Sunday, 27 September 2015

Tryby promotional flyer


Band: URUK HAI
Item: A promotional flyer from the Polish label Tryby for what were - at the time, circa April 2012 - new releases.  All feature Uruk Hai releases, hence the attribution to that band for this post.

Back in the early days of Honour and Darkness it wasn't unusual for Nazgul to manage 15-20 posts in a single month.  Times have changed at the Castle since those heady days, not least because of the demands placed on your scribe's time by 3 year old Nazgul Junior, plus boringly mundane things like 'work' to contend with.  However, those early years of posts on the blog were peppered with short items on various bits and pieces of paper and other ephemera that Nazgul had accumulated over the years, mostly promotional literature from some label, distro or other such outfit.  Times were that such items were plentiful and lined the library shelves just waiting to be featured, but the flood has inexorably turned into a trickle and it's a rare flyer now that's not been featured before.

Happily though, there's always an exception to the rule (unless Nazgul has featured this one before - in which case it's further proof of a slow decline in mental capacity!).  Channelling the spirit of blog posts of yore then, here's something in that vein to enjoy, which comes apropos of nothing other than a bit of late spring cleaning in the computer files that unearthed this picture!

The Tryby label from Poland always was a rather strange little thing: quite productive for a couple of years from their inception in around 2011, they released what are now some of the more collectible releases in the Uruk Hai repertoire: consider the "Gorgoroth" 6CD box-set from 2011, for example.  They also reissued (in a second edition pressing after the Smell The Stench label had first dibs) a series of demos in 3" format, including "Elves & Men"; "Gil-galad"; "Nargothrond"; "Barbarians" and "Return To The Green Fields" in 2012.  In addition Tryby popped out an extravagant 4 x 3" CD version of "Lothlorien" for good measure too, and for a time it seemed that this was the label to watch.

Then - equally oddly - sometime in 2012 they seemed to wind up and disappear.  An semi-official Uruk Hai metal tin box-set was compiled by them to house batches of the (presumably unsold) 3" CD series, in a tiny edition of just 6 sets.  This wasn't entirely an official release so much as it seemed to be a marketing coup by the label themselves to generate funds, a plan that one has to assume failed as they disappeared soon after.

The flyer that you see here, therefore, must hail from the 2012-13 time period and advertises a range of these releases for your delight.  Oddly - and this is truly strange - there's no contact details recorded on the picture anywhere.  No email address, no website, no nothing!  That was always a common theme whenever Tryby issued something: where on earth does one actually get it from?  Nazgul had more than a few enquiries from confused prospective customers over the years, and it was only thanks to an chance email contact address found somewhere or other that any form of correspondence to the label was possible from Castle Nazgul.

There's one other bonus that's come out of today's post, and that's the illustration on the left of the flyer of the "Tales Of Glory & Mystery" box-set.  A very limited edition set, it's one that somehow has escaped the merciless snare that entraps and compels releases from throughout the decades to feature on Honour and Darkness.  The all-seeing lidless fiery eye has clearly missed a trick here!

And yet ... mysteriously (albeit very aptly, given the title of the compilation) the item has gone missing from the Castle Library.  Hopefully this is temporary, but it remains most baffling.  One can only hope the Castle Monkey is not to blame for this perplexing turn of events.  Nazgul will have to search his crumbling lair from top to bottom to look out this glittering prize....

The other two pieces shown on this flyer - "Dagor Dagorath" and "Long Before The Creation" - are, mercifully, exactly where Nazgul left them!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

NATT SKOGEN - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Natt Skogen
Reason for update: It's the compact disc release of this previously tape-only anthology.
Format: CDr contained in a DVD-sized case with colour cover and a picture disc, released in June 2014 on Depressive Illusion Records (Ukraine), cat ref cut1151.  There is a small business card from the label contained inside the box. This CD edition drops the suffix "A Dark Jubileum" present in the title on the tape edition.
Edition: Limited to 33 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01. The Chanteloup Creations remixes 29.11     
02. The Wulfrune Worxx remixes  29.07

It was as long ago as May 2013 when the first review of "Natt Skogen" was written.  At the time this was a tape-only release of 166 copies that celebrated the 66th tape release from Chanteloup Creations/Wulfrune Worxx, overseen by label owner Skogen.  This CDr pressing on Depressive Illusions gives the collection a new leash of life, albeit in a pretty tiny edition, and seeing as it was released back in 2014 Nazgul had rather doubted there would be any copies left to be snapped up.  however, if the label's online shop is to be believed you can still obtain a copy for the princely sum of €6.66 so there's no excuse for not picking yours up this very day....

So what is it?  In essence, to paraphrase Nazgul's original review, it's as if Jive Bunny had raided the W.A.R. Studios and spent an evening on strong cider mashing together songs from Uruk Hai's distant past!  Both lengthy songs - split into Skogen's original releases on Chanteloup Creations, then the later releases on re-named phoenix-from-the-ashes label Wulfrune Worxx - blend together an assortment of song segments guaranteed to raise the blood and have you waving your sword in the air!

Played back to back with a more recent Uruk Hai release it's hard to believe it's the same project, such is the pace of evolution at work within the Uruk Hai DNA.  As Nazgul observed in his original review:  

"It's a roller-coaster of sound, with great fun to be had trying to 'pick the song' from the assembled sounds: One minute you're listening to some familiar instrumental keyboard refrains and the next the roaring vocals of 'Dragonslayer' from 2000s "Orcish Battle Hymns" assault your senses!  The difference from one side to the other of this tape is quite pronounced; consequently, the early years sound very much like a slightly more refined Hrossharsgrani battle-party, with various growls and guitar bursts punctuating the keyboards.  The second side, however, revels in those more lush and luxuriant songs that the Uruk Hai project evolved into, and as a result is a lot more relaxing to listen to."

For anyone starting out their collection of Uruk Hai material and missing some of the rarer early demos in the period 1999-2011 then you'll almost certainly find things on this release that you'll not have heard before.  Just bear in mind that if you are a new convert then there will be things on here that might surprise you - and once heard, you can't unhear it...!


As a feat of compilation one shouldn't underestimate the length of time that it would have taken for Hugin to choose the material, extract the relevant parts and segue them all back together again.  It's a testament to his abilities that the whole thing doesn't sound like a discordant mess of ill-fitting parts.  Being mastered for CD release the music sounds crisper and more in your face than the original tape release did, and this helps give the edition an additional oomph that is most welcome.

It's been a while since material has filtered through to the Castle from Skogen's label, so in the interests of investigative research Nazgul had a little look online to see what the situation was with Wulfrune Worxx.  The good news is that the label is clearly still out there!  The last relevant release for this blog was (I think) the 2013 tape release "Are There Dragons Behind The Moon?" from Eismond (WW440).  Let's hope for a resurgence of releases to renew the partnership between Hugin and Skogen...!

To end - you'll doubtless have been looking over the cover artwork for this release and thinking to yourself, 'my, that seems mighty familiar?'  Well ponder no more, as the image - Hugin doing his finest impression of the opening scenes in Gladiator, passing his hand through the tall grass - is the same as that used in the recently covered "Harvest" release from Bonemachine.  Who says there's no cunning plan behind Nazgul's convoluted review programme...?!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Hugin > Global Rockstar 2015 ...?

Hugin is surprised to discover an inter-dimensional portal to Global Rockstardom
What on earth is happening now, Nazgul?  It's the Global Rockstar award 2015
Which is what, precisely?  Billed as the world's biggest online music contest, Global Rockstar was founded in Austria in 2013. By 2014, artists from over 140 countries participated and fans cast over 1.5 million votes on the platform.
And I care because...?  It's an opportunity to vote for your favourite ambient metal-meister, Hugin in the Austrian National Preliminaries...

As discerning readers of this Blog you will already be fans and advocates of Mr Alexander "Hugin" Wieser, but here's a chance to promote his work and profile to the furthest reaches of the globe!

As you may have spotted on the Uruk Hai Facebook page this project has registered to enter the 2015 Global Rockstar competition!
 
So what's it all about?  Well, Global Rockstar invites musicians around the world to take part in the world's largest online music contest to win great prizes, including $25,000 for the overall winner!  Musicians around the world have until October 15, 2015, to upload their original song to globalrockstar.com, where hundreds of thousands of music fans around the world can vote for their favourite artists. Fans vote through shares on social media or with paid votes by purchasing artists' music and merchandise.

As we've discussed in these pages before, in the present digital era music fans enjoy easy access to music through streaming platforms yet the recording artists receive little to no income from these platforms.

"Sadly, the music industry has not responded to the needs of today's emerging musicians" says Christof Straub, CEO and co-founder of Global Rockstar. "We provide artists a global, online stage for their music, a marketplace for selling digital and physical products, and a chance to win some serious cash."

So, this is how it works: During the contest's National Preliminaries, fans from each country elect one local artist to advance to the Global Finals. The artist with the most votes in the Global Finals wins the $25,000 grand prize. The top three finalists also win audio equipment from AKG by Harman, Paiste and ADAM worth $20,000!  By offering merchandise to fans who cast votes, each contestant receives up to 90% of the resulting income.

The all-important link to get things going is HERE where you will find the 'Far Away' song from "...And All The Magic& Might He Brought...".  

Reviewed back in November 2013 by a tag-team of COI's Nick Diak and Nazgul; Nick's assessment of this song (which features Joe Matera on guitar and Janos Krusenbaum on vocals) read: "If Uruk-Hai is trying to break into the adventure metal genre with the likes of Blind Guardian and Kamelot, the vox from Janos is certainly the way to go. The last minute of the song is back into pure Uruk-Hai territory with a fantasy oriented music-scapes."  What the average voter will make of it (outside of the partisan support from Honour and Darkness readers) we can only wait to see...

Hey, if Conchita win Eurovision then Hugin - bearded or otherwise - must be in with a stab of being Austria's next top model, errr sorry, successful National Finalist?!  We can also lobby the organisers via Facebook to feature Uruk Hai as their Artist Of The Day, on the basis that if they don't accede to our demands we'll threaten to send the orcs round...

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

b.l.e.a.k.


Band: ILL
Title: b.l.e.a.k.
Format: A 5" burgundy coloured CDr disc with colour covers on photographic paper, self released on the W.A.R. Productions label (no catalogue reference), with songs recorded in December 2014.  For the record, the photo card inlays are dated 4 December 2014. 
Edition: Limited to 5 unnumbered copies only

Track Listing:
01. b.l.e.a.k. I   13.21
02. b.l.e.a.k. II  11.22

I'LL be the first to admit that a resurgence from Hugin's long-dormant project ILL seemed one of the less likely events to have occurred in the last 12 months.  Previously only known for the single tape demo "s.t.r.a.n.g.e." from many moons ago, the band was reincarnated just before Christmas 2014 with the seasonally appropriate "j.o.y." release, a slice of what Hugin called 'doom ambient metal' and which proved to be very enjoyable and yet another vent for Hugin's creative vision.

ILLuminating the virtual pages of Honour and Darkness this week is the chronological successor release to "j.o.y", which comes under the more apt title (for a doom themed project) of "b.l.e.a.k."  Ever a popular word in the bastions of all things depressive and maudlin, it's been variously employed in song titles (Opeth's track by the same name on Blackwater Park immediately springs to mind), Christmas carols (In The Bleak Midwinter), and of course literary classics (Charles Dickens' Bleak Arse).

ILL-fated this release is not: in fact, elements of pure good fortune can even be seen in the cover picture.  As previously used as a location for the Uruk Hai "Elbenstahl" cover, Hugin revisited großer Weikerlsee, where the cover photo pictures the larger of the two lakes, surrounded by forest.  You see the ripples at the front of the water?  That's not contrived through our hero tossing pebbles into the lake, nor is it photoshopped; it's just a happy coincidence that a fish was catching its lunch on the surface of the water at that moment.  Presumably that well known member of the turbot family, the brILL...

ILL-prepared as Nazgul clearly is for a career in stand-up comedy, let's return to the music on offer here.  Citing as their influences bands such as Candlemass, Doomsword, Melvins, Sun O))) and Pink Floyd one can't help but feel that a progressive element should be found here, alongside the requisite crushing and pulverising tunes.  Part I of 'b.l.e.a.k.' is a testimony to how much a good riff contributes to a song: catchy yet positively aching with despair, this impacts into your cerebral cortex faster than if it had been delivered by nail gun and remains with you permanently thereafter.  In this case, both a crushing guitar riff and catchy keyboard riff combine to make this the more immediately memorable of the two songs as it positively bounds along with swaggering verve.  Part II is more complex, and takes a bit more listening to get into, but is possibly the cleverer of the two pieces. Sounding odd reminiscent of "Organisation" period O.M.D. (three lettered band titles are clearly the theme here!) it holds your interest by being less obvious and - yes - more 'proggy' than Part I.  Overall the release is small but perfectly formed.

ILLogical as it may sound, given this release is limited to a paltry 5 physical copies and the project has a lower profile than the ILLuminati, there's every potential that over time it could rapidly catch up with Hugin's other bands in terms of popularity.  It has it's own distinct branding through the way song titles are presented and the project balances melody and down-tempo melancholy in a way that sounds different to his other work.  It's always amazing to Nazgul's tiny mind how Hugin can use the same basic instruments for all of this projects and yet create very distinct bodies of work under each banner - there's no way, for example, you'd confuse a modern Hrefnesholt song with one from Bonemachine, or get Eismond mixed up with Elisabetha.

ILLegal downloads of even a release this obscure are doubtless circulating on the internet somewhere, such is the sad reality of the world, but to keep in touch with all things ILL you could do worse than follow the band's Facebook page and see what's brewing.  The Bandcamp page has disappeared though, as Hugin has moved away from that platform at this present time.  Since this release other ILL recordings have found their way out of the labyrinthine halls of W.A.R. and it will be interesting to see how they sound in comparison to this and earlier demos.  And that means you can go and purchase some for yourself too, putting some much appreciated custom Hugin's way and spreading the word (ILL-tidings...?) to the world at large.

IL(L) pleut?  Well of course it's raining, it's autumn at Castle Nazgul and it's pretty bloody b.l.e.a.k. out there....

Thursday, 10 September 2015

HARVEST


Band: BONEMACHINE
Title: Harvest
Format: A hand-painted CDr in special packaging, released jointly in 2007 by W.A.R. Productions (Austria) and Theremin Noise Club (Austria), cat ref #001.  The release comes in a clear plastic sleeve with a colour A4 size inlay card giving edition and track details, with a paper sleeve in a metal cover housing the disc itself.  In this sleeve is a triangular paper inlay with more details about the songs.  Two glossy war-themed photo cards complete the package.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 10 copies

Track Listing:
01. Jetzt!  25.02
02. Another War 26.19  
03. Cyber Terrorism 10.57
04. A Hopeful Day 6.29

There are precious few Bonemachine items left to review in Honour and Darkness, so this is a rare treat indeed: an original and official release (in an Austrian joint venture between Hugin's own W.A.R. Productions and Chris Huber's Theramin Noise Club).  And in total contrast to the quixotic ethereal whimsical compositions of Uruk Hai, these are a noise-fuelled barrages that think nothing of giving you a brisk few slaps in the face before leaving you in a state of aural confusion.


Following the relative calmness and sophistication of the last few releases covered in Nazgul's missives, this does come as rather a shock.  As ever, it's a miscellany of peculiar noise, rhythm and spoken word interludes woven together with skill and a single-minded focus by Hugin, producing something that definitely sounds strange and wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea.

Second song 'Another War', for example, is a lengthy affair that at times feels like you're experiencing a depth charge attack from within a submarine, surviving (barely) an air raid from Stukas, and generally enduring a Blitzkrieg on all fronts.  Exhausting yet oddly exhilarating!


'Jetzt!' and 'Cyber Terrorism' we've experienced before, as the 2013 review of the promotional "Upcoming Releases" demo recorded, with the song 'Cyberterrorism' also appearing on "Erste Rotation" and 'Jetzt!' being re-titled as 'Now' an appearing on the "Right Now" CDr release.

'A Hopeful Day' is an interesting piece, overlaying a typically eerie Bonemachine soundscape with an official US Government statement about the capture of Osama Bin Laden (who, it turned out, was actually dead not captured after all).  Indeed, if you enter the darker reaches of the internet the conspiracy theories about what actually happened on that day and in that US Seals raid are myriad.  An unusual song in as far as it references a political issue in the real world, not something Hugin is widely known for.


The A4 cover art bears a quotation that reads:

"Unsere Kampfflieger hielten reiche Ernte und boten den übrigen Waffen tagtaglich das herzstarkende Schauspiel siegreicher Luftkampfe. Mochten die feindlichen Flieger den unsrigen an Zahl uberlegen sein, an Kuhnheit des Angriffs und an Erfoig standen sie weit hinter ihnen zuruck"


a quotation from German military command, 17 April 1917, which broadly translates as:

"Our fighters held bountiful harvest and offered the remaining weapons [....] spectacle of victorious air battle. Might is ours in number superior to the enemy aircraft, to the boldness of the attack and to [...] they were far behind them"

Blame Google translate for the gaps in transmission there!
All in all, a very limited edition release with a lot of music/noise to it, and as a collaboration between messieurs Wieser and Huber (noise-meisers extraordinaire) it's now a very collectable piece: Nazgul has to report that this (#001 of the series of 10) is actually the only copy of it he's ever seen.  Great packaging - presumably a different pattern graces each of the 10 discs in the edition - and definitely a late jewel to unearth from the collection!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

THE DUSK, THE DAWN, THE EARTH, THE SUN...

Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Dusk, The Dawn, The Earth, The Sun...
Format: Professionally released CD in full colour covers on the WinterWolf Records label (Germany) in 2014.
Edition: 100 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Follow The Wind  5.02
02. When Gondor's Horn Sounds  4.50
03. Welcome To Isengard  6.50
04. Elvish Might  8.32
05. Of Beren & Luthien  13.56
06. The Grey Elves  3.26
07. The Twilight Of Meres  11.19
08. The Ballad Of Morgoth  9.07
09. The Eagles Of Thorondor  16.42

WinterWolf's website (try saying that quickly after a few pints) promotes this Uruk Hai release thus: "Without words… just Uruk Hai !!! Great and perfect Dark Ambient inspired by Tolkien."  This would be a damn short post if Nazgul also went down the 'no words' route, so in the absence of any other coverage of this terrific album on t'interweb it seems only fair and reasonable to make a decent stab at telling you - the cold, huddled masses soon to be in thrall of the Dark Lord - a little more about it.

And the first thing to note is that it is a corker of a release, and by 'corker' Nazgul means of course a remarkable or astounding thing.  This pithy epithet is encapsulated neatly by the very first song, 'Follow The Wind' which - Spinal Tap innuendo aside - has some very tasty melodic guitar playing on it and makes for a sure-fire 'hit' should Hugin ever venture into releasing singles!  Well, actually this is sort of the case already as there is a very limited release of that track by Smell The Stench, but not in numbers that would give even the chart compilers in the Faroe Islands much to worry about let alone mainstream European markets.

This virtuoso opening is more than matched by the songs that follow, many of which may well sound familiar from their titles because - as is often the case now - this album compiles previously released songs from other EP's and demos.  So, for example, 'When Gondor's Horn Sounds' appears on the 2014 release "Gondor"  whilst 'Welcome To Isengard' and 'Elvish Might' were the two songs on the "Welcome To Isengard" EP also on the Smell The Stench label.

Other songs are new to this release, including the closing triumvirate of 'The Twilight Of Meres', 'The Ballad of Morgoth' and 'The Eagles Of Thorondor'.  All reference parts of the Tolkien canon, of course: the Meres of Twilight (as it's written in the literature, although maybe the German translation puts the name t'other way around?) is the name given to the wetland region of Aelin-uial, where the Aros met the Sirion on the borders of Doriath.  

Numerous trackless fens and intertwined pathways made this a dangerous region for travellers.  Morgoth we've extensively covered in historical posts, although we've never had a ballad dedicated to this fearsome lieutenant of the dark forces before!  

The Eagles of Thorondor would presumably be the progeny of Thorondor, the Lord of the Eagles, was the greatest of the Eagles of Manwë king of the Valar.  Most notable for helping Fingon rescue Maedhros; wounding Morgoth; rescuing Beren and Lúthien; and rescuing the survivors of the Fall of Gondolin, Thorondor also had an impressive wing span of around 180 feet (55m) giving him a distinct advantage in the annual Middle-Earth swimming championships...

And, of course, 'Beren & Luthien' also appear as a song on this release, weaving the whole thing together in typically Huginesque fashion!

Musically this instrumental album (with one notable exception, which we will come onto in a moment) is packed with strings, piano, keyboards, percussive effects and guitar to the point that some magical songs and melodies pour out of your speakers one after the other.  Without sounding like a broken record, let Nazgul repeat himself once again and observe that this sort of modern Uruk Hai album played back to back with an early demo from, say, 2001 period, is such a revelation that you'd scarcely believe that it was the same artist!

It would be a little unfair to pick on particular songs as they are all of a high standard, and so varied are they that it would be a pretty rash commentator who tried to dissect them all in one review.  It's worth pointing out that if Hugin did singles then 'Follow The Wind' would be a clear front runner for that accolade, and would have a pretty fair chance of charting somewhere too I would imagine, as it's packed with tasty guitar licks and lovely keyboard melodies and something that sounds like a dulcimer early on in the piece too.  Priceless! 

There are some rather odd vocals on track 8 that take a bit of getting used to (think Hugin in a slowly spoken word dirge mode), otherwise it's all instrumental all of the way and really is quite spectacularly brilliant.  Awash with colour and feel, there's enough here to lay down the soundtrack to a Middle-Earth mini-series and it's all Hugin at the very top of his game.  Quite simply, it's this years must-have Uruk Hai release (and it's in some pretty stiff company in that regard already) so point your browser towards the WinterWolf shop or ask our Austrian hero for your own copy.

Oh - and Nazgul can't really end this post without exploding with pride at being named in the dedication on the back of the rear inlay - what a splendid fellow Alex is...