Bands: MANWE, DRACHENFEUER and URUK HAI
Title: The First Ring - Part 2
Format: A deluxe A5 digibook with full colour booklet insert (called an 'art book') and 2 discs secured inside the front cover, one an audio CD and one a DVD. The set was released in 2014 by Notturno Productions. There is also a Blu-ray version of this release available. The release brings together a host of bands crossing many styles of ambient, experimental and other rock/metal genres in Notturno's second homage to J.R.R. Tolkien.
01. AD DIOS * Moria (unreleased mix 2010)
02. AINUR * Rivendel
03. ARCANA CHRONICLE * Niphredil (unreleased extended version)
04. ARTURO STALTERI * Legolas (unreleased track)
05. ASNI THE HARPER * Dwarven Dub (unreleased dub mix 2010)
06. ATLANTEAN KOEX * Pilgrim
07. HERC * The Mewlips (exclusive 2011 recording)
08. GRAHAM PLOWMAN * The Hobbit Suite (exclusive track 2012)
09. GIL GALAD * Ungoliant Of Avathar (exclusive track)
10. MILAREVAN * Wanderer In The Shadowed Land (exclusive track 2013)
11. NOSTRA SWAMP * Narneneol (unreleased track 2009)
12. FORNEUS * The Oath Of Feanor (unreleased song 2009)
13. OPSEENE * The First Ring Symphony (unreleased song)
14. MANWE * Tears In A Burning Eye (unreleased song 2010)
15. LONGSHANKS * I Love The Road
16. FEARBRINGER * Deep Helm's Deep
17. FRAYRDAAM * Gil Galad (unreleased song 2010)
18. EITHELIVRIN * Nimrodel (unreleased song 2010)
19. DRACHENFEUER * Dagor Bracollach (unreleased song 2010)
20. JIM KIRKWOOD * Saruman Of Many Colours (unreleased song 2010)
21. LINGALAD * Lunargento
22. NYMAN * Dead Marshes Remix (unreleased song 2012)
23. NUMENOR * The Legend Of Master Ring (Summoning cover song, 2010)
24. ROB SENDYS GRECO'S METAL TRIBUTE TO TOLKIEN * Death's Path (exclusive mix)
25. SARRY * I Bind Myself To You (unreleased song 2009)
26. STEFAN KENSENNE * Beren& Luthien (unreleased song 2010)
27. OUT OF ORION * The Elven Forest Of Lothlorien (alternative mix)
28. TROLLRATH * Through The Trollshaws
29. URUK HAI * Cirith Ungol (exclusive version 2010)
30. VALARIEN & ELOHYMN * Twilight Isles On Shadowy Seas
31. ZA FRUMI * The Cult Of Helzichor
There's one phrase that sums up this release to a tee: Criminally Overlooked.
Quite how such a lavish product - clearly a labour of love, with an awful lot of effort being put into it - has fallen into such obscurity is something that Nazgul's tiny mind struggles to contemplate. The original 'The First Ring' CD was relatively well known, still available from a few of the usual online haunts, and was beautifully put together by Fabien (aka Notturno) back in 2009. This sequel - cunningly titled 'The First Ring Part 2' - surpasses the debut effort by some margin, from the sumptuous artwork booklet to the sheer breadth and scale of the contributions made. And it's a double-disc set, with music tracks on the audio disc and a host of visual treats on the media disc(s).
And yet ... can you find out much about it online? 'Nope', is the short answer. It's completely bonkers and not a little mysterious that something this good could be so, well ... criminally overlooked. Everything about this release screams quality, from the lovely A5 hard cover book format and efficient way the discs are retained, through to the lavishly illustrated art booklet with a page dedicated to every band on the release (in fact, Arcana Chronicle get two pages for the same song, so let's chalk that one down to an excess of enthusiasm over proof-reading, something Nazgul is all too familiar with...)
Nazgul had toyed with the idea of showing you each band's page, but to be honest the restraints of available time and the sheer number of photos that this would entail rather cut short that project. Ditto the plan to add some pictures of the DVD/Blu-Ray screen too. Perhaps a future update to this release might cover off such things... .
The release is of interest to us on Honour and Darkness primarily for the inclusion of no less that three projects Hugin is associated with - the ubiquitous Uruk Hai, the lesser spotted but nevertheless excellent Manwe, and then the joint project Drachenfeuer, which features Jim Kirkwood (who also appears in a solo capacity on this album). Given the excellent array of bands featured here there's far more than just Hugin's projects to enjoy of course, with a rich seam of genres to delve into that range from self professed 'Psy Progressive Trance' to 'Electronic Pop', from 'Medieval Harp Instrumental' to 'Orchestral Cinematic' (with the emphasis on the 'Orc' part, presumably?), and from 'Neo Classical Folk Ambient' to 'Epic Black Metal'.
You pretty much get it all, with this one, and it makes for a varied and mesmerising experience if digested in one sitting. I have to note, though, that the release isn't without issues. If you have the Blu-Ray version then in theory all of the music is playable through your player. However, on my copy not all of the folders are accessible (and typically one of those is the one with the Uruk-Hai and the Manwe songs in it), which ultimately mars the experience.
The DVD disc doesn't have the capacity to have the music, so instead you have alternative artwork and other bits and bobs. Both discs do contain the short film "Nenya" though, shot by Nottorno as a homage to Tolkien and is, rather surprisingly, rather good! Both discs also allow you to browse a select few video clips that support some of these songs, and Nazgul is delighted to report that the Uruk Hai video for 'Cirith Ungol' is all present and correct.
A magnificent effort for sure; not without fault (some of the English languages pages could have usefully used some proof-reading and editing, as their translation from the French counterparts are a bit lacking in places) but something that at the end of the day deserves a massive amount of credit for the sheer hard work it must have taken to put it all together. Which again begs the inevitable question of why ever did it disappear seemingly without trace....?
Touching on the pertinent musical entries, just for a second: the Uruk Hai track (in an edited 'exclusive version' here, from 2010) is constructed from a song well known to reader of this blog, not least for being the subject of one of the more complex posts on Honour and Darkness when reviewed back in 2013. The Manwe track is also familiar territory, having been released previously as a very limited tape release by Wulfrune Worxx, and it sounds as excellent as ever in repeated listening here.
Where we enter new waters is with the Drachenfeuer track "Dagor Bracollach", which as the liner notes tell us was an unreleased song from 2010 when the double album "The Realm Of Light" was being composed. Amazingly, to my mind at least, this collaboration with Jim Kirkwood still hasn't seen the light of day as an official release, so we have the slightly bizarre fact here that the unreleased song sees commercial release before the album from which is was (presumably) discarded. Dagor Bracollach, incidentally, was notable for Melkor (with his crown of Silmaril) leaving Angband to fight against Fingolfin, high king of the Noldor.
Also notable in "The First Ring - Part 2" collection is an appearance from our old friend Jim Kirkwood under his own name, with another previously unreleased 2010 song punningly entitled 'Saruman Of Many Colours'.
Though flawed in places in the post-production stage, this is truly an epic release and the sheer effort that has gone into putting this together makes Nazgul's nit-picking rather redundant to be honest. If ever you get a chance to pick up a copy it would be well worth the investment of time and money, but given the scarcity of the thing that might be a pretty tough proposition at the end of the day. And more's the pity for it.