Saturday, 30 July 2016

EVERLASTING WRATH OF THE TYRANT - tape box-set


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Everlasting Wrath Of The Tyrant
Format: This is the cassette box-set version of the previously reviewed "Everlasting Wrath Of The Tyrant" release, this time issued by W.A.R. Productions circa 2010/11, no catalogue reference.  The set is contained in a hard shell white filing box packed with protective material, and includes 6 hand-numbered cassette tapes (all bearing the same edition number as the box itself), a foil wrapped incense stick, a white feather, and a DVDr disc with all of the songs on it.
Edition: 6 hand-numbered copies only

Contents:
Tape 1  *  Über Die Nebelberge Weit      
Tape 2  *  Elbentanz      
Tape 3  *  March To War      
Tape 4  *  Blutreich      
Tape 5  *  Gone With The Wind      
Tape 6  *  Thousand Lightnings Strike

DVDr  *  Contains all of the music from the 6 cassettes

Now, if I remember correctly, the Everlasting Wrath of the Tyrant tape series (henceforth known as EWotT) was released in a limited to 33 copies per tape edition by Wulfrune Worxx back in 2010.  The box-set that you see here, however, compiles all of the 6 tapes together, adds in the music on a special DVD-r disc, and then throws a bundle of other paraphernalia for good measure to make an attractive package that complements the CD box-set released by the TryBy label in 2012.

The tape inlays are all black and white, which was the traditional Wulfrune way of course, and although one can normally only imagine what they might have looked like in glorious Technicolor we do get a glimpse of what might have been courtesy of the DVDr paper cover, which does depict them in colour.

The individual tapes rarely come up for sale - for those interested in such things, at the date of writing a copy of the "Blutreich" tape is current up for grabs on Discogs - and the box-set is even less common: in fact, Nazgul has never seen another come up for sale and can thus only surmise that the remaining 5 copies (this being #1 of the 6) are securely held in the vaults of other collectors somewhere around the globe.

Speaking of ways to spend your money, should you still be in the market to pick up a copy of the CD box-set then there is one still for sale on the SkullLine website, albeit for a whisker over €40.

The items accompanying this set include a white feather, a foil-wrapped incense stick, an Uruk Hai logo sticker (the same as the one affixed to the side of the box) and a rather nice white-framed colour photo.  This photograph may seem familiar to you, and if you have already recognised it as the alternative cover for the Hrossharsgrani "...From The Dark Ages" compilation tape then kudos to you!

As with the CD version, this box-set offers the listener an aural bonus is that there is additional material on some of the tapes above that released on the original demos.  This is not the case for all - 'March To War' appears exactly as in original guise - but a quick summary of the differences shows us that "Über die Nebelberge Weit" gains the bonus track 'Moria'; that "Blutreich" gains 'Minas Morgul' as it's additional bonus; "Gone With The Wind" is expanded to include 'Wenn Es Nacht Wird'; whilst "Thousand Lightnings Strike" gains the song 'Land Of Fire & Steel (Rehearsal)'.  

"Elbentanz" goes all complicated on us on two occasions by merging a few songs from the original into one longer track on this pressing, and also adds 'Kazad-Dum' as an additional bonus.

The irony here, of course, is that this particular reissue hardly made any of the earlier and very rare demos more widely available, given the extreme limitation on this particular box and indeed on the EWotT tape set generally. And the CD box-set on TryBy came in an edition of just 15 copies, of course, maintaining the rarity and exclusivity of the individual releases represented within it.

It's almost certain that you'll never see one for sale anywhere, so Nazgul hopes you'll enjoy looking through his copy!

Friday, 22 July 2016

HAIL VICTORY TEUTONIA


Band: Nachtfalke
Title: Hail Victory Teutonia
Format: Full length album released in 2001 on the Christhunt Productions label (Germany) by this German band, again with input from Hugin: this time, through contributed lyrics to one of the songs.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
01. Ode to the Fallen One  10:34  
02. Searched and Found  07:41  
03. Asgard Riders  03:04  
04. War in Asgard  08:08  
05. Man of Iron (Bathory cover)  02:23    
06. Warrior's Nightmare  07:24    
07. Vikingdance (Under the Flag of Odin's Son)  02:16    
08. To Honour Wotan  13:45  
09. Nordic Warriors  06:49    
10. Hail Teutonia  12:19  
11. You're So Wrong (Black Widow cover)  03:36    

For some strange reason when Nazgul covered off previous contributions by Hugin to Nachtfalke releases, this particular album slipped through the net.  Let's remedy that situation quickly, and note the contribution of lyrics by our Austrian hero to track 8 on this CD, 'To Honour Wotan'.

It's quite interesting, actually, that within the album booklet the lyrics themselves (which may not be exactly how they were originally written by Hugin, to be fair) interchangeably reference both Wotan and Wodan.  So are these 2 characters indeed one and the same?

Well, yes, is the short answer!  In wider Germanic mythology and paganism, Odin was known in Old English as Wōden, in Old Saxon as Wōdan, and in Old High German as Wuotan or Wōtan, all stemming from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic theonym 'Wōđanaz'.  So we've all learned something today, not least the word 'theonym' which is a form of proper noun that refers to a deity.

He's a busy guy, this Hugin fellow: not content with releasing a multitude of his own works he - as regular readers will know - has a habit of contributing songs to other band's albums, artwork for their releases, or lyrics to their songs as in this case.  It makes Nazgul's collecting life a constant and interesting challenge to try to keep up with it all, let me tell you!

Rather handily, there's a review of the entire "Hail Victory Tetonia" album online at Metal Archives, which seems as good a way to round off today's post as any referencing as it does the song in question:

'This is a side project of Occulta Mors, of Moonblood. Nachtfalke play Viking metal in the vein of Bathory's "Hammerheart".

Musically, this album is superb. The keys form the main melodies, much as in later works of Graveland. The backing guitar is mostly relegated to the bottom of the mix, though this isn't a bad thing, because the grating, buzzsaw-like guitar sound makes the perfect backdrop for the epic song-writing at hand. Lead guitar mostly adopts a high tone, and there are some stirring solos here. Last but not least, there's even a little acoustic guitar in places. The drums are well played, though they're mostly slow paced, as befits this sort of music. The production is a little raw, but quite listenable.

The vocals are a major high point, some of the best metal vocals I've heard in years. The main voice used is a deep, grunting growl, but high screams and even clean vocals are also used, to amazing effect. It's especially impressive considering that this is a one-man band! In places, two or more voices sing at once, creating an almost choral effect that's quite effective, but never overused.

As good as the musicianship on "Hail Victory Teutonia" is, the song-writing is even better. Most of these songs are longer than 6 minutes, and the disc itself is more than 70, yet I can listen again and again and never get bored. Some songs aren't as good as others, but the overall quality is quite high. "To Honour Wotan" in particular is an instant classic to me, with its martial atmosphere, echoing vocals, and great acoustic sections.

I'd say that this is one of the best Viking style black metal albums since Bathory's "Blood on Ice". It's better than Hades, better than Morrigan, and better than most of Graveland's Bathory-style output. Anyone who likes this style will most likely worship this album. Seek this out immediately.

 Standout tracks: "Ode to the Fallen One", "To Honour Wotan", "Hail Teutonia'

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON, BY THE RAY OF THE STARS


Band: URUK HAI / JOE MATERA
Title: By The Light Of The Moon, By The Ray Of The Stars / Louder Than Words (Lauter Als Worte)
Format: Professionally released double a-side split CD single on the Winterwolf Records label (Germany) in 2016, cat ref WWP0203. Double sided inlay (each artist having their own cover), colour inlays and picture disc.
Edition: 100 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Joe Matera  *  Louder Than Words (Lauter Als Worte)  4.19
02. Uruk Hai  *  By The Light Of The Moon, By The Ray Of The Stars  4.06

It's not the first time these two artistes and friends have worked together on a split CD (you may recall the 2012 collaboration "Travellin' West / Schworzeichn II" between Hrefnesholt and Joe), but now they're back and this is a very welcome return to them sharing their music with the world and each other. Timely too, coming as it does ahead of Joe's 2016 European Tour (more of which later).

Winterwolf Records have done a nice job with this release, which comes limited to just 100 copies (mine being #9) and has a reversible front inlay booklet so you can display it with your artiste of preference to the fore!

Two songs on offer, one from each camp, so let's follow the natural running order of the disc and kick off with Mr Matera's contribution.

And knock me down with a sausage sanger if this isn't a prime cut of melodic rock from the bandana wearing axe-slinger, with a German chorus no less. Check that, then, maybe I should have declared myself knocked down with a bratwurst buttie on this basis instead, but I digress. It's a really nice mid-tempo rocker, excellent melodies and a strong hook, and the sort of thing that radio stations across the west like to play. Let's hope it might get a bit of radio airplay over summer during his tour.

The sort of song that you'd be more than happy to have on as you cruise through big-sky landscapes in the USA or Australia in your open top muscle car, the wind in your hair (or ruffling your bandana depending on headwear preferences) and the sun on your back. It's also very catchy, so you can't help but feel there should be some very positive reaction to this one.

The Uruk Hai track is ... well, not to put too fine a point on it, rather odd!  This isn't to say bad, but it's not at all what you might expect so conversely you need to be mentally fleet of foot to get your head around the fact that this isn't your normal Hugin style sound!

Occasionally this incongruent sound emerges in contemporary Uruk Hai recordings, and really can be traced back in time to the collaborative Uruk Hai anniversary album "With All The Magic & Might He Brought" when a host of guest musicians led to the sound evolving in all manner of directions. This song is similarly influenced, having the guitar input of the aforementioned Joe Matera plus the slightly left-field vocals of Bart Piette (Dead Man's Hill) too. The overall result is an unusual track with lots going on but little of which really sounds like a our hero Hugin was necessarily even in the room at the time, so low in the mix are his traditional keyboards and synths.

It all starts with an acoustic guitar (to my ears sounding not unlike a Status Quo intro, though Joe has a different take on that as you'll read!) before a rather less party-like drum solemnly kicks in ahead of Bart giving it the beans on vocals.  And the vocals have a punky nature to them that feels quite strange within the song generally, until you change your mind-set about what you expected to be hearing.

Only then does it begin to make a bit more sense, though the overall impact still leaves you a tad shell shocked. Add in some other musical weirdness (a short almost ghostly whispered passage; a seemingly random drum section that could be straight out of the Stray Cats playbook) and you have a truly odd creation indeed.

If the Cramps and the Meteors had a jam with Die Toten Hosen and the outpourings were mixed by Al Jourgensen then you might approach the general idea...

Like many of the results in the 2016 European football tournament, not what the audience expected. Indeed, to keep the football metaphor alive, were this a World Cup qualifier the less charitable media might report this outcome as an Australian win in the head-to-head, courtesy of a bizarre Austrian own goal...?!

What you really want to know though is what Joe and Hugin think of each others songs, so let Nazgul enlighten you on this score.  Firstly, Hugin on his contribution to this EP:

"My own track is an outtake from the "...And All The Magic..." album [Nazgul's note: Aha!  Told you so!], it was an instrumental track and I first asked Tony Dolan to do the vox but he sadly was too busy and so it was not been finished in time to make it on to the album. Later the track laid on ice for a while then I asked Piette from Dead Man's Hill to do the vocals and he did it immediately and in perfect time to release it as a split with Joe's track"

And what does Joe Matera make of this Uruk Hai song, on which he plays guitar incidentally?

"When Alex asked me to contribute guitar to this Uruk-Hai track, I was totally honoured. Basically all I had to work with was the backing track tack with no vocals but Alex gave me carte blanche with it. So I felt I wanted to bring to the track some garage-y punk guitar, with blistering power chords that really added to the track's atmosphere and feel. It is also something totally out of the box for me, since my own playing is more rooted in the melodicism of old school classic rock, I wanted to go a different route with this track.

I wanted to enhance rather than try and shape the track into more of my style which would be a disservice to the track. The last thing I wanted was for the track to sound like a Joe Matera track! I wanted to keep to the trademark Uruk-Hai sound but bring my own unique touch, albeit different approach to it.

I think my guitar brings an edge to the track, which fits perfectly with the vocals and overall sound of the track. The opening double bend riff, gives a kind of ominous almost Sabbath-ish touch and the double-note riff that follows stamps a classic rock touch to proceedings, and in some way, is my subtle nod to the kind of riffs that inspired my own guitar playing that echoes Deep Purple and ZZ Top."


And of course let's not forget to repay the complement, with Hugin's view on Joe's song:

"I really like his song and it is great to hear him singing German in the chorus 'Lauter Als Worte'.  I remember back in 2013 I taught it to him and he performed it live first time in Hamburg's BaRRock at his gig there – it was amazing how fast he learned it and he pronounced it absolutely right just after 2-3 takes! There are 3 versions of that song, the full band version, the acoustic version heard on the "Louder Than Words" digipak CD out on W.A.R. Productions/ Mercury Fire Music, and this full band version with German chorus on our split out at Winterwolf Records."

And here's a timely reminder: Joe's out on tour again in Europe from the 25th July, so you can catch him at a number of dates around the continent.  And Hugin will be there too - what more could you ask for?

As they stand at the date of typing, the tour dates are as follows:

'Now And Then' Acoustic European Tour: July - August 2016

  • Wednesday July 27 - Vinyl Corner, Linz, Austria
  • Thursday July 28 - Open Air,  Elia Solar City, Linz, Austria
  • Saturday July 30 (Afternoon) - Wings& Wheels Festival, Airfield Uetersen/Heist, Germany
  • Saturday July 30 (Evening) - S.A.M. Musikertreff, Garstedt, Germany
  • Tuesday August 2 - Speiches Rock und Blueskneipe, Berlin, Germany
  • Sunday Aug 7 - Salon Irkutsk, Munich, Germany

It would be well worth your while pointing your browser towards Winterwolf's site though to grab a copy of this ahead of booking a ticket to see the show in person.


Monday, 18 July 2016

ANCIENT TALES - update V


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Ancient Tales
Reason for (yet another) update: The long sought Werwolf tape pressing has finally been located, completing the 'family' of Ancient Tales releases!

'Ancient Tales V' - it's beginning to sound like some form of cheesy horror film series; maybe this album is the Freddy Krueger of the Castle Nazgul collection...

Today's quick post is to celebrate the hunting down and capture of the final piece in the "Ancient Tales" family, a tape which has proven so elusive that it has taken literally 7 years plus to track a copy down.  When we last updated this saga in 2013 it was to note the fact that fellow collector Thomas Kahr had managed to find a copy of his own (the lucky devil), and also to feature the colour artwork for the cover that Hugin had tucked away in his archive.  Really, this coverage by proxy was almost a tacit admission that it was looking more and more likely that it was the only way that this particular tape was going to find its way onto Honour and Darkness, so elusive was it proving to be.

Indeed, there was a false dawn some years ago when a copy was listed for sale on the Discogs site showing the Werwolf artwork but which in fact turned out to be the third tape pressing and not the actual featured item at all.  That was a bummer, let me tell you!

However, back in March of this year an honest to goodness real copy of this tape was finally spotted for sale in Poland and a deal was struck faster than you can say, 'give-me-that-bloody-tape-please'. And so here it is, nestled snugly in the bosom of the Castle library, and amidst the other 4 variants of this singular album.  A nice low numbered copy too, being #6 of the 88 released.

It cost a little more than your average Hrossharsgrani tape of this period, though quite frankly given the scarcity of the thing I'd have paid double to get my hands on it!

All of which is a cautionary tale in the dangerous area of obsessive collecting.  Digressing into a little anecdote; Nazgul found himself at one of his regular haunts the other week, Camberley's finest musical emporium The Rock Box chatting amiably to one of the ever-helpful staff, Andrew, about the Honour and Darkness website.  The Rock Box is in fact the only place in the known universe where a complete stranger has ever come up to Nazgul to complement him on his Blog, so will forever hold a special place in my coal-black heart. 

Anyway, there we were chatting away and the subject of obsessive collecting behaviour came up, reminding Nazgul once again that maintaining his collection comes at a real risk of mental and financial instability...!

If you're in the area, it's well worth paying a visit to the Rock Box, blessed as it is with tidy, well stocked shelves and a cute, well stacked girl to admire in equal measure.  Oh. and whilst you're busily admiring things, you might also want to visit Andrew's own Jezus Factory label to see if you like the look of anything there too. 

The conclusion to 2013's update IV stated that "as and when an original copy eventually finds its way to the Castle Library, Nazgul will organise a family photograph of the "Ancient Tales" releases to date". And so, ladies and gentlemen, here it is: 7 years in the making and quite possibly the only place in the world where you'll see all 5 pressings in one place?

"We are family...."

Monday, 11 July 2016

REHEARSAL (OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 1999)


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Rehearsal (October/November 1999)
Format: A double-CDr set (plain silver discs) in a colour paper sleeve released on the Smell The Stench label (Australia) in 2015, no catalogue reference.  The sleeve is a one-sided colour print, folded in half to form the front and back covers.  The discs are housed in two paper sleeves within the cover (on my copy, one sleeve is green and the other blue), and the rear of the cover shows the edition number.
Edition: 22 hand numbered copies
Track Listing:


Disc 1
01. Das Lied Von Lorien (Die Sprache Der Elben Ichseits Der See)  5:15
02. Durin  8:29
03. In A City Lost & Dead (First Take)  4:15
04. In A City Lost & Dead (Second Take)  4:16
05. Bilbo Beutlin  7:46
06. Into Battle  6:00
07. Nimrodel  7:00
08. Raising The Flag (First Take)  7:08
09. Raising The Flag (Second Take)  5:41
10. Raising The Flag (Third Take)  6:32

Disc 2
01. Untitled (First Take)  6:46
02. Untitled (Second Take)  7:10
03. Wo Berge Hoch & Waelder Stehn  6:11
04. Ende  3:02

It's a pretty bold undertaking so far into a career to release vintage demo recordings from the earliest days of your project.  Imagine, if you will, if the earliest demos of a band such as Rush were to appear on the market place, and not via some unofficially released source but direct from the band themselves.  It would hardly be a reflection of the ability of the artist in the modern day and age (mind you, for some bands I can think of you might actually not notice so much...) and could merely confuse the listening public, more used to the professionalism and high standards of the modern music.

Of course, the fact that in this hypothetical scenario the band in question would have tens of thousands of CD's out there in the market place were they to engage in such a risky undertaking is hardly applicable to the Uruk Hai example before us today, which is limited to a mere 22 copies and which - quite frankly - will only have been sought out by the band's biggest fans in the first place.  And which of us is going to cock-a-snoot at such recordings, rare and previously unheard as they are?

A song by song summary is probably not the way forward for this review - there are, after all, only so many ways I can describe the various different takes Hugin offers us for 'Raising The Flag' and 'In A City Lost & Dead' for example - so let's consider the release in the round and assess it more generally.  And what you'll discover pretty quickly - and I'd say by about 30 seconds in at the latest  you'll have twigged -  is that these are such early recordings that they don't sound like Uruk Hai one little bit.  Or at least, not the Uruk Hai that you've come to know and love over the last 8 to 10 years or so.

Oh no, these demos hark back to much earlier and primitive times, when the fledgling Uruk Hai demo had only just been spawned from Hrossharsgrani recordings, and all things musical were loud, pummelling, distorted and growly.  The listening experience is, to all intents and purposes, that of listening to an early Hrossharsgrani demo, in truth.  This may come as rather a shock to some but is an important part of the evolutionary trail of DNA that led to the transition from that band to the Uruk Hai we know and love today.

There are some unexpected little interludes - the occasional choir, and some female vocals on opening song 'Das Lied Von Lorien (Die Sprache Der Elben Ichseits Der See)' being prime examples - but your entry price here entitles you to be pummelled by percussion and bludgeoned beyond sanity by stampeding Viking hordes on a one-way ticket to an open bar.

I like it!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Uruk Hai > Winterwolf Records pendant


Band: URUK HAI
Item: It's an Uruk Hai pendant, of all things!
Where do I find one, Nazgul? Through those nice people at Winterwolf Records
Format: Well, it's a pendant ... on a chain
Edition: Not known

Something rather different today, courtesy of the good folk at Winterwolf Records.

This nicely conceived silver pendant measures around 2.7cm in diameter and features as its primary design one of the oldest - and best in my view - Uruk Hai logos. This is the early band logo that appeared on releases such as "Honour" back in the early 2000's, and looks savage and cryptic in equal measure. The pendant also comes with a velvet bag for storage (which is helpful) and a silver chain (rather more essential)

Buy one, wear one, and form your very own Secret Club with like minded aficionados...!

Now, Uruk Hai jewellery is a new concept on the commercial market, so it will be interesting to see how it sells. Nazgul's sterling silver Uruk Hai logo badge aside, it's not an area that's been explored before, other than the odd metal badge that's cropped up within limited edition Bonemachine box-sets which could loosely be said to be more jewellery like than badge like.

I shall make a point of wearing mine whenever I'm doing an update to this blog to 'channel the vibe' of Mirkwood and all things Hugin....