Saturday, 9 February 2013

~2~ update

Title: ~2~
Reason for update: Coverage of this split release with Vinterriket on the Intermediate Realm blog...

Here's a blast from the past - the split release "~2~" between Uruk Hai and Vinterriket, which we last reviewed on 10 December 2009.

The reason it makes an appearance again is the result of a chance conversation held with a reader of Honour and Darkness, who found his way to Nazgul's email to discuss matters relating to the Uruk Hai / Forgotten Lands split on Dungeons Deep Records.  One conversation led to another, and over the course of the week Nazgul offered to send him a free copy of the "~2~" CD to expand his knowledge of Uruk Hai releases.  And so a copy was duly dispatched to deepest Pennsylvania.

Now, it so happens that this interested party also has his own blog, Intermediate Realm, and a review of the "~2~" album appeared there on 16 January 2013.  So for those who won't have had a chance to read it, here it is: the link to the original article can he found here

Vinterriket / Uruk-Hai: -2-

"Gather around the fire, kids, and listen to the tale that Imperial Kodnarok has for you today. It is a tale of seeking life's answers, and of the places where these searches can take you.

It began one night, when a young man began wandering through the woods, seeking answers to questions he had about life. By a certain point, he noticed that he'd come a fair bit away from his home, as the town's candlelit streets vanished completely, and the northern lights became more apparent. It wasn't long after that that he noticed a figure in the clearing (that he could see by the light of a campfire): a man, donning a long, hooded robe, holding a longsword in his hand. However, caring more about answers than safety, the traveler slowly approached the man anyway, and it was a lucky thing that he did so, for this proved to be an overall good exchange.

This man introduced himself as Nazgul, a fan of music and ruler of a distant castle named after him. It so turned out that the traveler had a soft spot for music also. It also turned out that, in addition to some of life's answers, Nazgul also had an extensive library at his castle; not of books, but of music, and promised the traveler a sample from his library.

And so the traveler returned to his home, waiting for the delivery to come from this faraway castle while he fed the chickens and churned the butter. Surely enough, it came, and immediately our poor citizen of a medieval town who was churning butter minutes ago ran into his bedroom and popped in the CD. And it just so happens that I hold this CD in my hands now. I will wait for you to wrap your minds around this and "ooh" and "aah".

Wonderful, now that we've gotten that out of our systems, let's talk about this artifact for a bit, shall we? The CD is called "-2-", making searches for this very annoying. But is it worth it? The artwork shows a fairly even split between the two bands, all gray and low contrast for Vinterriket, the cold-themed ambient black metal band, and neon red-orange and heroic (if not a bit pixelated at points) for Uruk-Hai, an ambient project with which I am not too familiar. The same could be said for Vinterriket, myself having only heard a few black metal songs, and an ambient track or two from "Gebirgshoehenstille", another album with an asdfsdgkasgghfg name. Those ambient tracks were pretty slow, formless, and basic. Not bad, but a misleading idea of what's on -2-.

The split already starts on a higher note than expected. Synth strings, pianos, and other instruments coming together to make more of a symphony based on winter, and the result is beautiful. Melody changes, livelier moments and a few touches of that same slow, immersing atmosphere, making a soundtrack for a lonely, yet charming walk through the woods, not too much unlike the one described in the tale above. And that's just the first song.

The second song is a bit more on the melancholic side, presenting the question I often ask of what inspires the music that people make. Why such a lugubrious take on winter in this song, and not something happier, about the sleighbells ring-ding-dingaling? It continues, some light wind samples played underneath a lonely, soft symphony, until the song ends. The third starts on a darker note, but soon becomes a dreamy, atmospheric little song with a couple of changes throughout. Each of these songs seem fairly similar in style, but each with enough differences to have their own identity, same going for the fourth song. The fifth song rolls AROUND AND EVERYTHING CHANGES. The orchestra gets a lot louder, slow, booming percussion moves along behind, and then it relaxes. I'm not sure how good this is compared to the original Burzum song (as this is a cover) since I've never bothered with Burzum, but this sounds good enough by itself.

Our winter journey ends here, and suddenly the air fills with the scent of sea water, as something that should probably be a boat, but ends up sounding like a squeaky wooden door, rolls through. This is the smaller group of Uruk-Hai songs beginning. Various noises play by, creating atmosphere, but not meaning a whole lot to me. The squeaking noises come back in, and more noises follow. After a period of nothing, we get into the good stuff. Relaxing, yet uplifting and energizing (if that and "relaxing" can go together) ambient music comes in, conjuring images of distant mountains and forests as we rock back and forth on the water, leading to who knows what.

The next song begins with a sample of people talking, and I can't quite make out what all they're saying. It's something about praying and God, I think. This leads into a stranger kind of symphonic music, louder in nature, that quickly leads back to the relaxing, windy ambient music from before. There is usually something that gives away that an ambient song is from a metal band; the vibes, some instrument, some clue, but you get little to none here; this completely transcends the metal scene (to which Hugin seems very connected, despite Uruk-Hai being essentially all ambient), and goes straight into atmospheric OST territory, which is very welcome, especially when the atmosphere is done so well. There's some sort of woodwind instrument playing throughout, and it sounds nice. 

The song gets a bit darker partway through, and then relaxes again. This song continues on about as long as this post is, which is great if you like it, but I can guarantee this split album will try on some people's patience. You could probably play two (-2-, get it?) full mainstream rock albums in the time it takes this one album to spin, but if you're into ambient like I am, that's hardly a complaint. A speech about strength wraps up this brief, 19-minute track. The last track on the album is another Burzum cover that starts off dark and loud, but soon relaxes again. If you ask me, Vinterriket and Uruk-Hai seem much better in this style than Burzum is, based on these two songs. There are more complexities and turns in their music; not to mention their music is just more colorful, more atmospheric, whereas the Burzum covers aren't doing a lot for me, even if they're not necessarily bad. I guess that's what happens when you make ambient music just because it doesn't involve instruments made by black people. Some thunder samples end the album.

I can't see if anybody is still listening, since this blog is dark, and the campfire went out some time around the second half of "Stahlzeit", but if any of you are still here, YOU can see that there's a lot on offer here, several symphonic musical reflections by Vinterriket, two massive Uruk-Hai songs with a very short cover, and the peculiarly agreeable flow between the two highly contrasted ideas. If you can find any copies of this, you should get it, and enjoy it in your own little medieval towns, whilst churning the butter, or dusting your front porch, or however kids pass the time these days. To this day, there is a Castle Nazgul, and some say that it's the same one that shipped out this CD, so many centuries ago. Why don't you venture there, and see what else is in this mysterious character's library? Some of it is even, as I've heard, available for trade or sale.

I can't hear any of you breathing anymore, so I suppose you've all left. Buy this album; you won't regret it."

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