Wednesday, 18 September 2013

URUK HAI / WHEN WE LIVE split

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Uruk Hai / When We Live split release
Format: This demo comes as a CDr pressing on the Depressive Illusions label (Ukraine) and was released in July 2013, cat ref cut1142, and comes in a DVD size case.  The album has a double-sided colour cover, and a picture CDr disc.  
Edition: 33 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

Uruk Hai
01. The Red Dawn  5:21
02. Broken Blade  3:12        
03. Mordor's Coldness  8:12
04. Nightfall (The Red Dawn part 2)  4:33

When We Live
05. Winter's Sorrow  6:32
06. Frozen In Time  2:23
07. Solstice Moon  6:00
08. Shadow's Cold  2:49

A new release in 2013, and one that slipped quietly into circulation like snowflakes landing on linen.

Coldness seems to be something of a theme through this split demo, with When We Live (hailing from deepest Russia, spearheaded by a mysterious type called Kirill) displaying evidence of the frozen tundra through both his song titles and the soundscapes he creates, which have a distinct feel of Symbiosis to them to Nazgul's ears.  It's very chilled out, musically, if you pardon the pun and envelops you in blankets of metaphorical snow as you drift away to places unknown and parts both bleak and frosty (beware the risk of hypothermia).

There is pretty much nothing online about the project or their music: a Bandcamp page exists but nothing is posted on it, and apart from that the band seems to be as mysterious as you like.  It may even be that Kirill has now moved away from this project to devote attention to his new band Crows In The Garden, more of which you can find out here.  Given that the When We Live music is good stuff, it might well be worth checking this other project too.

In terms of the Uruk Hai material, there's a frosty edge to at least one title in the four on offer but the prevailing theme again is drawn from the realms of Tolkien, which we will look at more closely in just a minute.  Musically Hugin has gone back to a more majestic sound on these tracks, part soundtrack and part grandiose and gallant soundscapes.  All four pieces are instrumental, composed in June 2013, and describe imaginary tales of darkened realms far away, alive with magic and wonder.  Hugin himself noted to Nazgul that, "it's a kind of new path for Uruk Hai, I tried to make Uruk Hai sound more epic this year..." and by Treebeard's ancient whiskers, he's pulled it off you know.

Lead off track "The Red Dawn" has a bombastic start and a racy feel thereafter, and takes as its inspiration Théoden's speech to Aragorn in The Two Towers, in which he cries, "Let this be the hour when we draw swords together! Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath, now for ruin and the red dawn! Forth, Eorlingas! Charge!"  Théoden's earlier decision to take his people to safety at the stronghold of Helm's Deep rather than to confront the enemy in open battle is presented by Tolkien as a grave strategic misjudgement, which Gandalf can only make up for by finding Éomer in time.  Such time pressures might account for the frenetic bursts of energy in this song! Typical of many differences between the Lord of the Rings films and books, when Théoden despairs Aragorn convinces him to ride out of the Hornburg (the fortress at Helm's Deep) at sunrise - the red dawn - to confront the enemy whilst in the book this is Théoden's own initiative.
 
The 'Broken Blade' of track two is possibly a reference to a classic weapon from Middle-Earth, Narsil.  This sword was forged during the First Age by the Dwarf Telchar of Nogrod and was broken into two pieces in the overthrow of Sauron at the end of the Second Age, later being reforged as Andúril. In The Two Towers, it is written that Aragorn uses Andúril with a shield from Théoden's armoury during the Battle of the Hornburg.  In a tangent into trivia once again, a perennial Nazgul trait as you will well know, Peter Jackson opted not to make Andúril glow at all in his film, keeping that property only for Sting.  Jackson notes, in his DVD commentary on The Fellowship of the Ring, that this was an oversight, not a deliberate change from the books.

An alternative interpretation of this song is that it has nothing to do with Tolkien whatsoever, but refers instead to the unfortunate habit of Lady Nazgul in breaking all of the good knives in her annual pursuit of extreme Halloween pumpkin carving...

Both 'Broken Blade' and 'Mordor's Coldness' weave melodies and scales to fine effect, some new and some familiar from past Uruk Hai releases (this, for want of a better expression, is recycling Hugin-style!) and it's all good stuff and will be familiar territory for fans of the project.  There are few surprises, but the listener gets a solid dose of what they were expecting and to that end should come away happy.

A final word on the artwork on this release, which is a little unusual reviewed against the the comparable images on recent Uruk Hai releases.  It comprises 'artistically' blurred light effects on a dark background as opposed to images from Middle-Earth or themes of such an ilk. but there's nothing wrong with trying something different once in a while!

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