Thursday, 5 November 2015

LOST TALES OF MIDDLE EARTH - independent review!


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Lost Songs From Middle-Earth
Reason for Update: A previously uncaptured online review of this album from Reptilian Solitude is discovered, dated 7 June 2013, and reprinted here with permission.

Technically this is the 4th update for this item since the original July 2009 coverage of this Uruk Hai release in Honour and Darkness.  But today's offering is something a little different from alternative artwork or some evolutionary variant; it's that rarest of things, a lucid and lengthy online review of the album from someone entirely independent of Castle Nazgul!

So in the accumulation of all things Hugin-related it only seems fair to gather this review under the ever-expanding umbrella of related items, which may yet form part of an occasional new series if more of these can be found.

Found in the deepest, dankest parts of the Web, the following unexpurgated review summarises the thoughts of the aforementioned American reviewer Reptilian Solitude to the Uruk Hai release "Lost Songs From Middle Earth" and reads thus:

GREATEST FANTASY AMBIENT EVER!!

Hah! OK..

Is it possible to literally shout and rave like a mad fan over what is essentially just relaxing quiet ambient?!?!

I'd say so!

Uruk-Hai is essentially new-age music for the black metal world. Although many people care next to nothing for this highly prolific project, this one man ambient band lead by the chainmail clad Hugin has been able to do something that no other metal artist has truly been able to achieve for me.

I look for metal to take me away to mystical worlds I've created in my mind, or to memories of natural landscapes I've explored. Music has served for me what fantasy novels or video games have done for so many others. And even in my earliest of days that is what I got out of my first heavy metal CDs from Tiamat and Type O Negative. It has been for me the wellspring of inspiration and spiritual refreshment. 

Uruk-Hai came to me after looking through his long discography of fantasy themed ambient. I got a few CDrs from this group, which I enjoyed for the most part. But it was with the demo tape "The Lord of the Rings" that I found a recording capable of actually making me feel like I was really there! That I was really IN the world I envisioned in my mind! The music was EXACTLY like the landscape on the tape's cover! It probably will later become one of the most inspirational experiences of my life. After that I was sold on tracking down the most interesting Uruk-Hai publications I could.

'Lost Songs of Middle-Earth' would not have been the most immediate choice to someone psyched up on having just discovered Uruk-Hai although this release is an actual professional CD album rather than Hugin's typical CDrs and demo tapes, it certainly did not have all the nifty home-made package additions that his unprofessional albums have. Ahh but don't be lured by all the fancy packages and obscure print numbers. I would opt to say that Lost Songs of Middle Earth is likely one of Uruk-Hai's most perfect albums ever released!

So when I got this CD, I sat out in a field in the afternoon, looked to the south-east horizon, and watched time go by. I was shocked to discover that this release would do exactly what the Lord of the Rings demo tape did, and even succeed it! This has without a doubt become one of my most favourite albums of all time!

Here, Uruk-Hai has created a great symbiosis. It is not like the early years where the music was long long minimalist stretches going for 30 minutes or more. Neither though was it the chaotic sample, symphonic, and sound effect epics of albums like Black Blood White Hand. Lost Songs of Middle Earth is a perfect blend of both! It has all these rich passages with interesting sound effects and synth melodies... then long quieter meditative ambiance that sets you into a trance and puts your whole being at peace. It is sublime! Wardrums, whispering voices in an Elvish tongue, droning synths, flute harmonies, dreamy acoustic guitar, spatial waves of galactic energy... wow wow WOW! It is amazing how a talented artist can bring out the purest meaning out of the most simplest of elements.

I don't normally do a track by track review, but this release warrants it...

"Ecthelion" begins the album in a huge wave! It grabs you immediately with a roaring rush and trumpeting horns and immediately hurls you down into right into the world. And then just like that it is gone leaving winds of atmospheric rush far overhead and whispering voices of the inhabitants pondering your entry into their dimension. The music is now all minimalism with as you begin to explore. With a few intriguing subtle melodies arising here and there. But it does not last long before you enter the next piece.

"The Last of the Dragons" begins with thunder and dread and solitary oboe, marching drums.. its very foreboding as you begin to wonder in fear of what's ahead. But then you become aware that you are in a wonderful dream and the music suddenly becomes a beautiful solitary acoustic guitar and piano peace. Its like sunshine in a mountain field or through a window warming your flesh. You bask in it as ghosts of passing armies wander through the clearing. Then you find the wind picking up and you are high in the air, alone, like a dragon in flight. A beautiful flute sings the creature's song of lonesomeness in the blue sky. Its enough to make you cry, afterwards you glide back on airs of ambient and guitar to rest.

"When Daylight Is Gone" is a much more minimalist track of simply washing hums of ambient mimicking monastic mantras accompanied by reverberating crashes. This piece takes you in a cosmic space where you leave the fantasy behind and instead occupy some singularity at the dawn of creation. Matter crackles and undulates all around you, as you feel privileged to witness this dimension where energy and particles are the only occupants. The unformed universe.

"Last March of the Orcs" is the best song on the album, therefore probably the best song ever written by Uruk-Hai.  This piece is impossible to describe. It sounds not so much like orcs in combat but an ancient memory of the end of war, or the end of the greatest of empires.  A heroic and noble end. It's melodies of cello and viols play some of the most saddest yet beautiful tunes you could imagine. It's a rich and varied track with harps, flutes, marching drums and some of the best synth patches I have ever heard all mixed diversely.  Here is your peace in the sunny forest!  Here is fair Elven music at times rising to even a parade march lead by playful flute before then sinking down into ambient remembrance of the most emotional variety.  It will set your spirit to vibrate and move you to tears!  I know it does me!  And on this long song goes. So much here!  A world encapsulated, a gateway to the daydreamer's realm.  Your world you've always dreamed of!  Beauty... such beauty...

"The Shire" comes after the long cleansing bath of "Last March of the Orcs".  And at this point it feels like you've arisen from a sleep and you are unsure where you are.  The music here is ghastly and dark, much like the beginning of "The Last of the Dragons".  It's chilling and cold and fearful, then suddenly it all abruptly changes in a flash and you find yourself surrounded by a celebration of gnomes and folktale critters in a pastoral countryside.  All here is charming and homely, like Tolkien's home for the Hobbits, though I'm sure you can use your own imagination to come up with your own fairytale creatures to invite to this party!  Its wonderful!

"The Nazgul" begins once again like the first song "Etchelion", borrowing the same structural backdrop from it.  However, the whispering voices are more malevolent and the air rings with haunting buzzes and a great deal of dread has been added.  Soft horns herald a dusty moor inhabited only by the tombs of the dead, and here you are left to blow on the wind, your soul lost.

"Die Legende..." finishes the album.  It's a 6 part symphonic poem from long back in the history of Uruk-Hai.  However, its inclusion here becomes the perfect cap onto the end of this fantastic album.  Without it, I feel Lost Songs of Middle Earth would have ended too early and on a sombre note.  "Die Legende..." with its more primitive synths and shriller processors adds variety to this masterpiece and creates a fantastic unbalance that makes the album feel less predictable and always an adventure! The piece moves between many moods on an established theme, out of darkness, into light, though a heroic sombre march, and eventually to the solitary glint of golden treasure in your hand.  The sound of thunder, wind and peaceful rain divide each momentary mood piece of the epic story while Hugin softly roars, echoing out from canyon valleys and around you.  

Each mood from peace, fear, bravery, and lonesomeness passes only briefly but just enough to get a little taste. Its an encapsulated album on its own, and you will find many a moment where the music ends leaving just an ambient sample... and you will think the album is over.. and then suddenly the music renews again!  Wonderful!

So there you have it!  I have tried my best to explain my experience to this amazing album.  Not everything that Hugin has created is pure brilliance, but the music on THIS album is absolutely so!  And it is by far my most favourite release of his art!  Here all the music syncs up in a sublime way and you are presented with a masterpiece. So far it is the best I have ever experienced of the project.  And if you are thinking about getting into Uruk-Hai, this release will make you a rabid fan for sure!

To complete this perfect album is in fact is an amazing package of artwork befitting of the music.  The cover of this CD drew me in, for its stark, less photogenic image of nature looked so much like some one observation I would make or a photo I would take when off on one of my many nature hikes. Inside the booklet is a complete spread for every song on the entire album save for the "Die Legende" symphony.  Every picture gives you a glimpse of images that Hugin feels best to be a springboard of mental visualisation for each song.  And on top of it is 2 photos of Hugin himself in chainmail and armed with a broadsword posing like a warrior!  Amusing and fun!  

The album also comes with a lot of runic text, even a paragraph of some for each song. You might have to do some research to decipher the runes and receive additional thoughts from this artist!  The only down side is I feel that the label printed the artwork a little too dark.  Also, fans of computer games may get a good chuckle out of the picture of the orc in the booklet, they may recognise him!

Ambient is not a genre many have liked, metal-heads especially.  Some often cite it as great to get lost in and to have as background music.  That certainly is true, and a lot of Uruk-Hai, especially his full hour long sets, are often such a kind of ambient.  But not this album!  Sure it makes for good 'ambiance' but to get the full experience you MUST listen with full attention!  Everything here is so well crafted.  Minimalist you would say, but in fact it is lush and filling!  Hugin has stripped away the progress of time and lets us enjoy every individual sound impression to its fullest!  The sonic equivalent of meditation on a wooded mountainside where only nature occupies your entire senses and you are aware of every little brush stroke!  

An art critic from the 1950's, Clement Greenberg, once established the genesis of modernism by saying that paintings of the past acted like little windows to get lost in rather than be 'art discussing art'.  He implied that art should do what it could to avoid being a 'therapeutic' 'little corner'.  Frankly I dispute his assertion. I would also like to say that Lost Songs of Middle-Earth is exactly that!  It is a little corner, a window into an imaginative and ultimately therapeutic place that brings joy to its viewer but giving voice to their own inner worlds.  After my experience I could not help but do such a long and gushing praise of Lost Songs of Middle-Earth.  My own paintings will benefit so much from this masterpiece!  It surely is one of my favourite albums of all time!

Perhaps it could be yours too?"


Phew!  Too much more of this, though, and you'll not want to read any more of Nazgul's comparatively stilted and mangled prose....

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