Sunday, 20 January 2013

VALHALL - update

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Valhall / Assuage My Tristful Soul
Reason for update: An unexpected CDr pressing of this 2005 split release with ambient project Abandoned on the AMF Productions label (Bulgaria)
Edition: Unknown (see text)

Track Listing:
01.  Uruk-Hai * Return To The Great Halls 17:32
02.  Abandoned * Beznadezhnost 01:37
03.  Abandoned * Krvavi Ogledala 06:38
04.  Abandoned * Smrtta E Zanimanie Samotno 04:29
05.  Abandoned * Zaguben Ishod 04:22
06.  Abandoned * Po Techenieto Na Svoite Slzi 03:17

This is one of those rare posts where Nazgul uncovers something previously unseen (well, more accurately that should be 'relatively unknown', as obviously somebody somewhere has seen it before or it couldn't exist. Which reminds Nazgul of the joke- what's the best present to give a transcendental furniture lover? An occasional table. Yes? No? Oh well, suit yourself. But enough philosophising, let's get on with it...) and thus of interest to you, the educated and dedicated readers of Honour and Darkness.

This unprepossessing CDr appeared on the sale list of a chap in Brazil and was part of a parcel of rare Hugin releases imported to Castle Nazgul over the past month. Speaking of Brazil, as we were, have you noticed how many fans of Hugin seem to reside there? A quick look at the Flag Counter shows that Brazilian readers form a significant body of visitors to Honour and Darkness, and the country is established as the 6th most popular country of origin for Blog readers.. So let's take a moment to send brotherly hails to our Brazilian comrades, before moving back to the review at hand.

"Valhall / Assuage My Tristful Soul" was a split tape release from 2005 featuring one lengthy track from Uruk Hai (a tribute to Hugin's friend, Geri) and 5 songs from Bulgarian ambient project Abandoned. Honour and Darkness reviewed the cassette way back on 27 May 2009, and a good time was had by all. But one of the salient facts of that review was that this was strictly a tape-only release, and that nugget of information remained resoundingly true as far as anyone knew: this demo had never received a CD release. Except...that it apparently had, as the item pictured here demonstrates.

So what are we looking at here? Well, to be honest, no one seems quite sure. To put it in perspective, Hugin himself had never heard of this release ever being released on CD, let alone seen a copy. Nazgul in all his years of sniffing around the dankest parts of the Internet had never heard even the smallest rumour that such a CDr had been produced. No distro - large or small - has listed one for sale as far as Nazgul can see, suggesting that this item cannot have had much of a circulation back in the day. 

 It's semi-professionally produced though and someone has taken the trouble to screen-print the disc itself with album artwork rather than just sticking a silver CDr in the case. And let's face it, plain silver CDr discs feature in a large proportion of early official releases of Hugin's material, depending on the label in question.

The obvious thing to do was to check it all out with the ever-helpful Alexander of AMF Productions, on the basis that it might have been some form of promotional item or master copy for distribution to other labels. Here, however, the mystery deepens as Alexander notes, "No, I never re-released it and never made other presses, versions, re-releases or whatever. What you told me is really strange... As far as I know only my tape version exists, with pro-printed black-white covers and small tape stickers and I haven't heard someone has re-released this material in any form..."

So there we are, well and truly perplexed! Of course, it's highly likely that this is simply a bootleg release (but would it still carry the AMF logo on it, and would not more of them have come to light by now?) but it could also be a one-off made by a dedicated fan who wanted something unique. It's a mystery that may linger for a while longer yet...

Notwithstanding all of that, it's (i) a nice collectible item for the Hugin museum, and (ii) a good excuse to revisit this age-old demo to get a fresh perspective on its content.  And Nazgul would stand by his review at the time, which read:


"Following a clap and subsequent rolling peal of thunder the music commences, and there are two distinct 'movements' at work here in two halves of the piece: the first developing an atmosphere of a vast, grandiose nature which really does bring to mind a peaceful journey of unimaginable length to the echo-haunted halls on high. A second phase, more keyboard oriented, takes one on a more uplifting journey before the vast space of the former refrains come to bear once again, before a distant rumble of thunder once again takes us into the silence....

It's a sombre piece, both a cause for uplifting celebration and quiet reflection too (in the way that you might find the vastness of a cathedral interior subdues the noise and bustle of the outside world) and as a piece of ambient art is very pleasant to listen to indeed."

Incidentally, that original May 2009 review didn't give much information about the other band on this split release, Abandoned.  Well, the truth of the matter is that not a lot of information is out there to be found.  About the only pertinent reference online reads, "Abandoned Shelter was a Bulgarian dark ambient project that was terminated in 2008", which is hardly helpful. 

However, for those of just dying to know what 'Assuage My Tristful Soul' actually means, a translation into more common English would read, 'relieve my melancholy soul'. And in a random Skyclad lyric reference, 'pray for my poor melancholy soul' appears as a line in the song 'Helium'. There, Nazgul knew your day would be better for knowing that. 

And by happy coincidence, one recent gift from Hugin in a supplies parcel from W.A.R. was this original Abandoned demo CDr, called "Melancholic Urn"  and which came in a limited run of 66 copies.  Feast your eyes, as this might also be a world exclusive!
#61/66 of this Abandoned demo

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