Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Uruk Hai > Earshot interview 2004

What’s this, then: It’s an interview that Hugin did with Austrian online magazine Earshot, published on 28 August 2004.  Follow this link if you’d prefer to read it in the original German.
Interesting?  Very, it has some contemporary references to then-new releases across his various projects, and some insights into his influences and interests.  It also mentions one of the long ‘lost’ releases in the extensive discography of his bands, the semi-infamous “American Graveyard” compilation tape!

"Interview with Uruk Hai: Traveling through Middle-Earth"

On the occasion of the release of the debut album about Drama & Sin from Spain, I asked Hugin, the man behind Uruk Hai, to find out more about this interesting project and his numerous other bands like Elisabetha and Hrossharsgrani.

Hello Hugin! Please tell a little bit about the band history of Uruk Hai. When did the project start, and have there been any changes over time?

Hails Michael!

I launched Uruk Hai in 1999.  Actually everything started with the fact that I was working on a new Hrossharsgrani demo, which I wanted to title "Uruk Hai".  When I had the demo recordings I did a pre-release in an edition of 6 copies passed to my friends, and as I let the material play a few times it became clear to me and my buddies: this cannot be brought out under the name Hrossharsgrani.

This became the first Uruk Hai demo "In Durin’s Halls", which has just been remastered via Eclipse of Live Promulgation (EoLP) and re-released with bonus tracks! At the time of the "In Durin’s Halls" recording, I also worked on the one-hour song "Quenta Silmarillion" (also still under the banner Hrossharsgrani), which I have now remastered in 2004 and want to publish as a strictly limited CDR version.  I need to find a suitable label!

In the winter 1999/2000 I did the first ‘proper’ Uruk Hai (rehearsal) demo "Elbenwald", which appeared shortly afterwards on Latvian Beverina Productions/ Elven Witchcraft label, limited to 500 copies. The theme remained the same: Orcish Battle Music!

Other rehearsals ("Darkness" + "Orcish Battle Hymns" - both on Chanteloup Creations in France) followed. Then the split EP with Grimthorn came out on CCP Records in 2002; unfortunately the title "Schall & Rauch" was not primarily intended for Uruk Hai but instead for my side project Bonemachine, so this EP is not really an Uruk Hai release since the music tends to be in the industrial metal direction.  It was a band/label misunderstanding, so to speak...

In 2003 the "Lost Songs" of the "Elbenwald" session were released as CDr with the name "Elbentanz" on Odium Records, followed by a demo and rehearsal compilation ("Battle Yells"), published by the Italian label Werwolf Productions - again Orcish Battle Music!  This year (2004) all rehearsal sessions, which I have recorded over the last five years should now find their way to the public: "Battle Magic" (Ltd.22), "Honour" (Ltd.40) and "Long Forgotten Tales "(Ltd.50) all on Werwolf Productions, then a split with Arkillery (Ltd.250) on EoLP.

Then a pro-CDr with 2003 songs titled "Barbarians (Orcish Battle Hymns Pt.II)" will soon be released by the Eisenwald Tonschmiede, as well as the split tape with Vinterriket. In July 2004 the debut CD "A Night In The Forest" came out on Drama & Sin - a mystical journey through the Fangorn Forest. One Song, 72min.  Pure dark forest mood! In the autumn, Part II of the Arkillery/Uruk Hai tapes should follow. The first ideas for the succession album to "A Night In The Forest" called "Misty Mountains" have taken shape, and a split EP is still in the planning stage!

Uruk Hai was supposed to be a musical accompaniment to various landscapes of Middle Earth, or to give a gloomy insight into various characters of the world JRR Tolkien - epic sound landscapes or ‘ork-musik’. A description of the music of Uruk Hai itself a little difficult. Actually this should be an ambient project, but occasional incursions into black metal is also possible. Also, the music of Uruk Hai is always considered through sound f/x, in order to create even more atmosphere. There are always natural noises, speech samples and such like in Uruk Hai’s musical world.

Changes will probably happen again and again, but there will always be Uruk Hai - the split EP with Grimthorn notwithstanding!

In the last few weeks there have been four tapes and the debut album - a real flood of releases from Uruk Hai. What can you tell about the individual publications?

Regarding the re-release of the debut demo "In Durin’s Halls", the original version came out of my own label "W.A.R." in 1999 and was limited to 33 pieces. The 2004 version includes a new intro and outro and was totally remastered as a tape. The demo is now released via EoLP with new artwork (a fantasy colour cover) and limited to 300 hand-numbered copies!

Next came "Long Forgotten Tales" - as the name suggests some older material, rehearsal sessions from 2002, which I have mixed and re-mixed in 2004. It is published by the Italian underground label Werwolf Productions as a tape and limited to 50 copies.

"Battle-Magic" was then next, again on Werwolf Productions and again a tape release, this time limited to 22 pieces. These are the outtakes of the "Barbarians" session and thus again unpublished material!

EoLP also participated in the Uruk Hai/Arkillery split cassette "From Blinking Swords in the Realm of the North": two bands, two songs ("Nebelberge" and "Gondolin Falls" by Uruk Hai) over different continents - limited to 250 pieces with a fantasy colour cover!  At the same time, this tape (which will later also be a CDr, but only in the USA) is also the first part of the "Sign of the Hammer Brotherhood" - under this banner, Krom and I will create further joint productions. For the next release I have already recorded two tracks ("Minas Morgul" and "Isengard"). This time I have played the drums and keys and Krom will contribute guitar and vox!

Drama & Sin was the godfather of the debut album "A Night In The Forest". The album consists of a long (72min) song, which is divided into four chapters and is a "journey" through the forest. It was less epic this time, because I wanted to put something at the forefront of mysticism and in the ‘spirit of the forest’ at Fangorn! A small side detail: the first edition of 500 pieces was sold out in the first two weeks, so Drama & Sin are re-pressing 500 more copies in October!

All of these releases were recorded in the WAR studio.

Why was "A Night In The Forest" released on Drama & Sin from Spain and not through CCP, who have already released your albums with Hrossharsgrani and the Uruk Hai/Grimthorn EP?

CCP is not a label for pure ambient music. Spanish label Drama & Sin (incidentally the sub-label of Battlefield Records) are specialists in this kind of music and are exactly the right partner for Uruk Hai. In addition to the debut CD, a split CD will be released at the end of 2004, and album number 2 will be released via Drama & Sin in 2005.  As already mentioned, the Uruk Hai/Grimthorn split was quite different music, which I would not like to associate with Uruk Hai today!  There are still a few recordings from this period, which will be released under the Bonemachine project.

"A Night In The Forest" leans very much to the Ambient/Neoklassik/Neofolk corner. Were you trying to capture the mystical atmosphere of the forest Fangorn from the Lord of the Rings, or why did you choose this style for your debut album?

It was just a coincidence, I'm sending all my recordings to different labels including "A Night In The Forest". So in the spring of 2003 - shortly afterwards I got the offer from Drama & Sin. It left me a little time to do the cover design and in the spring of 2004 I mixed the album again - and went to the press shop! So it was not the typical "Ork-music" for Uruk Hai but a gruelling journey through Fangorn Forest, which fits well.

Hrossharasgrani, Hrefnesholt, Elisabetha, Ravenclaw: are you doing anything else besides music? You have so many projects running and publish with them regularly - how do you do this?

Hrossharsgrani is a ‘real’ band in that the tasks are shared by all members, so not much work for me.

Here is the 2003 biography:

In the cold winter of 1998 Anno Bastardi the combat machine Hrossharsgrani formed the first blow in the form of the rehearsal demo CD "Blut". In the early ages, we roamed the worlds of dark ambient music to announce beings who were wandering through the night; the undead, the vampires. It was tribute to the bloody legacy of Lord Byron and Bram Stoker's tribute. Other demo CDs soon followed, but the battle this time was beaten in the form of barbaric to hymns of black metal.  "The Path to the Gate of the Dead" and "Ancient Tales" demanded blood and at the same time formed the end of the first period.

At the beginning of the year 2000 a further, gigantic step was taken; the halls of the CCP Studios were booming with the creation of the debut CD/LP "... Of Battles, Ravens and Fire". Battles and choirs guided the listener through long past times full of myths and legends. Fylgja, Munin and Hugin laid the foundations for a new epoch. A musical journey away from the already well trampled paths of metallic art formed the basis for a deal with the label CCP Records. An alliance that has been successfully conquered for Hrossharsgrani in every battle!

At the beginning of the following year, Hrossharsgrani’s work on "The Secret Fire", based on J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and "The Silmarillion" created a concept that was a refuge from dreary everyday life into a better, glorious world full of magic and miracles. Classical melodies, paired with the hardness of steel, led a crusade through the world of Middle Earth. Fylgja, Munin, and Hugin went out to proclaim mystical magical forests, fire-fuelled dragons, the wings of which conquered the clouds, the blinking swords in the north's realm, and the power found in dark battles.

In the year 2003 the blood rises again in the veins of the blades, and a further, more powerful battle is won. The path of the warriors is sealed, made of flesh and steel, baptized in fire and ice, the warlord Hrossharsgrani rises with an iron force to beat his battle in the land of the shadow. Symphonic metal anthems, mystical-bombastic chiming-chasers, led by death-tufts, rise high into the air and chase dark beings through ghost forests.

Powerful guitar riffs, war drums, timpani and fanfares form a symphony like a Walküreritt!  Hrossharagrani's third work is once again a skilful symbiosis of heroic slaughterhouse tongues and character-like radio play passages, an epic that can break the boundaries of what is conventional and lead into worlds where flesh, steel, and heroism were not yet hidden in the shadow of fear. “Shadow Warrior" is another ode to the fight, a vast manifesto of the violence of the sword, an album that will immediately captivate every Metal Warrior.

With Hrefnesholt I only sporadically record music every few years. Demo # 1 "Hrefnesvinter" came out as a tape over on the Hallucination label, demo # 2 "Wolf" as a CDr on W.A.R. and a rehearsal tape called "Heidensturm" came out in 2004 on Werwolf Productions. There is also a button limited to 100 pieces!

Elisabetha is actually the band of my friend Blutgraf, Neon Aesthet and I help out there sometimes. "Vampyr" was released on EoLP in 2003, and in 2004 the second "And Reality Revealed The Soul Again" came back on Black Attakk came out.

Ravenclaw is the project of Ruslanas from Lithuania, here I act only according to his wishes, by the way. There was a change of name: Ruslanas now calls his project Folkearth, where musicians from about 10 different countries participate! By the way, Ruslanas regularly brings out the Atlantida Compilation series!  After the 2 demo CDRs ("Where Mighty Ravens Fly" in 2002, and "Zalgirio Musis" in 2003 as a split with Svarrogh) comes this year the debut CD (working title: "Folkstorm")!

Then there is still Bonemachine, my industrial project - demo coming soon!

And in terms of grind I still have the project Guts For Dinner: The demo "Demo 1" came out 2001. And a song was included on the 2003 “American Graveyard” Compilation tape!

By the way, I also go to a job where I am always at home, so I can devote a lot of time to the music next to my small family!

Musically, Uruk Hai is the only one of your bands that you easily cannot pigeon-hole to a single style; industrial, then ambient / neoclassic, then underground metal. Is Uruk Hai your catch-all for ideas that do not match the other bands?

As already mentioned, the journey into "Industrial Metal" was a small naming error on the split EP with Grimthorn. Neo-Classical Heathen Folk and the rough black metal can be heard all year round in Uuruk Hai, depending on the mood. Ork battles, sometimes a "walk" through Fangorn Forest, then again a ride on the dragon's tail ...  And there will have been musical development over the years too, so Uruk Hai is just different, and it will definitely remain so!

What other bands or musicians influence you in song-writing? What recent releases have particularly impressed you? Is there any musical direction that you absolutely cannot stand?

When it comes to song-writing, it is more images that influence me very strongly, be they from movies or mental pictures that arise when reading stories. Musically, I would suggest Valar, Druadan Forest, Bathory or Summoning - but that changes constantly. Soundtracks belong to my range of influences - I was certainly impressed by the "King Arthur" soundtrack, a successful mixture of the "Lord Of The Rings" and "Gladiator" soundtrack!  And of course the new Exodus disc - killer!!

With almost all of your bands in 2004, you are still releasing stuff on tape. Where do you see the target group for good old demo cassettes in the age of demos on CDr with glossy covers?

So for me, tapes still have high interest. Unfortunately, the tapes themselves are already pretty much extinct, with us at least, but in the more eastern countries they are, thanks to Satan, still available! By the way, an Uruk Hai demo CDR will be coming soon with a poster - the second part of "Orcish Battle Hymns" titled "Barbarians". It's coming out of the German label Eisenwald Tonschmiede.

What about live shows?  Something was planned with Hrossharsgrani?

So Uruk Hai will most likely never see live gigs, but if it did then it will be a battle!!!  With the Hrossharsgrani gig so far, unfortunately, nothing has gone ahead - let's see ... Maybe next year !?  There was talk of an Elisabetha gig, but we have to discuss that in more detail.

You're also quite a film freak. Which films do you prefer?

I wouldn’t say freak, but I like to see everything between fantasy, science fiction and horror.  Of course Peter Jackson's adaptation of the "Lord of the Rings" saga belongs to my favourites, but also the "Friday of the 13th" parts I find ingenious, as well as Star Wars or Halloween ...  I could go on forever, but it would fill the interview space and I would never get to bed.  Though I still have one: Conan – it was really awesome!

What can we expect from Uruk Hai and your other bands in the future?

As already mentioned, a split cassette with Vinterriket and the "Barbarians" CDR, the "Honour" Tape, the part of the "Sign Of The Hammer Brotherhood" with Arkillery, a Split EP (possibly with Heidentum, etc. .  I also just finished a new deal with Uruk Hai for a split CDr + tape (ltd.100 + 80) with Woodlands Edge (USA). The release would still be released this year via Subterranean Surreal Records in the USA. Two new songs from Uruk Hai can be heard on that one.

Elisabetha are currently working on the succession album to "On The Principle Of Innocence", the basic framework already exists. A split EP with the German Nachtmahr also comes in the autumn on Black Attakk!  A double CDR will come this autumn with older rehearsal recordings ....

A new Hrossharsgrani album will be released by CCP Records in 2005 at the earliest! In the talk is a re-release of the first album "... Of Battles, Ravens And Fire" with a demo as bonus and new cover artwork ....

The Bonemachine debut demo "Destination: Hell" will be released in the fall as a CDr over on Misantrophic Propaganda in Belarus!

Hrefnesholt's debut demo "Hrefnesvinter" has been remastered.

Ravenclaw, (now Folkearth) are just at the "final mix" to the debut album, which should come out over a Russian label this year. 

Thanks for the interview, would you like to give our readers anything more?

Thank you for your support - May the Valar be with you!

And there we have it, a lengthy interview (and the usual apologies for ropey translation at any point in that – you can blame me for that!) but with some interesting facts and trivia from the period that helps to flesh out the ongoing development of Hugin’s bands at that time – some 13 years ago now3 years ago now! 

Thursday, 14 December 2017


Title: The Amelia Earhart Flight
Format: This is a promotional CDr in a colour paper cover which came slipped inside a clear plastic wallet, on the back of which is a round sticker with the edition number.  The music was recorded in February 2016 at W.A.R. Studio and first released/advertised on the W.A.R. Productions (Austria) Facebook page on 21 December 2016.
Edition: 10 numbered copies

Track Listing:
01.  Adventure Is Worthwhile In Itself  17.38

Well here’s a turn-up for the trouser leg: our (almost) annual one-of-a-kind events where something weird and unexpected falls out of W.A.R. Productions and onto the desk in Castle Nazgul.  This time around, we’re experiencing the first ever release from Alexander Wieser’s Adventure.  It has a certain ring to it, that name, reminiscent of band’s like Arjen Lucassen’s Star One for example.  A palpable sense mystery and grandeur comes from using a name in the proceedings, so it’s with a keen sense of anticipation that we press on to see what this release is all about.

First things first: it’s a promotional-only CDr at this time, with only 10 copies being advertised via Facebook.  This copy is numbered #1 (which is jolly kind of Hugin – sorry, Alexander Wieser, as we should call him today) given that there are many keen fans all clamouring to get the first number in an edition of any of his releases now.  I probably should go on record to say that Nazgul isn’t at all precious about having to have copy #1 of anything ,by the way, and it’s great that many of you reading this will probably have a few early-numbered copies of releases in your own collections too, but I am appreciative of Alex’s kindness in this regard.

The subject of this release is, as you will have intelligently surmised from the title, Amelia Earhart.  Quite the person, was Amelia: she was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, in 1928, and received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this achievement. She set many other records in her time:  Amelia wasn’t scared to dream, or to try – she was the first woman to be issued a pilot’s licence all the way back in 1921. She tragically disappeared during a 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the globe in her aircraft, but her legacy lives on and she continues to inspire people today with her spirit of adventure.

Rather difficult to conceptualise all of her career into a 17 minute song one might think, and of course you’d be mad to try, so I think Alex has drawn upon the inspiration of Amelia’s pioneering spirit in stitching together this fascinating track that is genuinely the finest thing I think I’ve heard from him this year.  There’s some tremendous melodic guitar in this song, which dominates the piece in a good way.  There's also some sporadic whispered vocals, the expected-but-still-excellent keyboard and effects bit (including at the beginning, with a nice thunderstorm/aeroplane segue) and a spoken word segment from Amelia Earhart which is both poignant and interesting.

I’m not sure at this stage what the prognosis for this song or project is, but it’s something that really needs to be heard in far greater numbers than the 10 of us who are sitting on this copy.

Oh, if you were curious about the origin of the song title you may be interested to learn that it derives from a fairly famous quotation from Ms Earhart herself:

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Hexenreich sampler March 2009 [V/A]

Title: Free Sampler March 2009 [V/A]
Format: A promotional CDr jointly released on the Hexenreich and Arhailised Helid labels (Estonia) in – believe it or not – March 2009.  It has a card sleeve and silver disc, and promoted bands with releases on those labels back in the day.
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:
01.   Urt  *  Me Ürgsed Juured (Murdja)   
02.   Bestia  *  Mälestus Kustutab Leegi   
03.   Realm Of Carnivora  *  Unclean - Hymn to the Filth   
04.   Sorg Innkallelse  *  Captive in Hell   
05.   Urt  *  Läbi halli udu (Bestia cover)   
06.   Bestia  *  F.S.   
07.   Simbioz  *  Крещеный Кровью    
08.   Kirst  *  Land of Stolen Dreams   
09.   Realm Of Carnivora  *  Üle Laipade   
10.   Sorg Innkallelse  *  Lethal Invasion   
11.   Uruk Hai  *  Dark

Here’s a quick post to kick-start the month of December and the run up to the festive season.  And gosh, it’s been a while since one of these Hexenreich CDr’s appeared on Honour and Darkness: you have to go back to December 2010 for the last time such a sampler was featured in fact.  7 years ago – how you’ve all put up with Nazgul’s endless wittering for all this time I will never know, but thank you for sticking around!

It’s the sort of a disc that Hexenreich would have popped into your mail order back in the day, and that by and large was probably listened to once (if at all) by the recipient before being discarded somewhere as an unimportant souvenir of that particular purchase.  Which is a shame, as they act as little time-capsules really, telling you what bands were on the label(s) at the time and where in their recording history they had reached.

As is the case with the Uruk Hai song that props up the 11 tracks on offer: ‘Dark’ was one of the bonus songs on the original tape release of “Northern Lights” on the Hexenreich label, albeit that is was actually released in 2005 so quite some time before this promotional item was dreamt up.  As to the rest of the sampler, I have to confess not to be familiar with most of the rest of the bands, though a combination of the words ‘noisy’, ‘black metal’, ‘folk’ and Viking metal’ would probably cover most of the bases.

The reason for this unfamiliarity is that this is one of those troublesome releases that currently is not housed within the Castle Nazgul vaults, so if you have access to a copy that you’re looking to sell then you know how to make Nazgul’s Christmas a brighter place!