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!

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