Wednesday, 23 October 2013

THE URUK HAI

Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Uruk Hai (1999-2012)
Format: Compilation CDr on the Depressive Illusions label (Ukraine) released in July 2013, cat ref cut1163.  This release comes as a single disc in a DVD-sized case, with full colour inlays and picture disc, with a business card for the label tucked inside the cover.
Edition: Hand-numbered in an edition of 33 copies

Track listing:
01. Uruk Hai part 1 (1999 original version)  7.31
02. Uruk Hai part 1 (2010 re-mastered version)  13.22
03. Uruk Hai part 2  4.01
04. Uruk Hai part 3  0.39
05. Uruk Hai part 4  2.22
06. Uruk Hai part 5  8.09
07. Uruk Hai part 6  10.50
08. Uruk Hai part 7  12.26
09. Uruk Hai part 8  9.55

This, I think you'd have to agree, is a simple but very good idea.  Take the many and various parts of Hugin's "Uruk Hai" song, compile them onto a handy single-disc release, documenting the saga from its inception in 1999 through to the latest instalment, wrap in some fancy artwork and sell.  Job done, a simple idea but one that ought to be a stone-cold success, particularly given the limited number of available copies (this time, incidentally, hand-numbered, which has not always been the way with recent Depressive Illusion limited editions).  

This being such a simple and effective idea, it's sort of been done before: this CD edition builds on a previous tape-only compilation of songs in the "Uruk Hai" series, that being the "Nachtschwarze Momente / The Uruk Hai" split release featuring Vinterriket and Uruk Hai of 2010, which covered the saga up to Part 5.  Successive years have witnessed successive instalments, hence the updated compilation you see being reviewed here today (and with the benefit of being in a more accessible format).

As a loyal and fervent follower of Uruk Hai you will - of course - be able to recite from memory the original demos on which the individual Parts reside, but just for the sake of convenience here's a handy summary for you of some of the principal locations for these songs (they tend to pop up here and there, with one notable exception):

Part 1 (1999 version)  -  "In Durin's Halls" (1999), "Elbenwald" (2000), and also "Uber die Nebelberge Weit" (2000)
Part 1 (2010 version)  -  "In Durin's Halls (Return To The Mines Of Moria)"  (2010)
Part 2  -  Originally an unreleased rehearsal track, it was subsequently featured on the bonus disc of the "Legacy Of The Tyrant" box-set (2012)
Part 3  -  "Elbenmacht" (2004)
Part 4  -  "Valkyrian Romance" (2006)
Part 5  -  "Black Blood, White Hand" (2009) and also "Angband" (2010)
Part 6  -  "Elbentraum" (2010)
Part 7  -  Exclusive to this release!
Part 8  -  "Legacy Of The Tyrant" (2012)

If you haven't manage to acquire all of the individual releases above, then all the more reason to grab a copy of this compendium whilst you still can.  Additional and notable input to these tracks has come in the form of guitar parts from Dimo Dimov (Svarrogh) on Part 5, and in the form of vocals/screams from Pr. Sergiy (Moloch) on the re-mastered Part 1.  And even if you have, the exclusive inclusion of a decidedly Euro-pop sounding Part 7 on this set might well tip the balance into making you reach for your wallet and heading off to Depressive Illusions.  

Well, it's all great stuff - reminiscent of a school reunion when friends you've not seen for ages all gather together and remind you just what a splendid bunch you used to be together.  They form a diverse range of songs, with the years separating them also being a timeline to witness how Hugin's own skills of composition and musical ability have changed.  It was also a masterstroke to put the original 1999 version of Part 1 as the lead-off song and then to follow it with a re-mastered and far more meaty reworking from 2010 (well, I suppose putting Part 1 first might be a bit of a given, but heck - it works well).  

Nazgul, it must be remembered, has not always been a fan of Hugin's tinkering with past songs, oft time preferring the purity of the original to later versions, but on this occasion the 2010 version is massively more powerful.  It's a little like stripping down a vintage engine into its constituent parts, refurbishing all of the components and then reassembling into something that makes one hell of a good noise!

Taken as a whole this is an excellent journey through orc-infested Middle-Earth, even if Part 7 does sounds a little like we've gone on a detour via the Misty Mountains' only gay disco on the way.  This isn't intended to be a concept album of course, so there's no implied or explicit thread to tie these songs together, other than Hugin's own imagination and keyboard wizardry. 

That said, as a collection of ambient-metal tracks you won't go far wrong in giving this some repeated air-time and it would seem a sensible and timely investment to grab one of the few remaining copies whilst you are able to.  

The cover artwork is a classic one, and very reminiscent of the sort of designs that used to appear in the Citadel Miniature catalogues of lead fantasy war-gaming figures.  And that is also a very good thing.

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