Friday, 9 December 2016

ELBENGLANZ


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Elbenglanz
Format: There are three versions of this compilation: A professionally released CD on the Aphelion Productions label (UK) from July 2016, cat ref AP091 with colour covers and picture disc is the most common.  There are also 2 cassette versions, one on the W.A.R. Productions label (Austria), cat ref WAR 087 with 3 photo inlay cards, and a second on the French Wulfrune Worxx label, cat ref ULV 921.  Both tapes come in hand-numbered editions with colour covers and stock tapes, and add the same bonus song.
Edition: The CD comes in an edition of 500 unnumbered copies.  The W.A.R. tape is in an edition of 50 copies; and the Wulfrune Worxx pressing in an edition of 33 copies.

Track Listing:
01. Far Away (2013)  6.01  
02. Gil-galad (2007)  11.00
03. The Fate Of Man (2009)  3.57  
04. The Unknown (1999)  3.56  
05. The Valley Of Gorgoroth (2013)  5.41  
06. Lebenin (2005)  10.28  
07. War Magic (2014)  4.55  
08. Farewell We Call (2009)  6.41  
09. Into The Mirror (2006)  3.18  
10. Shadow Of The Orcs (2000)  6.13  
11. Men Of Straw (2014)  3.41

Tape-only bonus track (at track 9)
Gondolin Falls (2003)

On the face of it, a brilliantly simple idea.  An Uruk Hai compilation album, chock-a-block with Hugin's finest moments: a no-brainer, for sure!  Is there's a market for a best-of Uruk-Hai release: well, yes, there is!  Always one of Hugin's more popular projects, there's little question that a release bringing together around 15 years of the project's output would be a popular one with the fan-base.

And strangely enough compilations (as opposed to anthology box-sets, which are a slightly different beast, tending as they do to group themes of releases such as the 'Darkness' tapes) are a bit thin on the ground.  You can put the "Battle Yells" tape into that select category, and the CDr compilation "Blutreich" too for that matter, but thereafter you'll be struggling a bit to find an equivalent career-spanning release.


Until now, that is!  "Elbenglanz" fills that void, though with a twist.  Instead of the songs being selected by Hugin himself, they've been chosen by us, the fans!  This creates something of a strange end result, as the diversity of age and era of the songs chosen have spawned rather an eclectic beast.

Indeed, it would be an interesting exercise to find an innocent victim previously unfamiliar with this band and have then listen to this collection to see how many different bands they think are featured.  For in truth, given the large diversity in musical output from this project over the last decade and a half, the collection of songs could easily be misjudged as the output of several different groups.

The primary reason for this diversity is where songs have been chosen that feature a 'guest' vocalist.  Consider, if you would, opening song 'Far Away' in comparison to 'The Fate Of Man' and also to 'Men Of Straw'.  You could hardly get three more different sounding songs, largely due to the influence of the different vocal talents on display within them, and this does make for a rather bewildering experience depending - I suppose - on what your mind-set is regarding the 'Uruk Hai sound'.

Now don't misunderstand your old Uncle Nazgul: each of these songs I like, but for different reasons and at different times.  I've never actually sat down in one sitting and thought to myself, 'Oh I know, I'll pull some random collaborative songs from the band's discography and see how they compare back to back', hence my relative surprise in hearing them in this manner on "Elbenglanz".

Such head-spinning tactics ramp-up across the rest of the collection as old songs are thrown into the mix as well ('The Unknown', 'Shadow Of The Orcs' and 'Gondolin Falls' - if you've snapped up one of the tape versions - being but three), and as what I would call classic middle-period band songs such as 'Lebenin' and 'Gil-galad' make an appearance at the party.  I think even Hugin was surprised by the range of songs chosen by his loyal following!

W.A.R. Productions tape version

What it does demonstrate very nicely, however, is that we all have different moment's in the band's lengthy history that appeal the strongest.  Such diversity within the fan-base can only be a good thing, but boy - do we all make for strange bedfellows!

There is, by the way, a nice review of this compilation on the Spirit of Metal website from WinterDemon, who scores the piece 17/20 marks (calling it 'a perfect compilation from Austria), and who notes:

"Well here it is the new release of Austria's most famous Ambient and Dungeon Synth one-man project Uruk Hai. This new release is the first part of a series of Best of songs from 17 years band history and the special thing on the compilation is that all songs are chosen by us, the fans. Elbenglanz is the first part of and later this year a second one will follow and I guess it's called Elbenstolz. 

Some of the songs of Elbenglanz are re-recorded and with featuring of the underground guitarist Joe Matera. 

Elbenglanz was released by the label Aphelion Productions and is limited to 500 copies only. I have to say this release is perfect for everyone who didn't have the chance to collect the whole Uruk-Hai releases because their are to much and the next problem is the limitations some of the most famous recordings in the early years of Uruk Hai are hard to find and when you find it they are very, very expensive. 

All the tracks and melodies are very wise choose by the fans and of course all songs are about the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and his books The Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion or The Hobbit. Uruk Hai is for me like a soundtrack for this whole Tolkien stuff and is so exciting. Each Uruk Hai record has its own feeling, this own spirit and passion in every melody and it never gets boring and sometimes it has this horrifying effect when you are alone in the dark and you just listen to a song for example 'Shadow of the Orcs' or songs like that. 

So at last I have to say this record is a must have for every fan of Dark Ambient and Dungeon Synth and also everyone who's a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and his epic and legendary mystical book's. It's a perfect release for everyone who want's to look inside this genre all songs are good chosen for this release and I can't wait the second part of this compilation series. So be fast and get you your copy before they are all gone. Don't forget their are only 500 copies out there and yes I got my CD already in my CD-shelf. Elbenglanz is very well compiled album and is another proud member of Uruk-Hai's and Alexander "Hugin" Wieser's album discography"

Wulfrune Worxx tape version

Ultimately almost anything that provokes a varied reaction of this sort is probably a good thing, as it does tend to act as a clarion call to revisit those less frequented parts of a band's output.  For my sins, the majority of Nazgul's favourite pieces of Uruk Hai-ness tend to fall in that period from circa 2003-2009, where they were predominantly lush keyboard instrumental recordings.  This is not universally the case though, so as some of the modern recordings have been superb too.

A quick word on the excellent artwork too: the CD has a fabulous rear tray inlay showing all of the Uruk Hai band logos of yore (deja vu moment there, as Nazgul once did a post on something rather similar...!) and in the credits on all of the inlays are the musicians who helped create these songs, and a list of the dedicated fans who have helped support the project over the years.  More power to your elbows, one and all!

Juxtaposing songs from my favourite era to those from other periods has certainly been eye-opening, and a timely kick in the pants to go and grab "...And All The Magic & Might He Brought" from the shelf again to give it another spin...

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