Wednesday, 13 January 2016

GLAURUNG


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Glaurung
Format: There exists both a cassette tape and a CDr version of this release: the tape is a W.A.R. Productions (Austria) release in glossy colour cover, cat ref WAR092, and comes with 3 small photo card inlays featuring different images of Glaurung's gleaming eye!  The CDr pressing comes through Kristallblut Records (Germany) and W.A.R., no cat ref, and comes in a DVD-style box.  Limited numbers of the CDr came with a large, glossy colour poster of the album artwork.  The music was recorded in the W.A.R studios in November 2014.  Both versions contain the same tracks, though in a different running order to accommodate the running length of the cassette.
Edition: Cassette tape hand-numbered and limited to 8 copies only.  The CDr version is unlimited, though only around 80 have the limited edition poster.

Track Listing:
CDr version
01. Nirnaeth Arnoediad  12.03
02. The Worm Of Morgoth  8.48
03. Urulóki: The Fire Drakes Of The North  21.59
04. Destroyer  7.50
05. Outro (Wormfire)  1.33

Tape version
Side 1
01. Nirnaeth Arnoediad  12.03 
02. The Worm Of Morgoth  8.48
03. Destroyer  7.50
Side 2
04. Urulóki: The Fire Drakes Of The North  21.59
05. Outro (Wormfire)  1.33

The natural order of things has never been a concept to worry your humble scribe when it comes to recording thoughts on Honour and Darkness.  Releases have often been reviewed in a mixed chronology, partly for the fun of randomly selecting items from the library depending on my mood, and partly to keep you lot on your toes!  So the fact that today's post concerns part three of a trilogy whose other two parts have yet to feature here should come as no surprise in Nazgul's fiendish modus operandi, even if it seems illogical in terms of a sane running order.  Sanity is a much overrated concept, in my book.

"Glaurung" is part of the Beleriand trilogy, constructed by Hugin over - yes, you guessed it - three Uruk Hai releases: "Die Kriege von Beleriand Teil 1"; "Die Kriege von Beleriand Teil 2" and "Glaurung".  Hugin was advertising these 3 releases for sale as far back as February 2015 on Facebook, with the attendant poster being in hand in November 2014 (how time flies), so it's only reasonable that at least one of these albums to make an appearance before its second anniversary comes around!

Before we get too much further, however, we ought to give some thought to what Beleriand and Glaurung actually refer to.  And you wouldn't be too surprised to learn, Nazgul imagines, that they are part of the sprawling Lord Of The Rings mythos created by our old friend, Tolkien.  

Beleriand was a region in northwestern Middle-earth during the First Age.  There are many realms in Beleriand: Arvernien; Doriath; East Beleriand; Falas; Gondolin; Hithlum; March of Maedhros; Nargothrond; Nevrast; Ossiriand; and Dor Daedeloth.  Each has its own particular history and place in the Legendarium as you might imagine, though it would be an epic post indeed if Nazgul attempted a complete summary here.  Should you be interested, then check out this link for more!  

The relevance of Glaurung comes in the realm of Nargothrond: Túrin Turambar came to Nargothrond and became one of its greatest warriors, but he also persuaded the people to fight openly against Morgoth, which eventually led to its sack by the army of the dragon Glaurung. Glaurung then used Nargothrond as his lair until his death not long afterwards at Túrin's hands.  And what of the dragon himself?

Glaurung was a very powerful dragon, if not the most magical. According to Tolkien, he sired the rest of his race, or at least the brood of Urulóki, wingless fire-breathing dragons. He was bred by Morgoth from some unknown stock and was the first dragon to appear outside of Angband. In 455 First Age Glaurung led the attack of fire that defeated the Noldorin Elves and their allies and broke the Siege of Angband in the Battle of Sudden Flame, the Dagor Bragollach. In 472 during the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Nírnaeth Arnoediad, Glaurung led the final reserve and the beasts of Angband in an attack that prevented the joining of the two Elven-hosts, breaking and routing the Host of the sons of Fëanor, resulting in the total defeat of the Union of Maedhros. During this battle Glaurung was stabbed in his vulnerable belly by the Dwarf-king Azaghâl and fled back to Angband.

In 495, Glaurung was given his first independent command and led an Orc-host to victory in the Battle of Tumhalad against the Noldor of Nargothrond led by Túrin Turambar. He followed up his triumph by sacking Nargothrond, enslaving or slaying its people, making a bed of the treasure of the city, and ruling as a Dragon-king. In 498 Túrin led the Men of the forest of Brethil and defeated a force of Orcs sent against them by Glaurung. Glaurung then roused himself and next year came against Túrin and Brethil. In the attempt to cross the ravine of Cabed-en-Aras of the river Taeglin, Glaurung was stabbed from beneath by Túrin wielding Gurthang. Glaurung died soon after, but not before he had managed to drive Nienor to suicide with his last words, lifting the spell of forgetfulness he had cast upon her about her kinship with Turambar.

Well, there's nothing like a happy ending: and that's nothing like a happy ending!


Indeed, our Austrian hero Hugin seems similarly moved by the plight of Galurung, as his 2012 interview with Radio Rivendell revealed:

 
"Radio Rivendell: If you could be anything in any fantasy setting, what would you choose and why? 

Alex: If it is not based on Lord Of The Rings I would choose the everlasting life of an Vampire. I love Ann Rice's "Interview With The Vampire" and I would love to see all those ages myself!  In Lord Of The Rings I would choose Glaurung the Dragon, because I love the mystic story around him and the magic spells he could use. Sad that he died in the end :-( "

Hugin's interest in this mighty dragon has been previously referenced in his work, as you might expect.  Track 12 of 2013's "...And All The Magic & Might He Brought... " album bore the dragon's name, whilst much of 2012's "Nargothrond" was centred around the scaly chap. And, by way of a small but relevant complication, some of the music on this release has links to previously reviewed on Honour and Darkness, notably 'Destroyer', for which an 'Part 2' version (an out-take from these sessions) was the subject of a very limited edition Smell The Stench CDr pressing.

Anyhoo, enough of the back story and the Tolkien context, what's this album like when given the beans on Castle Nazgul's death deck?!  Well, not half bad is the short conclusion to that question, but clearly you'll want more so let's delve in a little further....
 
'Nirnaeth Arnoediad' or Battle of Unnumbered Tears was the disastrous Fifth Battle in the Wars of Beleriand.  Fought by The Union of Maedhros, which consisted of an alliance of the Noldor, Edain, Easterlings, and Dwarves, against the hordes of Morgoth (multiple hosts consisting of Balrogs, Orcs, and trolls; supplemented by turncoat Easterlings), it proved to be a decisive victory for Morgoth, partly due to treachery (hey - a win is a win in my book).  It led to the depopulation of Hithlum with replacement by Easterlings, and the occupation of much of Beleriand.  A sprawling battle then, which is recreated in music by Hugin as a sprawling ambient track, though with fewer blood-curdling screams than the battle contained I'd wager.  You can almost feel the wind on your face as legions of heroes race across epic landscapes and on to their ultimate doom....


'The Worm Of Morgoth' follows on, with a far darker tone and menacing approach.  Still ambient and epic, it creates a mood of apprehension and suspense, a nice counterpoint to the opening song. 'Destroyer' is subtly different to the STS release version.  It kicks off like Motorhead's 'Killed By Death' played by Candlemass, such is the titanic riffage delivered at glacial speed.  Bludgeoning is a word that springs to mind with this song!

'Urulóki: The Fire Drakes Of The North' is a beguiling combination of percussion and choral chanting, producing something rather schizophrenic in nature with the drums blowing 'hot' and the choral passages blowing 'cold'.  This is most apt, as the Urulóki (which is another name for Fire Drakes, by the way) included not only the winged dragons but also the wingless fire- and cold-drakes too.  

Glauring, lest us forget, was a fire-drake (like Ancalagon and Smaug). The only explicit reference to this term comes from The Silmarillion (Of the Return of the Noldor), which rather conveniently identified the original of this song title; "…Glaurung, the first of the Urulóki, the fire-drakes of the North, issued from Angband's gates by night."

We end with outro track 'Wormfire', crackling and hissing its way through your speakers and searing itself into your mind!

Overall, this delivers exactly what an Uruk Hai album should do - grandiose sonic landscapes, emotive ambient passages, and enough Lord Of The Rings references to keep Christopher Tolkien in manuscripts for years to come.  

Magnificent!

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