Tuesday, 31 December 2013

URUK HAI / LOUSBERG split CD

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Uruk Hai / Lousberg split
Format: Professionally released CD-r in pro-printed covers by Depressive Illusions (Ukraine), catalogue reference cut 1249, released in 2013 in DVD sized case.  This is a split release between Austria's Uruk Hai and Lousberg (Germany).  There are three package options advertised on the Depressive Illusions web-site to purchase this item with Uruk Hai logo patches, although there is but one version of the CD available. The full details are below.
Edition: 33 copies

Track Listing:
Uruk Hai
01. Elbenland  1.38 
02. Auenland  5.04
03. Before The Battle  6.26 
04. Elbenmacht  15.43
Lousberg
05. Wurmtal  4.11
06. Auf Dem Land  10.09 
07. Aachener Wald  6.52
08. Reinland  15.27

I don't know about you but there are certain words or phrase that I cannot read without inadvertently misreading them, if you follow me.  A classic example is 'breaded fish', which invariably - and somewhat bizarrely - I will always read as 'bearded fish'.  Another is 'shopfitters', which in Nazgul's clearly suspicious mind becomes 'shoplifters' every time I see it.  This phenomenon is not unique to Nazgul, fortunately, and is generally known as 'word blindness'.  And it all becomes quite pertinent with this release, as for years Nazgul has read the name of the other band on this split release as 'Louisberg' (with an i) and not plain old Lousberg.  As a result, in his mind's eye, Nazgul was certain that there going to be connections to the same-named North Carolina town, the American Civil War, and all matters military.

But not a bit of it, in fact.  Lousberg is a place near Aachen, in Germany.  Not a Confederate flag or musket to be seen.  There is a military connection though: Standing on a hill near the centre of the German city of Aachen the massive Lousberg Bunker served as the Wehrmacht command centre as Nazi troops fought a desperate, but ultimately futile, battle in September and October 1944 to stop Aachen becoming the first German city to fall to Allied troops in the west.  However, the Lousberg itself pre-dates this and was designed as a park in Napoleonic times, and dominates the whole of the town. Nazgul is assured that from several vantage points you have outstanding views of the city and beyond that to frontiers with Belgium and Holland.

According to legend (which is far more interesting than Napoleonic gardening design) the Lousberg was created by Satan himself as an act of revenge on the city of Aachen. The Devil had been tricked by the people of Aachen once before, in a complicated matter involving the Cathedral doors, a wolf, the Devil's thumb and a door knocker.  Clearly just another Friday night out in Aachen, then.  However, the Devil was so enraged about this embarrassment that he intended to cover the city and the Cathedral with a mountain of sand, and for this purpose he got a large bag of sand from the beach. On his way back to the city, he was labouring under the heavy load when he met a farmer's wife with badly worn shoes and asked her the way back to Aachen. 

The farmer's wife recognized him ("damn these horns, if only I'd worn a hat!") and told him that she was just coming from Aachen. She said that she had bought her new shoes in Aachen and now they were already totally worn – this was how far it was back to the town.  Hearing this news, the Devil dropped the sand sack, angry and exhausted. The spot where the Devil dropped the sack is the site of the Lousberg.

It's not the first time that Lousberg have come to the attention of Honour and Darkness.  The band were supposed to have been on the other side of a split release with Hrefnesholt about 4 or 5 years ago - the split tape "Unruahnocht / Lousberg" - which never actually came to fruition.  Since then nothing had been heard from the band, at least in context of any of Hugin's releases, so this split release with Uruk Hai came as rather a pleasant surprise.

And this was the first time that Nazgul had really had a chance to listen to Lousberg's music in any depth, and it has to be said that it has proven to be a rewarding experience.  If you've not yet purchased this CD then you can check out a bespoke medley on YouTube of this very release for yourself.  Nazgul's overriding impression of the dark ambient nature of the band is that it is is eminently listenable, throwing in animal sounds with some dark and disconsolate keyboards, making for a somewhat cheerless atmosphere.  And this is a good thing in dark ambient terms, as the overall effect is one of foreboding and melancholy.

There's precious little online about Lousberg other than their own Facebook page, but the project (led by JanuZ) espouses "Music for searching hearts, never mind if black or bright. Dedicated to the mighty spirit of nature, of times which were and times which come!"

For Uruk Hai fans, I suppose a reasonable starting point is to ask which version of the band turned up on this release - the 'new direction' pseudo power-metal band, or the 'old school' battle ambient project?  Well, the answer to that is very much in the latter category, with so many nods back to the "A Night In The Forest" period of classic Uruk Hai that you'll bang your head against a tree before you can say "mind that Ent!"  The overall composition of the songs is keyboard based, and range from the short introduction of 'Elbenland' to more lengthy songs like 'Elbenmacht'.

The lead-off track is a short introduction, pleasant and over all too quickly.  This is followed by 'Auenland' (which Nazgul believes translates to Shire, as in the home of the Hobbits, those furry-footed little bastards) which is the stand-out track on the Uruk Hai side of this album.  It's driven by a keyboard melody that brings to mind the breathing of an animal, or the washing of the tide up and down a shingle beach.  On top of this comes a piano refrain, sounding rather like the sort of thing that Moby was doing on his 'Porcelain' single.  And this is no bad thing, actually, as it gives the track a restful and effortless quality that represents the Shire well.  The only criticism is that it goes on for quite some time without any other variation, but to have it playing in the background is still a splendid experience.

Third song 'Before The Battle' succeeds in its quest of creating an atmosphere of trepidation and unease mingled with heroic surges and epic aspirations!  One can almost picture oneself on the battle line, jagged scimitar in one sweaty claw and your company's one-eyed banner snapping proudly on your back, ready to rush the Elvish scum and thrust your steel where the sun doesn't shine.  Aaah, the halcyon days of Elf-splitting.  Happy times.  Closing track 'Elbenmacht' is the least memorable track on the Uruk Hai half of the piece, but creates a sonic canvass for the listener to paint his or her own picture on in the pursuit of Middle-Earth fantasies.
 
There are three different purchase options for this release on the Depressive Illusions website. Option 1 sees you able to pick up just the CD itself for the modest sum of €6.66.  Option 2 adds in a woven Uruk Hai patch and will set you back €11.66, whilst Option 3 sees two different style woven patches together with the CD for €16.66.  As ever, you pays your money and takes your choice!  One patch is of the old band logo and the other the new, and Nazgul would imagine the ever-accommodating Sergiy at Depressive Illusions would be flexible about which one you bought if you go down the route of Option 2.

Reserving the right to be slightly odd about the way he organizes his posts, Nazgul will feature the two patches in an update to this post as they are worth a closer look!

Overall, Nazgul gives this release a solid two thumbs up: one more than poor old Beelzebub, whose thumb allegedly resides inside the lion-shaped door knocker of Aachen cathedral for reasons far too convoluted to get into here...!  Well worth paying a visit to the Depressive Illusions site to get your own copy whilst they still have a few.

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