Saturday, 27 February 2016

The slaying of Uruk Hai: The Metal Archives story

What is today's post all about then, Nazgul?  It's a potted history of something that exercised a lot of readers a few years ago, and still seems to create debate even today...

Which was?  The expulsion/exclusion of Uruk Hai from the Metal Archives website (the online 'Encyclopaedia Metallum' for all things heavy metal, which has been running since 2002) 

And I care because?  It was quite the sore subject at the time, with emails galore flying around and acrimonious posts on the Metal Archives forum pages, and is now part of the mythology and history of Hugin's most famous project 

Will this post change matters?  Highly unlikely.  But it might be an interesting read...
Note: most of this summary is gleaned from information publicly available online, so contains the identities (not actual names of course, but online ID's) of those making posts to Metal Archives.  As these are a matter of public record I have left these ID's visible to assist in understanding the chronology of events and individuals' roles within it: please understand that this is not Nazgul inviting you to visit Metal Archives forums to disrespect anyone who has a different opinion from your own about the matters at hand!  The editorial comments and opinions are my own, to which I am equally entitled to hold, and in some small instances I've tidied up the language in a quoted post just for clarity.  

I'd be happy to amend today's post over time for any constructive comments from the readership of Honour and Darkness on this subject: send it to me via the usual email address if you would.

In the world of metal, all is largely peaceful on Planet Earth: bands come, bands go, bands tour and bands release albums.  The Encyclopaedia Metallum (commonly known as Metal Archives, abbreviated to MA here) is pretty much the place to visit to view the histories and details of all 'true' metal bands, from mainstream festival acts through to the most obscure of underground projects.  It's one of the very few online sources for complete band discographies, surpassing sites such as Discogs for its sheer volume of band data and release details.

The Uruk Hai page on MA is much referenced by fans, a number of whom also read Honour and Darkness.  Nazgul himself is partial to looking through the details held on this site, and it forms a very useful source of information for this humble blog.

You can imagine the drama, therefore, when in May 2013 the moderators of MA decided that - in a nutshell - Uruk Hai was not 'metal' enough for continued inclusion in their database, and unceremoniously threw out the band and all of the associated information about it.   The howls of protest could be heard across the globe, from South America to Europe and all points in between.  This was, according to the general consensus of Huginophiles, an unacceptable outrage.  A slap in the face, a kick in the pants, nothing short of heresy of the most heinous kind.

And yes, it was a bloody nuisance back in the day, that much was perfectly true.  But what was this issue really all about?  How did it come to pass, and who were the architects behind the scenes?  And - with the benefit of hindsight - what do we make of it all now that the dust has settled?  Let's investigate...

Stardate: March 2010

The events of May 2013 inevitably had an earlier history, with much of it likely to have been discussions behind the scenes at MA and thus not information generally available to mere mortals like ourselves.  However, an interesting thread on the MA forums did start up in early March 2010, which came up rather out of the blue and ran as follows:

EntilZha 08/03/10
Any particular reason Uruk Hai is on the site? An official exception or something? 

OneYouDontKnow 08/03/10
I would also like to see it gone, but I discussed it with Evenfiel once and it is here because of a side project rule. Unless Elizabetha's or Hrossharsgrani's first releases are not metal, this band will not be deleted.

EntilZha 08/03/10
I don't see where it was ever on a label with worldwide distribution.

OneYouDontKnow 08/03/10
Agreed.  Do some investigation, offer some arguments ... I have brought this band up numerous time and was ignored by the mods again and again.

Iglumajor666 14/03/10
Why in the name of fuck is Uruk Hai in here?  It's clearly the dude's main project not a side project

EntilZha  14/03/10
No one knows

Uglur 14/03/10
First "in the name of f*ck" it is a side project!  Do your homework before you start complaining!  And anyway, Uruk Hai will release a CD box in the next weeks which contains material which is predominantly metal!

OneYouDontKnow 14/03/10
Yeah, I suspected as much ... just to keep his shitty band in.

EntilZha  14/03/10
Limited to 21 copies...!

And so, with that, this little conversation came to a close.  But it's revealing, in as far as it shows that a few individuals had previously been campaigning (for want of a better word, I doubt it was as organised as that word implies) for the removal of Uruk Hai from the database.

It also refers to the 'side project' rule, which is important to explain at this juncture.  Of course, it goes without saying that the overall raison d'etre of MA is to catalogue 'metal' bands (well obviously you say) but what does that mean?  MA themselves state:

"As simple as the "must be a metal band" rule may seem, it involves a huge debate. None of us here think we're a supreme authority on all things heavy metal. However, as an encyclopedia of heavy metal, this site must draw a line somewhere. If we accepted just about anything, it wouldn't make sense; we would no longer be a "metal" archive. Because of this reality, the moderating staff decide, based on these guidelines set by the owners, on whether or not your submission is validly metal."

There are then 3 principal criteria that must then be adhered to:  

  • the music must have 'metal riffs'
  • there must be compelling evidence for the band being metal (in other words, samples - MA won't just take your word for it)
  • a band must have at least one fully, unambiguously metal album. This is why Def Leppard is included (because of their NWOBHM debut) even if they turned to pop rock later."
However, we then come across the side-project rule:  

"We accept the following non-metal bands in certain cases (these exceptions can be ambiguous and debatable):
  • Side-projects of notable metal band members (ex. Pain, Wongraven, Die Verbannten Kinder Eva's). We prefer side-projects to be on a label with worldwide distribution and have a full-length release, but do not require it (this is to avoid a flood of bedroom/MySpace bands).
  • Non-metal projects included arbitrarily as they are seen by the staff to belong as a part of the metal scene. Their inclusion is rare, exceptional, and discretionary of the staff.
  • Bands that are no longer metal, but are/were still generally recognized as metal bands at some point (ex: Ulver, Katatonia, Def Leppard)"
Now, to be fair to MA they need to have some rules in place otherwise their site will become entirely unmanageable.  These rules - established and maintained by key moderators - should at least hope to be consistent, transparent and universally observed.  Inevitability though, an element of subjectivity creeps in, and this is where the debate starts.

Let's consider MA's own further discussion in the site rules on the thorny matter of side projects:

"Side-projects are a big debate. When does a band stop being one and starts being a full-time band?  What's the difference between a solo career and a side-project, etc?  Now, a side-project is a band started in parallel to another band.  This is not the same thing as a band member leaving a band and forming a new one, or to join another band!  For example, Soulfly is no more a side-project of Max Cavalera than Voivod is a side-project of Jason Newsted.

One might argue that a band can start as such but can stop being one if the main band splits-up.  Or that while it's reasonable to have Wongraven or Chaostar, that a country band started by a Flotsam & Jetsam member would simply look out of place on a metal site. Our answer is that we have no choice but to go with a case by case approach. It might be a little arbitrary, but it's hard to define a rule that will apply for every case of a non-metal side-project. Yes, that might mean you'll have to ask us before submitting this guy's side-project.  Usually there shouldn't be any problem, but if the side-project really has nothing to do with the heavy metal scene and/or would really look out of place here, chances are, it won't be accepted."

Referencing this to the forum discussion above, citing the wisdom of MA member Evenfiel, it would therefore seem fair to infer that the original acceptance of Uruk Hai in the database was because it was classified as a side project of Hugin's earlier band Hrossharsgrani.  That would seem logical, as Uruk Hai spawned from a more ambient Hrossharsgrani project as we know.  And Hrossharsgrani had been previously accepted into the database as a 'metal' band - so far, so good.

Extending that logic further, one can only presume that as Hrossharsgrani and other bands included in MA (Elisabetha being another) became less active, the status of Uruk Hai was elevated from being a mere side project to that of a main project.  By failing against the 3 criterion tests defined previously, it would struggle to maintain its place on the site.

Ok, so on that basis the argument for not keeping Uruk Hai on MA becomes clearer and - by the logic of their own rules - MA moderators are following an established and transparent process by considering the band in a new light.

Typically, however, things are more complicated than that!  Another section of the MA site rules notes:

"Additionally, there will be some non-metal bands featured on the site that we feel are still part of the metal scene despite not being metal themselves (usually darkwave, ambient, neo-classical and/or folk bands, examples being Mortiis, Elend, Autumn Tears, Stille Volk, etc). These bands are selected by the moderators in an admittedly arbitrary fashion, and their submission by normal users is discouraged. Please bear with us on this."

And this ambiguity is, I believe, the predominant reason for much of the ensuing (and indeed ongoing) debate surrounding Uruk Hai and MA.  A casual listen ('compelling evidence', no less!) reveals that Uruk Hai are notably more metal than Stille Volk (and trust me, in the interests of research I have sat through many hours of that band's Pyrenean folk music to reach this conclusion).  Arguably, Uruk Hai are equally as metal as many of the other "non-metal bands that we feel as still part of the metal scene despite no being metal themselves".  So what gives?  Why has an admittedly arbitrary decision been made against Uruk Hai when it has been in favour of comparable bands?

And why - whilst we're on the subject of asking questions - has Hrossharsgrani also been removed from MA despite being the 'parent' metal band that led to Uruk Hai's inclusion in the first place, and why has this not been the focus of any great fuss or debate?

Well, in search of answers to these imponderables, let's plough on into a small skirmish in 2012....

Stardate: May 2012

Droneriot 17/05/12
Hey Derigin. You were the one who talked about stricter standards for side-projects in the chatroom, so isn't it about time to finally kill Uruk Hai? In my opinion they should have been removed long ago because I have yet to find a release of theirs that was released by a label with worldwide distribution, but I was overruled by the staff every time I brought them up. Maybe they can be reconsidered at this point? I'd like to hear your input.

Derigin 17/05/12
Off the top of my head, their split with Forgotten Land, 'Nachtkrieg', was released and is available by Dungeons Deep Records. This album is also available through Mercenary Musik, who are the only other place that I'm aware of having DDR stuff, and also have Dragons of War, Tawantinsuyu and their split with Vinterriket.  We'll look into Uruk Hai, Drone.

And one can safely assume that a process of 'looking into' did indeed follow, as later on ...

Stardate: May 2013 all kicked off again, but this time in a big way, in May 2013....

Azmodes 20/05/13
Austrian Uruk-Hai has (finally) been deleted. It was reassessed and found wanting, not a valid SP [Editors note: SP = side project, presumably], not a valid special exception and no consistently metal release in the monstrous discography.

[Nazgul adds: this post was also accompanied by an movie clip showing an Uruk Hai being decapitated in a forest.  Make of that what you will....]

Iamntbatman 20/05/13
I know the band is somewhat popular, has a giant discography and has been on the site for a very long time. From what I've heard of them they're pretty terrible so I can't say I'm sorry to see them go

Azmodes 20/05/13
I've never even listened to the project (well, apart from the few supposedly metal samples I checked recently) and don't know it outside of its history here. I've heard some bad things too, though.  For all those who might mourn the loss of the extensive discography and general info, Alhadis saved all that for his upcoming Tome of Noise database project

And that was that: the Uruk Hai listing was gone, and with it the extensive discography referred to.  For the record, as far as I can find from extensive Googling, the Tome of Noise project has yet to be published online anywhere.  

Ouch!  That hurt, Azmodes...
There's another later post from Azmodes, however, which states: 

"@Hugin stuff: Nice work there, I'm going to download the stuff you claim is somewhat metal, but from reading your descriptions alone it doesn't look good. I've informed Alhadis about this, he's going to save the pages for his Tome of Noise project (and then nuke them, most likely).  EDIT: Yiap, going to get nukified."

So that latter edit would appear to confirm the end of any slim hope that this information was retained off-site.

The overall decision to unceremoniously throw Uruk Hai from the site led to a number of emails from disgruntled souls to Nazgul, who despite being honoured that so many of you clearly thought I had any clout at MA was unable to do anything about the decision.

Forum debate started only a few days later...

Jadkrig 22/05/13
Hello!  Can anyone tell me why the Austrian band Uruk-Hai is deleted?  Maybe it is mostly Ambient, but two CD's are Metal and even from the same artist I want to add Eismond which is clearly Ambient Black Metal, only the first Demo isn't ambient, the others are METAL.....

As I tried to add it, this came following: "Warning: a band called "Eismond" (Austria) has been blacklisted! Your submission will NOT go through. If you think this is an error, please ask in this forum thread. Attempting to circumvent the blacklist is a bannable [sic] offence. Thank you."

I don't find any good reasons for this, please explain it to me?

This led to Jadkrig being referred back to Azmodes post of 20 May for the history of the deletion, such as it was.  But yet others entered into the battle...

Raveneyeslikemirrors 22/06/13
I just found out that Uruk-Hai was removed from MA. You argued that their music was not 'metal enough'. In that regards, why is Mortiis and Neptune Towers listed here? Additionally, the connection to black metal culture in Uruk-Hai is undeniable, and Hugin has participated in multiple actual metal projects like Hrossharsgrani, Ravenclaw, Folkearth, and Elisabetha.

The real problem with this is that MA was the only complete and comprehensive list of the projects output in existence. The deletion of it I feel deprives fans like myself of a valuable resource in not only tracking down his limited pressings, but avoiding bootlegs, and keeping track of new releases.

My biggest argument is how can Uruk-Hai be not considered acceptable while other completely ambient projects like the aforementioned Mortiis are permitted?  Perhaps you still have records of the discography so that I or other fans could take a list of it and post it somewhere else like Discogs, that way we have this very valuable resource?

Gravelander89  22/06/13
I thought absolutely the same about Uruk-Hai, thanks for this true post.

Cursarion 22/06/13
@ Uruk-Hai: Well, non-metal bands are accepted if they're side projects of metal bands, plus some arbitrary selections. One of the moderators saved all the information, maybe he'll make it available somewhere.

Jadkrig 22/06/13
I can't understand why some bands are deleted and some not, for example Vinterriket stay and Uruk-Hai are deleted?  I like both bands by the way.  On the other hand, regarding the side project of Hugin (Eismond) I sent some examples to show there is metal enough inside, but they say to me some fuzzy guitar are not metal?  So the new Mortiis (which NEVER made metal before) are more metal than Eismond? Surely not....?

Bands like Mortiis and Uruk-Hai and Vinterriket are interesting and important for some metal heads. So like many of the Black Metallers listen to the old Mortiis stuff. So wouldn't it be better not to delete those bands because of their relationship to the metal scene?

Fulgurius 22/06/13
In short, Vinterriket has metal releases, while Uruk Hai hasn't. No need to compare them. Everything else is explained in the rules, which you are advised to read before making useless posts like this. Also, all this has been answered before. If many users will ask about Uruk Hai, it will not help bringing the band back to the archives.

Jadkrig 22/06/13
Useless?  You don't understand the point ... it is not because of Uruk Hai, it is because of the many many many other bands you supported here which are not metal.  Those bands are not metal like Mortiis, like Autumn Tears, even like Dark Sanctuary and Elend .....

Mattaiastk421 23/06/13
It looks like the matter of the Austrian Uruk-Hai has already been discussed to completion. But I simply want to reiterate that many of us would really appreciate having the list of releases and information, in order to put it on another site, as it's the most complete source I've seen, prior to it's removal.

Raveneyeslikemirrors 25/06/13
I still personally really argue that Uruk Hai, thematically and culturally, is undoubtedly part of the black metal scene and frankly deserves to be here. I really disagree with your removal of the group, put the most important thing to me is preserving the best existing discography of the band's output. If this user could share this saved information with me, I and my friends could use it to complete his discography on Discogs. Should I send him a PM? Could you let him know that I would really appreciate this info?

Personally, I think this would have not have been such an issue with Uruk Hai fans like myself if it was not for that MA had the only possibly complete discography of the project's releases. The only other discography that came close to MA's was the one on Discogs which was missing more than 60% of the actual material on MA. To loose all that is a severe blow to collectors and the bands own availability.

Azmodes 25/06/13
Just drop Alhadis a line, people. He'll be happy to send you the info.

OpsiusCato 25/06/13
PM him. And don't forget to mention how important that info is for you, and how handsome and brilliant he is for saving it.

I wonder if any MA member did indeed send a message to Alhadis for the archived discography information?  It's not apparently appeared anywhere else on the Internet, so one has to presume that either no one did ask, or if they asked then there was no positive response to the request....perhaps the data was 'nuked' as previously inferred?

Having died down a little, the issue that just wouldn't go away ... came back!

Stardate: July 2014

The reignition - and apparent extinguishing of  - discussion on this subject, over a year later:

Droneriot 05/07/14
These rumours [of apparent partiality shown in the deletion of some bands and the retention of others] stem from attempts at understanding or explaining why certain bands, which are clearly neither metal nor side-projects, seem to deliberately remain untouched despite being reported numerous times, appearing as if the staff is under orders to leave them untouched.

The most infamous example is probably Uruk Hai, which, over the course of months or years, has been reported by at least half a dozen users in this thread alone for clearly not being metal (it's even listed as "ambient") and clearly not being side-project of a metal band (it was formed before the person behind it was involved in any metal release), but is so stubbornly ignored that the case is fertile ground for conspiracy theories involving site owner interference.

Nightgaunt 05/07/14
Uruk Hai was submitted by a senior staffer. Bearing this fact in mind, I have not personally seen a definitively presented case to prove that it does not qualify for the Archive in some way.  Normally, there is simply the assertion that it is not metal and not a side project, and should be removed; a mere assertion countered in some capacity by the mere fact that it was added by a staffer (presumably a person who knows the rules and had personal knowledge or good reason to believe that the band qualified).

This is the first occasion on which I have personally been presented with the more specific claim that Uruk Hai predates this Hugin fellow's involvement in any metal band. Without doing some active in-depth research, and assuming the Archive's chronology is correct, this assertion is not definitively proven by the information the Archive contains. Hrossharsgrani, supposedly a band with variously metal and ambient stylings, and one which Hugin is the core member of, was reportedly formed in 1998, with various demos and a debut release in 1999. Uruk Hai reportedly was formed in 1999, with a split in 2001 and a compilation and proper debut release in 2003 (so there is a period of early overlap in the two bands' activities). Thus, the case may or may not hold water (note that as it far predates the additional distribution requirement, this is not imminently relevant, nor is it necessarily relevant that Hrossharsgrani may not have begun as a metal band).

It is certainly possible that more depth of information may bear out the case for removal (I personally have no real knowledge of these groups and can certainly conceive of this as a possibility), but it would not be appropriate for one of us to remove it in the absence of a more complete case, any more than it would be appropriate to add a band with a borderline genre tag based solely on the word of the submitter that it is metal. Perhaps such a case has been presented in the past (and thus could conceivably be presented again), but for my part, I have only ever seen simpler assertions, many of them steeped in emotion.

Droneriot 05/07/14
I'm quite aware of [the Angband] release, it's been mentioned in a previous discussion about the project. Note that if anyone in the staff (or anyone else on this site) had ever heard that release, it's likely it'd have track lengths entered. Anyone can claim that any non-metal band has a metal release, if no one's ever heard that one it makes no difference.  And of course the submission predates that release by six years.

Also, on the subject of being submitted by a staff member, what difference does it make? In April 2004 MMisantropo was very new to the staff anyway, had he submitted the band just a few months earlier it would suddenly be a whole different case? The rules were interpreted far less strictly back in those days and a lot of stuff got through that had to be deleted later on, a lot of stuff that was submitted by users of all ranks. Times change, and given the evidence I doubt MMisantropo would have submitted that same project today, or in 2008, or even in 2006.

Halloween 05/07/14
I just brought it up in case of it actually being metal. It would be a shame to have to re-add all of the information to that page if it were to be deleted and it is actually metal.   There is a track from it on this Myspace on Runenstein Records. I know it doesn't prove all the tracks are, but it adds more validity to the claim of the notes:

Edit: I found Northhammer and Die Gemeinschaft. They are metal as well. A lot of these tracks come from the older releases. Maybe the band was added due to that?

Nightgaunt 06/07/14
The point is that the mere fact of the possibility of an untoward addition cannot/should not in itself be taken as sufficient reason to remove a band, excepting those rare cases which are absolutely cut-and-dry (even my brief examination of this case shows that it is not one of those). In cases where there is both evidence that a submission may be viable (e.g. this was added by a mod / formation dates suggest the possibility that it could be parsed as a side-project / apparently it has a release which could be metal) and evidence that it may not be ( e.g. due to its early submission it was subject to less stringent standards / it may not be able to be parsed as a side-project), a case that is stronger than these sorts of basic assertions of possibility will usually be necessary to enable rapid removal of the band. I have not yet seen such a case presented concerning this particular band, though again, I grant the possibility that one could be made.

Uglur 07/07/14
On the side-project issue: Uruk Hai was formed after Hugin recorded with Hrossharsgrani the demo named 'Uruk Hai' but because the sound was more ambient than the Hrossharsgrani stuff. He thought it did not fit to this project. therefore he started Uruk Hai as a side project for the more ambient releases.  First demo "In Durin's Hall" is nothing more than a re-recorded version of the 'Uruk Hai' demo from Hrossharsgrani.  Recently the newer Uruk Hai material is developing more into metal/ambient than pure ambient.

About 'Angband': I listened to the whole release. there are some entirely metal tracks like 'Back in the fields', 'Northhammer'... but also a lot of metal/ambient songs on it.

Droneriot 07/07/14
A moderator would have to hear it to determine whether it is predominantly metal or not. Even if it is a side-project, I do not see any release through a label with worldwide distribution.

MMisantropo 07/07/14
I had no idea it was me you were talking about till I read my nickname. If you'd asked me five minutes ago, I'd have answered that I'd never heard of this Uruk Hai band.

I don't listen to ambient side-projects at all. Sometimes moderators submit bands in order to fix split albums, because of a user report, or for moving an album wrongly added to an homonymous band... Again, I have no idea what was the case here. And yes, the rules were way less strict and less clear/understood six years ago.  Feel free to re-evaluate this band's presence in the archives.

And therein the discussion seems to peter out.  So what have we learned?  Well, broadly speaking that if moderators don't listen to releases then it's hardly surprising that it remains difficult (aka ambiguous) to reclassify bands as worthy (or not) or inclusion in MA.  But then again, with thousands of bands and multiple thousands of releases out there, how can the moderators possibly get around to listening to everything?

This trail identifies evidence of some chronological misunderstandings and subsequent corrections - Uruk Hai did indeed post-date Hrossharsgrani..  Which begs the obvious question - whatever became of Hrossharsgrani on MA?  If ever there was a tenuous lifeline to cling to, it was presumably the fact that if Hrossharsgrani was indeed a legitimate 'parent' band and a metal band to boot, then a side project might be able to hang off it (albeit that in the case of Uruk Hai, the side project grew in size and scope to the extent it became a main band in its own right).

The answer to the Hrossharsgrani question is to be found on 8 July 2014:

Halloween 08/07/14
Since I have no life, I went through Hrossharsgrani (another Uruk Hai side-project) looking for a conclusive metal release. Surprise, surprise, there isn't one. I wonder how this guy's bands got on here in the first place? The closest it gets is 'Schattenkrieger'. Some songs are actually metal, but there are more non-metal tracks on it and if the times are added up, it is only about 50% of the album.  Also, Ravenclaw might be worthy of deletion, as well?

Alhadis 08/07/14
Hrossharsgrani, Ravenclaw, and Hrefnesholt have all been annihilated.

Now: this may all seem quite harsh, but to give Halloween some credit there is some evidence posted on the Forum on MA that he's done some actual research and consideration here, rather than reaching an arbitrary conclusion.  And what there is I've copied below using Hrossharsgrani as the example.  A lot of this research seems to have been based on listening to samples/full songs from Spotify, and to looking up reviews elsewhere ... which is slightly embarrassing, as many of the reviews cited come from some strange little online site called ... yes, you guessed it ... Honour and Darkness!  Well, hell, my strapline was to consider all things Hugin and not 'define all things as metal' so what are you gonna do?!

Stardate July 2014: Halloween's Hrossharsgrani conclusions [and this is the edited version, by the way!]:

All tracks compiled into 3 on the Sanguis release and I have a rip of Sanguis, not metal at all.

Feuer & Eis
No idea, from review could be either way, 10 copies so might not be enough to save it: Wintertod is on both Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est's releases, not metal; Nosferat is on Sanguis, which is described as industrial; Bußfertigkeit is on Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten; Asgard is on Das Ende des Pfades

Has a kinda crappy rip, but only 2 songs come close to metal. "The Path Between Sea and Sky" and "Untergang" sound kind of metallic but I'm pretty sure no guitars are there. Hard to tell since rip is crappy, but it sounds like bm vocals + drumming over keyboards

Lieder aus Mittelerde

I have mp3's of Geschichten aus Mittelerde (Intro) and Gollum's Ratsel non-metal. One review highlights it as non-metal, another says it is ambient with a little pagan metal (Google translated could be wrong, it's in German):

Sagen & Gedichte
Honour and Darkness says has guitar but "often producing a warbling counter-melody effect to augment a track" which sounds like typical non-metal stuff for this guy's projects

Uruk Hai
Re-released under Uruk-Hai as "In Durin's Halls". Review describes it as ambient

Demo 1
Review only mentions synth stuff

First 2 tracks on Sagen & Gedichte. Third track is actually metal and on Schattenkrieger. Review says fourth track is piano. Safe to assume 3/4 are not metal here

Rehearsal CD 1
Only 4 or 5 copies made so not really enough to keep the band here, I'd think. Review says it is all keyboards, also:

Bullshit shouldn't be here, 1 copy. Not metal

Der Pfad zum Tor der Toten
Review hints at non-metal.  First three tracks - none are metal, distorted guitars playing ambient, no riffs

From the Dark Ages
Have a rip: Tracks 2 (kinda), 6 (about 30 seconds out of 4 minutes), 7 (about 30 seconds out of 4 minutes), and 8 could be considered metal. Track 12 and 15 kinda close but no real riffs. 4/16 could be considered metal, overall not a metal release

Ewig Winter

Have a rip: Track 1 is really long and has metal characteristics. I don't think they are real riffs since it is the same note played over and over (like ambient music) under drums. Even if it was metal, the other half is not metal.

Der Ring der Macht
Not metal based on this review [sorry, H&D again!]

In the Mystic Forest
Have a rip, only last track close to metal. Closer to ambient played with distorted guitars on last track with lots of ambient interludes within song itself.

Die Rückkehr zum Pfade
Review seems to describe it as non-metal:

Ancient Tales
No idea but review only mentions synths and acoustic guitars:

...of Battles, Ravens and Fire
Have a rip + it's on Spotify, only 2/6 are metal (tracks 4 kinda and 6), so not a metal release

The Secret Fire
Have a rip + it's on Spotify, only 3/8 tracks have metal in them (Tracks 3, 5 (near the end has guitars kinda..ish metal), and 7 (kinda.. not really))

Mittwinter / Hrossharsgrani

Just the ...of Battles, Ravens and Fire on a split, not metal

Demo Compilation Volume 1
More confirmed non-metal tracks than metal ones + this was limited to 10 copies

Have a rip + it's on Spotify.  This guy actually put out something listenable?.. Whaa?... Track 2, 4, 6, 8 (holy hell this one is a stomper), 11, 12, 17 are metal. Time wise, it's around 50/50 and we don't really accept that.

Rehearsal 1999
Some of the tracks are on Der Pfad zum Tor der Toten and Die Rückkehr zum Pfade which reviews say non-metal. 30 second samples don't show any metal:

The First Evil Spell...
Review says "simple repetitive rhythm of much of "Wotansschlacht"" Safe to assume not metal

Have rip, no metal to be found here at all

Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est
No metal at all

Digital release, not valid + not metal:

Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est Pt II
Both tracks on on Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est, not metal

Kampf (Part 2 - Dead Meat)
Probably a full rip out there somewhere, only could find dead links

The Songs Never Remains the Same
Both tracks covers, Track 3 Venom cover, Track 4 Beherit cover, someone needs to tag the songs properly

The Long Grey Road / Valkyrian Romance

Track 3 is on Ewig Winter which I have a rip, not metal  The other two tracks are on The Long Grey Road, see there for the rest

...of Battles, Ravens and Fire

Track 1 is the entire original of Battles.. that was re-released in 2005 with bonus tracks, since that release isn't metal, this isn't either.  Track 2 is on Depressive Illusions Records Promo Sampler #1, have a rip, it is metal, track 3 is on Ewig Winter, not metal

Same tracks as Kampf (Part 2 - Dead Meat), so see there

The Long Grey Road
Review describes both tracks as non-metal (piano/synths):

Das Ende des Pfades
Since this is a compilation, I'll describe each track ... [which he does, and concludes non-metal release]

The Ancient Path
Box set of mostly non-metal releases

Lieder von Feuer, Eis, Winter & Krieg
No reviews online, long songs from this guy usually mean non-metal. However, the tracks here are actually on CD's and tapes. Therefore, tape 3, 4, and 5 may have been previously released as Krieg and Feurer & Eis which reviews point to being non-metal

Discs 4, 5, and 6 are non-metal so already half the box set is non-metal

Winter Battles
All but tape 2 have rips and are not metal and tape to is described as non-metal in a review.

And there is an equally extensive revisit of Hrefnesholt releases, plus a necessarily shorter one for Ravenclaw.  I'll spare you the verbiage, as I'm sure you get the idea, but if you want to read in detail click through 

As a result of all of this, the three band's entries were deleted.  Elisabetha was also revisited but managed to stay in by the skin of it's (pointed) teeth, principally on the back of "Und Wirklichkeit Erfüllt Die Seele Wieder" which was reviewed by Azmodes as "5 black(ish) metal tracks (one is pretty doomy too) with a sort of cello synth sound or something. 5 neoclassical/dark ambient ones, though these seem mostly like interludes/intros for the considerably longer metal tracks. Yeah, this is okay."

Raben Nacht seems to have survived in the archive on the basis of a testimonial from Uglar and by dint of the fact that as there are illegal rips of the files online, no bugger can get to hear the demo!  Let's hope the recent reissue doesn't change that....

Stardate: 2016

And really, that's where we are now, with all but 2 of Hugin's projects off the site.  Even in 2016, though, references pop up to Uruk Hai as a reference point in the cases of other bands being dumped off MA.  A nice example of this was posted on their forum by BastardHead on 21 January 2016:

"When they [Amaranthe] got brought up by the Gestapo, I'll admit that I rolled my eyes and figured some more traditional mods were just getting their panties in a bunch about some poppy and sugary crap, but then I actually listened to them and had to agree fully, they have no place here. In fact, bit of trivia, I'm pretty sure Amaranthe is the only band (at least since I've been a mod) that was high profile and on the site for years that was voted for deletion unanimously. Kvelertak, Falloch, Uruk-Hai, everybody had defenders. 100% of the mods who weighed in on Amaranthe gave an extremely strong NO. It's almost comical how obviously they didn't belong."


Well, there's an awful lot to digest there.  To recap, what does it all mean?  Or, a more prosaic question should perhaps be this: given we are where we are, do we still really care?

Re-reading some of the salient posts in the history of this saga (and there may well be others, but I've got a life too and my tea's nearly ready) it does strike me that many of the staunch defenders of Uruk Hai clearly felt that some form of grave injustice had been done to the band through all of this and that - by inference - Hugin himself was somehow being slighted.  In other words, in defining the music of Uruk Hai as non-metal it somehow trivialised or demeaned the songs and albums that Hugin had shared with the world, and that by being deleted from the site - with evident glee and unmistakable schadenfreude as we can ascertain given the comments from certain part of the anti-Uruk Hai lobby - Uruk Hai were now a lesser band.

I recall discussing this saga with Hugin back in 2013 and revisited some of those old emails to see what he made of it.  In typically laid back fashion, his comments at the time were straightforward:

"They removed Uruk Hai from Metal Archives because it's not Metal enough - strange because I have some real metal albums too :-((   They also removed my other band Eismond because of the same reason!  Looks like someone there doesn't like my music very much - bad guy!  It's very sad - I hope it will not be forever because the new album will be really METAL!!!!  Let's see what they will do after the new album will be released this summer...?"

Much of the frustration undoubtedly stemmed from the loss of the beautifully extensive discography that the site contained, which was undoubtedly a boon to collectors in hunting down the many and various releases out there.  It was a valuable resource, and then it was lost (and despite vague promises it might be resurrected via Tome Of Noise, it remains lost).  That one issue seems to be the biggest practical annoyance from a fan's perspective, and it's interesting to see that since the MA entry disappeared the band's catalogue in the Discogs site has increased noticeably, which can hardly be coincidental.

This conclusion seems to be supported by the entirely different scenario that unfolded when Hrefnesholt, Ravenclaw and Hrossharsgrani data was removed from the site.  Absolutely no outrage or complaint whatsoever followed in the forum pages!  In principle you can't help but feel that there should have been the same stalwart defence being offered by MA members and Hugin fans for these bands, but in reality there just wasn't.  Either everyone got disillusioned really quickly about complaining to MA (unlikely!), or the more logical conclusion is that fewer people cared as it didn't affect them in the same way: e.g. they collected Uruk Hai stuff but not releases from Hugin's other deleted projects, and it was really the loss of the Uruk Hai discography that was the problem.  Gosh, what a cynic Nazgul is...

The point was made a few times in the forum that the data underpinning the Uruk Hai discography had been retained, on a temporary basis if nothing more.  So I wonder if any intrepid MA member did actually try to gather the information from the relevant moderator before any 'nuking' took place?  Perhaps a reader of Honour and Darkness can shed some light on this?

Taking a step back, if one looks objectively at the actual process and logic that was followed to reassess the Uruk Hai catalogue against the rules of the site circa 2013, I would stick my neck out and venture to say that the reasons to remove the band were probably valid at that point in time.  The admittance of the project was seemingly only under the very subjective 'side project' rule anyway, and events in 2013 had changed markedly since the original point of the band's inclusion:

(1) To any objective view, Uruk Hai had evidently become Hugin's main project.  This seems reasonable to assume given the marked increase in volume of releases and the corresponding decrease in output from Elisabetha and Hrossharsgrani (the 'parent' band spawning the side project).  This meant under site rules the project needed to be assessed as a main band in its own right.

(2) As we have read, a number of MA members had voiced concerns over a number of years about the Uruk Hai material being largely ambient and not metal in the strict definitions of the site. On balance, I think we'd all have to agree, this is also broadly true.  Less of a problem for a side project, of course, but a real issue for a 'main' band

(3) Consensus amongst a number of moderators had evidently been reached about the need to remove the band based on the site rules: and let's remember, this isn't a democracy, it IS their site and it IS their criteria, so really they can decide what they like.  As arbitrary and subjective as that may seem to advocates of the band, there is not a lot that can be argued against that decision given the flexibility in the rules.

Yes, the tone and unkind comments from posts about Uruk Hai over this period stung us all, and naturally we all defended his music and integrity as a result.  There exists a certain amount of circumstantial evidence that suggests a number of key players behind the scenes may not have listened extensively to much of the Uruk Hai output, which is not unreasonable given the demands of time and the availability of material, but which could have led to some incorrect conclusions being jumped to.  There is also evidence to suggest that there were (and doubtless still are) a number of people who clearly didn't like/rate the project for whatever reasons, and were agitating for its removal by any means necessary in a very pejorative fashion.

Need more convincing?  Here's yet another post I stumbled over during the latter stages of writing this post, dripping with sarcasm but containing more than a kernel of truth I suspect:

Azmodes 02/07/2015
[Responding to the comment from another poster: "The only possible reason coming to my mind is that one band has more haters among the local staff than the other and so they decided to sabotage them by not listing them"]

That's a very reasonable assumption and of course true. The band screening process is based on personal taste among the staff. Between all of us, we like around 103,698 bands, give or take. Subtract that number from all metal bands in existence and you get the number of disliked bands. A notable exception is the Austrian project Uruk-Hai, which we all love deeply, but I felt too threatened by in my own dungeon synth efforts and hence ended up deleting. God's honest truth".  

But let's be honest, at the end of the day the presence of Uruk Hai on MA (or indeed any other site) is arguably pretty incidental in the grand scheme of things, and hardly something to get overwrought about.  Yes it's annoying and some useful information about the band was lost, but it's hardly life changing.  Let MA have their arbitrary rules and let the moderators try to make sense of them the best way they can - it's a thankless job, and I wouldn't fancy doing it.

We, on the other hand, can rejoice in the knowledge that since deletion Uruk Hai has gone from strength to strength, and a host of wonderful releases have followed.

Which ironically spawns another, more contemporary, issue.

In discussing this post with Hugin, he was definitely less relaxed about the history of this situation given the benefit of hindsight and a fresh perspective of matters in 2016:  

"I'm really pissed off about it – other bands do far less metal than Uruk Hai and are still in the Archives.  From 2010 onwards I have done so much metal in all of my releases as you know: I think I really deserve it to get back into this site!!!  I easily could fill up 8 full albums with Metal songs – more than other band will ever release!!!!  I'm getting angry now ... I think it is an important platform nowadays – back in 2013 it was just the beginning of my Metal 'career' but today I see it with different eyes because I have written so many Metal songs over the past few years.  It is just unfair to get dropped out of MA by people who do not know my music at all"

Now, whilst there is still a major element of non-metal (by MA definitions) ambient in recent Uruk Hai releases, Hugin may have a point.  And here's a thorny point of contention: the 2013 album he referenced above was his magnum opus "...And All The Magic And Might He Brought", which of course was chock-a-block of guitar riffs, rock and metal songs, with a twist of ambient flair.  It received many reviews online treating it as an album in the power/heavy metal mould.  

Has this album been reassessed on Metal Archives under their 3 criteria?  Let's remind ourselves:
  • the music must have 'metal riffs'
  • there must be compelling evidence for the band being metal (in other words, samples - MA won't just take your word for it)
  • a band must have at least one fully, unambiguously metal album.
I'd argue the answers in context of this album would be 'Yes', 'Yes' and 'Very Probably'. However, given the history, I imagine even contemplating the re-evaluation and possible reinstatement of Uruk Hai on MA for this album would bring the moderators out in hives, and most likely crash the forum with the inevitable onslaught of opinion!  Such a proposal would be valid and only reasonable, though done with a distinct sense of mischievousness as well as for the inherent justice it should bring.  

In fact, it's almost worth trying out, don't you think....?!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

DURIN'S DAY - update

Title: Durin's Day
Reason for update: It lives....

Now, back in November you will recall Nazgul banging on about the impending release of the Honour and Darkness limited edition "Durin's Day" tape.  Well, it's finally seen the light of day - only 3 months later than planned (and that, largely, was due to the need to find a suitable CD/tape player to copy Hugin's master CD to tape).

However, excuses and prevarications aside, the tape is now complete and all 5 copies are ready for action!

So, to recap how this goes down: one copy is shortly to shoot over to Austria, with another heading to Spain, and one final copy already on route to Germany.  The fourth copy stays in Castle Nazgul to form part of the collection here.

Copy number five, which you will remember is hand-signed by both Hugin and Nazgul, is to be offered up for sale on Discogs on the morning of Saturday 27 February.  As previously outlined, the asking price is admittedly steep but the money is for a good cause, and if you feel inclined to make me an offer I will be happy to consider it: my gut feeling is that the tape will probably be sold by no later than the following Saturday, either by dint of being snapped up at full cost or by way of the best offer having been accepted by that time.

And, of course, the money is a donation to the Wieser children, let us remember, though somewhat late for Christmas as originally intended!

A highly collectible item for any discerning fan, and in this signed format never to be seen again I'd wager.....

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The W.A.R. Armoury, Part 6: Drinking Horn

The W.A.R. Armoury, Part 6

Item: Hugin's Horn

Oh, the irony - no sooner committing to type that the Blog would be back to a more regular posting frequency, there has immediately been a long delay between posts.  Inevitable, perhaps, given that Nazgul's actual day job has been getting ridiculously busy, let alone the fact that the Nazgul junior is on half-term from pre-school so is roaming the Castle demanding to be entertained.  All very enlivening, of course, but absolutely no use in getting anything done regarding Honour and Darkness.

So - we have a bit of a fill-in post (again), but one that you may find of interest...

Rummaging through the enormous box of armoured apparel that was purchased from Hugin some while ago has provided for some interesting finds, captured for your delight in this ongoing 'The W.A.R. Armoury' series.  Mostly we've seen fairly predictable items - swords, chainmail, helms, etc. which have been photographed and spotted on many a publicity photograph.  Not so today's item, which - it has to be said - is fairly odd.  I'm not even sure it's actually been used in any pictures directly, though there's the occasional picture of Hugin in full-on warrior mode that hints at the possibility that this item could be around his waist, hanging off a belt.

See, for example, this one, of Hugin in a splendid fiery sunset: there's definitely something hanging off his belt (to the right, as we look at the picture) and it's conceivable that it is this particular item ... though to be fair it could be pretty much anything else from medieval mobile phone to a goatskin full of mead.  So the jury is still out on whether the horn in question has been featured in any actual publicity or album photographs, but its provenance is unassailable as it came directly from W.A.R. and so is being treated with due reverence!

Just what is lurking at Hugin's left hip....?
Now horns - in the musical sense - are commonplace within the literature surrounding warriors and battle.  Gjallarhorn, for example, is well known as the 'sounding horn' of the god Heimdall, used to announce Ragnarok.  Similarly, Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor, carried the Horn Of Gondor: the horn was made by Vorondil the Hunter in the Third Age. Vorondil hunted oxen all the way to the Sea of Rhûn and fashioned the horn out of one of the oxen's horns. Boromir claimed that if the horn was heard anywhere within its borders, Gondor would come to the owner's aid. When Boromir was slain early in The Two Towers, the Horn of Gondor was cut in two by Orcs. The horn later washed up upon the banks of the Anduin, where it was discovered by his brother, Faramir. 

And, whilst waxing lyrical about horns, let us not forget the Horn of Valere, a fictional horn in Robert Jordan's fantasy series The Wheel of Time, which calls heroes back from the grave.

The inescapable thought thus generated remains simply this: has this item been converted from some distant time from an old musical horn, and what would happen if we give Hugin's horn a quick toot?  Well, the end of that sentence could have been better phrased for sure, but you know what I mean.  Will the dead come back to live and stalk the corridors of Castle Nazgul (a worrying prospect, given the number of corpses buried in the grounds)?  Will the ensuing blast bring on the apocalypse, or at the very least cause a wave of headaches and misery across the land?  Or would it be a pale and insignificant little parp...

Or is that theory completely nuts and has it always been - for want of a better expression - a horny receptacle, used for the storage of ... well, whatever you like really.  One can just imagine chainmail-clad warriors rushing into melees with a dried flower arrangement at their side, much like modern day VW Beetle drivers haunt the highways with their atrocious driving whilst sporting a large flower in their dashboard vases.

But of course, it's none of the above: it's a drinking horn, of course!  Silver-tipped, around ten inches long, leather thong to tie it to your armour and guaranteed to hold around half a pint of best bitter for when it's needed the most.

A little research on the subject has unearthed a man called Grimfrost who makes authentic drinking horns to order. Not that this particular horn came from him, you understand, but I mention him merely for context and as an excuse to add the photograph below to this post: how about that for holding your wine, mead or beer, all 5L (that's 10 pints, or 160oz) of it! Yours for only US$285.60 (a strangely specific price) plus shipping - and an authentic note of caution that your horn is not dishwasher friendly!
Blimey, next round's on you then.....
Grimfrost goes on to inform us that the Vikings used many different drinking vessels, ranging from primitive cones made of rolled birch bark, to silver cups. Horns were used during important gatherings, festivities and rituals. They were carefully polished, with some of the simpler examples being unadorned, whilst the more exclusive variants bore elaborate decorations.

Much history is attached to these objects, ancient and modern.  In more recent times, lavishly decorated drinking horns in the Baroque style, some imitating cornucopias, some made from ivory, including gold, silver and enamel decorations continued to be produced as luxury items in 19th to early 20th century imperial Austria and Germany.  Drinking horns were the ceremonial drinking vessel for those of high status all through the medieval period (and will get you some grudging respect nowadays too, if you pop into your local and ask the barman to top up your horn with a pint of Old Finklestein's Bowel Burster).

This would seem the perfect conclusion to end this post with, and all those with drinking horns may now raise them in salutation to Mr Wieser of Linz, Austria, whilst singing appropriately raucous songs about lusty maidens and cowardly orcs (or, indeed, the reverse scenario, if that's your thing). 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016



Title: Elbenklang
Format: This is a cassette tape only release, on Hugin's own W.A.R. Productions label (Austria) released in 2015, cat ref WAR083.  It comes with a red copied paper cover, and is standard C60 style tape stock with red banner.
Edition: 9 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Elbenklang (Part One)  14.23
02. Elbenklang (Part Two)  13.42

Presumed to have been released as something of a hybrid item - part promotional tape, part fan-special package - this is a two-song cassette featuring both parts of the song 'Elbenklang'.  Part One appears on Uruk Hai's split release "From The Ashes Of Battle" with Balrog (yet to be featured in Honour and Darkness), whilst Part Two is on Uruk Hai's epic new Twilight album, also currently to be reviewed.

Hand numbered and bearing all the hallmarks of a lovingly created small volume release, there are but 9 copies of this little gem out there in the world at large so treasure your copy should you be one of the fortunate few to have one.

And it's ambient adventures all the way here, with both songs being the sort of longer, experimental songs cut from classic Uruk Hai cloth that will have Hugin's fan-base frothing at the mouth in seconds.  On a day like today - where tendrils of passing storms send gusts of wind groaning and moaning their way through the crumbling Castle architecture, almost drowning out the screams of tortured souls imprisoned in the dungeons below - it's a nigh on perfect listen.

Of course, as with many of these highly limited editions, the odds of finding one for sale at any given time are surely negligible at best, so it might be a question of investing  your time and money in the parent CD's from whence these songs come if you are keen to explore their hidden depths ... and quite frankly, you should be interested!