Monday, 30 January 2017

The WACH stamp

 
Band: WACH
Item: The very stamp that made the seal for "The Fear" and "The End Of Dreams"
Edition: In all probability just this one

Now here's something you don't see everyday!  It's an honest to goodness, 100% genuine item of historical interest to all fans of WACH and thus - in the grand scheme of things - a gold-plated entry in the Castle Nazgul collection of the weird and unusual!

What you are looking at is the very stamp that was used to make the wax seals for "The Fear" - which you will recall came in no less than 4 different colours, one for each edition: blue, green, orange and silver - and also for the limited edition debut "The End Of Dreams" release, which had a blood-red seal.

It's only 3 or so inches high, with a nicely wrought WACH logo at the flat end where you press down into the blob of wax.  In mirror image, of course, in order to produce the required image at the end of the process. A shapely wooden handle makes the piece nice and sturdy, and all in all it's that rare combination of being both utilitarian and eminently displayable!

The stamp has very kindly been donated to the Castle collection by none other than the shadowy and enigmatic figure of Reverend Kim, who you will recall is the other half of the WACH project along side Hugin's alter ego Herr Insomnia.  He is, as you will immediately have grasped from his act of great kindness, an all round 'good egg' to say the very least.

Such munificent behaviour was well known to Nazgul from aeons past, when I had inordinate amount of trouble trying to find a silver seal version of "The Fear" to buy.  Enter Reverend Kim to save the day, and spare Nazgul's blushes. 

It seemed appropriate to ask the good Reverend for his memories of those early days of making seals for WACH albums!

"Ha, the silver seal for WACH "The Fear", wow, you have a very good memory, I had almost forgotten that one.  I still can remember when my wife and I made all the seals, it took us quite a while until we got some experience and found a proper way to get them all made and look nice, and we had to make them on baking paper so that they were be removable and so that people from the label could glue them on the digipaks.

We took a spoon, that we heated up over a candle and we pressured the hard wax sticks onto the hot spoon so that the wax became liquid.  Then we poured then a little bit onto the backing paper and then put the stamp on it."

Simple as that! And as you can see from the accompanying photos, the final results do indeed look rather fine.

Speaking of "The Fear" - something of interest for all Hugin collectors in an upcoming post, stay tuned...!

Some of the end results of the stamping process

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

FIRST BATTLE (vocal demo CDr)

Band: MANWE
Title: Untitled CDr disc, being a vocal demo for "First Battle"
Format: A plain silver CDr disc with hand-written track details, housed in a generic paper sleeve.  This was not a commercial release, but a band demo circa 2004-2005
Edition: Presumed to be a single copy

Track Listing (vocals only):
01. Elfcrusher
02. Winterheart
03. Ode To The Hobbits
04. Orc Dawn

Something plucked from the drawer marked "miscellaneous" today, and a rare visit to the pages of Honour and Darkness for Manwe, side-project of Hugin, here in 'mark 1' version.

I say 'mark 1' as there are two distinct iterations of Manwe: the original band - featuring Hugin alongside Padre Adamo - which gave us the "First Battle" release back in 2005, and then a second iteration with Rich Davenport alongside our Austrian hero that led to the 'Tears In A Burning Eye' track and other material post 2014

Now that you're back up to speed with the history, the CDr featured today falls firmly into the first version of the project!  It's a simple thing, being the vocal tracks for the 4 songs on "First Battle" being sung/voiced/spoken by Padre Adamo for subsequent mixing with the instrumental bits.

It's a bit odd listening to vocals out of context to the music: we get quite used to the opposite scenario, where instrumental versions of songs often pop up as bonus tracks on CD singles, for example, but to listen to vocals on their own is relatively uncommon and relatively weird!  Given the more narrated style to these 4 tracks, however, it sort of becomes a listenable piece: a little like listening to Lemmy narrative the 'Orgasmatron' lyrics might resemble a performance of poetry.

Not that this CDr was intended to be consumed by the public in this manner, of course, and the lesson learned is that any early and/or partial band demo is always going to be a strange thing to digest out of context.

previous update to this post gave you the chance to read the lyrics for the songs in question, and with the inclusion of this demo disc it looks rather like we've done to death everything existing on the "First Battle" front, short of an out of the blue event occurring like a long-lost band t-shirt appearing, for example.  But I wouldn't hold your breath...

There's not much else to add, with the Manwe Facebook page being devoid of news to share with you.  One thing Nazgul spotted there, however, was a promotional image for the "First Ring Part 2" release that references Manwe in its text, so I've popped that below for reference!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A NIGHT IN THE FOREST - update

Band: URUK HAI
Title: A Night In The Forest
Reason for update: A reissue for this classic album, on the Valgriind label (Russia) in 2016, cat ref VG59.  The release comes in full colour covers with brand new artwork, and is re-mastered from the original 2003 demo.
Edition: Unknown - not stated on release

Track Listing:
01. Enter Fangorn
02. The Spirit Of Wood
03. Elvenpath
04. A Light Into The Darkness

It was only a short while ago that a promotional CDr of this album was unearthed for your edification, which was though to have been the early version of the 2003 demo that was touted around labels until being picked up by the Spanish Drama Company for the official full release.

Here we are, a mere two months later in the world of Honour and Darkness but a full 14 years in the Uruk Hai canon, with a re-mastered and revamped pressing of this legendary Uruk Hai album.

It boasts new artwork - credited on the inner sleeve to Burgi Brandstetter - and with layout and logo by Hugin.  A little light online sleuthing determines that Ms Brandstetter is a graphic designer from Solar City, Linz, and thus practically on Hugin's doorstep.

Revisiting the music on this album has been a real treat, actually.  The opening song, 'Enter Fangorn', for example has almost an ecclesiastical feel about it, as if you were listening to music in church.  Perhaps it's symbolic of a great cathedral of trees in which the listener stands whilst the sounds of nature and ambient music flow freely.  Reminds me somewhat of an early John Foxx album, "The Garden", in feel.

One point that's a shame is that the available recording length of this CD prevents the inclusion of the track 'Fire', which was the bonus song on the AMF Productions cassette version of this demo and - to my recollection - is the only place that this particular track features.  It would have taken a 2-disc pressing to include it on this 2016 re-mastered version, which wouldn't have been beyond possibility but presumably would have added to the cost of production overall.  A bit of a shame, as that bonus track is left languishing in history now, as opposed to being a nice bonus element to entice new customers to this CD who may already own the original Drama Company pressing.

Speaking of the older version, the review below comes from a Russian website and was partially cited in Nazgul's original 2009 post about this album.  For the sake of completion, and to give you an alternate view of the music other than mine, here it is for the first time in full:

"A sunny day in the deepwood..." (92%)
_ImNachtUndNebel_ on September 10th, 2007

"The first time I heard Uruk Hai was on the split with Vinterriket and Nak’kiga, "Ira Deorum Obliviorum". I very much like Vinterriket, even in their most 'ambient' and monotone pieces, and as I listen to much other similar music I decided to try Uruk Hai's "A Night In The Forest".

Ambient music is a difficult kind of music, it can be listened only in particular moments, or can be played as a 'background'. There aren't other ways to enjoy it; you can't listen to an ambient album and expect to have fun or whistle along the melody or do headbanging as you can do with a power metal work or Motorhead. You must be in a special kind of mood, have the will to use your imagination intensively and for long periods, and nothing less than that. Or, you can put it on in the background and let it create an atmosphere for the room you are in, as an incense stick would.

Now this work may seem monotone and boring to anyone who isn't familiar with ambient music. Nevertheless, all the ambient music lovers will be satisfied. It's a great piece of music. But I must say that it doesn’t respect its title at all: except for a few moments, this music is very open-space and serene. It doesn’t speak about a 'Night' in the forest to me it seems rather a sunny day in the forest instead, with just a little bit of fog!

It's very funny that Uruk Hai puts the sound of rain between the tracks, because the notes are very sunny and shining. It is similar to Jon Mark's work "The Deepwood" for example, or it may remind you of the serenity of Brian Eno's "Discreet Music", or also something by Vinterriket (obviously, this album is not metal).

Long, open streams of chords and widely expanded notes upon a carpet of special effects similar to little bells ringing; that's all you can expect from this work from a 'technical' point of view. However, the atmosphere is really convincing and captivating; you'll find yourself in the middle of a misty, spiritual forest with the rays of the sun that penetrate slowly between the deepwood and the tall, secular trees. Infinity and loneliness. Very enjoyable, but only for experienced listeners of ambient music."

It's rather nice that some of the older releases from the early days of Uruk Hai are now available again via Valgriind.  You may recall their reissues of "Upon The Elysian Fields" and "Lothlorien" in 2009, plus the 2-disc pressing of Hrossharsgrani's "Ancient Battles" in the same year.  More recently came Uruk Hai's "Northern Lights" in 2011 and latterly "The Battle" in 2016.  Many of the original pressings of these releases are fairly hard to find now, so any chance for a fan to lay his or her hands on a copy of the albums has to be a positive thing.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Slaying of Uruk Hai - an update!


What's all this then, Nazgul?  It's the content of an email from a Metal Archives moderator in response to my post in 2016 about the deletion of Uruk Hai from that site.

Some months ago Nazgul received an unexpected email from one of the moderators on the Metal Archives site who was quoted in my original piece. I'll keep them anonymous for the time being, for no reason other than I've not discussed with them the prospect of identifying their ID in this post.

They were writing in response to my "The Slaying of Uruk Hai" post from last February, and let Nazgul just say here that he appreciates the time and effort for this individual to have formally replied.  The email alluded to the possibility of a 'more comprehensive response' being a possibility in the future, but despite a little to and fro by email between the pair of us this longer response hasn't materialized as at today's date.  One suspects pressures of time, work and life are doubtless the cause for that, rather than anything else.

However, seeing as the original post did generate a fair bit of interest and was one of the most read posts in the history of Honour and Darkness, printing the response here seems the fair and reasonable thing to do.  Should anything further come in on the story, Nazgul will keep you in the loop.

"Wow.

I was made aware of this post by an MA user and might write up a more comprehensive response later, but for now I would just like to point out that Alhadis did indeed save the information as repeatedly claimed on our forum. The "nuking" part only refers to the removal of the entry from MA, not the deletion of the information per se. It's simply used synonymously among the staff for "to delete", nothing more to it. Though I guess to outsiders the choice of word might seem pejorative in a sense that it really isn't. As for the LotR GIF, it was a joke. We're not robots.

Again, please do try to contact Alhadis, if you are looking for the information the entry contained (his email address can be found on his MA user profile). While his Tome of Noise project has been in the planning stages for a long time now and considering his real life commitments it will probably remain in such a state longer still, he does very much save all this stuff locally."

In addition to that, and in (quick) response to the "metalness" of Uruk-Hai... well, we did review all the material that gets described as black metal regularly. As I remember, though, no single release favoured the metal over the ambient. It wasn't a rushed decision by any means. Whatever hostile intention might be read into droneriot's or other's posts, we assess these things as objectively as we can (what I was trying to say in the posts quoted in your article, is that I have no personal investment in the band one way or another). 

There was no ulterior motive or vendetta or anything like that behind its removal. Neither should much be read into its long existence on the site, it was basically a chance inclusion that happened in an earlier period of the site when the addition of side-projects was far more lenient (we have been tightening this policy considerably lately) and simply endured for this long because no staffer ever really got around to re-assessing it thoroughly. That happens. "Site seniority" in that sense is irrelevant to us, the same rules apply to all bands.

It's also worth pointing out that we don't include bands based on cherry-picked songs across a discography (cf. Hugin's claim of "I easily could fill up 8 full albums with Metal songs", which is irrelevant as the fact remains that there is no single consistently metal release, as far as we could determine). In short, if we overlooked something, you are welcome to bring up any release(s) you think would qualify Uruk-Hai for re-evaluation in the appropriate thread on our forum. 

As long as you maintain a polite and reasonable tone (and use the search function beforehand to ensure that the specific release(s) haven't been brought up and addressed already), you won't have to fear being assaulted by a flock of rabid moderators. If the release(s) you're thinking of have already been considered, well, agree to disagree."

All of which is, I think you'd have to agree, an eminently fair and reasonable reply and one that leaves the door open for some appropriate and respectful 'pushing' should anyone out there still feel strongly enough about the subject to resubmit material for the moderators' consideration at the Metal Archives site...

Monday, 9 January 2017

THE TOURETTE TAPES [V/A]


Band: URUK HAI [amidst various other artistes]
Title: The Tourette Tapes
Format: A cassette compilation released in 2016 on The Tourette Tapes label (Germany), cat ref TT#53.  A compilation of largely industrial, electronica, experimental and noise projects, this comes with a red coloured bag, 3 inlay cards, a digital download code and a C70 tape with printed side panels.
Edition: 66 hand-numbered copies
 
Track Listing:
Side A
01.  Kurbelkraut  *  Hits From The Nuts  4:38 
02.  Contagious Orgasm  *  The Following Day Signal   5:14 
03.  Tlic  *  Morbid Nine (Cyperkid Resurrection) 8:27 
04.  Fensch Industrial Orkestra  *  La Grande Cisaille  5:01 
05.  Skullwall  *  Untitled  2:46 
06.  Moral Fraktal  *  Scar  4:00 
07.  Colonel Smasher  *  Tale From A Drunken Abyss  4:24 
Side B
01.  Uruk Hai  *  Schlacht Des Jehen Feuers  14:52 
02.  Vincenzo Bossi  *  Nova 80  10:39 
03.  Xtematic  *  Dead Zone  5:00 
04.  Bride Wore Black  *  Sparkle  4:27 
05.  Vincenzo Bossi  *  Archivmaterial (Bonus)  5:48 
06.  Kurbelkraut  *  Hits From The Nuts (Version)  6:49
 
In the relatively enclosed musical world that Nazgul inhabits, few things strike more fear into his heart than the prospect of a compilation album from some of the smaller underground labels like Smell The Stench, SkullLine, or - in this case - German label The Tourette Tapes.  Partly this stems from such compilations cramming a millions songs into one tiny space (something that a mere C70 tape mercifully can't be party to); partly because a lot of the bands are likely to be (a) crap, (b) unlistenable, and (c) crap (again).  Reviewing such a thing can be a pretty fraught experience let me tell you: I still haven't quite recovered from listening to the "A Tribute To Burzum" compilation, and that was over two and a half years ago....
 
Consequently handling such items now carries all the precautions that you'd associate with the disposal of toxic waste: the immediate area within the Castle is cleared of all superfluous personnel before the offending item is even removed from the shelf, and thick rubber gloves are worn to extract disc/tape/media from its protective wrappings to place into the death-deck.  Warning signs are erected, ear-protectors put on stand-by, emergency sick bucket positioned within reach just in case.

That DEFCON 1 image in a recent Honour and Darkness post could be a very apt precursor to unveiling this particular release...
 
So what are we to make of today's curious offering from an equally curious label?  After all, The Tourette Tapes label is not unfamiliar to us (primarily for split releases between Bonemachine and bands such as Flutwacht, for instance) but information about the label itself is pretty sketchy. It is a sub-label of the equally as enigmatic Apocalyptic Radio label, which has been scaring people with its releases since 2004, and their Bandcamp page simply describes their mission statement as 'Record label for industrial music', which is fairly terse if accurate. 
 
All the signs point towards another volatile listening experience, therefore, so Nazgul has invoked the emergency protocols just to bring you this post in the never ending quest to relay all Hugin-related material to you.
 
Looking over the track listing, the first thing that strikes you is that it's none of Hugin's industrial or experimental projects that appears here, such as the aforementioned Bonemachine or WACH for example.  Oh no, instead it's Uruk Hai - not normally known for rubbing shoulders with the likes of Contagious Orgasm or Colonel Smasher.  So far, so very peculiar.  Also peculiar is that there looks to be a typo in the spelling of Uruk Hai's song too, as I presume the translation should be 'The Battle of Sudden Flame', based on a corrected title of 'Schlacht des J√§hen Feuers'?  This battle was, of course, Dagor Bragollach, being the fourth battle of the Wars of Beleriand and the great turning point in the War of the Jewels.  But then again, with my terrible German, anything is possible.
 
And for today's trivia interlude, can you name at least two other well known metal bands who have immortalised this same battle in songs on their albums?  Answer at the foot of this post *
 
Rather a different vibe, though, having a track about a legendary battle from the works of Tolkien shoehorned into a compilation with songs including 'Hits From The Nuts', 'Tales From a Drunken Abyss' or 'La Grande Cisaille' (literally - 'Great Shears')?!  One wonders if it will jar aurally as well or whether Hugin has been overdosing on the coffee and Mescaline again, and has ramped up this Uruk Hai song to an in-your-face industrial strength mix.  Oh well, only one way to find out... 


...And what we find isn't an attempt by Uruk Hai to go all weird and messy on us, but more of what Nazgul would term a portmanteau track - an amalgamation of past bits and bobs of other songs to form a rather sweeping and epic piece.  I'm pretty sure there's a healthy dab of 'Gil-galad' in here somewhere, not to mention some other familiar pieces, but stitched together in a manner to create a new tapestry of sonic wonder.
 
It remains incongruous given some of the rest of the content of this tape, mind you, but as an introduction to a new audience it comes across as a faithful representation of the 'real' Uruk Hai.  And that's a pretty sound marketing strategy when you boil it down. 


* Congratulations on your perspicacity if you correctly read Nazgul's mind and named Summoning ('Dagor Bragollach' on their "Minas Morgul" album) and Blind Guardian (who gave us 'Battle of Sudden Flame' on their "Nightfall in Middle-Earth album").  There may be others who have referenced it, but don't write in to tell me about them....!

To conclude today's entry, in the same general tidying up and sorting out that led to Nazgul's discovery of the Hrossharsgrani "The Long Grey Road" artwork featured in the last post, another long-forgotten item also emerged: the Tourette Tapes badge, pictured below.  It doesn't come with this tape set, but as it's pretty hard to shoehorn the badge into any other post here it is for posterity!

Friday, 6 January 2017

THE LONG GREY ROAD - update III


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: The Long Grey Road
Reason for third update: Another version of the artwork for this release has been uncovered!

Something of an oddity, this one, and whilst it could happily sit in the ongoing Vaults of W.A.R. series Nazgul thought he'd add it in as an entry in its own right, given past updates to this particular release.

The back story to this little cluster of two tapes and a 3-inch CD can be traced from the last update, in May 2014, but in brief there are two cassette versions of this Hrossharsgrani demo issued by Wulfrune Worxx, which sandwich the 3" mini CD version issued by Australian nutcase (and I mean that as a term of endearment) Leigh Stench at Smell The Stench.

And that was pretty much that, or so we thought.  However, in rummaging around in a box of promotional flyers and other assorted goodies this morning, Nazgul came across the item pictured above: it exists in physical paper form, rather than just a Jpeg file, and is a promotional version of the artwork for the 3" CD release.  As you'll plainly see, it is very different from the vibrant colour version of the actual release, and is far more redolent of ... well ... a grey and murky field.  Of course, lurking under the mist and murk could well be a long and grey road, but you'll have to use your imagination for that.

We know it's a promotional copy as it says as much under the colour photo of Hugin inside, where is written, "Promo CD - limited to 20 copies only".  For additional clarity, where the edition number box is it reads '#promo/20', just to reinforce the point.

What isn't clear is whether any actual copies including discs were ever issued as actual promo releases, or if this was just a possible cover amongst other designs that never made the final cut.  The text on the actual CD release for this itself states that the 2 songs were "promotional versions and unmastered": perhaps therefore the promo blurb on this black and white version may just be a different way of expressing this same fact.  We may never know for sure....

Also slightly different on this promotional version is the text on the inside flap, which doesn't appear on the final CD sleeve.  Nazgul suspects it is a Tolkien quotation, though he can't immediately attribute it, but the words read as follows:

"...the three companions turned away and never again looking back they rode slowly homewards and they spoke no word to one another until they came back to the Shire, but each had great comfort in his friends on the long grey road."

The picture of Hugin is different between the versions, but evidently from the same photo session in deepest Austrian woods.

The extended family of "The Long Grey Road"