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 Jähen 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"

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Hugin interviewed in Obliveon 'zine

 
What's on offer today, Nazgul?  It's an interesting snapshot in time: an interview conducted with Hugin circa 2010 (this time with his Uruk-Hai hat on) about the "Black Blood, White Hand" release, and associated matters.
Who is the interview with?  German site Obliveon [sic], "the Metal and Gothic Magazine".
So it's not recent?  No, but it's all interesting stuff for the obsessive fan!  And it also came with a review of that album too, which is reproduced below for good measure.  Nazgul is good to you.

A double-whammy today, brought to you by the combined powers of Google Translate and good old fashioned elbow-grease.  It's both a review and interview conducted by German online magazine Obliveon around the time of the release of the epic "Black Blood, White Hand" release by Uruk Hai. 

Due to the lengthy review of that album by Nazgul at the time, there wasn't really any space for alternate reviews and critiques, and by the time this article and review had been published it had rather disappeared off the radar.  Let's amend that, therefore, and take a trip back in time 6 or so years, when Drachenfeuer was but a twinkle in Hugin's eye and new Hrefnesholt demos still stalked the earth.

Firstly, the brief album review: somewhat mangled in my translation, but you'll get the gist (or you can check out the original German language version should you prefer), but it received a received a favourable review and a commendable 7/10 score from reviewer 'MG'   

"Tolkien once wrote, ten years after the publication of the English original edition of The Lord of the Rings, that allegory would be confused too often with applicability. Thus the applicability of a possibly unfortunate choice of name in the case of Uruk Hai against the background of the many parallels at the time which the author has actually experienced leaves me with my own interpretation or, as Tolkien concludes, freely interpreted: the discretion of the beholder. Amon Amarth was already forgiven.
 
“Black Blood, White Hand”, quite unbound by the Middle-Earth universe, moves clearly, based on that epochal work in itself, but not to the last detail. The "chapters" have their own life; Galadriel's mirror comes from the Fantasy shop next door and does not show the future, and cover model Lucifera, splendid with her dark lustrous hair. Nothing for purists and Silmarillion lovers, then.
 
“Black Blood, White Hand” is, in a way, something like an alternative soundtrack to the literature, equally dark, mystical, full of acoustic references not only to the Lord of the Rings, but perhaps also unconsciously through the generous interpretation to what was once Tolkien's presumptive templates - The Norse mythology, Edda, etc. Hugin uses keyboard sounds and samples to create a cinematic portrait of a new epic about a this story, which many people believe more than know what it really is.
In the end, this record is the right sub-text for an interactive storyline and somehow a companion to the motif of the Ents: 'not so hastily'."
 
But it's the interview that's more illuminating, covering the background and vision that Hugin has for this album in detail, plus some interesting philosophising about the nature of Tolkien's work in the context of revisionist history.  The accompanying photographs were published with the original narrative.  Enjoy.

URUK HAI – ‘Between the Inner Sea and Belegaer’*  
* Tolkien mapped Middle-Earth as existing between the Inner Sea in the east and the great sea of Belegaer in the west.
 
What a comparison!  Compared to this rather geographical description of a well-known continent of fantasy literature, this next sentence may be of the greater relevance: Beethoven once said of Bach, "It was not Bach, but the sea, because of its infinite, inexhaustible wealth of tonal combinations and harmonies." Less known but no less powerful analogies are also to be found in Tolkien.  On the other hand, Tolkien’s literally almost inexhaustible wealth has certainly inspired countless artists of all kinds. 
 
One of them is Hugin – who in addition to many other fields of action is the mastermind of Uruk Hai – who has devoted body and soul to this substance, and especially within the Uruk Hai project - is always ‘on the road’ albeit in a somewhat different cinematic setting than the fictional mythology from the pen of the British Grand Master.  Whoever knows and appreciates this subject could listen and read in detail Hugin’s thoughts on occasion of the publication of "Galadriel's Mirror."  
 
 
Hi, how are you?  What are you currently doing?
At the moment, I'm working on the cover artwork for the Uruk Hai album "Into The Mines Of Moria", which is the first demo of 1999 to be released in a new form.  The material is now over 11 years old. I have also rearranged all tracks from the original master tape. Pr. Sergiy von Moloch has now sung the songs, and we have also co-edited a cover of the Summoning title "Over Old Hills" and in addition there is also a video clip as a bonus.  The CD is supposed to come out at the end of 2010 in a slim DVD case on the Bleichmond Tonschmiede / WAR Records & Alpendivision Sturmklang as an example of communal label publishing. 
 
I shot the pictures for the new artwork in the mountains of Carinthia, part of it at the Freikofel, where there are old military positions (Schützengräben, Minen, etc) from the First World War from the Austrian / Italian border. These reminded me of the mines of Moria, so it fits perfectly with the design of the cover.  Also the short video clip "In Durins Halls" comes partly from material that I filmed at Freikofel (1757m)! 
 
Next up, I will be doing the vocals a new Manwe song, which is part of the compilation CD/DVD "The First Ring Vol. II", including Uruk Hai and many more bands. Uruk-Hai and Manwe had to play the Uruk-Hai video clip on the DVD of Vol. II, but I'm not quite sure if we'll make it in time to finish it, since this time all the visual material comes from the US: Michele Britany will compile this for me from her recordings that she recently filmed in the Joshua Tree National Park.
 
What has happened since the release of the new album?  How is “Black Blood, White Hand” doing?
 
Yes, since the "Black Blood, White Hand" album (which was finished in July 2009 but was only released in April 2010) there has been quite a bit happening!  A split CD with Sieghetnar from Germany just came out of Nordsturm Productions, and the split LP "Iron Age" with Moloch was released as a beautiful green/white marbled vinyl with posters after a 2-year delay with Aphelion Productions.
 
The front cover artwork has been made available to us by leading Tolkien illustrator John Howe (www.john-howe.com), with whom I have worked for several years! Another Split CD with Funeral Fornication will be released by mid-September 2010 at Hypnotic Dirge Records, and Tryby Records from Poland released a wooden box with the following demo tapes on CDr: "Die Festung", "Balrog", "Morgoth", "A Dark Force Shies Golden"; “After The War” & “At The End Of The First Age”, each limited to 15 copies.
 
As far as I am aware “Black Blood White Hand " went down quite well with fans & critics, although some of the fans look back on purely ambient sounds such as Uruk Hai created around 2004/05. Somehow, in the last 2-3 years, more and more black metal sounds have been added to the ambient sounds of Uruk Hai, but this does not mean that Uruk Hai will be a pure Black Metal project. It can just as well make a quiet ambient album as well as a mix of both styles - I just do not want to set myself in one direction! 
 
We had a great release party at Sturmklang/Steinklang, the new Nebelkorona (Vinterriket Nebenprojekt) album came out at the same time, so we had Cz (the mastermind behind Vinterriket) and a whole bunch of nice people in the mountains of St. Koloman, the Sturmklang headquarters. It was a lot of fun together, and there was a huge amount of Zirbenschnaps to celebrate the two new albums! 
 
Sometimes I read reviews and wonder if the reviewer had ever heard the same "Black Blood White Hand" album as the one I recorded?! It sounds strange to me, but that's exactly the point, I think, as everyone hears music with their own ears and spins his own world of feelings and thoughts.  So it happens also from time to time that after a criticism of a song it brings it very much to my mind, and I gain a completely different perspective of it.

 
 
What was the idea behind the album?
 
The idea behind "Black Blood White Hand" is actually very simple. I have looked at some parts of the "Lord of the Rings" story through the mirror of Galadriel, so the album may not sound like a story that should exist, since there are different events in different places at different times, but they are all viewed from one place at a time.  Many things can only be perceived as something blurred by this mirror of water; some much clearer and more present. A certain free space is created which is offered to every listener, and which was also granted to me during the recording of the album. 
 
What does the title mean?
 
"Black Blood" stands for the black blood of the Uruk Hai & Orcs. "White Hand" is the sign of Sauruman under which the Uruk Hai and some Orcs marched against Mittelerde - we look again at this from a careful distance through the mirror Galadriel, but all too often this distance is also a danger!  First of all, this album was supposed to be a pure concept album on the subject of ‘Orcs’, but the music was simply too different and not really suitable for a concept album. During the recording so many other passages from Middle-Earth ghosted their way through my head I was just not really ready for this concept. I kept the title, however, since I had already announced this album some time before.
 
How did this relationship with Middle-Earth all start?
 
Tolkien's world has occupied me since my youth when I first read "The Silmarillion" and "The Lord of the Rings".  I'm also very interested in Nordic mythology, and I always find strong parallels to the world of JRR Tolkien - somehow both find their way into my music.  Uruk Hai's music is very much fantasy-oriented, because within this mother of all fantasy stories that Tolkien has created it is easy to do; not only because of the fact that several other groups in the black metal sector have done it, or because I like it myself, I think this theme just demands I play it and water my child Uruk-Hai from its source!
 
My personal reference to this topic is complemented by my musical reference Middle-Earth, where I do not come to Moria in ‘real’ life. In my music, I flee to these places in my imagination and thus make them into significant part of my reality.
 
Can you take us through the album?
 
‘Fresh Meat’, the introduction to the album - an orc-march, or a hymn to the "carnivores"
 
‘The Fate Of Man’ - as the title implies, a look in the mirror, in order to catch a short but fierce look into the future of the companions.
 
‘In Mordor Where The Shadows Are’ - Sauron will see you when you look briefly in the mirror!
 
‘Farewell We Call’ - a sad ode to the farewell
 
‘Under The White Hand's Flag’ - the Orcs and Uruk Hai are marching destructively through Middle-Earth under the banner of the White Hand
 
‘Black Blood’ - Orcs can also bleed!
 
‘Hidden Path’ - on secret paths through the land of the powerful enemy...
 
‘The Dark Lord’ - the dark ruler Sauron, shouts and shakes all of Middle-Earth - a breath of death extends to the Shire.
 
‘Does Not Glitter’ - whether the gold of the ring really shines.  My Sweetheart, My Sweetheart, My Sweetheart, My Sweetheart, My Sweetheart...
 
‘Tales From the Misty Mountains’ - Over the misty mountains far, to deep caves from ancient times, there we go, lured by profits of gold, silver and jewels.  Where once the realm of the dwarfs lay, where the sound of the hammering of the bells, and the wonders of the bells, slept soundly in the vault under the day (part of one of my favourite poems from The Silmarillion, which I have frequently read).

 

 
The band name also interests me – why did you choose it?
 
The Uruk Hai are a brutal, ugly and strong breed, begotten by Sauruman.  They are stronger and bigger than other Orcs and are not weakened by daylight. They also retain the upper hand over the Orcs.  In fact, a perfect name for a Black Metal project, as well as many other "dark" names from the Tolkien world.
 
The fact that I chose Uruk-Hai as the name for this project is actually a coincidence:  I worked on a new Hrossharsgrani demo in 1999, based on Tolkien's tales.  After I finished 5 songs (‘Uruk Hai’, ‘Nordhimmelstag’, ‘Moria’, ‘Kortirion’ and ‘Durins Halls’), I send it as a cassette, limited to 6 pieces, under the Hrossharsgrani name to a couple of good friends.  After the tape had been received and the songs had listened to a few times, they, like me, came to the conviction that this music sounded different to that far released so far by Hrossharsgrani.
 
One of these friends gave me the tip to start a side-project;  I did not hesitate and took the ‘Uruk Hai’ title as the project name.  I used the songs on this demo, recorded two more songs (‘Luthien’ & ‘The Unknown’), and the debut demo "In Durins Halls" was ready!  So this project came about in a somewhat bizarre way to reach - I think – a perfect name.
 
What are your musical inspirations?
 
Metal or ambient projects decorate their cover with just such pictures of mountains, dark mountain forests and the like.  But a walk through a moss-covered forest is inspiration for me!  Musically it was probably the Bathory album "Blood Fire Death" that caused me to start a project myself!  The cover artwork as well as the title song itself attracted me in the 80’s, and still does to this day.  Of course I did not stop at that time; there were a few other albums that inspired me and had a strong influence on my musical path, but I cannot remember another album that I heard with such a consistency and joy as "Blood Fire Death".  I think I also know every millimetre of the cover art, I looked at it so often while listening to the music - it really is pioneering!
 
Also I still find inspiration in:
 
LAIBACH - Opus Dei
 
GRAVELAND - Immortal Pride
 
VENOM - Welcome To Hell
 
SUMMONING - Dol Guldur
 
MORTIIS - The Stargate
 
NICK CAVE - The Good Son
 
And certainly more besides...!

 


 
I felt “Black Blood, White Hand” was extremely cinematic, and also very free in its interpretation.  How was the album made?  How did you write the songs?
 
The album has been created over a longer period of about one and a half years, which also makes the individual songs often sound very different!  With Uruk Hai, I am always thinking on the lines of a soundtrack, I always try to create something like a film without pictures. The pictures should form in your head - it is best to enjoy the music of Uruk Hai with your eyes closed. Try it - also I find it better with candle light for!
 
On "Black Blood White Hand", a couple of different guest musicians have participated for the first time, which certainly stands out from the previous Uruk Hai releases!  The structures, which could have sprung from a radio play, owe not only to the soundtrack-like music but also to the sound effects (natural sounds, battle scenes, samples, etc), all of which makes it easier for me to recreate the musical world of Tolkien.
 
Before I start recording a song, I have a certain scene, in this case Middle-Earth, in my head, while I float a lot of sounds and melodies in my mind, which somehow seem to fit precisely to this theme, and so it emerges. I also very quickly create a basic melody; then it becomes somewhat more complex: is this melody usable for the idea in my head?  Should I fit different sounds to it, or not? Then starts the actual writing of the song, always with Middle-Earth in the back of my mind. Tolkien always keeps his hand about me during the recordings!
 
I would be really interested in what JRR Tolkien would think of my interpretation of his Middle-Earth - would he listen to music from Summoning, Valar, Battlelore or even Uruk-Hai?
 
Where would you put the album, genre-wise?
 
Ambient Black Metal I would call it!  Where could this album stand? Perhaps beside Summoning although the music sounds very different, and possibly also beside Vinterriket because of the ambient passages. But somewhere in the metal area of the shop under the letter "U" would be good!  And the limited edition "Black blood, White Hand" wooden box with T-shirt and bonus CD belongs in a showcase!
 
It's noticeable that you have essentially renounced the hectic life!
 
The hustle and bustle I leave to other bands as it just does not fit with Uruk Hai, and if it does only in very small doses!  Such things don’t reconcile to the idea of listening with closed eyes, and would completely destroy the overall concept.  I love to have a very long song and build an immense arc of tension; an ‘epic’ is exactly what I want to produce with Uruk Hai, not in all songs, but in most of my work.
 
The reason for this disc is somewhere between sadness and hope. When I think about it, it is exactly what I find in almost every Uruk Hai release.  I also often use these sounds to show the beauty of Middle-Earth, but most of my music sounds very sad, I think.  It is precisely this kind of music that very much depends on one's mood when listening to it, so these sad sounds intensify the feeling of sadness in a bad mood, and in good spirits the music ripples more positively.
 
What personal things do you associate with Uruk-Hai?
 
The music in and of itself is already very personal, it is part of my soul; moods that would otherwise eat into me. I can scream out and they give me air so as to conquer the dreary everyday life somehow.  Uruk Hai is a kind of escape from this world into an endless universe of possibilities that I would never otherwise have, but it is also a curse that drives me somehow, even if I lie on the ground and do not want anymore.  Without my music I would be no more!
 
What does the future hold for Uruk-Hai?
 
A new one - let's call it "Zwischenalbum" - is already finished, it consists of only a single song, which has a length of 1:18:30 - a truly epic title.  Also "Cirith Ungol", which as the name suggests changes from ambient to heavy metal (though only the vocals of Pr. Sergiy of Moloch are reminiscent of black metal) a different but also typical Uruk-Hai album - it will appear again under the banner of Nordsturm Productions towards the end of 2010. It should also give a limited 1st edition in a neat box!
 
I've been approached a lot lately to make an album like "The Battle" or "A Night In The Forest", with those very quiet, sad ambient songs. I'm still thinking about how I would best to transfer these 6-7 year old albums to today's world of Uruk-Hai; there should be a clear reference to these older albums, but also very "modern" sound.  The best of both worlds, as it were.

 
 
Well, one thing I would be interested in knowing. Of course, it is not alien to you that in the Tolkien universe the events of its time can be purely and selectively interpreted - the Allies, the Third Reich ... the whole programme.  I myself consider Tolkien himself (as mentioned in a review at the time) to deny any reference to WW2, and whose basic idea was to create a mythical, if fictional, "British" mythology.  If you do not know this, there is a danger that Uruk-Hai will be personified accordingly?  You can already imagine where that leads - black uniforms, skulls, etc?  Have you ever been confronted with this half-knowledge?
 
Yes, the tormented topic, which has just been stirring up in the Black Metal / Neo Folk and Martial area as rarely before.  After "The Hobbit" was released in the later 30s Tolkien immediately afterwards began with the "Lord of the Rings" epic, which then went far beyond the Second World War up to 1954, so surely the at that time, into the work, went parts of Nordic or Germanic mythology.
 
So the Edda inspired Tolkien certainly, but since at this time the powerful Nazi war and propaganda machinery also took over this theme and symbolism (see Runes, for example), this is often misinterpreted into a totally the wrong light.  Tolkien, like CS Lewis, was part of the Christian discussion group "Inklings", who also criticized the works of present authors.  So a war-glorious work would hardly find any appeal to this Christian circle! CS Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" were, for example, very much based on biblical narratives, but also on Greek and Roman mythology, but I have never heard of or read about a reference to WW2 events there.
 
Groups from the Black Metal genre, using material from Tolkien's stories or just a few Tolkien-derived names, are subject to a sort of trend where there’s a hunt to seek out bands that are not 100% politically correct.  But what is now politically correct? Implicated in this are runes, which have been there for thousands of years, the sun wheel which has existed also for nearly 6000 years on almost all continents, Thor’s hammer, which seems to be lacking any reference to the Nazi period, and now Tolkien - what will be attacked next?
 
I'm sure there are enough childish NSBM bands that use a Tolkien name as a band name, often to compensate for their musical incompetence. But once we are honest, it was once that you needed the inverted cross, 666 and the Lord Lucifer to be able to appear evil’. So now these attributes do inflame like before, you have to start with ‘big guns’ like the Holocaust, Hakenkreuz (Swastika), the Final Solution and so on to be a really angry band - such nonsense.  But because a few bands have prevailed and are now seen as cult in the scene, every 13 year old must now record his own NS-Black Metal demo with his little sister’s Winnie the Pooh cassette recorder! Tolkien's works are the cornerstone of all fantasy stories today, there is almost no way around the fact.  I won’t let this other nonsense spoil them for me.
 
What else would you like to tell us, which we’ve not covered yet?
 
Uruk-Hai is underground and only meant for this - anyone who expects more should not take this path!  It is also the scene in which I have dedicated my lifeblood!  The word "True" is already more often as not untrue, but I like to use it orientate the position to the real underground scene.  In this scene I have all my comrades, my role models as well as fans; from this source I draw my strength and I feed this source!  In this movement there is still honour, and true camaraderie, support and sacrifice.  Thank you for your support and the opportunity to present Uruk-Hai here!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Seasons Greetings from Nazgul


'Tis the season to be jolly, and all that.  Once again the Christmas season is upon us, and untold numbers of tightly wrapped presents containing Hrossharsgrani demo tapes, Bonemachine wooden treasure chests and WACH digipaks are doubtless piling up under Christmas trees all around the world.  Or they would, if your old Uncle Nazgul had anything to do with things...

Wishing all of my readers a peaceful Christmas time where ever you are and what ever you're doing, and a prosperous New Year rich with good health and additions to your Hugin collection!

Nazgul is now about to slip off to the Castle kitchens to see where the good Lady Nazgul has hidden the stock of mince pies and Drambuie, so I'll catch you sometime next week with another post of Hugin-related goodness before the New Year is upon us.

All together now, "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la..."

Thursday, 22 December 2016

VOGELFREI - update II


Band: BONEMACHINE
Release: Vogelfrei
Reason for second update: A promotional poster for the release of the "Vogelfrei" albums and box-set has come to light

It's been ages since the Bonemachine release "Vogelfrei" was reviewed by Nazgul, in all of its wooden box-set glory.  An astonishing  6 and a half years, to be exact, with only one other update (for alternative album artwork) being posted since.

So given the passage of time it seems appropriate to add something new to the history of the piece, and today's entry comes courtesy of the Israeli label T'an! Kaven!! Ash!!! who released the album back in 2007.

It's simply a promotional flyer/poster advertising the various iterations of the release: the three, individually coloured CDr discs each sharing five core songs and adding a pair of unique bonus tracks to each version.  The three colours in the issue, you will recall, were black, red and blue.  Then there was the deluxe edition wooden 'treasure chest' version which added a bonus 3" video CDr inside the box-lid.

In fact, it has long been Nazgul's intention to do a special post for that little video disc, to grab some screen images to post up on Honour and Darkness to share with you all.  Perhaps that might be a nice little job to do over the Christmas break...

T'an! Kaven!! Ash!!! (also known as tka-subdivision) is the independent subdivision of Israel label The Eastern Front, and was established in 2006. The label releases experimental, avant-garde, industrial, noise music in limited editions and small quantities of copies.  Vogelfrei is now long sold out, though copies still come to light on Discogs occasionally and is well worth checking out.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

WHERE MIGHTY RAVENS FLY - update

Band: RAVENCLAW
Title: Where Mighty Ravens Fly
Format: What is presumed to be an unused design for the cover of this album, that was eventually released on the Atlantida Productions label (Lithuania) in 2002.

#26 From The Vaults Of W.A.R.

Now here's an album we've not had occasion to dust off for many a moon.  Aaah yes, the relatively obscure Ravenclaw release, "Where Mighty Ravens Fly", 14 years old this year and thus entering puberty with a wobble in its voice and a downy coat of stubble on its chin.

And, as always, a rummage through the vast and uncatalogued vaults of W.A.R. Productions in deepest Austria has unearthed something previously unseen about this particular release.  For it is alternate album artwork, and something quite different that the final design that was used (courtesy of an illustration courtesy of Mike Schindler of Dragon Design).

Most likely carved from tusk or horn, the Viking figure with cape swirling around him is a fittingly manly figure for this robust of musical ventures, bringing together Hugin with the late Ruslanas Danisevskis for a few demos and albums of bludgeoning music.


Whilst the exact origin of this figure is yet to be established from online sleuthing, those forays into the dark parts of the Internet did at least identify some previously unrecorded critiques of this album from various sources, so a timely moment perhaps to see what the world's underground metal fans made of this release back in the day. 

We start in Italy, with a 2003 review by Hellvis in the online Shapeless Zine:

"Ravenclaw was born in 2002 with the aim of creating a kind of Viking music, totally innovative for the underground.  Not always does the ambition correspond to actual capabilities.  In fact the style of Ravenclaw is not totally subjective but it is a set of various influences.  But one feels that the band at least tries to do something non-trivial. 

The duo consists of the label's Lithuanian owner Atlantida Productions, Ruslanas Danisevskis, and Austrian Alex Wieser, already a force in Hrossharsgrani and Uruk Hai.  "Where Mighty Ravens Fly" is their debut album.  It was recorded on four tracks.  The cover, professional, shows a crow [Nazgul's note: a raven, surely?!] with its snow capped mountains in the background.

Including wind, thunder and the cries of a crow, here resonates a relaxed introduction.  It is titled 'In Battles' and is one of the first songs composed by Ravenclaw.  In fact, it has already appeared on the compilation Atlantida Vol. 13, together with another track on "Where Mighty Ravens Fly": the bonus track 'Atlantida (Fighting for Atlantis)'.  'In Battles' is a short instrumental, with repetitive and soft tones.  The melody is played only by synthesizers.  The battle noises in the background create an alienating effect, opposing their violence to the melancholy notes.

The following 'Fenriswolf' is not an unreleased track as stated: it also appeared previously on a compilation of Atlantida, the fourteenth to be exact.  After the first graceful arpeggios and the narration, Ravenclaw try to be violent with a barrage of drum machines and a high-pitched voice.  Maybe 'Fenriswolf' should have been a strong song, but in fact it seems rambling and disappointing.  The recording quality is really tinny.  Better to leave.

"Shores Of Heaven" is nothing more than a basic piano tune with the sound of the sea in the background.  As with the introduction, again the theme is repeated in an obsessive manner.  This way of composing I think was inspired by the last two works of Burzum ( "Daudi Baldrs" and "Hliðskjálf") and the first albums by Mortiis ( "Til Fodt Herske A" or "Andes Som Gjorde Oppror").

The same atmosphere of the preceding instrumental introduces the next song 'Valhall (Der Rabenwinter)'.  In short, the drum machine intervenes to support the shrieks of the singer.  The pace is slow, the atmosphere is tense and disturbing.  The song is certainly a thousand times better 'Fenriswolf'.  It is strange, black, and extremely primitive, but able to create a certain charm.  Shame about the frequent fast sections, which proves that the duo are at its best in the mid-tempo and ambient situations.

The gurgle of a fountain introduces 'Ravenclaw'.  It is another minimalist track, which adds nothing to what previously heard.  It's still listenable.

'A Vikings Jouney' has a medieval melody of exquisite workmanship.  The ubiquitous sounds of battle are the background to the cold and epic sounds of yesteryear.  The long final section is repeated in agony.  The major influences are those already mentioned above, and in fact, we are bestowed with the cover of 'A hermóðr Helferd' whose original version is on "Daudi Baldrs".

"Power & Might" is another essential track, intimate, with narration.  Too bad that at one point the colder, irritating drum machine that should instead create a climate of violence.  If the song were accompanied by a dot matrix printer the result would be the same!  These parts are not at all satisfactory and dilute the mysterious tension, and the darkness and cold crafted from parts of the synthesizer.

A fight with bayonets announces the next 'Sword Of Honour'.  We give credit where credit is due:  When Ravenclaw create certain atmospheres, as in this instrumental, their compositions are all strong.  Of course, towards the end we again have the drum machine and singing but, oddly, things seem to work a little better.  Moreover, the part played by the piano is very evocative.

'Set Sail (A Vikings Journey Pt.II)' takes us back between sea and melancholy.  Feelings of nostalgia are communicated to the soul of the listener.  The track is long and monotonous as it could be a long sea voyage, eager for land that never seems to be in sight.  Too bad the final part, with its battle and the 'outbursts', both detract from what is heard in the previous ten minutes.

'Weltenbrand' is a short outro with strangely cheerful tones, and is relaxed.  

"Where Mighty Ravens Fly" ends here.  However, 'Atlantida (Fighting For Atlantis)'  was added as the previously mentioned bonus track.  This song is considered to be, chronologically, the first song ever composed by Ravenclaw.  The elements are all here, for better or for worse - mysterious voices, narration, laughable drum machine (though in this case it is better than usual) and redundant synthesizer steps.

What to say in conclusion?  Ravenclaw have yet to mature.  The ideas are there but the implementation is not yet up to par.  I think the band should focus on ambience, a genre in which it seems fairly creative.  If the black metal parts are just essential then it is necessary to improve the recording quality.

 Overall, a debut with some talent"

Also on t'Internet was a much shorter review in the Brutalism zine, which reads as follows:

"Ravenclaw is a project between Ruslanas from Lithuania and Alex from Austria.  What do they play?  Hard to say but it has all to do sith the old Vikings.  The songs are more like an extended intro with sound effects of water, lightning, raven cries etc.  Sometimes there is a part with instruments.  The lyrics are like spoken words sometimes.  Or black metal parts.  Or the use of medieval instruments.  After listening to the 12 tracks I still don't know what to make of it."

The tough life of a reviewer: you can almost feel his pain!


Now largely remembered for having provided the inspiration to J.K. Rowling in naming one of the four school houses at Hogwarts*, the Ravenclaw legacy is sometimes forgotten about in the overall scheme of all things Hugin.  How nice, therefore, to still be able to dredge up something new about the project after all these years....

* ok, not entirely true...