is a glorious box-set, and still available from Hugin and from the label as Nazgul understands it. It's been playing in the Castle for a few weeks now on fairly continuous rotation, and never fails to put a smile on the face (of the hobbit crucified upside-down outside the portcullis)

With Christmas fast approaching, what better gift to yourself than this - if Hugin and Santa can have elves milling around to assist them in their endeavours, then so can you...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

EWIG WINTER - update

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Ewig Winter
Format: Cassette tape release on the Fallen Angel Productions label (South Korea) in 2012, catalogue reference FAP020. This is a reissue of the band's 2000 demo. Tape comes with a full colour cover.
Edition: 44 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten
02. Wald
03. Fimbul Winter
04. Engel

With the current spate of reissues from Hugin's early demos continuing apace, it came as no surprise to see the return of the "Ewig Winter" demo - originally issued at the dawn of the last Millennium - landing on the Castle drawbridge one wet and wild autumnal day.

The CDr version of this demo was featured on 8 May 2010 and came in a 'black as hell' cover, quite literally. Hell to photograph, hell to read, and a hell of a thing to find in the first place. The tape version is thankfully rather less hellish, and all the better for it: the icicle artwork is very striking, and suits the frozen winter element of the demo nicely. The Fallen Angel Productions label are rapidly becoming the label to watch in terms of new releases of Hugin's music, and in a change from their usual expansive CD box releases this tape is full of old school looks but re-mastered 2012 sound, courtesy of some knob-twiddling back at W.A.R. Productions.

The crisp sound really hits hard, particularly in segments such as samples of battle scenes, where the clearer audio puts the protagonists right in your face: Nazgul had to look twice to make sure thay the ring wraiths weren't squabbling outside again.

'Wald' and 'Engel' remain short if interesting instrumental pieces, unique to this demo, whilst the two longer songs have both appeared on a variety of releases and reissues over the years. Yet with the loving attention lavished on them here, all four songs have been given a new lease of life and are thoroughly worth your time and investment.

We'll have further items from Fallen Angel Productions in the coming months, but why not pay them a visit and tell them Nazgul sent you?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

BATTLE OF THE SOUTHERN FLAME [EDITION 2012]

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Battle Of The Southern Flame [Edition 2012]
Format: 3" CDr on the Smell The Stench label (Australia) with no catalogue reference, released in 2012 with a 2-card colour inlay.
Edition: Hand-numbered to 13 copies

Track Listing:
01. Intro  2.25
02. Battle Of The Southern Flame  13.44
03. Outro  4.06

The first CD release for this Uruk Hai song, presented with some truly excellent artwork on the label of our old friend Leigh Stench all the way down under in Oz.  This artwork really 'pops' in terms of making you want to stick the disc straight into your player, and immediately this 2012 pressing scores bonus points on previously cassette-only releases of this demo.

For as you may remember, the song "Battle Of The Southern Flame" has appeared twice before in Honour and Darkness; originally on a 4-way tape demo reviewed on 15 January 2011 and then on its own tape release, through Grav's (Orcrist) Host Of Darkness label, covered on 16 July of the same year.

This third version (with the same song, plus 2 bonus instrumental tracks) is a welcome addition to the seemingly infinite marketplace of Uruk Hai releases, and as previously noted certainly looks the part.  So what's underneath the covers of this one, then?

Well, the two instrumental pieces bookmarking the main course (to mix a metaphor somewhat) are described on the inlay as being pieces created for Walpurgi in 2010.  That band will be familiar to you as fellow Austrians who released a split tape with Uruk Hai called "Gestalten, Berge & Wälder" in 2010 (and jolly good it was too).

These two tracks positively reek of fantastical landscapes and deepest mysteries, and as bonus pieces on what is a very limited edition they count as special tracks indeed.

The main song here remains 'Battle Of The Southern Flame', and over time it seems to be maturing like a fine wine: Nazgul's original review of the track on that 4-way split tape wasn't altogether positive, but sitting in the Castle library now with the song playing in the background it's hard to discern what Nazgul's problem with it was.  Obviously a bad day at the office that day - not enough hobbits to crucify or something, no doubt.

Will you be able to find this massively limited edition now?  Well, Nazgul thinks not, although you could always drop Leigh an email to ask the question and then buy some crazy stuff from him anyway.  Nazgul's copy of this release is #3/13 and since purchasing it I've yet to see another one for sale, so you have to imagine it's now out of circulation.  And that's a shame, really, as a track like this deserves a wider airing: perhaps a future Uruk Hai box-set may include it...?

Monday, 5 November 2012

TRYBY 3" CD BOX

Band: URUK HAI
Title: No official title, known colloquially as the Tryby 3" CD box
Format: A collection of the 3" CDr releases made and released by the Tryby label (Poland) in 2012, contained within a small silver metal box with clear front 'window' panel. The demos within are exactly the same as the individual releases, which were issued in an edition of 25 copies per disc.
Edition: 6 copies of this box-set were made

Contents:
CD1. Elves & Men
CD2. Gil-Galad (two-discs)
CD3. Nargothrond (two-discs)
CD4. Return to the Green Fields
CD5. Barbarians

Something of an odd one, this box-set, insofar as it is not an official release commissioned by Hugin through Tryby but rather a special edition issued independently by the label.

Appearing in 2012 following a brief advertisement through an email from Tryby, the box-set you see before you arrived at the Castle following a rather impulsive purchase from Nazgul. Impulsive, as the contents are the actually same as the standard 3"CDr demo releases that were made by both Tryby and the Smell The Stench label in 2012, meaning that not only does Nazgul now have complete sets of the 1st and 2nd pressings of all of these demos from both labels, but he also now has a second set of the Tryby releases housed in a small metal tin!   Alas, the perils and obsessions of collecting....

Whilst Nazgul has forgotten the price he paid for this box-set it has come to the attention of the fiery eye atop the Castle that there is a set currently listed for sale on the SkullLine website, although they are charging a hefty 49.50€ for the privilege of owning it. Nazgul can't imagine he paid that for it, but five demos (7 discs) at an average price of under €10 apiece plus a box isn't too extortionate. With only 6 boxes being made it might well represent good value if you've yet to buy any of the individual discs, and let's be honest - when and where are you going to find another one for sale anytime soon after the SkullLine copy is sold...?

Nazgul's box contains copies of the individual releases all numbered 23 of the edition of 25, so taking a leap of logic it would seems as though Tryby took the last 6 copies of every edition (numbers 19 through 25) and decided to package them up in this way. Whether that represents part of a cunning pre-planned marketing strategy or was simply a way of trying to shift unsold copies we may never know. But the set looks presentable enough, though paling by comparison to the likes of Angband or Darkness which sit as near neighbours in the Castle Library.

So, as noted at the outset of this piece, something of an oddity and rather an expensive luxury when it comes down to it from Nazgul's perspective, buy hey - it goes with the territory I suppose.