Wednesday, 11 March 2015

ELBENSTAHL



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Elbenstahl
Format: Professional CD in jewel case with 4 page full-colour booklet released on the Metallic Media label (Illinois, USA) on 22 January 2015, cat ref METALLIC 050.  This is an all instrumental compendium of previously released and new songs, recorded between 2013 and 2014.  Cover artwork and design by Hugin, while the 'Orc' illustrations inside the booklet are by Ruta Silders.
Edition: Limited to 500 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01.  Blessed Realm  8.15
02.  Shadow Dance  4.14
03.  Return Of The Fallen Warriors  5.00 
04.  Magic  12.02 
05.  At The Heart Of The Forest  6.26
06.  Elbisch Blut  3.35 
07.  Western Shores  6.02 
08.  The Orc  8.02 
09.  The Golden Age Of Gondor  7.32 
10.  The Ash Mountains  10.49 
11.  The Orc (Part 2)  2.41 
12.  Dark Shadows (Outro)  1.23 

No time for a vacation this year?  Plans for a summer holiday thwarted by lack of time or funds?  Then invest in Uruk Hai's "Elbenstahl" CD, an affordable and convenient way to lose yourself in exotic other worlds without the need to leave the comfort of your own home....

Such is the mesmerising amount of music offered on this twelve song album it could easily have been advertised on these lines, and well advertised it certainly has been for this is quite probably the most publicised and readily available release from Hugin's ambient fantasy project for many a year.  Amazon has it in stock, Discogs has it in stock, you can find copies on eBay and a myriad of online outlets and distros, both underground and overground (no Wombles selling it yet though, as far as known) *  It's not available at your local HMV store quite yet, but this is one of the more widely distributed of Hugin's releases for quite some time, and that can only be a good thing in terms of raising his profile and getting his music out to the great unwashed.

It is, in short, something of a best-seller in relative terms even though only 500 copies of the album were pressed in total.  This means that if you've not yet invested your loot you still have a good chance of being able to buy one (but don't hang around - send your order through to Hugin immediately!) and to enjoy the journey from your armchair to Middle-Earth courtesy of a dozen magical interludes.

Oddly (or maybe not that oddly really, based on our experience over the years) despite the online presence there is little online written commentary about the album, save the usual repeated advertising 'puff' that most of the sites have copied from one another.  Cue Metal Soundscapes, for example: "The band follows its characteristic style of epic ambient fantasy music, combined with electronic elements and few distorted guitars, remains of Alex’s early black metal experiments. Except for some background choirs, "Elbenstahl" is practically an instrumental album that will most probably satisfy the fans of this genre." 

Leaving aside the unnecessary word 'probably' (in this regard, it's a bit like saying that remembering to breathe with 'probably' keep you alive) it sets the scene well enough: this is predominantly an instrumental album, with everything in the mix that you'd expect from Uruk Hai and nothing that grates or detracts from setting an ambient mood squarely in the middle of the Great Lands and its environs.  There are none of the harsh vocals of other recent Uruk Hai mini-albums and limited amounts of guitar too, but bags and bags of lush instrumental keyboards invoking all manner of feelings and moods.

Song titles become largely redundant and practically interchangeable without lyrics or a specifically tailored theme, so in many respects the point of the album is not so much to think about it song by song but in totality, immersing oneself in the universe it creates and basking in the artificial sunlight of its glory.  The packaging and presentation all help in this regard too, with the pastel colours and welcoming scenes of tranquillity on the outer cover tempered by the monochromatic dangers posed under the surface by Ruta Siler's excellent orc illustrations on the inside.  Nazgul will be trying to get a little interview arranged with Ruta to discuss her artwork, so watch this space....

"Elbenstahl" (Elvish Steel) is the latest in an unconnected series from Uruk Hai, which has included "Elbenmacht", "Elbentraum", "Elbentanz", "Elbenwald" and the compilation volume "Elbenlider" amongst its entries.  Oddly, for a volume bearing a title referencing elves and steel, are those inner portraits of the two orcs, which in the circumstances you might think should be ... well ... elves?  Hugin's logic, however, runs like this: 'Elbenstahl means elvish steel – and its the steel they used to fight against the orcs!!'
 
Speaking of Hugin, as we were, the cover art is again one of this own creations and based on one of his photographs: "It was taken at Lake Weikerlsee close to my home, I was there in early morning on a misty day, it was the perfect mood to take some pictures. As I saw this tree it came very fast in my mind to take a picture and use it for a further Uruk Hai cover – I think it fits perfect  - it has something mighty & sad in its mood, just like the elves are!'  And, for completeness, this original photograph is shown at the foot of this post, plus a bonus shot across the lake's misty waters.

Clearly many of you will have already added this album to your collections and will be enjoying your own personal journey into realms of magic and mystery.  For those of you yet to take the plunge (and illegal downloading from dubious Russian websites doesn't count!) then Nazgul urges you to seek this one out and enjoy a slice of Uruk Hai 2015 style.  A most worthy investment of time and money.


* if you weren't around in the UK in the early 1970's this comment will mean nothing to you, but don't panic: you're missing very little! 

Original photo at Lake Weikerlsee

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