Monday, 19 January 2015

WELCOME TO ISENGARD


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Welcome To Isengard
Format: Plain silver CDr with single-sided colour paper sleeve released in 2014 by Smell The Stench (Australia), no catalogue reference.
Edition: Hand-numbered to 16 copies

Track Listing:
01. Welcome To Isengard  6:48
02. Elven Might  8:30

Just before Christmas a large parcel arrived at Castle Nazgul from W.A.R. Productions.  The contents were - quite frankly - stupifying!  So many new demos, tapes, CDr's and other material that it was clear that Nazgul would have plenty of items to chew over and digest well into 2015.  And here is the first from that particular batch, "Welcome To Isengard".

As common with Smell The Stench releases, there's more than a whiff of DIY about this one: the paper inlay is a simple single-sided piece of paper folded to produce the cover.  The CDr itself is plain silver and unmarked with the band name or title of the release.  It sits within a plastic wallet, not a jewel case, and has no rear cover.  It comes in a strangely limited number of copies - 16 to be exact - all hand-numbered.  It is - in essence - exactly what we've come to love and expect from Leigh Stench and God bless him for doing it.

One imagines that if this very limited edition release is true to past precedent, the two songs featured will make another appearance on an album or more widely produced release in the months to come.  And this would be a good thing indeed, as both songs are far to good to languish on such an obscure CDr!

Pick of the pair is the title track 'Welcome To Isengard', which bangs along with a rollicking beat in the middle section yet retains plenty of keyboard nuances as well.  Really very catchy - is it just me, or has Hugin suddenly found an ear for a good melody!? - this song kicks off with a strange sound (rather like the scraping of a sword across flagstones) before hitting us with a titanic guitar riff and some chanted voice.  Follow this with a dollop of prime-time Uruk Hai synth, one which sounds so familiar it's almost certainly been reused from a past song somewhere in Hugin's vast back catalogue?  Then we get the swash-buckling rip-roaring part, with keyboards sounding like accordions and all manner of other instrumentation that you might get at an annual pirate convention.  A couple of quiet parts intermixed with some more of the catchy stuff, and that's the song in a nutshell.

If the title of the song had been 'Welcome to Rohan' or something of that ilk the music would have successfully created an image in your mind's eye of weary warriors returning from battle to a raucous feast hall back at their hallowed halls.  However, given that Isengard is practically the most miserable place in Middle Earth  it seems highly unlikely that such a party-charged atmosphere would exist, given it was where Saruman gathered his armies of wolves and orcs and existed in a desperate pit of doom and gloom amidst black pits and vast forges.  

A bit like Morecambe Bay, then, basically.  

Extending the analogy to this environment, one almost feels that the ebb and flow in the song represents Saruman walking pasts various camp fires as groups of orcs enjoy an impromptu hoe-down, forcing them to 'keep the noise down' and look fittingly miserable....at least until he's far enough away to let it rip again!

'Elven Might' comes across as a bit more ponderous by comparison, although given the benefit of repeat listening it proves to be a more subtle song with plenty to commend it: some nice piano touches, bags of character and more than a hint of majesty and splendour.  Mere words can't really do a song if this complexity and composition justice, so Nazgul's advice is to take it on trust that this is a corker, and move right along....

Once again our favourite Austrian wizard has woven his magic, and if these two songs are representative of the likely output from Uruk Hai in 2015 then it should prove to be a vintage year for all...

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