Friday, 23 October 2015

...UPON THE STARS OF MORDOR


Band: URUK HAI
Title: ...Upon The Stars Of Mordor
Format: Professionally released CDr in large DVD-size box on the Depressive Illusions label (Ukraine) in May 2013, cat ref cut1110.  This is a split release between Uruk Hai and Ancient Tongues (USA), a band featuring Ceyatatar of Onyx.
Edition: 33 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
Uruk  Hai
01. The Mystical Path  3.49
02. The Light Of The Trees  6.13
03. A Song Of Wizardry  7.15
04. Immortal Flame  5.25
05. Orc Music  8.43
06. Valar - The Rulers Of Arda  7.28

Ancient Tongues
07. Nothingness Part I: Orcish Birth  7.13
08.  Nothingness Part II: Men In Ruins  13.49
09.  Nothingness Part III: Orcish Reign Over Middle-Earth  7.08
10.  Nothingness Part IV: The Last Hobbit Burns  4.03

There's nothing like a bit of confusion to get a new post off to a good start!

Nazgul's normal routine in drafting these missives is to have a peep online to see what other interesting information can be gleaned about a particular release.  Perhaps there's a review of the album somewhere that can be woven into the proceedings (rare, but it can happen), or maybe some interesting promotional details on the website of the band or label in question.  In this context, Nazgul started out with the intention of telling you a little bit about Ancient Tongues.

The Discogs entry for this very album identified three members contributing to the Ancient Tongues project: Ceyatatar, credited with guitar, bass and drum programming; Skeiron on vocals; and Northwood on guitar.  I can tell you nothing about the last two, but Ceyatatar we know as the man behind American band Onyx, who have featuring in past split releases with Uruk Hai.  So it seems a fair assumption that Ancient Tongues - who seem to have no other web presence - are also American.  Confusingly though, if you Google the title of this album you'll find a link to Bandcamp that shows the release in question, with all the tracks above, but credited to an entirely different group called Funerary Descent.

More delving was clearly required, and after much searching an interview with the band was uncovered at online blog Occult Black Metal Zine which happily for us sheds some light on the situation:

"Originally, this was a blackened crust-punk band called Ancient Tongues, but this shifted into a black metal band upon the line-up change that occurred in early 2013, but that then shifted to a doom/black metal sound. After the release with Uruk-Hai the band named was changed to Funerary Descent for legal reasons. But we are a three piece from three different cities in Maryland, consisting of Ceyatatar (guitars/bass/keys), Northwood (guitars), and Skeiron (vocals)."

Aha!  Asked to describe their sound and influences, the band continued:

"This is a sort of 'generic' USBM sound but taken with a grain of salt and met with a massive doom influence from the likes of Nortt, Cough and Thou...but to be more specific it is blackened sludge metal in the vein of Dragged Into Sunlight and Nortt.  A heavy veil of reverbed guitars and screams is cast upon the music.  We also incorporate keyboards/synthesizers into some songs and in the case of the split release, 2 of the songs were strictly keyboards.  Our songs are about ghost stories, misery, solitude, and general discomfort with life. Nihilism. Hatred towards organised religion ... Our influences include Moonblood, Nortt, Barbelith, Bathory, Dominium, Cemetery Piss, Sunn 0))), Xasthur and Burzum. Northwood has been really into neo-folk (Wardruna) and post-rock (GY!BE, This Will Destroy You) lately and of course progressive black metal (Enslaved) . Ceyatatar is thoroughly engulfed into ambient music (Ringbearer, Uruk-Hai) and some progressive metal (Myrath) as well. Skeiron is really into hardcore (Nails) lately."

Also rather handily, the interviewer asks the band about counterpart on the album in question, Uruk Hai, which reveals:

"All of us are enormous Uruk-Hai fans and truly enjoy Hugin's music and was very good to broaden our musical horizons and perform with a master of a some what different genre than ours. We have the utmost respect for Hugin and hope to work with him again one day." 

All good, and the songs aren't half  bad either!  Employing piano, synth, sibilant shrieks and whispers to good effect as the band themselves allude, it's an unnerving trip through parts of Middle Earth you'd not normally dare tread alone....

Uruk Hai also employ synthesiser on this release to great effect, and unlike contemporary releases from this project the guitar is absent from the mix this time around.  That leads to some songs feeling a touch old-school in places, but with more polished melodies and production.  The best of both worlds, in fact.  The opening song, for instance, is an absolutely perfect one to listen to should you be out on a dark, foggy morning as Nazgul was recently, whilst track two 'The Light Of The Trees' is a classic portmanteau song bringing together everything that is wonderful and joyous about Hugin's most popular project into one song.  Marvellous, and an inspired feat of instrumental composition.

Speaking about instrumentation, by the way, how exciting it was to hear the return of the twangy-elastic sound of what might well be a didgeredoo that appears in the middle of 'Immortal Flame'!  For Nazgul this led to an immediate flashback to the "Across The Misty Mountains (Far, Far Away)" album of 2006, where it was last heard!  Perhaps the only relatively low point on the Uruk Hai side of proceedings is 'Orc Music', which does drag a little (much like their knuckles on the ground!), but then it was never likely to be a jaunty and toe-tapping song in the style of the similarly named (but happily unrelated) 'Ant Music'...

Definitely worth a purchase should you come across it in the racks or online, it's an album that will delight and surprise in equal measure.

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