Thursday, 22 June 2017

ENSLAVED IN EVIL DARKNESS - update



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Enslaved In Evil Darkness
Format: A cassette tape release on the Obscure Dungeon Records label (France) in April 2017, cat ref ODR013.  Tape comes with a full colour pro-printed cover, and is advertised as being accompanied by a small poster of album artwork.
Edition: Limited to 30 hand-numbered copies only

Track Listing:
01. Out Of The Shire   
02. Enter Mordor   
03. Orc-March   
04. Beneath The Moon   
05. Morgoth   
06. Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)   
07. Underneath The Stars   
08. Lay Of Leithian

Oh dear, this may take a little untangling both from a content perspective, and from the business side of things too.

Let's do the music side of affairs first, which is by far the happier part of the story.  What we have here is essentially a rereleased and expanded version of the original "Enslaved In Evil Darkness" tape release on AMF Productions from 2005. 

That release was a split tape between Uruk Hai and Finnish band Valar, with both projects contributing 3 songs: in the case of Uruk Hai, the tracks in question were 'Out Of The Shire', 'Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)' and 'Underneath The Stars'.  The three songs are faithfully included on this new tape, albeit jumbled up in running order at track positions 1, 6 and 7 respectively.

You may also recall that back in May 2015 Nazgul included as Part 19 of the 'From The Vaults of W.A.R.' series coverage of a proposed - but ultimately never issued - CDr version of the "Enslaved..." release that had been mooted by US label Lifeless Productions.  This is of interest here as that release had contained 4 Uruk Hai songs, the additional one being 'Orc March' which, as the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted, is included on this 2017 reissue at track 3.

So far, so good - a reissue that pulls together all 4 intended Uruk Hai songs onto one release.  And not only that, it sprinkles a further 4 songs into the mix as well.  You'll be interested to know from whence they come, Nazgul perceives, so let's deal with that next: 3 of the songs are drawn from the "Lothlorien" CD (and, to be fair, appear on a few other releases too but this is the principal source), and they are 'Enter Mordor', 'Beneath The Moon' and 'Lay Of Leithian'.

The final extra track, 'Morgoth', is a product of the 2009 demo of the same title.

So on the face of it, this is a good news story wrapped in some nice artwork and a welcome 2017 release in the Uruk Hai discography.

Except ... there's often a complication on the path to Nirvana, and in this case it seems to be a potential case of 'dodgy business dealings' by the label that has brought a bit of a cloud over proceedings.

Now, I have no reason to unnecessarily besmirch the reputation of French label Obscure Dungeon Records but a couple of interesting facts have come to light since the 'release' (and I say that guardedly) of this tape.  Firstly, Hugin has yet to receive any artist copies of the thing for his own resale, which is a big no-no in this world, especially if the label are selling copies already.

And we know the label have been because Nazgul bought a copy.  Now, my copy came from a dealer trading under a different name on Discogs so I can't definitively connect the seller to the label, but given they are based in France it is more than a coincidence I'd imagine.  And - I might point out - whilst the tape did eventually arrive it was sans the promised 'little poster' and no amount of badgering of the seller has led to its arrival, despite claims it was being posted out to me (it wasn't).

That seller is no longer retailing the tape, and surprise, surprise (not!) the label's own webpage shows the tape to be 'out of stock'

The unavoidable conclusion therefore seems to be that this label has printed off a batch of tapes, sold them all (in whatever quantity they felt like most likely, as would you trust them at this point to stick to a limitation of 30 copies as advertised?) and not given any to Hugin for this own benefit. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, smells like a rip-off to me.

So I'd tread cautiously around this particular bunch in the future, from a buyer's perspective and indeed from an artist's perspective too.

Which is a shame, as in theory this would have been a very nice release to celebrate had all things gone as they should have.  Let's pop on a pair of rose-tinted spectacles then, and postulate the theory that the reason the label reports being 'out of stock' is because they have belatedly done the right thing and shipped the agreed number of remaining copies of this tape over to WAR Productions in Austria. 

Time will tell, and if there is a happy ended then Nazgul will be happy to set the record straight, as he did with the Dungeons Deep label's "Nachtkrieg" CD saga of 2010!

Update:

Nazgul drafted this post about a week ago, but in agreement with Hugin we gave enough time for the label to reply to Hugin's last emails querying the whereabouts of his own copies of this release.  At today's date nothing has been heard from Obscure Dungeons, so Honour and Darkness press on to publish and be damned!

Interestingly, also at today's date, I see another copy of this tape listed for sale on Discogs but this time from a seller in the US who I know has retailed a lot of Hugin's tapes in the past.  That listing also advertises the tape as not coming with the advertised poster, so I do begin to wonder if any other posters were actually printed up by the label at all (apart from the one used in the picture, below)?

Label's own promotional photo of this release with the elusive poster pictured (left)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

ATLANTIDA VOL. 14 [V/A]


Band: RAVENCLAW
Title: Atlántida Vol. 14 (various artists)
Format: Black and white cover, silver CDr disc, it's a traditional Ruslanas home-produced compilation!
Edition: Unspecified (800-1000 copies)

Track Listing:
01. ENORHTED  *  Twisted Fabrics
02. SVARTALFAR  *  Firnwulf
03. ENIGMATIK  *  Enter The Realm Of Enigma
04. FOREFATHER  *  Into The Forever
05. SYLVA MALA  *  Fine Veil
06. LOITS  *  Veri
07. CLAWN  *  Endless Suffering
08. PRIMAL DAWN  *  Cold Hills
09. LITHAM  *  Empire Of Ibliss
10. RAVENCLAW  *  Fenriswolf
11. FAUSTRECHT  *  Impetigo
12. ARCHETYPE  *  Hands Of Time
13. AZAGATEL  *  Atlantis Descendent
14. VALHALLA  *  Gloom Of War
15. DIFENACUM  *  Elemental Disease
16. FREUND HEIM  *  To Be - What A Shame
17. MALEFICIO  *  En La Destruction Creemos

Well, all good things must come to an end as they say, and here it is: the last of the Atlandia releases to be covered in Honour and Darkness.  There are other volumes in the series of course, but nothing that features any of Hugin's many and varied projects so today's entry - "Volume 14" is the end of the line.  A bit of a sad day here for Nazgul, and doubtless for Hugin too (which makes Valhalla's offering most pertinent, being 'Gloom of W.A.R.'...!)

As always, the late Ruslanas Danisevskis compiled a range of the weird and the wonderful for this release, trawling the world for bands to showcase under his label's wing.  On this outing we have bands from diverse locations spanning Brazil, Singapore, Italy, Switzerland, Algeria, Spain, Austria, Lithuania and the United Kingdom, to name but a few.  Quite astonishing really, though very few of them has Nazgul actually ever heard of apart from Ravenclaw: Valhalla is a familiar entity, being part of that vinyl split release with Elisabetha back in the day, whilst Forefather hail from literally just down the road from Castle Nazgul, in sunny Leatherhead.

Ravenclaw's song is, of course, from their "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" CD, which was released 15 years ago this year believe it or not.

Another excellent cover from Mike Schindler (Dragon Design) which is co-credited to a Thomas Hammer too, and that's your lot really: a 'classic' Atlántida compilation where everything is suitably noisy, wrapped up in a stylish black and white covered package.

One of these days Nazgul is going to have to dig around to try to locate the published Atlántida zine that Ruslanas periodically published, as doubtless there are many nuggets relating to Hugin's bands within those pages .... another part of the collection yet to be completed!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

NEVER BOWED, NEVER BROKEN - A REMEMBRANCE [V/A]


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Never Bowed, Never Broken - A Remembrance [V/A]
Format: An online compilation on Facebook to raise funds for the victims of the Manchester terror attack of 22 May 2017
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:
01. Appalachian Winter  *  Miri It Is  4.29
02. Jaron Evil  *  Starfall  3.42
03. VOND  *  Alene I Stillhet  8.27
04. Nam-Khar  *  Sangchod  6.26
05. Ringbearer  *  Men Of Gondor  5.52
06. Caroline Jago  *  Submergence  7.28
07. Mortiis  *  Sins Of Mine (feat. Raison D'Etre)  6.51
08. Anndra  *  She Mourns Amidst The Ruins  6.14
09. Randal Collier-Ford  *  Childhood  2.12
10. Caine Rose  *  All The Leaves  3.20
11. Hoyland  *  Within My Heart  6.53
12. Thaumiel Sonozaki  *  Fear Will Be Your Enemy  4.55
13. Randal Collier-Ford  *  Thinking  3.24
14. Eloheim  *  Du'Wintre  12.38
15. Embers Below Zero  *  Limbo  4.31
16. Gorthorn  *  Days Of Rain  4.56
17. Randal Collier-Ford  *  Resolve  4.24
18. Uruk Hai  *  Far Away  6.00
19. The Dead Soul Communion  *  For You  4.00

Permit me to 'break character' for the duration of this post, and put the persona of Nazgul to one side for just a moment.

Honour and Darkness has never been a platform for discussions or opinions about politics and 'real world' issues, though the occasional passing reference to current affairs has been known to crop up. The reason for this is simply that the primary focus of this blog is on music, specifically the music of our favourite Austrian, Alex 'Hugin' Wieser, and having a bit of escapism away from the nonsense and horrors that the world actually contains is sometimes quite a nice thing to do.

And yet sometimes events out in the real world are difficult to ignore, and occasionally have a very personal resonance too.

Such is the case with the subject of this commendable fund raising project, designed to raise funds for the 22 victims and 116 injured by the suicide bombing during a concert by Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena on 22 May this year by passporting your donations to the British Red Cross and local victim advocacy groups.

My brother-in-law was in the Arena with his daughter that night: thankfully not in the foyer when the bomb was detonated, but in the auditorium nonetheless but - mercifully - safe.  They witnessed the aftermath as did many others that night though on their way out of the building, and you put yourself in the shoes of a father having to explain the scenes of horror that they saw to a young, innocent child.  Yet they were among the lucky ones.

Last weekend we celebrated my birthday, and my good lady wife treated me and our 5 year old son to a weekend in London.  We stayed overnight in the city, and on Saturday had been walking down from our hotel in the evening towards London Bridge area, taking photos of the city skyline as the skies darkened.  The fact that it was getting a bit late for the little lad to be out of his bed, and that it was starting to rain, were pretty much the only reasons we never walked down as far as London Bridge, instead deciding to go back to our hotel.  And there, by the grace of God, we went, given the events that followed only an hour or two later in that part of the city.

And so it goes on.  Back in 1988, my sister had a close friend who had family in Scotland.  Two of them were unlucky enough to be on the ground in the wrong place at the wrong time and were killed by the debris of bombed Pam Am flight 103, wherein another bunch of barbaric terrorists murdered 270 passengers, crew and civilians that night over the town of Lockerbie.

Normal people, doing normal things, but having their lives ended or put at risk through no fault of their own by those who would kill and harm innocent civilians in pursuit of their own warped delusions.

There is simply no place for such demented extremists (irrespective of what agenda they follow) in modern society.  And that's all that I want to say on the matter.

Just for the (musical) record, there's much to commend this collection of songs and not just from a charitable perspective; we can see some excellent contributions here from old favourites Jaron Evil/Ringbearer, together with interesting material from a number of other established and emerging bands.

The Uruk Hai track you may be familiar with already, being taken as it has been from the "...And All The Magic And Might He Brought" album of 2013, and featured as it was on another online compilation "Crossing The Borders" from 2014.

Dig deep, and enjoy the music despite the sad events that has led to its existence.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Nazgul's second collection...


What's all this then?  It's one of Nazgul's other areas for collecting, that of Jim Kirkwood related CDs!
Who?  You remember: Jim Kirkwood, one half of Drachenfeuer alongside Alex
Ah yes, and so....?  Nazgul promised something a little different a while ago, and here it is!

There are a number of striking similarities between our Austrian hero Alex "Hugin" Wieser and UK musical maestro Jim "Crowman" Kirkwood:

  • Both are primarily solo artists, though have been in bands;
  • Both have created and maintained a number of main and side projects;
  • Both have an early background in extreme metal before moving, to varying extents, into more ambient territories utilising keyboards as their main instrument;
  • Both have a prodigious number of releases to their name in tape and CD format;
  • Both are highly regarded 'cult' figures; lauded by many, derided by some;
  • Neither individual's musical output is particularly easy to find or collect;
  • Both individual's musical output can be ruinously expensive to find and collect; and
  • Both men possess strong personal faith, which in Jim's case has led him away from this musical path and he no longer makes, or sells, any of his music.

No wonder then, that the evolution of this collection has happened over a number of years...

Releases in Jim's own name
Let's have a little resume about Jim's career to date though, for those less familiar with his background:

Jim has been writing Electronic Music since the late 1980's when he stepped back from fronting a black metal band to explore a solo career in instrumental music. He has his own unique style of Gothic EM which moves easily between huge symphonic slabs of music, dark ambient and sequencer driven soundscapes.

The music itself, inspired by Gothic and Symphonic Rock and Berlin School Electronica, is quite often a CD in length, moves and shifts in tempo and mood, sometimes dark and sombre, sometimes ethereal and melodic, yet the whole gels perfectly into a single experience that grips the imagination and brings you into a world of dark and exciting beauty.

 In 2012 after completing the 4 hour album A Day in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, Jim took a break from the music industry to concentrate on his art and to reassess his spiritual direction, to look again at the influence of the Christian faith on his early life.

Jim had until recently, embraced a heathen/gnostic philosophy and had been openly hostile toward religious organisations and in particular the Christian faith, a stance which is reflected in many of the titles of his music and comments.

However, according to online sources I've read, certain events in his life forced him to rethink his position and conclude and regret his former position. Jim openly confesses that he believes in the person of Jesus Christ, both historically and spiritually and this will no doubt be reflected in the future content of his art and music.

Lucifaere
I've had the pleasure of a few email exchanges with Jim over the years, at the time of the original Drachenfeuer demo, when The First Ring compilation came out (on which he was also represented with a song), and in more recent times too.  Always a kind soul, Jim expressed some (only partly mock) horror when Nazgul mentioned he had paid actual money for old CD releases of Jim's music, distancing himself from their merit and commercial worth.

Yet Jim Kirkwood releases continue to command high prices whenever you see them, which is hardly ever as anyone who has used the obvious outlets of eBay and Discogs to find his work will be able to attest.  Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that Jim's CD's now rival if not exceed those of even the rarest Uruk Hai releases in terms of price (not accounting for box-sets there, though) with single discs tipping the scales at over £25-30 and double albums nearer £40-£50 apiece now, more in some cases.

Not a hobby for the faint of heart!

Ancient Technology Cult
Jim's music is broadly split into three projects, by the way: those under his own name, those under the Lucifaere name, and those as Ancient Technology Cult.  In total Nazgul has identified around 80-odd releases under his various banners, of which 49 reside in the collection so far.  The full list, surpassing that on Discogs, is as follows:

Where Shadows Lie (1990) (Cassette)
King of the Golden Hall (1990) (Cassette)
Middle Earth (1990)(Cassette)
Tales From A Melnibone Tavern (1991) (Cassette)
Souls That Dance On the Edge of A Sword (1991) (Cassette)
Nightshade In Eden (1991) (Cassette)
Master of Dragons (1991) (Cassette)
Uruk Hai (1992) (Cassette)
Ancient Fields (1992) (Cassette)
Castles of Sand (1993) (Cassette)
Through A Dark Glass (1993) (Cassette)
Lord of the Dreaming (1993) (Cassette)
Tower of Darkness (1993) (CD on the Nue Harmony label)
Celtoi (1994) (Cassette)
Pilgrim On A Crooked Path (1994) (Cassette)
The Serpents Kiss (1994) (Cassette)
Beyond the Fields We Know (1995) (Cassette)
Dancing the Dark Power (1995) (Cassette)
Sisters of the Web (1995)
Weaving the Red Thread (1995)
Haminja (1995) (Cassette)
The Age of the Wolf (1996) (Cassette)
Heljaruna (1996) (Cassette)
Dark Well of Urdr (1998)
Embracing the Dark (1999)
Bones of the Earth (1998)
One Amongst the Fallen (1999)
Bones of the Earth (1999)
An Alchemy of Beliefs (2000)
The Midnight Tree (2000)
This Temple of Strange Lights (2000)
In the Shadow of Angels (2001)
The Dragon of Old Night (2001)
Twilight of the Celts (2000)
Sacred Engines (2001)
Transfiguration (2001)
Bloduewedd (2002)
Blood And Feathers (2002)
Shroud of Many Colours (2002)
Liber Obscularium Praedictionum (2003)
The Blessing of Shadows (2003)
Communion of the Damned (2003)
Decencus Ad Inferos (2003)
Hawksmoor (2003)
Architects of Heresy (2004)
The Darkening Hour (2004)
Voices From the Edge of Night (2004)
House of the Crowman (2004)
In the Deep Places of the World (2005)
Corvis Christi (2005)
Foxhalt Edge (2005)
One Amongst the Fallen (2005) (different)
Hecate Vol. 1 (2006)
Hecate Vol. 2 (2006)
Rituals of Intelligent Design (2006)
Queen of the Golden Wood (2006)
After the Fire (2006)
Canterbury Black (2007)
Nightshade In Eden (2007) (different)
Where Shadows Lie (2007) (different)
We Are Nightingales (2007)
Widdershins To the Way of the World (2007) (EP)
Foxhalt Marsh (2008) (EP)
The Distant Light (2008) (EP)
The Legend of Sam Gangee (2008) (EP)
King of the Golden Hall (2009)
Morningstar Part 1 - Revelations of the Fallen (2009)
Morningstar Part 2 - The World Behind the Mirror (2009)
Morningstar Part 3 - Helmsman On A Ship of Dreams (2009)
Morningstar Part 4 - A Once And Future Heretic (2010)
Morningstar Part 5 - Kings Beneath A Pale Sky (2010)
They Walk Amongst the Stars Like Giants (2010)
Castles of Sand (2010)
Bones of the Earth (2010)
The Bears Withdrew Their Claws In Her Presence (2010) (EP)
The Light Beyond the Hedgerow (2010)
Playing in an Age of Stone (2010)
The Geometry of a Lark Ascending (2010)
Dreaming in Amber (2010)
A Season of Mists (2010)
Tales from the Crooked Tree (2010)
The Cello Tree (2011)
A Day in the Garden of Unearthly Delights Parts 1-4 (each part is 1 hour in length) (2011)

Ultra rare early cassette releases - practically impossible to find!
but I really wouldn't be surprised to learn of others that exist above and beyond this.

All told, another great collection of music and one that I am very proud to own.  You do have to be careful of people trying to sell you copied CDr's and non-original tapes through online shops though, as I found to my cost recently with an unscrupulous seller in the USA effectively bootlegging copies of his collection into slimline cased silver CDr's.  Worthless tat, in other words.

And of course the collection continually expands - 2 more items have been recently tracked down (both CDr's) which haven't arrived in time to make this post (Nazgul thought he'd better post something soon or else you'd all be convinced I'd died or something).  Onwards, and upwards...

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

DIE RÜCKKEHR ZUM PFADE - update II

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Die Rückkehr Zum Pfade
Reason for second update: The original self-released demo is finally located!

Track Listing:
01. Der Pfad Zum Tor Der Toten  24.52

Detailed reviews of the two other copies of this ancient Hrossharsgrani demo exist within Honour and Darkness, covering the Chanteloup Creations tape release of 2001, and the reissue on Wulfrune Worxx back in 2010. 

And a splendid demo it proved to be, with the Chanteloup pressing reissue adding two songs to the original self-released demo, and the Wulfrune reissue adding one further song to that.  Why not point your browser at the links above and have a merry trip down memory lane revisiting these two tapes?

The long standing problem, of course, was alluded to in both of those reviews - Nazgul's collection was bereft of the original release of this tape, which Hugin had put out in a typically miniscule quantity of only 7 tapes back in the year 2001.  Oh boy, another mission impossible on the cards, it seemed.

And yet ... here it is!  Entirely due to the munificence of Herr Wieser, mind you, who made the copy you see here available to Nazgul out of the blue one day and thus completed the reunion of the 3 cassettes that you see pictured below.  Happy families!

Rather than get into a lengthy reappraisal of the music, which was covered in Nazgul's two prior posts, let's have a quick look at this rare-as-rocking-horse-shit release that sits before us.  Well, it's only listing the single long song on the intro (a 2001 re-recording, states the inlay) for a start, which rather flies in the face of the 5 per the information in Nazgul's previous posts.  This is presumably either due to it being a portmanteau song of sorts, or previous online information being incorrect!

We learn that recordings of this release were in the January of 2001, so the release date must also have been in that year and no earlier, which makes it the same year as the Chanteloup reissue and not the preceding year as I thought.

The 'usual suspects' from back then get a credit on the inlay, next to an early photo of our Austrian hero with broadsword (as featured on this blog!).  And finally, also contrary to received wisdom, there were evidently 7 copies of this tape in circulation (this being numbered 1 of 7) rather than the 5 as believed.

A cracking cover adorns the inlay, with an intrepid warrior battling an enormous dragon atop a waterfall.  That would be quite something in colour, as it's pretty striking in black and white!

Another fabulous find for the Castle collection, and though there (surely?!) can't be many such rarities yet to be tracked down, it does make you pause for thought that in the nigh on 14 years Nazgul has been at this collecting lark there are still things out there to be found...

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

REHEARSAL 2


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Rehearsal 2 (September / November 1999)
Format: A CDr disc in colour paper cover, released on the Smell The Stench label (Australia) in 2016. There is no catalogue reference for this release
Edition: Limited to 22 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. The Gates Of Mordor (first take)  8.32
02. The Gates of Mordor (second take)  8.32
03. Rot Fiel Der Tau In Ramas Edor (first take)  7.43
04. Rot Fiel Der Tau In Ramas Edor (second take)  7.46
05. Quenta Silmarillion (early version) 40.41

Well we were well on the way to having no posts for the month of May, with recent events around Castle Nazgul being as frenetic as ever. However, a small window of opportunity has opened and Nazgul is seizing the moment to bring you a little something to while away a few minutes of your life!

This CDr is - to say the least - primitive! In the grand pantheon of Uruk Hai recordings, this would be akin to a wall of cave paintings, scratched onto the wall with a charcoal-tipped stick. Recorded way back in 1999, when Hrossharsgrani demos and Uruk Hai demos were fairly indistinguishable from one another, there are plenty of moments herein - both vocally, and instrumentally - when you'll think to yourself, "oh yes, I'd forgotten Hugin used to do that/sound like that/scare me with that funny deep voice/insert your own pithy epithet".

Does the world really need two versions of the first two songs, you might challenge? And do they sound appreciably different to merit inclusion? Well, arguably 'no' and 'not very' would be the honest answers to those questions, but this sort of release isn't aimed at the casual listener but at the die-hard fan who is interested in the gradual evolution of ideas and sound. And on that basis, and in a die-hard limited edition of 22 copies - the idea does work.

What is interesting here, given my previous comments, is that 'Rot Fiel Der Tau In Ramas Edor' is of course better known to us as a Hrossharsgrani song: it was on the tape-only compilation "From The Dark Ages", which in turn was drawn from the uber-rare Christhunt release of "In The Mystic Forest" where this was a special bonus track. The fact that it appears under the Uruk Hai (war) banner here shows the degree of overlap between these projects back in 1999 when the latter was essentially founded.

"Quenta Silmarillion" was a full length demo on the Bulgarian AMF label you will recall, though didn't see an official release until 2004 when it appeared in a much more polished version than the rough and ready 'early version' here. Again, it's quite interesting to compare the two versions just to see how much more professional the 2004 release was, but there is something of a rustic charm to hear that funeral drum beat looped over and over on the 1999 demo!

Gracing the opening pair of songs are the vocal talents of one Sabine P., credited on the reverse of the inlay. Let's assume that this isn't the same Sabine P. that Discogs records has on their books (who is part of the German euroreggae band Pandera, so you never know...?!). Her vocals are quite eerie on both versions of the song, being of the oxymoronic 'harmonic dissonance' school of performance, but it works well and injects a welcome extra dimension into the music.

All in all then, a real blast from the past / rave from the grave. Nazgul has pondered the question of how he would have reacted had this been the first ever recording of Uruk Hai that I clapped ears on at this time in my life (as opposed to a far more tranquil introduction to the band through the "Darkness" demo). Honestly - quite hard to say! It's not unappealing by any means, but does seem to be a thing of its time now.
 
As a historical artefact though, absolutely priceless and if you were lucky to get hold of one at the time then I'd hang onto it if I were you!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

END OF TIME


Band: GUTS FOR DINNER
Title: End Of Time
Format: A recent song recorded by Hugin, scheduled for inclusion on an upcoming new GFD release!
Edition: N/A

Track Listing:
01. End Of Time  2.17

Ah those three little words which epitomise the heart-warming, spring in your step feeling of true first love: 'Guts For Dinner'.  Or is it 'I Love You' I'm thinking of there?  Oh well, no matter (more splatter) because as a treat at the tail end of 2016 Hugin had recorded new Guts For Dinner material, and here it is reviewed for your delectation!

Clearly this is an alarming development.  GFD is most certainly not for the squeamish, and any attempt to handle material from this malevolent entity usually ends in tears.  Almost banished from Castle Nazgul for unnecessarily traumatising the castle monkey, the head-spinning, projectile-vomit inducing pummelling that a GFD track entails is more than sufficient to cause local seismic activity and kick-start riots and unrest.  And just downright annoy the gorgeous Lady Nazgul, who already has to put up with a lot god bless her...

What's more, this isn't just a one-off song you know.  Oh no, Hugin has only gone and created a limited edition re-issue of the original demo with this new song (and one other) bolted onto it - you'll find out more about that as 2017 unfolds.

But for now, let us revel not only in the new GFD logo that proudly adorns this post (and which will be used on the upcoming release too, which - it must be said - has some excellent artwork of its own), but also dissect the new song: it's not long and it's not pleasant!

Spiky black metal guitar meets raspy-burpy-drowning-under-water vocal style in a dark alley in a broken beer bottles death match is how you might fairly describe this.

I'd like to leave you today with an unusual thing: a rare flash of brilliant insight from your old Uncle Nazgul.  Let's take a parallel between the world of film and the world of music.  Hugin, as we well know, has a string of musical projects to his name of differing genres and styles, from the majestic Middle-Earth musings of Uruk Hai to the splatter/gore world of Guts For Dinner. Akin to this is film producer Peter Jackson: who would ever have guessed that the man responsible for gore-tastic Bad Taste in 1987 and Braindead in 1992 would, a mere decade later, be responsible for bringing Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings to the silver-screen with such style and panache?  Absolutely no one, that's who!

So who's to say that such an improbable turn of events could not befall our Austrian hero, catapulting his music from the underground into the realm of fantasy film (and yes, before you remind me, I do remember "The Nebula Dawn"!)  So don't be surprised when Hollywood does come calling, cheque book in hand, earning Hugin sufficient loot to build a huge chateau in the heart of Linz and elevating him to the dizzy heights of super-stardom...!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

THE ASHES OF BATTLE - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Ashes Of Battle
Reason for Update: This is the tape version of the split album between Uruk Hai and Balrog, previously reviewed in CDr format in September 2016.
Format: Professionally produced tape with full colour j-card cover on the Out Of Season (USA) label, released on 6 November 2016 catalogue reference oos25.
Edition: 100 hand numbered-copies

Track Listing:
Uruk Hai
01. Eagles
02. Elbenklang
Balrog
03. Spirit Of Fire
04. Wild Warriors
05. Eye Of Smaug
06. Grey Heavens
07. Outgoing Of Flames

Nazgul jumped the gun a little back in September when he reviewed the CDr of "Ashes Of Battle" as the tape release for that particular release had not yet appeared.  A couple of months later, however, out it popped from the Out Of Season label with the same track listing and artwork (somewhat truncated, by necessity) but in loveable cassette format.

And of course, for reasons of obsessive completeness, here it is featured in Honour and Darkness so that you can set your own personal collecting radar in its general direction and press the 'seek' button accordingly.

Nazgul stands by his previous comments on this album, especially regarding the excellent of opening song 'Eagles'.  This release did prompt me to rush out and buy a range of other demo releases from Balrog too, which proved most invigorating and excellent in their own right.

Indeed, there's a common misconception that the crenelated vaults of Castle Nazgul house only the world renowned 'Hugin' collection.  But that would be far from the truth, as various other lesser compendiums and collections litter the various dusty castle rooms, all quite varied and remarkable in their own right.

As a treat, Nazgul will share you one of these side collections in a future post (coming soon, I promise!), which has a tenuous connection with a recently reviewed release in this very blog, but which is something a little different that even our Austrian master himself won't have seen...

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

REALM OF LIGHT ... (it lives!)

Band: DRACHENFEUER
Title: Realm Of Light
Format: There exist two versions of this release, both on Dark Age Productions (America) and both with catalogue reference DAP031.  The cassette version was issued first in December 2016, and comes in a ‘Grey Mountain ‘coloured cassette shells, with a lamp black imprint and six panel full colour ‘J-card’ plus exclusive badge/pin.  The double CD in 6-panel digipak format followed on in 2017, and bears an additional bonus track and its own exclusive badge/pin.
Edition:  Cassette release limited to 100 unnumbered copies.  The number of copies of the CD version is unknown.

Track Listing:
CD version:
Disc 1
01.  All Shall Love Me and Despair  7.36  
02.  Helm’s Deep  5.36  
03.  Flight of the Nazgul  10.58  
04.  Do Not Touch the Water  7.32  
05.  So Far Like Never Before  6.40  
06.  Father of Dragons  9.12  
07.  Valar  21.31 (CD only bonus track)
Disc 2   
08.  The Black Gate  8.17  
09.  Beren and Luthien  17.19  
10.  Nightfall at the Edge of the Old Forest  5.18  
11.  Dol Guldur  11.27  
12.  The Desolation of Smaug  10.18

Cassette version:
Side 1
01.  All Shall Love Me and Despair  
02.  Helm’s Deep  
03.  Flight of the Nazgul  
04.  Do Not Touch the Water  
05.  So Far Like Never Before  
06.  Father of Dragons  
Side 2
07.  The Black Gate  
08.  Beren and Luthien  
09.  Nightfall at the Edge of the Old Forest  
10.  Dol Guldur  
11.  The Desolation of Smaug

Back again - claws ripping, fangs rending the very flesh from your bones... No, not Nazgul (though I am back, and very pleased to be so), but long dormant collaborative project Drachenfeuer.  You remember I'm sure - the joint venture between UK ambient synth maestro Jim Kirkwood and Hugin, which spawned a promo-only CD almost 7 years ago to the day that was feted in Honour and Darkness ahead of what was hoped to be a swift formal release on a label ... of which these tremendous looking releases are the long anticipated result!

The artwork's different for sure, but the track listing remains intact and with a updated and refreshed trip through the recording studio it sounds as wonderful as ever.  This is the very epitome of ambient Middle-Earth Tolkien metal!   As the promotional literature from the label attests:

"Howard Shore may have shown us the beauty of Middle-Earth with a grandiose score but it is time to forsake the golden fields of the Riddermark, the silver eaves of Laurelindórenan, and majestic pearl of Minas Anor. 

Through the collaborative efforts of masters of the genre, Jim Kirkwood and Alexander Wieser as Drachenfeuer, we are given an opportunity to explore Middle-Earth in a way we never have before. We can travel to the fells of Angmar, the haunted home of the Witch-King, the long dark of Moria where the Balrog awaits in the shadows, or the spider ridden forest throne of Dol Guldur. With choirs, synths, guitars, and drums, explore the lands of Arda with new eyes, a new sense of wonder and danger. 

Heart rending melodies ready to carry you off to war, into a darkness that one can never escape. Hear the piercing wails of the Ringwraiths and cower in dreadful fear, hear the wrathful roars of the ancient dragons and feel the heat of their monstrous breath, hear the trumpets of the Valar, piercing the morning with the very music of creation.

Bear witness to the mightiest collaboration in all of dungeon synth as two masters mould folkish melodies and militant harmonies, adding terror and pain with beauty and love. Look upon the face of “Realm of Light” for none shall ever bear its like until the world is remade. Reach the heights of the firmament and the depths of the abyss. Watch as the world comes to life with smoky, shadowy melodies that no orchestras or symphonies could control."

It's great that this almost forgotten about album has finally been given a proper release, and in such high quality too.

In terms of what the thing sounds like, there is a monumental review of this album at the Archaic Triad website, which is so utterly all encompassing you'll forgive Nazgul for quoting it verbatim I'm sure:

"Underground atmospheric music has a long history of existing as a complement to metal, and black metal in particular. The 90s were full of “side projects” performed with varying degrees of competence, usually with an ambition to convey occult, spiritual or Fantasy inspired themes. Sometimes this musical sub-subculture took on a life somewhat separate from the metal milieu that spawned it, as was the case when Bard Algol founded Dark Age Productions and published a long line of both metal side projects and other atmospheric works. Well over twenty years later, the memory of these bands, as well as the early works of Mortiis, the synth albums of Burzum and a host of other classics, gave birth to the notion of “dungeon synth”. This subgenre now thrives, with new projects launching monthly, and releases – mainly online, but also in physical format – dropping weekly.

 The re-establishment of Dark Age Productions is yet another step in this momentous development (I’m not a native English speaker, and do not know the meaning of the word hyperbole). After a fantastic reissue of the early works of Bard Algol’s own project Cernunnos Woods, the time has come for the first original release. Drachenfeuer and Realm of Light marks Dark Age Productions’ re-emergence as a proper label, in a sense. It is an utterly ambitious project from the minds and fingers of Jim Kirkwood and Alexander Wieser. Kirkwood has released more than 80 albums since the 80s, and the two men have spent quite a lot of time working together in bands such as URUK HAI, Solid Grey and numerous others. Realm of Light was recorded back in 2009, and now finally sees the light of day.

Being one of the harbingers of the new age of dungeon synth carries certain responsibilities, even while the actual band could never have seen this peculiar context coming. Things could go awry in two specific ways: the recording could be too lo-fi, good for what it was and duly awakening feelings of nostalgia and old school tape trading. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is not the sort of release most of us would expect from Dark Age Productions at this point (in particular since there will plenty of time for nostalgia when the various re-issues of old D.A.P. classics are released). 

On the other hand, it could also have made too much use of the musical technology available these days, creating a perfect emulation of a philharmonic orchestra and ending up sounding like the soundtrack of some blockbuster Fantasy movie. That would not be right either; such music can be found in most any modern video game or indeed movie. We are happy to report that Drachenfeuer have navigated perfectly through and beyond this Scylla and Charybdis of dungeon synth’s Strait of Messina.

The two hour epos is based on various aspects of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, ranging from the creation myth of the Silmarillion to the Black Gate of Mordor in the Third Age. This is of course nothing original, but it works very well together with the music, which consists of long – often very long – tracks of evocative, High Fantasy instrumentation.

At times the album borders on ambient, but almost always the songs include lucid and expressive melodies, as well as choice percussion and dramatic sound effects that serve to move this outside the realm of, say, dark ambient. It is often dream-like, transcendent and indeed suggestive of a realm of light, rather than something more black and brooding (though there are exceptions – “The Black Gate”, for one). To reconnect to the initial ramblings above, the quality of the synthesizers are top notch, the music is well written and executed, and in a technical sense it goes far beyond anything which could reasonably have been accomplished by black metal-affiliated underground musicians back in the 90s. At the same time, it is unashamedly synth based, even while retaining the right to utilize several acoustic instruments, choirs and sound effects, as well as the odd articulate vocal part.

The tracks are almost all utterly epic, though some are calmer and some more bombastic. It isn’t all mighty strings and rumbling timpani, though. In “Father of Dragons” Drachenfeuer offer up some synth pop with industrial notes, while the preceding “So Far Like Never Before” is a slab of 80s synthesizer dreaminess. The effect achieved through insertion of old school synth voices we recognize from way back when in many tracks may or may not be intentional, but it is to create a great dynamic with the more professional sounding modern synthesizer melodies and chords.

To say that the full two hours of music featured on this double CD convey constant bliss would of course be an exaggeration – there are parts which feel somewhat directionless, and while they didn’t cause any track skipping, the thought was there at times. Still, these meandering passages also contribute to reducing the aforementioned problem with an overly slick and “commercial” product – this is raw creativity, even if it is rather professional sounding.

Attempting to list influences would be perilous, given Jim Kirkwood’s long history with atmospheric music, but several comparisons can still be made. Summoning’s non-metal tracks, the more epic works of early Mortiis (though this has a far more ambitious production) and certain movie sound tracks could surely be mentioned without stepping on any toes. The massiveness of the album is fairly unique, though. The only dungeon synth release with a longer playtime would be Chaucerian Myth’s debut.

Realm of Light is epic both in the literal and the internet teenage slang sense of the word (kids do still say “epic”, or was that ten years ago?). It is a worthy second release for the new Dark Age Productions, and a great addition to the growing body of dungeon synth extant today. Archaic Triad sincerely hopes it finds a market, so that the inexcusable vulgarity of the mob doesn’t condemn it to a glorious but tragic fate of splendid, forgotten marginalization.

The album is out pretty much right now, and can already be ordered from Dark Age Productions. You’d better do so."

Phew, hardly anything left to say after that, I'd wager.


All in all there's absolutely no excuse not to venture forth, sword aloft and flame-resistant underpants at the ready, to explore and enjoy the delights of this magnificent release from Hugin and Jim.  A long time in the making, and even longer in the gestation, but so worth the wait.

And, as usual, here's the 'family picture' complete with the original 2-disc promo-only edition.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

MELANCHOLIE EINES HERBSTES IN DREI AKTEN - update II

Band: Svarrogh
Title: Untitled CDr
Format: This is a standard CDr disc in black wallet containing the pair of songs that Svarrogh contributed to the three-way split release "Melancholie Eines Herbstes In Drei Akten"
Edition: Presumed to be the sole copy

Track Listing:
01. Samota
02. Slunce Moe, Kum Tebe E Moyata Molitva

In magazine reviews of albums, there used to be three types of song identified on the release.  Firstly, you had the hit single, the standout track (or tracks if the band had hit a run of form) that were sure fire chart-topping, MTV rotation worthy winners.  Next came the 'album track' - quality songs, often lengthy or not particularly commercial, but certainly of merit and helping to establish that band in its genre.  Thirdly, and finally, came the 'fillers' - songs written on the back of a cigarette packet at the eleventh hour to fill the gaping space left on the vinyl.

Taken in that context, today's post is very much filler, which Nazgul apologises for.  Endless excuses about increases in 'normal' workload in the day job etc. etc. are running a bit thin I grant you, but it's nonetheless true and frankly this month has been a bit of a write-off in terms of prepping anything for Honour and Darkness.

There's also the slightly alarming prospect that Nazgul's long waited for vacation is next week, which coincides with Mr Wieser's birthday: and we've not missed a birthday post on the blog since it started back in 2009!  Hmmm ... that might prove challenging?!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.  This plain CDr disc is one of those one-off oddities that grace the Castle Nazgul collection, having been donated to the cause by Hugin in aeons long past.  It contains the 2 songs that complemented this three-way split with both Uruk Hai and Uruk Hai/Arkillery.

And that's pretty much it, really!

Svarrogh, for those of you with long memories, was a project of Dimo Dimov in 2001 and founded as a raw pagan black metal project dealing with Slavic heathendom, Bulgarian pagan traditions, ancient Bulgarian cult of Tangra as well as post-modern folklore symbolism and aesthetic transcendence. 'Svaróg' is an ancient Slavic deity of the cosmic and earthen fire and the godfather of the Slavic pantheon. It is a symbol of the eternal harmony in nature.

During the time Svarrogh developed more and more itself into the wide field of Bulgarian folklore music.The band's fourth album "Balkan Renaissance" in 2007 marked a radical change from harsh folk black metal into a neofolk/folk ambient oriented musical concept. The aspect of avant-garde music, as well as atmospheric and spiritual elements became the most important part of the compositions.

So there you have it: classic filler whilst Nazgul tries to remember which way is up, and have some quality time to invest in a more interesting future post...

Thursday, 16 March 2017

TWILIGHT


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Twilight
Format: There are two versions of this release: The first is a CD pressing, in A5 digibook version, jointly issued on the Russian Yarovit Productions (YP-002) and Barbatos Productions labels (BP-115) in December 2015.  The second version is a cassette tape with professional colour covers, on the Out Of Season label (America), cat ref oos5 and released in April 2016.  This tape also comes with a bonus 1" Uruk Hai badge/button.  The same track listing is on both versions, with side B of the tape release commencing with track 7 ('Elbenklang Part 2').
Edition: The CD version is limited to 200 numbered copies.  The tape is restricted to 100 hand-numbered copies.

Track Listing:
01. One With My Steel  8.38
02. Dorthonion  4.18
03. Smaug's Desolation  8.50
04. Eöl  2.42
05. Beneath The Mountains  3.14
06. A Blade That Once Was Broken  11.36
07. Elbenklang (Part 2)  12.50
08. The Golden Age Of Gondor  7.32
09. Over The Misty Mountains Cold  7.04

A nicely packaged release (in both formats) greets the intrepid fan in today's instalment of Honour and Darkness, as "Twilight" comes to town.  And not a teenage vampire or werewolf in sight, thank goodness.  Everyone knows that the only true twilight is defined according to the solar elevation angle θ s, which is the position of the geometric centre of the sun relative to the horizon.  But you knew that already, so let's not waste time on such musings and wade into the music.

One reasonable opening question is to ponder what this release actually is (or, more accurately, was. given it's already been a year and more since release date!).  Is it an album or a demo?  New songs, or old material, or even some kind of compendium of the two?

Who better to ask than the man himself, Hugin, who reveals:

"Twilight is a kind of compilation of unreleased songs - my good friend and huge Uruk-Hai fan Evgeny from Russia asked me some time ago if he can do a limited release of his fave band of mine so this CD came true.  All the cover pictures where taken at Lake Weikerlsee (close to my home) by Burgi Brandstetter, a close friend of mine too."

Once again the vast, seemingly inexhaustible supply of rare and unreleased songs from the vaults of W.A.R. have been tapped to produce another stellar release!

Credit too to Evgeny (and fellow label-hands) for having put the A5 CD package together so well, as it's a striking looking cover and stands out even amongst a collection of releases as opulent as those in Uruk Hai's discography.

It's an incredibly relaxing and ambient musical landscape presented by Hugin, with an instant one-way pass being issued to the highest peaks of the Misty Mountains and the lowest, fog-shrouded valleys of Middle-Earth.  Whilst there are touches of the Uruk Hai of yore - notably in the short battle-sample in lead-off track 'One With My Steel' - this is a journey into a mystical world accompanied by the very mellow contemporary Uruk Hai sound.  Not a strong contender to springboard the band back into the Metal Archives database then - not that this is an issue, you understand! - but more a lazy ride down the Brandywine river in scope and feel.

Speaking of locations in this fantastic realm, song two touches on 'Dorthonion', which was a highland region of the First Age, lying immediately to the north of Beleriand that extended north to Morgoth's stronghold of Thangorodrim. Within the stories it later became known as Taur-nu-Fuin ("Forest under Night"), or Mirkwood.  And in today's strange but true factoid, Treebeard the Ent used to take his winter vacations here...!

I do find this a most engrossing album, and one of those recordings that you can put on in the background or when on a long journey and then just wallow in the music.  To that extent, it's not even a particular issue what the individual titles are or how many tracks the release has, as it's more of a sonic tapestry than it is an simply an album of songs.  Particular moments leap out and grab you (not least the beginning of 'A Blade That Once Was Broken', which momentarily - and startlingly - sounds like a cover of Madness' 'Night Boat To Cairo'), whilst others wash over you and lull you into a world of magic and mystery.

And just when you think you've got the thing sussed, Hugin will throw in something a little more unexpected and left field, such as some distinctly neo-folk influenced guitar parts, or female choirs, just to make sure you're paying attention.  Great stuff!

In line with tradition, the early CD pressing has been followed by a much more limited tape release on the Out Of Season label.  No additional songs are included, but you do get a rather nice 1-inch badge/button to wear to show your allegiance.  

Certainly a release that you should look out for, and with both in fairly limited supply one feels that the currently available stocks will dwindle fairly quickly.  In other words, don't hang about getting your copy!

Oh - and before Nazgul signs off, let's quickly consider the strangely transient character of Eöl, referenced in the song of the same name.  Eöl, also known as the Dark Elf, was a Sinda and lord of the forest of Nan Elmoth in Tolkien's 'The Silmarillion', and one of the finest sword-smiths of the ages.  Yet in Tolkien's earlier writings, he is described as being of the Mole-kin of the Gnomes and an ugly miner to boot.  Quite the transformation!