Tuesday, 18 November 2014

THE SADNESS OF FALLEN LEAVES


Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Sadness Of Fallen Leaves
Format: A split album with Swiss band Black Jade, released in 2013 on the Aphelion Records label (England), cat ref AP078.  This professionally produced CD comes with full colour covers in a standard jewel case.
Edition: 500 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
Uruk Hai
01. Twilight      
02. Music of the Ainur      
03. The Lost Road      
04. Black Speech      
05. The Return of the Shadow      
06. Homeward Bound

Black Jade      
07. Intro: The White Town      
08. Arien      
09. Valinor's Light      
10. We Booze in Golden Halls      
11. Eärendil      
12. Where the Leaves Not Fall      
13. A Homeless Shadow (The Dark Legacy of Túrin Turambar)      
14. Where Eagles Fly      
15. Maedhros’s Pain      
16. Outro: Far Away from Home  

We last encountered Black Jade on the four-way split release Guardians Of The Rings, which featured Onyx, Uruk Hai and Ringbearer in a cavalcade of Middle-Earth infused music.

Here, two of those bands come together once again to blaze a (leafy) path through the realm of orcs and hobbits.  Cold Spring Records webpage tells us that this is "all-new material from Uruk-Hai (Austria) and Black Jade (Switzerland), clocking in at an epic 78 minutes over the 15 tracks. True Black Metal barrages, quiet ethereal songs and even a raucous sing-a-long track, "We Booze In Golden Halls". A musical journey through the realms of JRR Tolkien" and by Gandalf's beard they've hit the nail squarely on the head even if they can't count (there are 16 songs on this album!)

Black Jade's own webpage, the Black Tower, gives us some insight into their half of this split, noting that:  

"The split CD "The Sadness Of Fallen Leaves" with Uruk Hai is a project that was planned for many years. In 2012 Alexander and I decided to finally put the plans into action. The time has come, and our split CD is finished. On this release you will find a stylistic mix. With 'Arien' and 'A Homeless Shadow' there are two bred black metal numbers. 'We Booze In Golden Halls' is also a hard rock number although there is currently no comparable Black Jade song, as it is a true "singalong song". With 'Valinor's Light', 'Where The Leaves Not Fall' and 'Where Eagles Fly' there are three wonderful, quiet songs, sung by Betty."

There is quite a mixture of things going on with Black Jade's songs, as their own description would imply, and the raucous 'We Booze In Golden Halls' does sound like Korpiklaani mugging Alestorm on a dark and stormy night and will get toes tapping right across the Shire.  There's a right old collection of instruments and styles on here too, with death metal vocals and female vocals credited, plus instrumentation including guitars, piano, flute and that most-metal of all instruments, the bagpipes!

It's all good stuff, in a madly schizophrenic sort of way, and is well produced and orchestrated.  Black Jade achieve the slighty crazy result of sounding so varied their songs seem like a compilation of lots of tracks from different bands!  'Where The Leaves Not Fall', for example, is all Gothic in feel with lovely female vocals (think Hekate meets Madder Mortem), but is followed with an opening riff for 'A Homeless Shadow' that is pure 80's thrash metal!  Throw random tracks like the aforementioned 'We Booze In Golden Halls' into the mix - complete with a bagpipe solo no less - and things get properly weird: Nazgul is pleased!

To the Uruk Hai half of proceedings, then.  And strike me down with a feather if our old friend Hugin hasn't gone and surpassed himself once again.  There are some brilliant songs on this release, also containing a lot of variety (a bit of ethereal keyboard here, a bit of black metal style vocal there, and even some virtuoso guitar solos from Joe Matera) and it all works wonderfully well.  Take 'Homeward Bound' for example (not a Simon & Garfunkel  cover version!!): it bounds along at a propulsive pace, much more up-tempo than many of Hugin's compositions, and features what might well be a first on any of his albums - not one, but two bass solos!  You can tap your toes, hum along and beat out the rhythm on a dead dog's head if you feel so inclined, this is catchy stuff!

The Black Metal-esque vocals come along courtesy of Metatron of US band Rex Mundi in 'Music Of The Ainur', another fast paced song albeit with a couple of slower instrumental parts thrown at it in rather a random way, and then we're into track four 'Black Speech' (ironic, in as far as it's an instrumental) in which a moody and atmospheric keyboard opening swells into a guitar dominated conclusion that raise the ravens from the battlements of Castle Nazgul.  

Introductory track 'Twilight' possibly sums up the whole venture in one fell swoop, with piano, keyboards and guitar all entwined to form something far greater together than the sum of their parts.  Marvellous!

There is a lengthy review of this release in issue 42 of Fatal Underground from which the snippets below are drawn.  Suffice to say, I think they liked it too!

"Austrian project Uruk Hai offers musical fare that is far away from any trends or 'typical' performances, and for years has gone his own way. From the beginning the sounds literally enchant and leave you in a world of beauty, immersed in peace and contemplation.  There arises in the music a certain grandeur that is almost something programmed into this artist.  Only occasionally is this silence broken by something stronger and emerging guitars, which add a somewhat progressive element, do the whole thing some good.

In the third piece "The Lost Road" he changes his style and even tends more toward Black Metal, in particular through the dark, slightly nagging vocals used for the first time.  Conversely, the next piece sounds damn romantic, sometimes even a little classical, partly tinged something orchestral and spreading a more than pleasant, warm atmosphere .  The violins and piano parts are very dominant in this piece and build an extremely sensitive mood .However, there's also a chance to hear some harder riffs through pure guitar solos, which just fit in naturally and provide wonderful variety."

The review is equally as effusive about Black Jade, so why not visit the Fatal Underground site for a read of the remainder of the review and take a look at their other interesting material?

You would have to be certifiably bonkers not to add this to your collection of Uruk Hai material, in truth, so Nazgul is pretty sure that he's preaching to the converted through this post and that you'll all have your own copies tucked away safely at home.  If not - for shame!  Go forth and purchase immediately!

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