Wednesday, 22 October 2014

BALROG - update

Title: Balrog
Format: Professional CDr release on the Depressive Illusions label (Ukraine) in July 2013, cat ref cut 1132, in DVD-size case with full colour covers.
Edition: 33 unnumbered copies
Reason for update: Re-release of this epic as a CDr in its own right, following the original tape appearance and subsequent inclusion in the box-set War Anthems.

Track Listing:
01. Balrog  56:08

Don't be fooled by that deceptively innocent-looking tree on the cover, sitting there minding its own business in a field of pure-driven snow.  It's not a tree at all, really, you know.  Oh no, you see it's all a cunning deceit , designed to trap the unwary and naive.  What's lurking in that field is - in point of fact - a Balrog....

Now, you can trust Nazgul on this one: you really don't want to get on the wrong side of a Balrog.  Tolkien describes them as tall and menacing (roughly twice human size) with the ability to shroud themselves in fire, darkness, and shadow. They frequently appear armed with fiery whips of many thongs and occasionally use long swords to wreak their havoc and misery. They cannot be readily vanquished and only dragons rival their capacity for ferocity and destruction.

There was a time when these creatures were prolific in number: A host of a thousand of them is mentioned in the Quenta Silmarillion, while at the storming of Gondolin Balrogs in the hundreds ride on the backs of the Dragons. They were fierce demons, associated with fire, and armed with their fiery whips and claws like steel they were readily deployed by Morgoth, who delighted in using them to torture his captives.

In the language of Gnomish Balrog literally means 'Cruel Demon', whilst the equivalent in the languages Quendi and Eldar gives a translation as Demon of Might.

Most senior in the hierarchy of Balrogs were Gothmog (who appears in the Silmarillion), described as physically massive and strong, some 12 feet tall, and who wields a black axe and whip of flame.  He holds the titles of the Lord of the Balrogs, the High Captain of Angband, and Marshal of the Hosts.  However, you'll probably be more familiar with the Balrog who dwarves called Durin's Bane.

It survived the defeat of Morgoth in the War of Wrath and escaped to hide beneath the Misty Mountains. For more than five Millennia, the Balrog remained in its deep hiding place at the roots of the mountains in Khazad-dûm, until in the Third Age the mithril-miners of Dwarf-King Durin VI disturbed it (or released it from its prison). Durin was killed by the Balrog, hence the name of Durin's Bane.

The dwarves attempted to fight the Balrog, but its power was far too great. Despite their efforts to hold Khazad-dûm against it, King Náin and many other Dwarves were killed and the survivors were forced to flee. This disaster also reached the Silvan Elves of Lórien, many of whom also fled the "Nameless Terror" (it was not recognized as a Balrog at the time, and even kindly uncle Nazgul picked up some of the blame for the atrocities committed).   For another 500 years, Moria was left to the Balrog; eventually Sauron began to put his plans for war into effect, and he sent Orcs and Trolls to the Misty Mountains to bar all of the passes: Some of these creatures came to Moria, and the Balrog allowed them to remain.

You'll know the story of what eventually happened: the Fellowship of the Ring travelled through Moria on their way to Mount Doom and were attacked in the Chamber of Mazarbul by Orcs. The Fellowship fled through a side door, but when the wizard Gandalf the Grey tried to place a "shutting spell" on the door to block the pursuit behind them, the Balrog entered the chamber on the other side and cast a counter-spell. Gandalf spoke a word of Command to stay the door, but the door shattered and the chamber collapsed. Gandalf was severely weakened by this encounter. 

The company fled with him, but the Orcs and the Balrog, taking a different route, caught up with them at the bridge of Khazad-dûm. The Elf Legolas instantly recognized the Balrog and Gandalf tried to hold the bridge against it. As Gandalf faced the Balrog he proclaimed, "You cannot pass!", and broke the bridge beneath the Balrog. As it fell, the Balrog wrapped its whip about Gandalf's knees, dragging him to the brink.  As the Fellowship looked on in horror, Gandalf cried "Fly, you fools!" and fell.  Rumours that Gandalf's actual words at this time were, "Oh bollocks" are yet to be verified.

After the long fall, the two landed in a subterranean lake, which extinguished the flames of the Balrog's body; however it remained "a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake". They fought in the water, with the Balrog clutching at Gandalf to strangle him, and Gandalf hewing the Balrog with his sword, until finally the Balrog fled into ancient tunnels of unknown origin. Gandalf pursued the creature for eight days, until they climbed to the peak of Zirakzigil, where the Balrog was forced to turn and fight once again, its body erupting into new flame. Here they fought for two days and nights. 

In the end, the Balrog was defeated and cast down, breaking the mountainside where it fell "in ruin". Gandalf himself died following this ordeal, but he was later sent back to Middle-earth with even greater powers, as Gandalf the White, "until his task was finished".

Strong buggers, these Balrogs.  As Nazgul advised earlier, you really don't want to mess with them.

Oh, and the music?  Epic, grandiose, powerful and emotive: you really don't want to mess with Hugin, either.

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