Friday, 24 May 2013

BROTHERHOOD OF LIGHT [V/A]

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Brotherhood Of Light [Various Artists]
Format: Currently a tape-only release from 2012 on the Brotherhood Of Light label (USA), cat ref b.h.o.l-05. The tape has professionally printed colour inlays and a standard C60 style cassette tape.
Edition: Hand-numbered and limited to 200 copies

Track Listing:
Side A
01. Lascowiec * Ulfhetnar      
02. Surt * Deeper Into The Void      
03. Vinland SS * Anti-Communist Minutemen      
04. Uruk-Hai * The Fall Of Gil-Galad      
Side B
01. Sunchariot * In The Distant Fog      
02. Cosmic Breath 88 * Land Of Shit And Undesirables      
03. Lord Foul * Misanthropic Journey      
04. Svetovid * Blood On The Ground      
05 Aryan Art * България

Maybe Nazgul has been living in a cave for the last few years, but he'd never heard of the Brotherhood Of Light.  Consequently a little research was in order for this unexpected release: unexpected, in as far as it was a tape discovered through some random online searching rather than being one that came directly from Hugin, as is usually the way.  More about that anon...

So - in most cases of this nature, Google is your friend.  The phrase 'Brotherhood Of Light' was duly typed into this august search engine and a rather strange thing happened:

"The Brotherhood of Light are Beings from other Dimensions of Light and other planetary experiences who have been with all Mankind since millions upon millions of years ago. They have come forth to dedicate their Light Beings, their whole experience, to help beings of lower densities of Light; like Earthlings. They have been helping Earthlings ever since and even before they came into the Third Orbit. For millions of years they have been helping peoples of this Third Dimension of Light; not only here upon Earth, but into thousands of other Quadrants of the Cosmos that they help with."

Well, that didn't seem quite right.  Nazgul could easily believe that some of Hugin's projects might have secret backing from extra-terrestrial sources - have you heard any of the Eismond demos? - yet Uruk Hai are so steeped in Tolkien and Middle-Earth tradition that this couldn't possibly be right.

So on the search went.

The next find identified the late C.C. Zain (Elbert Benjamine), one of the most prolific astrological writers of the 20th century, who wrote over 50 books and thousands of magazine articles including the 21 Brotherhood Of Light courses.  No, damn it, that didn't look right either, and nor did the reference to the Brotherhood being an organisation formed by knights, whose main objective consisted of removing the forces of darkness that plagued Europe in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.  Bugger.

No, surely this Brotherhood must be something entirely different?

And, indeed, the truth was finally revealed on - of all places - the forums at Nuclear War Now:  "For people unaware still, Brotherhood of Light is a new label to pop up into the world from California that is a vehicle for the projects that belong to the "circle" that is home to Lascoweic, Svetovid, Surt, Sunchariot and Cosmic Breath 88."  It goes on to note that this compilation is a sampler of all the projects affiliated with that label and a couple guests, and Nazgul is guessing that Uruk Hai are one of the guests so referenced.

Oh....so it's a music collective!  Of course, of course....

The description of the music on offer from the bands above varies, from 'satirical avant-garde industrial noise' (Vinland Special Services) to plain old Black Metal (Lascowiec, Sunchariot, and Svetovid) through to acoustic material (Surt).  The Uruk Hai contribution is described as sounding "closer to Summoning then his spree of LOTR ambient demos, guess he got serious", which is damning by faint praise if ever I heard it, but ultimately is presumed to be well intentioned!

A quick look through the band names and song titles does raise a few worrying spectres, however, mostly of a distinctly right-wing variety.  Not many bands would use the suffix "SS" in their name, or "88" for that matter (commonly, 88 translates in alphabetic 'code' to the eighth letter H, so 88 becomes HH, which is either reference to 'Heil Hitler' or comedian Harry Hill, depending on your view of life).  Similarly, some of the song titles have a whiff of the crooked cross about them - 'Land of Shit and Undesirables', anyone?  Equally, a quick trawl through the discographies of these bands tends rather to reinforce this preliminary view.

Now, Nazgul is in no position to determine what the ideological or political leanings of these various bands are or to judge them for it, and to be fair at least one of the bands make great efforts on their website to distance themselves from the right-wing or the National Socialist Black Metal scene. NSBM typically melds Neo-Nazi beliefs (such as fascism, white supremacy, white separatism, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia) with hostility to "foreign" religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam). Bands often promote ethnic European paganism, occultism, or Satanism.  The Brotherhood Of Light's Wordpress webpage records their position as an intention "to remind everyone and anyone of our ancient cultures and traditions, and not let Judeo-Christianity kill/buy/steal everything we care about."  Make of that what you will, I guess.

One thing Nazgul is absolutely sure about is that Hugin wouldn't knowingly associate himself with anything remotely like fascism or the NSBM genre, so the presence of an Uruk Hai track on this compilation gives as good assurance as anything that it is more about national pride than nationalism.

The bottom line is that music on this tape is actually pretty decent all round, and the harder edge of Uruk Hai's 'The Fall Of Gil-Galad' fits well with the general sound.  This particular song, incidentally, was culled from the tape "Gil-Galad: The Whole Story" and also appeared as a track on free CD in Infernal Zine #13.

A cautionary note to end on, however: this tape in its edition of 200 copies has been around for a while now, yet still the label has yet to let Hugin have his artists copies to sell on.  Another BHOL release - a split tape between Surt and Uruk Hai - similarly has yet to find its way to Austria.  Perhaps if anyone knows the guys at BHOL they might give them a gentle reminder on the subject, lest Nazgul send his terrible Fellbeast across the Atlantic to wreak havoc upon them....

Thursday, 23 May 2013

ANCIENT MEMORIES

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Ancient Memories
Format: 2 substantial wooden box-sets released in 2013 on the Fallen Angels Productions label (South Korea).  There are two versions of this box-set - one with full colour inlays, one with black and white - containing exactly the same releases but with different artwork between boxes.  Both sets come with 2 professional CDr discs, 4 cassette tapes, a woven Uruk Hai patch, and 10 band logo stickers.  The boxes have labels stuck onto a recess in the box-lid with cover artwork, and on the inside of the lid with the content listing.  The catalogue reference for both sets is FAP033.
Edition: There were only 22 unnumbered sets produced in total: 10 colour sets, and 12 black and white sets

Contents:
CD1. Lothlorien  01:15:50    
CD2. Uruk-Hai (Parts I to VIII)  01:08:55    
Tape 1. The Battle  01:01:00
Tape 2: Black Blood, White Hand  01:22:11        
Tape 3. Lost Songs from Middle Earth  47:46   
Tape 4. In Durin's Halls  57:52 

An eclectic compilation is a fair summary of this recent Fallen Angels Productions release, capturing material from Uruk Hai from the earliest days ("In Durin's Halls", 1999 and later re-mastered) through releases in the mid 2000s up to "Black Blood, White Hand" of 2009.  Not exactly 'ancient memories' then, in the strict sense of the phrase, even allowing for Nazgul's rapidly failing powers of recollection.  Indeed, those of you on the ball with your own collections will doubtless have snaffled up the recently reissued 3"CDr set of "Lothlorien" that came out in 2012, and there have been a few versions of "In Durin's Halls" kicking about in recent years too.  

Nevertheless, what you can't doubt is the quality of the final product released by South Korean label Fallen Angels Productions, which is rapidly becoming one of THE independent labels to watch for high quality packaging of underground releases.  Such sets don't come cheap, mind you, particularly when they contain multiple items and have a wooden box wrapped around them, but I really don't think you could quibble too much with laying down a few shekels to bring these little beauties home.

Nazgul - being the compulsive collector that he is - plumped for both sets to augment his burgeoning collection.  Given the choice between the two, however, the sensible money would almost certainly be on the colour version.  There's absolutely no difference in the musical content, so nothing to choose between the pair there, but the artwork themes are entirely different as the remainder of this post will shortly demonstrate.  

The colour version art is themed around fantasy artwork (very probably based on some classic Middle Earth images), whilst the black and white images are more grainy/gloomy images of landscapes and buildings (though it shares the same colour CDr disc sported in the colour set).  Both work well enough, and if a colour pressing didn't exist I don't think the monochrome artwork would be overly criticised, but place them side by side and it becomes a no-brainer to Nazgul.  Still, horses for courses as they say, and if the black and white images float your boat more then good luck to you!

Many hundreds of words have been written about the individual releases - and in some cases re-re-re releases of the releases! - in the past, and if you are sufficiently motivated to re-read these past reviews then fire up the search box to the right of the Blog and have a little trip down (ancient) memory lane.  Otherwise, sit back with a steaming cup of your toddy of preference and feast your eyes on the contents of these two great compilations.  Who knows, if you are sufficiently moved to want to own one then there could even be a few remaining at the label or with Hugin himself, although Nazgul suspects such a limited edition of copies would have sold out pretty quickly...

Let the artwork begin...!

Colour box-set

Lothlorien
The Uruk-Hai
The Battle
Black Blood, White Hand
Lost Songs From Middle Earth
In Durins Halls

Monochrome box-set

Lothlorien
The Uruk Hai
The Battle
Black Blood, White Hand
Lost Songs From Middle Earth
In Durins Halls

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Ceremony Of Innocence - new webpage

Band: Ceremony Of Innocence
Reason for post: A new COI website has appeared!

Recent recording activity on the COI front has been prompted to a large extent by the collaboration of Nick Diak with Hugin on a couple of recent releases, one of which ("No Never Not") Nazgul reviewed in April.

Since that time - and another new release, "Our Fire Burns", yet to be covered here - Mr Diak has been busy in promoting COI through his new website, the link to which you really should follow.

It has details about the full COI discography, including the yet-to-be released "The Dance Of The Blue" album, and a host of other details and information besides about this enigmatic synth-pop/EBM side-project.  Hugin himself reckons the site to be "great", and who are we to disagree?

Well worth all of our support, so click through and see what you make of it.  For every visitor, Nazgul promises to pledge the burnt soul of a roasted hobbit to the deepest fires of Hades.  And - much like a man who can't pronounce the letters F, T or H - you can't say fairer than that...

Saturday, 11 May 2013

WAR AGAINST BANANA - update


Band: BONEMACHINE (well, Maskinalegg really...)
Title: War Against Banana
Format: A CDr disc in paper sleeve with covering letter, sent to Hugin by Bjorn of Maskinalegg as the band's contribution to this split release of 2007
Edition: Presumed to be the sole copy

Track Listing
01. Banana  10.02

It was on 20 November 2009 that Honour and Darkness considered this fine split release between Bonemachine and the Norwegian project Maskinalegg, which rejoiced under the splendid name of "War Against Banana" and came in a mini-DVD style case with 3" disc, limited to just 150 copies.  You find the odd one for sale still, but increasingly it's become rather a hard release to track down.

The purpose of today's update is twofold: (1) a genuine reason to share with you the original master CDr disc as sent by Bjorn of Maskinalegg to Hugin for inclusion on the split, complete with accompanying letter with kisses and hugs, and (2) an excuse to shoe-horn into the Blog a Bonemachine-related item (however tenuous), as it's been a while since we've had anything from this industrially influenced project.

The Tosom website, which released this split, describes the item as: "Austrian War Industrial meets great Norge Noise. Split release by Bonemachine from Austria and Maskinanlegg from Norway. Each project with one track. "War Against Banana" is a strange kind of electronic art from the vaults of Europe" and you have to love that last sentence, as it sums up the release perfectly!

The Maskinalegg side of the split was not always appreciated in certain quarters: there was a fairly scathing review on the Kulturterrorismus website that made comments on the lines of  "in my eyes an inferior and/or bad version of the traditional Noise from Japan" amdist other more trenchant personal observations.  Challenging music often provokes strong responses, and 'Banana' is the sort of song you might love late at night and hate the following morning.

That's about it...!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

URUK HAI / NOLDOR split

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Untitled split release with Noldor
Format: There are three versions of this album: the original CDr pressing was released in 2013 by Cvlminis (Russia, a sub-label of Rigorism Productions), no cat reference, with 5 songs.  This was followed by a cassette released by Wulfrune Worxx (France), cat ref WW350, and a second CDr pressing on Parkbench Records (Australia), cat ref RAR224, both of which have 1 bonus track.  Both CDr versions have the same colour cover, although the second pressing has rear tray artwork too.  The Wulfrune Worxx tape has a black and white inlay.
Edition:  The 1st CDr pressing was limited to 33 copies.  The second CDr pressing came in an edition of 30 copies, whilst the tape version is in a numbered edition of 66 copies  

Track Listing:
All versions contain the following tracks:  
URUK HAI 
01. Magic  12.00      

NOLDOR
02. Maiar  2.48      
03. Einsamkeit  1.23      
04. Moorthal  4.11      
05. Lorien  3.12  

Bonus Noldor track on the tape and 2nd CDr pressing:
06. The Dark Lord (new version)  2.29 

Resolutely from the 'old school' in terms of its presentation, this untitled split release between Uruk Hai and German project Noldor takes Nazgul back to the good old days of multiple-format releases, coming as it does in two different CDr pressings and with an accompanying tape release on the ever faithful Wulfrune Worxx label.  

The original CDr pressing on Cvlminis contains the lengthy and exclusive (at the date of writing) 'Magic' track from Uruk Hai plus four Noldor songs, whilst the 2nd CDr pressing and tape versions contains the bonus song 'The Dark Lord (new version)' from Noldor, which is to be found on their "Best Of" compilation of 2012 and the recent "In Woods Of Elfes" CDr.  It's rather nice to see this style of release again, with a CD and a tape version with different artwork, bringing back as it does memories of previous multi-format releases such as "Black Blood, White Hand" from years past.  On the downside it does make for a more expensive collecting experience, of course, but with relatively modest prices for each piece shown it's hardly going to break the bank.

CDr 1st pressing
The meat and potatoes of this release, of course - at least as far as Nazgul is concerned - is 'Magic' from Hugin's Uruk Hai.  And what a lovely, whimsical song it proves to be.  One tend to feel that magic probably comes in two forms: the first, dark and evil, with lightning bolts crackling and buzzing cruelly over a battlefield of warring protagonists (think Bal-Sagoth album artwork meeting the Halls Of The Things 8-bit computer game), whilst the second type involves the delicate weaving of intricate spells, intimate and subtle chanting, and ethereal wonderment. 

This song falls very much into the latter category, and if it had a role in a movie it could be that famous scene at the beginning of Gladiator when Russell Crowe walks through the fields trailing his hands through the wheat field.  Incidentally, did you know that wheat in the field in that scene in the film is in fact an octaploid variety which was developed in the 1950's for the Green Revolution, so totally not of the period depicted?  You didn't?  Well, gosh - now you know!

The Uruk Hai project has had a long history of conjuring up epic songs with Middle-Earth themes and imagery, and this delightful one fits beautifully into the overall scheme of things.  It is entirely instrumental and contains no 'heavy' passages at all, relying purely on Hugin's ability with keyboard to structure and populate an aural tapestry sufficient to entertain and delight over the duration of the piece.  And it should go without saying that it meets those noble intentions without deviation or hesitation, although a little repetition is permitted on the way. 

CDr second pressing
Turning to the other side of the tape (literally, as the Wulfrune Worxx variant is in play as Nazgul types this) in Tolkien's work, the Noldor were the most skilled of all peoples in lore, warfare and crafts and were known as the "Deep Elves" (the name means 'those with knowledge' in Quenya).  On this release, Noldor (a one-man project from Germany) play in what is described as a 'dark ambient' style, clearly influenced by the work of Tolkien.  

Nazgul didn't discern much 'darkness' within the ambient tracks on the Noldor side of this release, rather a display of melodic and up-beat songs.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, but anyone purchasing this demo in the expectation of enjoying an evil ambient experience is going to be unpleasantly surprised.  The sounds generated by Noldor are a very effective counterpart to the Uruk Hai half of the release, which is a pleasant change from many split releases where the Uruk Hai song stands out amongst Black Metal fare like a tomato at a celery convention.

Credit must be given to both bands for what is a really enjoyable album; not remotely 'metal' in nature, but immensely enjoyable, uplifting and well worth tracking down.  Credit is also due in respect of the excellent piece of artwork that adorns both CDr pressings, which certainly encourages you to want to take a closer look at the album.  Whilst it does not have the same immediate visual impact, the Wulfrune tape artwork is also a nice fit with the theme of the album, and you do have the benefit of two covers, one for each band, as you see fit to choose.

Wulfrune Worxx tape edition

Thursday, 2 May 2013

NATT SKOGEN



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Natt Skogen (A Dark Jubileum)
Format: Cassette-only release on the Wulfrune Worxx label, cat ref WW189, released in 2011.  As is usual for this label, the tape has a black and white copied inlay and a standard C60 style tape. This copy (#1) has been signed by Hugin on the cover.
Edition: 166 hand-numbered copies only

Track Listing:
Side A: The 1999-2001 CC Remixes      
Side B: The 2009-2010 WW Remixes  

This release is a rather special one, as it celebrates the 66th tape release over the past twelve years in the ongoing collaboration between Hugin and Chanteloup Creations/Wulfrune Worxx mainstay Skogen, hence the title of the piece.

What you have here is the ultimate Uruk Hai mash-up!  Nearly half an hour of original songs are re-mixed into two extended uber-epics, of around 30 minutes each.  Side A gives the re-mix treatment to a selection of older Uruk Hai songs from the Chanteloup releases (circa 1999-2000), whilst the feat is repeated on Side B with re-mixes of Uruk Hai songs from later Wulfrune Worxx releases!   

An intriguing idea, and one that creates some fascinating material to listen to as the two lengthy tracks go whistling by as your ears strain to pick out familiar refrains.  It's a roller-coaster of sound, with great fun to be had trying to 'pick the song' from the assembled sounds: One minute you're listening to some familiar instrumental keyboard refrains and the next the roaring vocals of 'Dragonslayer' from 2000s "Orcish Battle Hymns" assault your senses!

Both pieces are unique to this tape, so it's only here that you'll experience an Uruk Hai styled Frankenstein's monster of sewn-together musical [body] parts!

Now, Skogen is a very private person and for this reason no interview is likely to be forthcoming on Honour and Darkness with the man behind many of the early Hrossharsgrani and Uruk Hai releases.  Nazgul respects this stance, no matter how the masses clamour for news of this enigmatic figure.  However, you can join in with this celebration of his unerring underground support for Hugin by purchasing this very unusual release.   Sadly, the original Chanteloup Creations label disappeared from the scene in the early 2000's but much celebration was to be had with the re-emergence of Wulfrune Worxx circa 2008, and many quality releases from Hugin's bands and many others have appeared on the label since.

The difference from one side to the other of this tape is quite pronounced, which is per expectation given the different eras from whence the music derives.  Consequently, the early years sound very much like a slightly more refined Hrossharsgrani battle-party, with various growls and guitar bursts punctuating the keyboards.  The second side, however, revels in those more lush and luxuriant songs that the Uruk Hai project evolved into, and as a result is a lot more relaxing to listen to.  The upside of this is that you can pick a side to suit your mood: the downside, fans of one period may not always appreciate the other.  Still, you pay your money you take your choice.

Other Wulfrune Worxx releases have followed this one, of course, most recently the tape version of "Demo 1" from Guts For Dinner, so there's life in the beast yet.  

Here's to the 100th release party...!