Thursday, 1 September 2016

HOLY METAL

Band: URUK HAI 
Title: Holy Metal
Format:  A cassette tape release on the W.A.R. Productions label (Austria) from 2014, cat ref WAR C86.  Hand produced by Hugin, this comes in a red case with hand-numbered inlay on red paper.  The shell of the cassette itself is also red (though I'd forgotten to take a photo of it as it's playing now as I'm typing - m'eh, what are you gonna do?!)
Edition: 5 hand-numbered copies only

Track Listing
01. Holy Metal (version 1)  10:30
02. Holy Metal (version 2)  10:30

Today's post fulfils yet another of Nazgul's outstanding promises: to do a review of the 'Holy Metal' song that was previously referenced in the split release "Holy" between Uruk Hai and Zarach 'Baal' Tharagh that we looked at back in November last year.

Firstly, let's consider the typically nice bespoke artwork from Hugin: a red paper inlay that features not only the lyrics, but has a cracking cover of an armoured warrior that would have graced a much more widely distributed release than this.  Indeed, there are but 5 copies of this tape worldwide, of which this is #1 I am very honoured to note, so it's not one that you'll be finding in HMV anytime soon....

The music is splendid - both versions start with a keyboard wash that's so typically Hugin you could set your clock by it, full of his natural verve and ambiance and leading us into darker, more percussive waters whilst maintaining its melody.  There's also some tasty guitar riffery going on as the track enters into full-on mode, much in keeping with the hybrid behemoth (and I use that term with appropriate reverence) that Uruk Hai has become in recent years.

The lyrics are part whisper, part sung, with the refrain 'holy metal' preceding the next part of the line in much the same way that Blue Oyster Cult did on their "Heavy Metal - Black and Silver" song.  Despite its simple title, that latter song was based on the 1979 book by Adrian Berry called "The Iron Sun: Crossing The Universe via Black Holes" in 1979 which inspired the song - the idea of interstellar travel via "Iron suns", or black holes.

I'm not sure we can lay such galactic symbolism at the foot of Hugin's song, despite it reaching for the heavens both in title and musical grandeur.  Sadly Nazgul's clearly failing eyesight fails to pick out the full lyrics even though they're printed on the inlay, though a combination of faint black type on red in point size 2 (or something pretty damn small!) hardly helps!

The difference in versions, incidentally, is fairly profound: version 1 has lyrics and version 2 is instrumental.  It's version 1 that appears on the split CD with ZBT, so this tape is rather special in capturing an alternative of the song ... even if Nazgul's review is rather less special in failing to tell you what the song is about!  The CD version sounds a lot more in your face, partly due to the digital sound quality but also down to what I perceive to be enhanced percussive elements within the song and an stronger vocal mix in the overall sound.

A fine song, and well worth a small release in its own right - this is a great throw back in format and limitation to days of lore in W.A.R. Productions, and more power to Hugin's elbow for doing such a crazy thing!

Can you believe that it's September already, and thus this tape forms the first post of that month as the year inexorably draws into its autumnal phase.  It will soon be time to light the fires in the Castle halls and ensure a healthy supply of ale for the soon-to-be darkening evenings.  I like autumn.... 

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