Friday, 3 April 2015

THE SWORD OF REVENGE


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Sword Of Revenge
Format: There are 2 versions of this release: The first, a professional CDr package with picture disc self released on Winterwolf Records (Germany) in December 2014.  The second and more limited edition version was self-released on W.A.R. Productions (Austria) as a cassette tape with colour cover and three special photo inlays, cat ref WAR 089.  Both versions contain the same songs, which were recorded in November 2014.
Edition:  The CDr pressing is limited to 100 unnumbered copies.  The tape version is limited to only 10 hand-numbered copies.

Track Listing:
01. The Sword Of Revenge  8.21
02. King Elendil of the Dúnedain  14.15
03. Narsil  2.47 

We begin the month of April with another visit to that most fertile of musical pastures - Uruk Hai.  Since the end of 2014 there has been quite the deluge of Uruk Hai tape and CD/CDr releases coming out of the bowels of W.A.R. Productions, many in extremely limited editions and formats.  Of these, some contain songs later compiled onto releases of larger edition numbers, so there's a good chance you'll be able to hear all of the songs if you keep your eyes peeled, but not such strong odds that every variant of the physical copies will find their way into your possession.  The cruel fickle hand of fate and collecting...


"Sword Of Revenge" falls somewhere in the middle of this continuum: it's not the most limited edition of the latest releases, and indeed at the time of writing this copies are floating round in the usual online auction haunts, so one might imagine that obtaining a copy won't be such a trial.  So let's assume that you'll be able to lay your sticky fingers on a copy; what will it look and sound like?

Well for starters there's a new style font for the band logo, which is replicated in the overall text of the title and track listing.  It's called 'Across The Road', Hugin tells me, and looks rather stylish in a modernist, chic sort of way.  Hugin is at pains to note that this is not a new logo for Uruk Hai, but merely the result of his artistic experimentation!  As is increasingly the case, Hugin hasn't just composed the music here but has also created all of the artwork himself too, which is certainly striking and entirely in keeping with the epic feel that Uruk Hai should impart.  It reminded Nazgul of something he'd seen before, which eventually came back to me as being the cover of the debut album "Out Of The Silent Planet" by Kings X!

This forms something of a mini-concept album, as the story of the 'Sword of Power' is based on that of Narsil, from Lord of the Rings.  As a Tolkien aficionado you will recall that Narsil is the famous sword of King Elendil from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Elendil was the first High King of both Arnor and Gondor. He was a friend and ally of Gil-galad, and together they formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men in the Second Age. Together they marched upon Mordor and at last Sauron was overthrown.  

The Last Alliance had the victory, but both Gil-galad and Elendil were slain during the war.  Elendil’s sword, Narsil, was broken, and the One Ring was taken, but not destroyed. Sauron was for a time vanquished and Isildur - who cut the the One Ring from Sauron's finger with the remnants of the hilt of Narsil - became the High King of the Dúnedain.  Narsil's shards were used to forge into a new sword, Anduril, which was used by Aragorn.

Now, this was an album that had been playing on Nazgul's death-deck for quite some weeks ahead of this post being drafted.  In part, this was to allow the music to properly soak in and be absorbed by Nazgul's tired old brain cells, as on the first couple of airings I'd get to the end and think something on the lines of, "Hmmm - I enjoyed that" and then find my mind a total blank when it came to writing something about it.  The music does grow on you over time, however, much like the mildew that creeps up around the hem of Nazgul's tattered cloak.  Pervasive and persuasive in equal part, this is a very good representation of modern Uruk Hai and packs a lot of punch into what might seem like a rather short track listing.


The tail end of 'The Sword Of Revenge' itself finds some harsh vocals making an appearance in what had otherwise to that point been an engrossing instrumental track, which takes a little getting used to and doesn't quite seem to gel with the song as perhaps it should.  But then, aside from the introductory sounds of battle and swordplay (almost reminiscent of early Hrossharsgrani demos, though rather better in sound quality!) the rest of the song, conversely, is packed with lush instrumentation and classic Uruk Hai touches, so it's an odd juxtaposition that doesn't quite come off to these ears.  Lose the last minute or two, however, and you're back on track again!

The best song on this release by some margin is the longest one - 'King Elendil of the Dúnedain'.  It's an absolute blinder, with everything you could possibly wish to hear from Hugin's most popular project.  Titanic guitar riff - check.  Fabulous melodies and spooky keyboard sections - check.  Multi-part song structure that does integrate effectively, despite containing two very different styles of song at either end of this track - check, and mate. The best 14 minutes listening you'll experience this year.  At times haunting, at times galloping along like a Elven raiding party, there's so much going on here you'll need a good few listens to fully comprehend just what Hugin has achieved here.

And finale track 'Narsil' is no slouch either, despite being a mere sub-three minutes in duration.  Plenty of atmosphere and interest packed into that time-frame, and an upbeat way to conclude what has been a cracking little album.

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