Friday, 16 August 2013

URUK HAI / ONYX split release

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Uruk Hai / Onyx split
Format: Both a CDr and cassette tape version exists of this release.  The CDr pressing was released by the Depressive Illusions label on 26 July 2013, cat ref cut1117, and comes in a DVD-sized box with full colour covers.  The tape pressing was released on the Wulfrune Worxx label in the same year, cat ref WW434, and has a black and white pro-printed inlay.  Both versions contain the same songs but have different artwork.
Edition: The CDr pressing is limited to 33 unnumbered copies, and the tape version is limited to 66 hand-numbered copies.

Track Listing:
Uruk Hai
01. The Return Of The Fallen Warriors
02. Magical Touch
03. Grey Elves
04. Mardil - The Faithful
Onyx
05. Castle Courtyard  
06. Castle Garden  
07. Castle Corridors  
08. Castle Library  
09. Castle Dungeon  

Whispers echoing in the hallowed halls of W.A.R. Productions give a strong indication that the forthcoming Uruk Hai album "And All The Magic And Might He Brought" will be a distinctly more 'metal' album than heard from this project in the past few years.  Such a prospect will doubtless delight and alarm the existing fan-base in equal numbers, but until that album is unveiled and digested this split release with American band Onyx positions Uruk Hai squarely in the instrumental and epic vein redolent of massive past works such as "Darkness" or "Cirith Ungol".  The difference here is that rather than one long track being the heart of the recording, we have four smaller songs to enjoy in a purely instrumental capacity.  'Tis like a return to the days of "Honour" and demos of that ilk, thinks Nazgul, and the world is a better place for it.

Rooted deep in the heart of Tolkien's Middle-Earth as you might expect, the four tracks take their inspiration from elements of the great author's work.  Tolkien's works are littered with fallen warriors, of course, so you could take the opening track to be a tribute to pretty much anyone you choose to, so let Nazgul propose that it's mournful tune pays homage to that returning army of the dead, the Dead Men of Dunharrow.  Regulars at Nazgul's local pub they are, so a much deserved shout goes out to the boys.  

'Magical Touch' is thankfully nothing to do with the similarly named Aerosmith song, but is instead another keyboard-led paen to magical deeds within Middle-Earth.  Nazgul, being on such a roll in making things up as he goes along, has arbitrarily decided to dedicate this song to the mysterious Palantír: a magical artifact that functions somewhat like a crystal ball.  When one looks into a palantír, one can communicate with other such stones and anyone who might be looking into them; beings of great power can manipulate the stones to see virtually any part of the world. They were made by the Elves of Valinor, you know.... 


Third song "Grey Elves" is self-explanatory, being an ode to the most noble of the Elven race, whilst closing track 'Mardil - The Faithful' is pretty specific and therefore not subject to Nazgul's increasingly bizarre flights of fanciful interpretation: Mardil 'the Faithful' was the first Ruling Steward of Gondor during the last part of the reign of King Eärnil II and throughout the reign of his son, Eärnur. Mardil had the difficult task of restraining Eärnur's urge to fight me, errr, that is the Lord of the Nazgul, the Witch-king of Angmar, the chief of the Ringwraiths, who accused Eärnur after the Battle of Fornost of being afraid to fight him.  

The King of Minas Morgul (another of my many titles, one can't turn around nowadays without knocking up against another title) reminded Eärnur of this and challenged him at the start of his reign. Although Eärnur wanted to fight the King of Morgul he was restrained with difficulty by Mardil.  But when the King of Morgul issued a second challenge Eärnur would not be restrained. He marched to Minas Morgul and was never seen again (Nazgul kicked his arse).

Eärnur had never married and had no children, so Mardil took it upon himself to rule Gondor. There was no one with a clear and unassailable claim to the throne, so the rule of the Stewards was a way of averting civil war. Because the fate of the King was then unknown, Mardil made an oath to rule until "the King returns".  However, it was soon learned that Eärnur had met certain death at Minas Morgul (Ha! Nazgul told you, I kicked his arse), and upon Mardil's death his son Eradan succeeded him as the second Ruling Steward of Gondor.

The musical journey created by Hugin on these four songs is both whimsical and transcendent, literally dragging you into legendary realms of epic battle and sweeping landscapes.  Just behave yourself whilst you're there, or Nazgul will come and kick your arse too!


And now to the Onyx side of this split.  There are some dark ambient gems amongst the songs on this album, with the added bonus of ancient sounding instrumentation to give an authentic feel of days gone by (Nazgul is sure he heard a harpsichord somewhere in the mix!)  For a new band there is definitely promise amongst these songs, and this will be a project well worth keeping a beady eye on in the years to come.

Clearly anyone whose songs reference castles to such an extent must either be (i) medieval in the extreme, (ii) intent on pushing Castle Nazgul as the tourist attraction to visit in 2013, or (iii)  crazy like a fox!  In order to understand where Onyx sits in all of this, Nazgul mobilised the beacon atop the battlements of Castle Nazgul in order to facilitate a short exchange with the man behind the project.

Q1: Hails, Onyx!  Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and where you are based?
Hi Nazgul, I am from the state of Maryland in the United States. I don't have much to say about myself I'm afraid, but I can tell you my first name is Elliott, if that's of any interest.

Q2: Can you tell us about the philosophy behind Onyx, and from where the name "Ceyatatar" derives [mentioned in the credits on the album cover]?
Onyx just seemed like a cool name for a project. But the primary musical theme is a fantasy world I've created. I'm an enormous Tolkien fan but I felt that I would leave that theme to the masters (in my opinion) of the genre. But it draws influence from the fantasy worlds of the video game/book series "Baldur's Gate", "Icewind Dale" and Bethesda Softwork's "The Elder Scrolls" series. I'm glad you have asked this question as I've yet to speak about what Onyx is and as I said it is a fantasy world but it is one that is left to ultimate interpretation as it is completely devoid of life. Granted this may not let the listener completely relate to how I see it but this is meant to be that you are the only person discovering this strange land for the first time in many years and it is yours alone to explore. The name Ceyatatar is borrowed from The Elder Scrolls series of one of their fictional languages called the Ayleid language (similar to the Elvish language from Tolkien's world) which translates to "Shadow of the Fatherwoods".
 
Q3: How would you describe your music in general, and in particular the tracks on this split release?
I would describe this music as dark ambient/neo-classical with many keyboard sounds and melodies but also I try to make this music have a lot of atmosphere as there is only so much I can accomplish on melody alone. The tracks on the split release are done in the same style as the first full length I have released which is a keyboard heavy with melody sound.

Q4: A theme involving a Castle clearly runs throughout the recording - does this represent a concept piece of any sort, or a homage to a place you know?

The castle theme is only coincidental in relation to Castle Nazgul :o) this is about a center piece of the Onyx fantasy world which is a rather large castle completely abandoned by people/life. I wanted to supplement the theme on the first full-length and speak (well speak musically) more about the castle that was referenced and try and breathe some more life into it.
 
Q5: For those who have not yet heard Onyx, can you give us some comparisons to bands or songs that you have been influenced by?

Yes, I am heavily influenced by Uruk-Hai and as such that is the best comparison I can make. But I also can say that you will find that Onyx sounds a bit like Ringbearer from Canada. I also am very much influenced by the ambient tracks that you will hear dotted through out Burzum's discography.
 
Q6: How did this split release come about?  Were the Depressive Illusion and Wulfrune Worxx labels working with you already?
This split came about after contacting Hugin regarding buying some Uruk-Hai material, haha. But I spoke to him about seeing if he had any interest in doing a split with a different project. This was of course the first time I spoke to Hugin so I was a bit starstruck haha but primarily it was out of respect for Hugin. So later on I asked if he wanted to do a split with Onyx and it seemed like a great idea and so we decided to compose the material. I had not worked with the Depressive Illusions label before but I am very glad to say that I have worked with them now. I had worked with Wulfrune Worxx before briefly to release the first full length tape from Onyx. And both are very pleasant and easy to reach labels that I recommend people attempt to work with in the future.

Q7: Are you familiar with Hugin's music, and if so do you have a favourite band of his or song that he has recorded?
Oh yes, I have been a big fan of Uruk-Hai for many years and I recently have been able to discover one of his new projects called Eismond and both are my personal favourites but I also really enjoy his material with Hrossharsgrani. Frankly anything Hugin has done is excellent and has influenced me to make my own material.

Q8: Clearly both releasing a split with Uruk Hai and featuring in Honour & Darkness puts you well on the way to success!! What will 2013 see from Onyx and any other projects you are involved in?
Thanks very much!  2013 has one split in the works which I can say I am pleased to be doing a split with Ringbearer and that should be available by the end of the year.  As for 2014 then I cannot say as that's quite a way away now.
 
Q9: Do you have any thoughts for Hugin that you'd like to say on Honour and Darkness?

Sure, Hugin, thanks again for all your assistance. I wouldn't be able to be doing any of this without your help my friend.
 
Q10: ...And any thoughts for the readers of Honour and Darkness?
Please continue to read this blog for all the great information on the work of Hugin and to hear about the best and latest in great music.

Q11: Where should readers look online to learn more about your band and buy your music?

The two best sources are the official Facebook page (Facebook.com/onyxambient123) and the Bandcamp page where you can download for name your price the entire Onyx discography. I'll also make it a point to talk about where you can purchase physical copies and upcoming releases.

Thanks for your time, Ceyatatar!
Thanks for the interest, Nazgul. Have a good day!


Depressive Illusions are still advertising this split release as available in CDr format from their site, so if your interest has been suitably piqued then check out their shop and tell them that Nazgul sent you...

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