Thursday, 26 September 2013

ORC

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Orc (The Black Blood Demo Remixes)
Format: Professionally released tape by Hexenreich Records (Estonia), on 7 August 2012, cat ref HXNRCH040.  The inlay is colour printed on quality glossy paper, and the cassette has printed side panels.  Although implied as unique to this tape release, the very limited edition Uruk Hai CDr release "Elves & Orcs" on W.A.R. Productions also contain the two songs on offer here.
Edition: 66 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
Side A:
01. Orc (part 1)  30:19
Side B:
02. Orc (part 2)  28:58

One the face of it, this release might appear to be rather more of a curiosity than a must have for the average fan, advertising its existence as it does with the promise of remixed Black Blood demo tracks (read: stuff you already have).  Yet this tape release from Hexenreich Records is far from average in terms of content and is in fact well worth some further investigation.

It's now long established that Hugin has a tendency to repeatedly fiddle with his parts, meaning (behave yourself at the back) that older material and songs get stripped down and re-mixed into new creations which sound familiar but which have new life and form of their own.  It's sort of a variation of cloning, but enhancing the DNA to such a point that rather than getting a straight copy you end up with a new and improved version.  Rather like Sauron's creation of the Uruk Hai breed, in fact - a metaphor so dazzlingly appropriate that Nazgul finds it necessary to sit down, breathless from his own ingenuity.  
 
So what exactly are these two monstrous (literally, and figuratively) songs all about?  Well, both Parts 1 and 2 of "Orc" are, to quote the label, "the epic demo remixes of Uruk Hai's album "Black Blood White Hand" and represent an "orcish journey through dark worlds where Orcs rule the night!"  Blimey!  In more straightforward terms, "Orc" is based on Hugin's working tracks for the "Black Blood..." album and also includes unreleased rough tracks that were not used on the final "Black Blood..." album.   

Hugin's logic was simply that he thought they would sound great as a remix 2 years down the line, and there's little doubt that even the most cursory listen will find much to enjoy on this tape.  

Elements sound instantly familiar, both in terms of the overall 'sound' of the album (particularly the percussion, which has that Uruk Hai beat stamped all over it) and in terms of actual extracts from songs on the preceding album, which will trigger distant memories in you.  Part 2 in particular has this effect, with some very familiar keyboard and strings sections wafting out of the speakers, whilst Part 1 is a harder-edged beast, a little more Bonemachine than ethereal faerie-gossamer.

In short, it might be old stuff but it all sounds wonderfully refreshed and Hugin has managed to orc-hestrate the whole thing rather nicely.  And should you disagree, you might find yourself at the wrong end of an orc-hidectomy!

There's long been argument in the musical world over the merits of having different mixes and remixes of existing songs, more so since the advent of CDs in the early 80s and the trend to add remixes onto singles.  Remixes are most prevalent in commercial genres of music, particularly the contemporary R&B/dance scene (yes I know, wash your mouth out Nazgul, for mentioning such genres here) and seems far less common in the underground world of metal, where cover versions seem to be the more frequented path.  The evidence to date suggests that Hugin's occasional dabbles in the field are broadly twofold: either to to improve the fidelity of older songs, some long out of circulation, or simply to alter the songs for artistic purposes.  Certainly there's little evidence that Nazgul has seen to show Hugin's remixes are designed as a money-spinning exercise or to light up the nightclubs of Europe, but then in that latter respect Nazgul doesn't get out that much any more....

Hexenreich should be congratulated for making a very good job of releasing this demo to a high standard and for very little cost: in fact, they were selling tapes on their website for only 3€ apiece, which seems like a crazy price to Nazgul given the quality of the product and the limited number of copies.  Allowing for the fact that Hugin would have had his artist copies to sell on, and one or two other distros might also have had a few copies, supposing Hexenreich had 80% of the stock for resale then their maximum revenue from selling the lot would only be about 160€ or thereabouts.  Not a lot, in other words, barely enough to recover their costs one might think?  The economics of the underground tape scene remain as mysterious as ever....

Incidentally, the original "Black Blood, White Hand" album of 2009 was Uruk Hai's 10 year 'Jubilee' album and was often described as the project's most varied album and "the absolute highlight in their history".  The forthcoming Uruk Hai full-length album "...And All The Magic And Might He Brought" might well outdo even this monumental release - time will tell....

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