Thursday, 25 September 2014

ELISABETHA / VOW DREAMS split


Band: ELISABETHA
Title: Elisabetha / Vow Dreams
Format: Proposed split release from Hugin's vampyric creation Elisabetha and Italian Black Metal project Vow Dreams.  The artwork shown was intended for a digipak CD pressing.
Edition: Never released

Track Listing:
Elisabetha
01. Prolog (Schrei des Todes)
02. Down There (Concerto del Beherit appropriato all Orgono)
03. Countess Bathori (Concerto del Venom appropriato all Harmonium)
04. Der Fall Valdemar (Nach einer Erzählung von Edgar Allan Poe)
05. Transilvanischer Hunger (Deutschsprachige Prozessaufnahme des gleichnamigen Darkthrone Liedgutes)
Vow Dreams
06. The Living Cemetery
07. Nightmare In The Night
08. Destroyer Of The Creation
09. Fall In Trance

#15 From the Vaults of W.A.R.

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead!"

Thus spake King Henry V (according to Shakespeare) and the sentiment of 'once more into the breach' is most pertinent for this latest foray into the weird world of previously unseen and abandoned works from our favourite son of Austria.  The principle of 'closing up walls with our English dead' may also become relevant should the Elisabetha's vampyric legacy and Vow Dream's living cemetery merge into one almighty outpouring of bloodlust.  Let's proceed with caution...

Taking the Elisabetha tracks first, what we have here are a collection of cover songs from the likes of Venom, Beherit and Darkthrone, augmented by a couple of other songs of the band's own creation: 'Prolog' and 'Der Fall Valdemar'.  The cover versions of 'Countess Bathori' and 'Down There' later appeared as reworked Hrossharsgrani tracks, rearranged and with vocals, on their "Dead:Meat" album.  The other pair of songs are not immediately familiar, but fear not!  Good news from deepest Austria - Hugin has located the master CDr from this proposed release, so more details may well be available soon!

The strangely named Vow Dreams, on the other hand, hail from Italy and according to their entry on Metal Archives are a 'Death/Black Metal' band whose lyrical influences and coverage span 'ghosts, entities and evil'.  Quite what a vow dream might be is open to speculation, though if you venture into those parts of the Internet where dream analysis has credence, it would seem that a dream with a vow is one where the dreamer needs held in honouring the promises they have made.  Then again, perhaps it's just one of those names that when translated into English from its native tongue doesn't quite work?

Anyway, with all this mention of ghosts and anonymous 'entities' it's a case of so far, so supernatural.  Nazgul hasn't had the pleasure of hearing the band's music, though their sole review on Metal Archives in respect of a 2007 demo "Fog on a Cold Cemetery" was not particularly complementary: the best that can be quoted describes it as is "insanely varied Black Metal with a lot of tricks from the book employed to make it sound interesting. I'm talking palm muting, clear guitars, samples, strummed riffs and several caves of trolls worth of vocals."  Palm muting is a guitar playing technique, incidentally!  

This damned with faint praise review is rather better than a second critique of the same demo, which includes the classic line, "This project exists since 1997 and is still stuck at the level of two 30+ years old retards with Emo Borgir and Marduk shirts taking pictures of themselves with candles in their kitchen with the refrigerator in the background -  think 2 men trying to imitate Cradle and Emo Burger and mix classic guitars, keyboards and disgusting screams of a dying frog."

Notwithstanding such verbal assaults on their character, this would have made a tidy little release in its day.  Cool hand-drawn artwork of a distinctly creepy nature (designed and created by Hugin) and interested track listing.  Hugin tells Nazgul that 'Uwe did all the work for this split', presumably in the sense of coordinating with Vow Dreams and getting all the music finalised.  It would seem the the reason for the album not being pressed was simply down to the label (possibly Bloodmorfog Productions, thinks Hugin) losing interest in releasing it.  A great shame.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The W.A.R. Armoury, Part 3: Swords

The W.A.R. swords
The 'Broadsword'
The 'not so broadsword'

The W.A.R. Armoury, Part 3
Items: Swords

Whoops!  What was originally intended to be an occasional series has become so sporadic it has almost disappeared entirely!

Introduced so long ago that Nazgul feels obliged to remind you what the devil this series is all about, the short version of the story is that in a moment of madness Nazgul purchased from Hugin a substantial proportion of his old props, weapons and armour as featured on a myriad of demos and albums over the years.  It's not as if Nazgul is trying to monopolise the second-hand market in all things Hugin, you understand, as many of these items had been publically advertised on Hugin's Facebook page for quite some time before Nazgul made his offer.  But as it turns out, no one else seemed to want to own these interesting items and the logic of keeping this stuff all together with Hugin's musical output does make a lot of sense (even though the antiquated wooden floors of the Castle Library creaks and groans alarmingly with the weight of these items pressing down upon it).

For a reintroduction to this series, do take a look at Part One when some particularly weighty chainmail was examined, and also Part Two when Hugin's flail was put to good use.

Assuming you're now up to speed and longing to hear about some other sharp and dangerous objects, let's get on with the subject of today's post: Hugin's swords!  Now, the photos accompanying this post will have given you a flavour for how they were used in promotional shoots in the past, and it has to be said that they are fine specimens of bone-crushing weaponry.  Nazgul has two swords in his collection, and in the fine tradition of a Crocodile Dundee meme ("that's not a knife: THAT's a knife!") one is significantly - even hilariously - larger than the other.  

Which reminds Nazgul of the merry rhyme of the young man from Devizes, whose balls were of different sizes, but that's a story for another day and certainly not for an audience as refined and polite as those of you reading Honour and Darkness...


Where were we?  Ah yes, the swords!  There are many, many types of sword depending on size, shape, purpose and antiquity, and poor old Nazgul is no expert in these matters.  Let us just conclude that the smaller of the two is manageable in a fight and would leave your adversary with some very nasty gashes, whilst the bigger one (which Nazgul would deem to be a two-handed broadsword or something of that ilk) is positively alarming in size.  Which brings to mind another young man, this time from Nantucket, but once again a much needed sense of propriety comes into play!

Having professed ignorance of sword classifications, it should be noted that to my eye this pair are similar in style to the classic Viking sword.  A weapon of the Viking Age, it was a development of the Roman spatha, evolving out of the 8th century and into the classical knightly sword in the 11th century. Early Viking Age swords were pattern welded, though later blades were made of more homogeneous steel. Of particular note is the "Ulfberht" subset, which used steel of higher purity and carbon content than its peers.  Blade lengths varied from 71-84cm, and all have short single-handed hilts with triangle, lobed or cocked-hat style pommels (usually iron).  And, by and large, that's what we're looking at here.

With young Nazgul now two and a half years of age and scampering freely around the Castle causing havoc and destruction in equal measure, the original plan to have these swords mounted on the walls of the Library has been deferred, at least until the prospect of them falling on his head or having him try to reach up and touch/pull/swing on the blades has passed.  They remain hidden yet accessible, ready to be used in stout defence of the Hugin collection should an unwelcome intruder venture unwisely through the portcullis. 

And trust me, you'd not want to argue with anyone wielding these bad boys!  Though it has to be said, to actually whirl one of these things around for a period of time you'd need to be pretty fit, as they are far from light.  Indeed, having commented in the original Armoury post about the weight of the chainmail, you have to ponder how on earth fully-kitted out knights and armoured warriors had the stamina to get themselves to a battlefield without passing out from their exertions, let alone fight their way though the ensuing melee?!

You can see the length of the Broadsword against 6' Hugin... !
Of course, it's one thing to admire such items within the confines and privacy of your own castle, but what of handling them in the modern world.  What might that be like?  Let's hand over to Hugin:

"It was always funny to do the outdoor shots: the expressions on the faces of people who watched me always looked very funny and I felt like an idiot sometimes when I jumped out of the car in full amour with swords... :-)

The best shots I did were in winter 1999/2000 at the castle of Wildberg wearing only the fur and helmet at minus 10 degrees!  Brrrrr that was freezing - my fingers were sticking to the iron of the sword because of the cold!  I can imagine how knights felt in winter time in the dark ages!  Most of the shots where done with my Nikon cam by my mum - she had great fun doing it :-)  Thx mum ..."


They say an artist suffers for his art, but minus 10 degrees wearing only a small furry rug is surely above and beyond the call of duty?!  And you can just picture the slack jawed amazement of passers-by who glimpsed a 6' plus man dressed in period armour leaping from a car and waving swords, flails and other paraphernalia around in the freezing snow for a few minutes before scooting back to where he came from!  Priceless!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

KRIEG & ZEIT


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Krieg & Zeit
Format: Proposed artwork for a tape release from the mighty Bonemachine, designed in colour and presumably intended to be printed that way.  This is likely to have been a self-released demo.
Edition: Not released

Track Listing:
01. Schall & Rauch  8.02
02. Die Vierte Dimension  1.00
03. Raserei (Klangniederschrift Eines Krieges In 2 Akten)  7.38
04. Endzeitensturm  8.17
05. Flucht Nach Vor!  2.27

#14 From the Vaults of W.A.R.

Another anomaly from the seemingly infinite W.A.R. archives, housed deep inside abandoned salt mines in the Austrian countryside.  Or was that The Monuments Men, in which George Clooney and entourage rummage high and low across war-torn Europe in a vain attempt to locate a copy of Uruk Hai's "Battle Magic" tape?  It all gets a bit confusing sometimes here at Castle Nazgul, with nothing ever being quite what it seems.

And today's offering is also not quite what it seems: another long-lost piece of artwork designed for a release that never was, and which morphed into something else that was officially released.

Bonemachine are the band in question. "Krieg & Zeit" ('War & Time') was a recording made in the period 2002-2003 in Linz, featuring R.K. (Roland) as guest musician on guitar.  Roland and Hugin, you will remember, have long been partners in crime and their exploits date back (in a musical sense at least) to 1984 and fledgling punk band Schlaganfall.

The proposed artwork for this one has an interesting heritage, as elements of it were subsequently incorporated into the Uruk Hai release "A Night In The Forest".  The striking 'winking face' motif was put onto the cover of that Uruk Hai release in 2004 (CD version) and 2005 (tape version) but using a different background image - unsurprisingly, given the title, a forest scene.  Here, the background is a more open countryside scene, and in full colour it does look rather splendid.  Nazgul had always assumed that the face was carved into a stone tablet, but looking at it again in colour on this release the little notch on the top right edge of the design suggests a metal construction rather than stone?  I wonder....?

In terms of the music, these 5 songs did actually appear on a tape (and indeed a CDr) eventually, namely the "Zeit" demo of 2006.  And, if you're keeping score, also on the "Schwarzes Jerusalem" split CDr with Elymas.  The only difference to note is that on the "Zeit" demo there is a modest change to the title of track two, in that it becomes 'Die 4 Dimension' as opposed to 'Die Vierte Dimension'.  

There remain a few unanswered questions about this release: what exactly is Hugin looking at through the window, one can't help but wonder?  Was the rainbow over the field a real one, or photoshopped after the fact?  And why is there an owl in the middle of the compass design?!  Alas, questions destined to remain unanswered ... at least for now.

Even though the music from this abandoned release did eventually emerge, it's rather a shame that this particular version of the demo was not issued as it does look excellent printed off as a mocked-up release.  There could be a whole new industry spawned here, taking the 'what if' artwork to create alternative versions of existing releases.  But then again, how much more confusion can Nazgul withstand...?!

Friday, 12 September 2014

ANOTHER MOON


Band: EISMOND
Title: Another Moon
Format: A split CDr release on the Aschefruehling Records label (Austria), cat ref AR-0053, released in 2013.  The second band featured on the album is Karg, a 'dark drone ambient' project from Germany.  This release is packaged in a DVD case and has a professionally printed colour cover and picture disc which is on a burgundy red disc.  Also included is a sticker promoting the label.
Edition: Limited to 66 unnumbered copies

Track Listing
Eismond
01. Space Dust  10:36
02. Pulsar  7:00
03. Eclipse Of The Moon  3:41
04. Space Station No. 6  7:48
Karg
05. Crater  4:59
06. Loop  6:01
07. Spiral  4:46
08. Ring  4:17

As noted in the recently posted interview in Fatal Underground #42, the original plan in respect of this CD had been for Eismond to release a split-demo with Noldor, but due to the right-wing leanings of that latter project the decision was taken to cancel that release and instead proceed with a joint release with Germany project Karg.  And here it is, "Another Moon", in large case format, with a disc burgundy red in a shade we've not seen since the likes of "Blutreich" or "Barbarians".

The Eismond tracks are essentially instrumental pieces that you will have subsequently come across in slightly different iterations on recent Eismond albums.  They were recorded without input from Alex's Eismond bandmate Jaron (vocals/guitars), so the pieces have the benefit of being largely ambient keyboard soundscapes in the grand Hugin tradition, but the downside of sounding a little retrograde compared to the more polished recent Eismond albums.  But then again, this is a collection of demo recordings and by default they are not the final product, so one might expect such a situation.

The 4 tracks make for an interesting listen though, and fall into the category of mood setting background auditory phenomena rather than in-yer-face singalongs!  Sadly, fourth track 'Space Station No. 6' isn't an updated, blackened metal/ambient take on Montrose's 1973 classic 'Space Station No. 5', but hey - you can't have everything!

Despite Jaron's absence there is still a variety of instrumentation used on this demo.  At times, Hugin is definitely investigating and expanding his prog rock influences, whereas at other times the sounds are classic Uruk Hai in nature.  Taken together in one big melting pot, it's an intergalactic journey of stellar proportions! 

Karg, on the other hand, take the space ambient theme to the extreme and serve up some sparse and barren passages (in fact, I think Karg actually means 'barren' in German) with lots of space between the 'music'.  Very reminiscent of projects like Saturn Form Essence, and in a similar vein once you've heard a few tracks you've really heard all there is to be heard.  Nothing desperately memorable here, in other words, but if it floats your boat (spaceship?) you'll not go far wrong.

Apologies once again for the time lag between posts, by the way.  Who knew adding one small body into the Castle Nazgul family would prove to be so time intensive and detract from keeping Honour and Darkness up to date more regularly...!?

Monday, 8 September 2014

...AND ALL THE MAGIC & MIGHT HE BROUGHT - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: "...And All The Magic & Might He Brought"
Reason for update: Tape release for this album
Format: Released in 2014 on the Atramentum Productions label (Canada), cat ref AtramC068.  This professional release comes as a lurid green tape!
Edition: Hand numbered edition of 100 copies

Track Listing:
01. From the Ashes 03:37
02. Far Away 06:00
03. Ancient Wisdom 05:13
04. Rise & Fall 04:57
05. Fallen Leaves 03:42
06. The Door to the Paths of the Dead 07:06
07. Valinor 02:28
08. Immortality 14:04
09. Wrath 04:07

Taking the blurb from the Atramentum site as our starting point, we learn that Alex's Uruk Hai project "is not only an ambient project, since the compositions also contain black metal-elements and several sound-F/X to increase the atmosphere. Sounds of nature, speech-samples and battle noises definitely find their place in the musical world of Uruk Hai. To sum it up: PAGAN BATTLE AMBIENT!"  Quite possibly a soundbite from the man himself, and why not!?

This tape release - in an edition of just 100 copies, of which Nazgul is proud own #1 as pictured - is a nice looking thing, and complements the CD version of the album previously reviewed here.  The tape is spectacularly green, and originally Nazgul thought it was the outer box that conveyed this lurid colour but no - out of its case, the greenness is there for all to witness!

With the tape format still popular in some parts of the world - Poland and Indonesia to randomly name two - the label should have little difficultly in shifting 100 units of this latest magnum opus from Uruk Hai.  Indeed, a recent story posted on the BBC website had the improbable but presumably true fact that "...one in 10 young people has bought a music cassette tape in the last month, a new survey done to coincide with Record Store Day suggests."  Really?!

You lose out on the 4 bonus songs that came on the CD digipak pressing of this album, of course, but otherwise if collecting is your bag then this should be on the shopping list!

There is another update to come on this release, in a standard jewel case edition with brand new artwork, but that's another update for another day....

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