Monday, 31 December 2012

2012: the year in review

The theme of 2012 ... a sample of box-sets
It's time for Nazgul's traditional wander down memory lane, a seasonal wrap-up of the year's events across Hugin's many bands. As ever, it has been a productive year in terms of total output (this is starting to sound dangerously like an economic forecast) and - as always - certain projects have seen more activity than others. Well, with so many balls being kept up in the air at any one time, it's going to be hard to churn out product across the whole catalogue! This years 'winner' is Uruk Hai, with a splendid tally of 19 official releases, whilst other previously fruitful bands - Elisabetha for example- have now effectively disbanded so nothing to report on those fronts.

The Castle library shelving is now literally groaning under the weight of accumulations of box-sets and other ephemera, and a major redesign of the museum is needed to accommodate the growing treasure trove within. Smaug's horde? Pah! A mere bauble compared to the pile of gems that Nazgul has accumulated over the years. 

That said, parallels do exist: centuries spent sleeping atop his gold hoard caused gold and gemstones to become embedded in the flesh of Smaug's belly, augmenting the already essentially impenetrable armour of the scales that covered most of the rest of his body. Last night, whilst bending over to move a box of bits, a crossbow (yes, I know how odd that sounds) fell atop Nazgul's head, causing small pieces of metal to become embedded in the flesh of his scalp, augmenting the already essentially evil facial features. A dangerous business, this hoarding lark....

The reason for vintage weaponry to be in the library becomes clearer when you understand that Nazgul added to his collection in the year in a slightly different way: purchasing from Hugin a selection of the armour and weaponry used on the covers of many a demo of old - broadsword, chainmail, morning stars, crossbow, helmet- you name it, it's now here. Nazgul has been meaning to put up a post about these for months now, but has failed miserably in finding the time to do so. Perhaps 2013 will be the year!

It's also been a vintage year for catching up with Mr Wieser in person, as the man himself made the perilous journey overseas to the UK bringing with him Australian guitar-ace Joe Matera too. A great week was had with some gigs, some laughs, some driving, meeting new and old friends, and just generally hanging-out. Hugin also managed to have additional tattoos added to his already impressively coloured physique, including the inking of Tony Dolan's autograph on his arm as part of Hugin's Venom ensemble. Those of you following Hugin on Facebook will have seen all of the action already! 

This has sowed the seed of an idea in Nazgul's mind to have a Hugin-themed tattoo of his own done, complete with signature of Hugin underneath, and if sufficient support and brave pills can be found within the Castle then that might be something on the horizon in the future. Back to the road-trip though, and it was a real pleasure to be able to spend time with such a nice gentleman as our hero Hugin, who proves to be the exception to the rule in that you can be something of a rock star without having a bad attitude. More power to his (tattooed) elbow on that score.

In other year-end news, baby Nazgul continues to grow and consume flesh at a fearful rate. Now standing and babbling, it will surely not be long before he takes flight for the first time and wreaks havoc on the unsuspecting villagers nearby.
A windswept Hugin (left - but you knew that) and Nazgul (right)
But enough of such matters, it is the prowess of Hugin that you are hear to hear tell of, so let Nazgul do his usual mostly accurate festive round-up starting with...

URUK HAI

Can you say "box-set"?

2012 has been an epic year (pun fully intended) in terms of reissued material on box-set. Some have found their way onto Honour and Darkness, some are yet to make an appearance, but if you are a fan of Uruk Hai and haven't yet taken the opportunity to lay your hands on any of these sets then (a) what on earth are you doing?! and (b) get on with it, before they sell out! Some really rare early demos are to be found on these releases, ones that are now impossible to find anywhere else. 

Chief amongst these might well have been the "Everlasting Wrath of the Tyrant" set, which contained amongst others the rare "Über die Nebelberge Weit" and "Gone With The Wind" demos, the long-lost "Blutreich" compilation, and "Thousand Lightnings Strike" too! Some of the rarest material in the Uruk Hai canon, all in one box?! Madness!

Normally you might expect a band to release a box-set once in every few years, so clearly Hugin has been making up for lost time in 2012 with no less than twelve hitting the proverbial shelves, including "Legacy Of The Tyrant" (in two different versions), "Tales Of Glory & Mystery", "..And In The Darkness Bind Them", "The Orcish Battle Hymns (...From the Dark Ages)", "Elbenlieder", "Darkness", "Cirith Ungol (The Whole Story)" which also came in two different versions, "Smell the Stench from a Battlefield Without Honor", "Epic Part 1" and "Epic Part 2". Hells bells! And that's not counting the unofficial Tryby 3" box-set release!

Add to this the odd demo and EP - you'll remember "Long Before the Creation of the Sun & Moon" and "Orc Funeral" of course, not to mention the demo "Orc" itself. There's also been "The Darkest Treasure", "Return to the Green Fields" and "Dagor Dagorath" too. And let's not forget the split releases "Dark Secrets" with Nebula VII, and the split tape with Crucifixxx Sodomy.

In short, it's been a busy year even by Hugin's own prolific standards, and also quite a pricey one too if you have collected each and every one of these releases (if so, see the men in white coats immediately).

Nazgul's pick of the year: Would probably be "Elbenlider", but it's a close run thing with so many excellent releases

HROSSHARSGRANI

By comparison, something of quiet year for the Viking Battle-Machine.

Here too, however, the box-set has reared its head with the release of "The Ancient Path" in early 2012, as well as the double-disc compilation "Das Ende des Pfades". The former box-set was a definite boon to fans, however, bringing together the "Sanguis/Blut", "Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten (Parts 1 and 2)", "Die Rückkehr Zum Pfade (Parts 1 and 2)", "Ancient Tales (Parts 1 and 2)", "In The Mystic Forest" and "Der Ring Der Macht (Parts 1 and 2). Quite the collection.

There is a wooden box set (oh my god- another box-set!) that has just been released at the end of this year, and which is so hot off the press that Nazgul has paid for his copies just this week. Yes, that's 'copies' in the plural sense as there is a black and white version as well as a colour version of this release, totalling another 92 pieces of gold. No wonder the treasure chest beneath Nazgul's bed is dwindling in size: more indiscriminate pillage is clearly required to replenish supplies.

Let's also not forget the band's appearance on the excellent "FatheR:LanD" compilation CD.

Nazgul's pick of the year: For value for money purposes, "The Ancient Path" takes some beating and a more complete early demo collection would be hard to conceive

HREFNESHOLT

It's a similar tale here, too. One big treat that came at the end of the year was the compilation set "Trostlos", which has yet to feature on Honour and Darkness. A full review will appear in 2013 of course, but this set contains "Hrefnesvinter", "Heidensturm", the very rare "Wolf" demo, "Flüsterwald", "Uraungst", and the "A Haund voi Dreck" compilation. For anyone curious about the transition of Hrefnesholt from an ambient black-metal style project through to an almost unique Alpine folk-restoration project, this is an collection not to be missed.

2012 also saw the release of "Schworzeichn II", a short split EP release with Australian guitarist Joe Matera. This is another one that needs a review (honestly, what has Nazgul been doing in 2012?!) so eyes open for that one early next year.

Nazgul's pick of the year: "Troslos"- epic in scope and awesome in content.

BONEMACHINE

Despite the workload in re-mastering old demos for all of the preceding releases, Hugin used his weird powers of time manipulation to somehow find opportunities to release new Bonemachine product in the last twelve months. Quite how he managed this remains something of a mystery...

We've enjoyed split releases with Kaelteeinbruch and Flutwacht in the past twelve months, as well as unearthing some older compilation excursions on the Smell The Stench label (and Nazgul's ears are still bleeding after those net releases!) We've also enjoyed the emergence of another version of the Novasak split tape (the third to come to light) and followers of that particular saga will be delighted to learn that Nazgul has recently received a photo of Todd Novasak's own copy of the tape, so a fourth outing will be posted soon!

Nazgul's pick of the year: The Kaelteeinbruch/Bonemachine split, recognised for interesting packaging as well as interesting music

SOLID GREY

It's out, it's out (so put it back, you all cry...) the Solid Grey album is out! "Pull The Strings Tighter" is the title, and melancholic synth-based Gothic rock is the name of the game. It's a project formed with Bart Piette (Dead Mans Hill) and the first song from the album "So Alone" is currently on the band's Bandcamp page (http://solidgrey.bandcamp.com/). Another one due a review, and a very interesting album it proved to be.

EISMOND

A new Eimond demo appeared this year, entitled "Behind The Moon We Are Looking Into The Distance".  As Nazgul has been saving this as a post-Christmas treat, he can't tell you anything about it yet other than the cover artwork is suitably out of this world!

The "not a lot to report" section

Encompassing quite a few side projects this time around, for various reasons. Elisabetha have disbanded as we know, and nothing has emerged from the vaults in the last 12 months which might indicate that no more unreleased material is left. The odds on a box-set release coming out might not be as long as you'd imagine, given the pattern seen in 2012, although of course the "Eternal Deathvastation" 3CD collection from 2008 might be the last word in compiling the band's output. 

Still no release of the expected Manwe album so nothing there to report at the moment, nor has there been an official release of the Drachenfeuer album either, which is a travesty given the quality of that music.

Following the excellent "Nordwand" album in 2011, the world holds its collective breath for the next WACH outing


Nazgul's musings...

So this is the part of the round-up where Nazgul sits back and ponders the world of collecting at large. Despite fewer posts this year than any other year since Honour and Darkness crawled into the light (you can blame baby Nazgul for that!!) it's still been a busy year on the collecting front, and also in bringing the less obvious to your attention. Nazgul trusts that you have enjoyed some of the more divergent paths covered this year, including Michele Brittany's "Felagund" video shoot narrative and the glimpse at the excellent collection of fellow Huginophile T, from the ExtremeAmbient blog. 

To date, a total of 139 countries have now visited Honour and Darkness (the last being Afghanistan, from which Nazgul suspects one of our armed forces comrades is a secret Hugin fan) and the total number of visitors to the Blog has now reached over 73,500 since the Flag Counter was set-up: that's a lot of fellow Huginophiles!

The total collection has expanded nicely again with the many releases in 2012 (not to mention some other goodies that are not official releases as such, and which have yet to grace the Blog) and along with the armoured items have filled the remaining few unpopulated shelves in the library. Counting up the beans, it's been quite an expensive year: ignoring shipping costs and/or items bought from elsewhere, the Castle coffers have had to stump up significantly this year to keep up to date with new releases, rare items offered elsewhere, and large pieces of weaponry! 

Indeed, taking a conservative estimate of £30-£40 per box-set plus over £500 for the various miscellaneous armour, this would put the annual total well into four figures pretty quickly, let alone the rest of the demos, CDs and bits and bobs purchased. Nazgul will have to review the insurance policy to ensure this lot is covered adequately!

One purchase yet to arrive at the Castle but of interest to fellow collectors will be some spare copies of super-rare original demos that Nazgul has tracked down. A fuller post on the subject will arrive in due course, but one item that should be of note to any collector out there is an original tape of Hrossharsgrani's "Uruk Hai" demo, reported in Honour and Darkness on 28 November 2009. This was, of course, the origin of the Uruk Hai project and only 6 of these tapes were ever made. Nazgul is very fortunate to own one already, courtesy of Hugin himself, and never though that a second copy would ever come to light, so if there are any interested parties out there who would be interested in buying this then drop your kindly Uncle Nazgul an email at the address shown on the right.

As previously reported in the previous post to this one, 2013 is destined to see the release of an all new Uruk Hai album, "And All The Magic & Might He Brought", and Facebook followers will have seen that Hugin has been releasing titles and extracts of songs for the past few weeks now.  A cursory look gives some indication of the quality on offer in terms of personnel, and the album promises to be the finest Uruk Hai release yet, and features something of a stellar all-star cast in its making. Keep an eye on Honour and Darkness for more.

So that's about all, fellow Huginophiles.  Many thanks once again for your continued interest and support, and a healthy, happy and prosperous Happy New Year 2013 to each and every one of you.  Thanks as well to all of the many labels who have released Hugin's work in the last twelves months - without them, and the support of the underground scene, we'd surely be without much this music.  And, of course, thanks on behalf of us all to Hugin himself - the Master of the Ring. 

See you all next time...

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