Thursday, 27 June 2013

THE FEAR (promotional copy)

Band: WACH
Title: The Fear
Format: A CDr promotional release of "The Fear" issued for review purposes to online zines, etc.  The release comes with different cover art to the full release, and is housed inside a clear plastic wallet with a plain silver CDr disc.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
01. Intro
02. The Fear
03. Chains
04. CD-Rom content: The Fear (video)

A quick update for what will prove to be the last post of June, and a welcome return to the pages of Honour and Darkness for the bastard offspring of Reverend Kim and Herr Insomnia - WACH.

The full release of "The Fear" was a thing of wonder and beauty, coming as it did in 4 different matt black digipaks each having a different coloured wax seal and different bonus tracks.  The full story can be found in Nazgul's post of 8th August 2009, with a supplementary later post covering the promotional DVD film of The Fear (reviewed 31 August 2012).

By dint of some diligent internet research (or by being a lazy son of a bitch, whatever you prefer), Nazgul has determined that the Heathen Harvest review of another copy of this promo actually tells you all you need to know, both about the musical content and the different in format between promo disc and the final version:

"Being a music reviewer is great! You get sent free promo copies of new releases! However, it also means that you get sent free *promo* copies of releases…and in the world of underground noise/ambient this means that you often miss out on some stunning pieces of limited packaging.   In its full form, Wach's "The Fear" follows the past standard of Israel’s T'an! Kaven!! Ash!!! label and comes in a sumptuous packaging.  Each of the four variant releases comes with a hand-made, coloured seal and a different bonus track in a matte-black casing (I get neither seal nor bonus track, such is the life of the free-loader that I no doubt am).  Not only this but you also get an accompaniment short film on DVD.  What more do you people want?! 

Yet, attractive as special casing is, it's the music that we must focus on.  Sadly, I can't review any of the bonus tracks available on the full CDs so I'm limited to talking about the three tracks on my promo copy.  Well, I say three tracks but it’s really all about title-track 'The Fear' as the cunningly titled, thirteen second 'Intro' and the looping Aphex Twin-isms of third track 'Chains' amount to the sum total of just over a minute of atmospheric noises that set the scene but little else. 'The Fear' itself is a nine minute exploration of various stereo-panning synth pads which supports some eerie WW2 radio/Morse Code interference and then gives way to Jean-Michel Jarre style sweeping electronics. And that's about the sum of it. 

It's pleasant enough, although that seems to negate the point of having a track called 'The Fear', but it's quite short for the focus of an entire release and it never really goes anywhere beyond the sounds that are outlined in the first few minutes. Never calm enough to be a drifting drone piece nor oppressive enough to be the dark ritualism that it clearly wants to be, the track is left to languish in a Limbo of its own making. On a longer release, backed up with stronger tracks, 'The Fear' would be an excellent interim piece before a chaotic finale but as it is it just fades out into forgetfulness. 

I feel a bit mean to be negative about this release as a lot of work's obviously gone into creating it but I can't justify the €16 price that TKA want for it.  This feels like it should be a prelude to a larger work; it's an EP and should be priced as such.  I cringe as I watch myself writing the words but impressive packaging just isn’t enough, I’m afraid."

Well of course this was an early experimental piece from WACH and on later releases - principally "Nordwand" and "Experimentum Solaris" - we see the style develop and evolve further.

The cover artwork for this promotional release is suitably abstract and different, and it's nice to finally have this safely in the clutches of the Castle library!

Friday, 21 June 2013

BEHIND THE MOON WE ARE LOOKING INTO THE DISTANCE

Band: EISMOND
Title: Behind The Moon We Are Looking Into The Distance
Format: CDr disc in blue DVD-style case, with colour flyer inside advertising both Eismond and Uruk Hai releases on the label.  This was a 2012 release on the Kristallblut Records label (Germany), cat ref KBR001.
Edition: 200 unnumbered copies
 
Tracklist:
01. The Other Side Is Calling Me 11:43
02. Eismond 32:23
03. Trying Not To Breathe 12:48
66. Space Death  1.00

There's a certain perverse logic in the fact that whilst you can scour the Internet looking for reviews of Hugin's more well-known projects and find absolutely nothing besides the excellent prose on Honour and Darkness (*cough*) , this relatively obscure Eismond release attracts quite a bit of online attention.  Maybe the genre of 'Deep Atmospheric Ambient Space Black Metal' is the style to be playing, at the moment, or something?  Most odd....  

Described by the Kristallblut label as "deep soundscapes filled with hypnotic guitars and drums take the listener to a cosmically journey to the stars" this demo is recommended to fans of Elffor, Summoning, Paysage D'hiver, Lustre, and Sieghetnar, all of which have vaguely related sounds.  Eismond play a lot more melody and - frankly - make a more fulfilling noise than really out there space-ambient projects like I Am Esper or Saturn Form Essence, so comparison to projects such as Paysage D'hiver does make some sense.

It's also worth mentioning that whilst this may appear to be the first fully-fledged album from the project it is in fact the re-mastered first demo tape on CD with three bonus tracks, including 'hidden' fourth song 'Space Death' at track 66 on the disc!  Nazgul's coverage of the original tape "Demo 1/2010" can be found in the post of 16 April 2011, later updated on 17 August 2011.  There's a giveaway on the rear of the cover if you look closely enough, as the text in the sash to the top left of the rear cover states "Demo 1.2".   You may also recall that there was a review of a split CDr with Dysonsphere written on 20 July 2012, which becomes relevant as this is where the song 'Space Death' first appeared.

Background now established, what does the wider Internet community make of this release?  Well, let's start the ball rolling at Metal Soundscapes:

"Eismond is one of the many projects of Alexander Wieser from Austria.  Like most of Alex's projects, in Eismond the base of his music is ambient.  They call what they play ambient space black metal, but I think the black metal elements are too few in this release. The album begins with 3 long instrumental songs, followed by 62 tracks of 'silence' and closes with the 66th song, a 1 minute untitled track.  Eismond create a unique cosmic atmosphere, with very good ambient space music.  Wonderful deep atmospheric keys have the basic role in their compositions and they are combined with electric and distorted guitars that fit perfectly with their music. 

The slow 'lazy' drumming keeps always the tempo down and their music seems like floating into the endless vacant space, without any outbursts, or surprises…  I’d like a better guitar sound quality, but of course it is actually taken from a demo tape, so I shouldn’t complain. Anyway this genre should be judged by the atmosphere it creates and Eismond succeeded to generate visions and images in the listener's head, offering him for 74 minutes a fictional cosmic journey to the universe. Overall I think Eismond is one of Alex Wieser’s best projects and he has released a very promising demo."

Equally positive is the review at German site www.amboss-mag.de

"Behind The Moon We Are Looking Into The Distance" is not the debut album of this group, but the re-release of the first demo with a bonus track.  With Eismond, however, [Hugin] seems to have reached a creative peak. Such an atmosphere I have rarely heard in songs in the ambient genre that last over 10 minutes.  Opening the whole thing is 'The Other Side Is Calling Me'.  For alleged "Space Ambient Black Metal" I am left waiting for the black metal part, but the song is definitely good, sometimes sounding a bit like Ulver. The song 'Eismond' lasts about 30 minutes and even has a proper black metal component that really does not sound bad, but does not quite fit into the song. This is very spacey, the drums again sound slightly Ulver in some pieces, something akin to trip-hop.  Despite its length, a good, compact song, only the drum sound distracts from the cold guitar. Then there is silence from track 4-65 before track 66, the bonus song 'Space Death'.  A dark hum introduces the song and it fits nicely into the overall picture."

Yes, you can't beat a good, dark hum.

And last but not least the Dutch have arrived, with Lords of Metal giving the demo 68/100 with the following comments:

"Eismond is an Austrian ambient black metal outfit and this 'Behind The Moon We Are Looking Into The Distance' is their first record. Only four tracks are present, but they last a total of 67 minutes. They posses a very spacey sound often reminiscent of Pink Floyd, and this one of the rare occasional albums of which I like the ambient part better than the black metal ones. The latter are rather standard slow depressive black metal, but the astral ambient elements really have a nice soothing touch. The songs may be in need for some downsizing and more dynamics, but overall the album succeeds in its intentions. Still this is only for dark ambient black metal fanatics, a limited target group indeed."

A veritable outpouring of support for this demo, it has to be said.

The mention of Pink Floyd in that last review is actually quite interesting as the same thought fleetingly passed through Nazgul's tiny mind during a recent listen to the demo.  There is some excellent sparse guitar work throughout the tracks, but particularly on 'Trying Not To Breathe', and it gives an added element to the sound to bolster the otherworldliness of the synthesisers.  Who knows, maybe Hugin will go down a progressive-rock route later in his storied career...?!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

URD

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Urd
Format: Promotional CDr with colour sleeve and housed in plastic wallet, with a standard CDr disc.
Edition: 1 copy only

Track Listing:
01. Urd  7.00

Pulling this unique Hrossharsgrani promotional CD off the library shelf one grey afternoon caused Nazgul to pause for thought: 'what does "Urd" actually mean', he pondered?

More to the point, why has it taken so long to review the blessed thing, as it's been lying around in the Castle for years now?

Well, one thing at a time.  Let's kick off with "Urd" the word, if you pardon the rhyme.  And it transpires that there are a myriad of meanings for this innocuous three letter word - who would have guessed!  Depending where you are in the world at the time, it could refer to a female character in the manga and anime series Oh My Goddess;  a sub-race of winged Kobolds in Dungeons& Dragons; a type of bean (Vigna mungo) usually sold as black or white lentils; the mountain and highest point on Bear Island, Svalbard, Norway; a Norwegian women's magazine which ran until 1958; or as the acronyms for various political parties in Mali, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Chad and Venezuela!  

It's also the name of Borknagar's ninth album, and yet another reference to a Norwegian provenance will probably have tipped you off by now that there is in fact a link to Norse mythology here too: Urðr, one of a group of three Norns in Norse mythology, usually attributed in Old Norse as meaning 'Fate'.  Along with Verðandi (possibly 'happening' or 'present') and Skuld (possibly 'debt' or 'future'), Urðr makes up a trio that are described as deciding the fates of people.

So there we have it: a promotional CD with some element of Fate ingrained in its digital grooves - rather apt really, given that the likely origin of this piece was forged in the fires of W.A.R. for Hugin to send off to the Irrlichter Records label either to seek a potential record deal, following their release of some of the  Hrossharsgrani demo "Lieder Aus Mittelerde" from 1999.  The history of the CD is a little murky as it was all so long ago, but Hugin recalls it would all have been about 1999 or so.   He also recalls that he sent the song to Cedric for inclusion on a proposed double-tape compilation to be released on Irrlichter, although it seems that a copy of this tape never found its way back to Austria leading to some confusion about whether it was ever actually released at all.  Aggghhh - something else for Nazgul to have to track down!

If the cover artwork seems familiar to you, this is doubtless because it utilises the dragon motif drawn by Heidi and used in slightly different format on the limited edition Ancient Tales t-shirt (see post for 26 April 2011).  The last photo in this post shows the credit to Heidi on the inlay itself.

This particular item came into Nazgul's possession courtesy of an alert Honour and Darkness reader (Micha, of Runenstein Records) who drew Nazgul's attention to the auction on eBay in which this demo and other Hross' items were being sold.  Nazgul - impulsive and obsessed Ring-Wraith that he is - quickly jumped all over the auction and agreed a price with the seller to buy the lot there and then, taking "Urd" for the Castle collection and sending the rest of the items free of charge to Micha by way of a 'thank you'.  The seller turned out to be none other than Cedric Hommel of Irrlichter Records himself, so the promo came straight from its original recipient all those years later - Fate, indeed.

As to the delay in reviewing the disc, well quite honestly there's no real story there!  No exciting dramas of the disc falling behind the back of a cupboard, no lurid story of the Castle Monkey hiding the thing down the back of his voluminous trousers.  No, plainly and simply Nazgul just hadn't got around to it until now, despite its existence having been referenced in past Honour and Darkness posts.  Well, good things are worth the wait after all, and as this world premiere unfolds just be grateful the bloody thing has finally broken cover!

Back to the music for a minute though: when Nazgul received "Urd" originally and gave it a spin, the song within was familiar.  The original presumption was it must be from the "Lieder Aus Mittelerde" tape given the Irrlichter connection, but in fact this wasn't the case.  Further research into other Hrossharsgrani demos also drew a blank.  A quick consultation with the all-seeing eye (aka Hugin) drew the conclusion that the 'Urd' track had been re-sampled at some point since 1999 and used again on an Uruk Hai demo ... although short of replaying every tape and CDr in the Castle library neither Hugin nor Nazgul can recall which song or demo it is!  That's what you read this Blog for - insightful, accurate reporting...!  

The track itself is strictly keyboards-only, and features a simple melody with a counter melody playing in the background as the song develops.  It is clearly from the 'early' days of what one might unkindly term 'one-fingered keyboard wizardry' as opposed to the more complex compositions that Hugin's recent albums and demos feature.  It really sounds nothing like a Hrossharsgrani track of the period, which was far more immersed in a Viking-fuelled blackened metal attack than ambient instrumental noodling.  There is certainly a whiff of "Elbentanz" around it, albeit that demo came later in time.

Over the years you have to wonder just how many of these unique items might have been created by Hugin for friends, fans and record labels.  Just when you think no more could possibly come to light, something else will appear out of the blue and take you by surprise.  Nazgul has another example just waiting to be reviewed on Honour and Darkness, which is a very unusual one-off piece made for another fan in the UK some years ago.  More of that little gem anon....

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

LEGACY OF THE TYRANT

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Legacy Of The Tyrant
Format: There are two pressings of this box-set release, both in similar formats.  The first pressing was from 2011 on the Kadaath Records label (Russia), cat ref Kadaath23, with picture discs.  This was followed by a second pressing on the Ancient Ceremonies/Tryby label (Poland) in 2012 with 3 vinyl style CDr discs and 2 photo inserts.  Both versions are housed in a DVD-sized box with the same colour cover artwork. The Tryby pressing also adds a bonus 3"CDr with one additional song.
Edition: Both versions limited to 20 copies

Track Listing:
Both versions contain the following 3 discs:

CD 1
01. In Durins Halls (demo, 1999, re-mastered 2004)  36.47
Chapter 1: Einleitung
Chapter 2: Kortirion
Chapter 3: Durins Halls
Chapter 4: Uruk-Hai
Chapter 5: Nordhimmelstag
Chapter 6: Moria
Chapter 7: Rusklang
02. Uruk-Hai, Part 2 (unreleased rehearsal track, 2000)  3.57
03. Of Thingol And Melian (demo track, 2000, re-mastered 2004)  21.27
04. Galadriel (demo track, 2002)  1.38
05. Orkisch Blut (demo track, 2004)  6.33
06. Battle-March (demo track, 2000)  1.34

CD 2
01. Die Legende... (demo track, 2004)  14.52
Chapter 1: ...Iron Ilbenwald
Chapter 2: Khazad-Dum
Chapter 3: Lin Licht Geboren Ward
Chapter 4: Nordhimmel
Chapter 5: Die Berge
Chapter 6: Der Ring
02. Waldelben (unreleased rehearsal track, 2000)  1.02
03. Song From The Woods (demo, 2004)  24.34
04. Midgard Warriors (rehearsal demo, 2000/2005)  15.10
05. The Ene (unreleased rehearsal track, 2004)  4.18
06. Midgard Warriors (unreleased different version, 2000)  17.49

CD 3
01. Fangorn (unreleased demo version, 2003)  67.00
Chapter 1: Enter Fangorn
Chapter 2: The Spirit Of Wood
Chapter 3: Elvenpath
Chapter 4: A Light Into The Darkness
02. Wintersunset (unreleased rehearsal track, 2005)  7.39

The Tryby pressing adds:

Bonus 3" CDr
01. Uruk-Hai, Part 8  9.55

The existence of a compilation called "Legacy Of The Tyrant" is now firmly enshrined in Uruk Hai folklore, and has has a number of false dawns over the years.  The original plans were set down circa 2005 by the now defunct Dragon's Breath Records label, established by Padre Adamo (the same chap who recorded Manwe's "First Battle" demo with Hugin), following the release of the Uruk Hai "Dragons Of War" demo. 

They described the proposed format of the release as a three-disc CDr demo compilation that would come in a DVD box with a patch, a poster, a sticker, a signed photo-card and an inlay card.  It was to be limited to 99 copies only and contain more than 220 minutes of rare and unreleased music to capture the history of the first years of Uruk Hai.

When this project came to naught, Hugin mooted an alternative vision some years later of releasing a monstrous 40CD box set compiling all of the Uruk Hai output under this same title.  Such a wallet-withering project would be an awesome release but almost impossible to market in sufficient numbers to make any money on it, so the idea quietly gave way to the veritable swarm of individual Uruk Hai box-set compilations that we've seen pop up on Honour and Darkness ever since.

Kadaath first pressing

All of which leads us nicely to this collection.  The "Legacy Of The Tyrant" box-sets are a really nicely thought out collection of songs, featuring tracks drawn from a variety of albums in that 'classic' period of recorded output from 2002-2005.  There are songs from well known demos (e.g. "A Night In The Forest") and less well known ones,  together with some items to make the collectors mouth go dry - previously unreleased songs!  

The recordings broadly date from 2000, 2003 and 2005.  Some are demo versions of existing songs - so not strictly new in the sense of never being heard before - and falling notably into this category is 'Fangorn' from CD3 and 'Midguard Warriors' from CD2.  Amusingly, most of the online references to this box-set refer to the two tracks on CD2 as Widguard rather than Midguard - clearly something lost in translation during the first internet posting, which has been perpetuated ever since.

Nazgul's two copies of this epic release also share something unique in common - the distinct aroma of real ale and a little damage!  During a spot of blogging in the castle library during a dark and stormy night, an errant elbow led to a flagon of ale being spilled all over the work surface, and wetting a myriad of items including these two demos.  Fortunately the damage is light and only around the edges of the inlays, but a bit of a bugger nevertheless!

Anyway, back to the contents: in terms of the previously available material, it's all top-notch stuff albeit it available on a number of previous releases.  Quite whether the world needs another compilation with the "In Durin's Halls" demo on it is debatable, although I suppose there must be interested customers out there who don't already have it on CD already?  Having the 'Die Legende' track (from the "Nazgul" split with Vinterriket) is rather a nice addition though, and sounds as good now as it did then.  

Likewise, the "Songs From The Woods" from 2004 has received a recent tape reissue in the last few years on Depressive Illusions, but is a welcome (and wonderful) song for this collection.  Add in a previously unreleased demo version of 'Fangorn' from the epic "A Night In The Forest" and you have another of Hugin's early epic masterpieces on tape to deliver some chills up the spine.

The previously unreleased material broadly spans two camps: different versions of previously released pieces, and brand new never-before-heard songs.  Of the latter, the dreamy 'Wintersunset' is perhaps the pick of the bunch with its Enya-like feel and mellowness, but let's be honest any new material is worth its weight in gold and nothing here disappoints: it's ambient Tolkien goodness all the way!

TryBy second pressing, with bonus disc and photo cards

In overall terms, one or other of these collections would happily grace any collection of Hugin's music and - through clever pairing of new with old - offers something new for everyone, even seasoned old hacks like Nazgul.  On that basis alone it's a set well worth hunting down, and of course if you can find the 2nd pressing you'll benefit from the additional 3"CDr too, with its lively 'Uruk Hai Part 8'.

Friday, 7 June 2013

ELBENWALD - update

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Elbenwald
Reason for update: An alternate version discovered with different tape panels

When Nazgul reviewed the early Uruk Hai demo "Elbenwald" back in December 2010,the version reviewed had a tape bearing the grey and white logo'd "Pagan Battle Music" tape panel that was prevalent on Uruk Hai tape releases from the mid 2000's period onward.

It had occasionally crossed Nazgul's mind that this was something of a misnomer in terms of the later date that this panel had been introduced to Hugin's other demos.  It might well stem from the fact that the tape that Nazgul has originally collected was a later issue from W.A.R. which used more contemporary labelling, possibly as one of the artist-released copies rather than a Label-released copy.

As we know from underground releases, it's not uncommon for the Label to send a number of copies directly to the artist for re-sale, and in the case of a tape release it's not unlikely for the printed inlay to be sent from the Label but for the artist to source the tape to record onto, hence possible discrepancies in appearance.

All of which is a long-winded way for Nazgul to note that his recent online searches have identified this alternate version of the "Elbenwald" demo, bearing tape panels bearing the Elven Witchcraft/Beverina Productions label logos.  The musical content is exactly the same, but as an variant on a theme worth noting for the purpose of completeness.  And if nothing else, Honour and Darkness is dedicated to the complete cataloguing of the complete works of our Austria hero, Hugin!

Both versions of Elbenwald - together at last!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

14-18 FIRST WORLD WAR COMPILATION [V/A]


The image linked to the Bonemachine track
Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: 14​-​18 First World War Compilation [V/A]
Format: Online download at the Bandcamp site, compiled by Fraction Studio (France) and released on 2 June 2013.  This is the 15th compilation release in an ongoing series.
Edition: unlimited

Track Listing:
01.  DEUTSCHES KULTURGUT - Boîte A Musique (Germany) 03:51  
02.  CYBERFREAKS - Declaration Of War (Greece) 04:48  
03.  To-Bo - Giftgas Im Schützengraben (Germany) 04:50  
04.  DARMSTADT 1313 - Journal De Guerre (France) 07:28
05.  M.NOMIZED - October 1916 (France) 12:12  
06.  NOS project - 1-2-1-2 (Greece) 05:19  
07.  Os125 - La Garde S'Enterre Mais Ne Se Rend Pas (France) 08:04  
08.  Shaun Robert - Black Poppies (England) 04:33
09.  DAVE FUGLEWICZ - World War One (USA) 07:58
10.  mutanT.R.I. - Nurse With Wound (Slovakia) 03:32  
11.  KOPFSCHMERZTABLETTE - N16 Hard 2 (Germany) 06:21  
12.  SYLPHIDES - No War No Dead (Belgium) 04:52  
13.  KORA - Mecontan (France) 04:45  
14.  EXCLAMATION POINT - Crocerossine (Italy) 02:04  
15.  LeRouge - La Fin De Sa Guerre (France) 03:42  
16.  LndMthrFckr - Waiting For A Second (Belgium) 05:31  
17.  IN AETERNAM VALE - Seul (France) 04:40
18.  OSTACOLI SONORI - Inno Alla Morte (Italy) 04:58
19.  OKTUBRE - Tierra De Nadie (Spain) 07:02  
20.  SILENTPORT - Kopfkrieg (Silent War) (Germany) 04:50
21.  HARI HARDMAN - Peace Train (England) 04:27  
22.  CPH321 - Gueule Cassée N°321 (France) 06:08  
23.  LEZET - Finest Earl Gray Across Turbid Waters (Serbia) 02:29
24.  THE IMPLICIT ORDER - End Game (War Over) (USA) 06:53  
25.  MATTHEW BAMBAS - Mobilization April (USA) 07:26
26.  ARS SONOR - World Without... (Sweden) 05:04  
27.  JUKKA-PEKKA KERVINEN - Everything You Hold Worthwhile (Finland) 02:36  
28.  ARVO ZYLO - Upheaval Version 39 (USA) 07:50  
29.  ZREEN TOYZ - Fantômes De Métal, De Chair Et De Boue (France) 05:03
30.  BONEMACHINE - Weak Defence (Austria) 04:48

31.  SVEN MEYER  -  Douaumont (Germany)  03:12  

Another free down load courtesy of the Bandcamp site, this time organised by the Fraction Studio in France.  The stated purpose of this studio, created in August 1983 at Melun, France is to "promote and disseminate cultural facts by the use of image and sound. Production of new music, electro, minimal and other styles all without distinction, etc."

The theme for their 15th compilation is that of the Great War, 1914-1918, so it's only fitting that a new Bonemachine song should grace the 31 song collection.

Hugin's contribution here is presumably not named in honour of the Austrian national football team, but instead reflects upon the nature of defensive fortifications in that epic conflict, of which the Maginot Line in France is one of the best known.

The Bonemachine song is actually one of the highlights on this collection and it's mysterious patterns and vibe bring to mind being caught on the wire in no-man's land, bullets buzzing evilly overhead whilst the ominous distant clanking of cumbersome early tanks freeze the blood in your dying veins....

A compilation well worth exploring, and like all of the Bandcamp pages you can choose to listen to the songs for free then download as many or few as you wish.