Saturday, 26 November 2016

THREE AGES OF WAR

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Three Ages Of War
Format: A split CD release with Argentinian band Heulend Horn, released on the Furias Music / Orion Music Entertainment label (Argentina) on 5 January, 2016, catalogue reference F1018. A full colour booklet and a picture disc make up this package.
Edition: 500 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
Heulend Horn
01. Voice of Deception  7.39
02. Horrific Creature of Darkness  6.08
03. The Greatest Servant  6.35
04. Fangs of Doom  6.31
Uruk Hai
05. Where Once He Walked Alone  11.12
06. The Deep Elves  8.36
07. The Black Years  11.12

Not having read up on Heulend Horn before sticking this CD into the Castle death-deck I'd been expecting an ambient project in similar vein to Hugin's Uruk Hai, so it was rather a surprise when the snarled vocals and spiky guitars snatched the very breath from my mouth as this split release kicked off in earnest!

Huelend Horn is a project of Friedrich Curwenius, previously of Mitternacht and sole member of a few Dungeon Synth projects in the style of older Mortiis.  The Huelend Horn band, however, is inspired by epic pagan metal: influences are cited such as Graveland, Lord Wind, Bergthron, Wyrd, and Summoning but there's a crucial difference: the guitar sound and the grim vocals that prevails in Heulend  Horn's songs tips them into black metal territory whilst keeping epic melodies and rhythms.

Currently the band comprises Friedrich (all instruments, vocals) plus Lord Edwar (lyrics, and backing vocals).

In looking into the meaning of the band's name Nazgul came across a website for the band, which gives us a little more detail about how this particular split release came to be (though bugger all about the origin of their unusual name):

"In March 2015, Uruk Hai, the well-known Austrian fantasy ambient metal project of Alexander 'Hugin' Wieser, and Heulend Horn got in contact. Immediately, Hugin and Curwenius told Furias Records of their initiative to make a split, and the label accepted without hesitation. It is the first split to be edited by Furias Records.

After a couple of mails, Uruk Hai delivered three tracks (more than 30 minutes of music), but Curwenius only had a few draft compositions for Heulend Horn. Anyway, in the first days of April, Heulend Horn got four tracks (27 minutes) for joining with Uruk Hai's music. All tracks, for both bands, are unreleased, brand new songs.


There is going to be a special entry for the release day, but the Uruk Hai - Heulend Horn split name will be Three Ages of War. The cover, case and booklet art is already finished, and the layout was made by F. Curwenius."


For those still interested in the hunt for the meaning of this band's name, incidentally, I managed to finally track down a post on their site from April 2015 that informs us that "Heulend Horn roughly means 'howling horn'".  Phew, so now we know...!

As you might imagine, the principal point of focus for Nazgul were the three Uruk Hai songs.  Now, without this sounding unnecessarily critical, I think that one initial issue that came to light for me is there does seem to be a fair bit of 'I've heard that before', particularly in respect of some of the percussion employed.  This never hurt The Ramones or Status Quo in their day, of course, but garners similar criticism as being a bit 'same-y'.  One man's repetitiveness is another's 'signature sound', of course.

And to be fair, when you've listened to the sheer volume of Uruk Hai releases that Nazgul has there's a pretty fair chance that bits here and there will sound familiar (after all, there's only so much variation you can put into a genre of music) so this may be more of an issue for me than a more casual listener.


That said, there are some deft touches on these three tracks such as the 'horn' sounds on 'Where Once He Walked Alone', and the woodland introduction to 'The Deep Elves'.  There is a lot shoehorned into 'Where Once He Walked Alone' though, and really it develops into a great ambient track as it unfurls around you.  

The good thing, though, as Nazgul has learned over the years, is that a lot of ambient music like this catches your mood and attention differently when listened to at different points in time.  You do have to be in the right place and right frame of mind sometimes, and due to recent work pressures (yes, I know, break out the violin) Nazgul has been forced to listen to this album mostly from the car whilst battling not through armies of the undead, but through the brain-dead motorists littering the roads around Castle Nazgul. 

As a consequence, therefore, this one is filed in the 'to be revisited' pile when the upcoming festive season might afford your old uncle Nazgul a quiet night in by the fire.  Don't let that put you off seeking out a copy of your own in the meantime, however, as there is much of merit here.

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