Thursday, 25 August 2016

THE BATTLE - update

Title: The Battle
Format: Reissue of this album on CD in 2016 on the Valgriind label (Russia) catalogue reference VG60.  This copy has full colour covers - with different artwork to the original album - and a professionally pressed disc.  It includes a bonus song not on the original 2005 Drama Company CD pressing.
Edition: Unknown - no edition stated

Track Listing:
01. The Battle  0:58  
02. Calm After Storm  1:40  
03. Thunderpower  4:33  
04. Poem To The Dead  10:56  
05. Icy Winds Over Battlefield  8:01  
06. Strength And Honour  1:28  
07. Rabensang  5:04  
08. And The Battle Continues  7:23  
09. The Secret Of Steel  0:57  
Bonus Track
10. Men Of Straw  3.41

In the grand tradition of periodically reissuing old demos and albums lost to history (but kept alive through Honour and Darkness!), here's one of the latest of Hugin's rediscoveries: "The Battle", courtesy of the Russian Valgriind label.

The original review of this album was a very early entry in Nazgul's scribing coming as it did in late February 2009, so it's a rather nice thing to be able to look up an old friend (as the actress said to the bishop) and see what's new after all this time.

The first thing evidently different is the cover artwork, which Hugin himself has orchestrated and it's rather good I think you'd agree?

The songs are the same for the main album, albeit benefitting from a re-mastering for this release, though the 2016 pressing adds a different bonus track from the song 'Black Mountains River (Midgard Warriors Pt.2)' which appeared on the 2005 CD pressing (the tape pressing on AMF that appeared in 2006 just kept the 9 main album songs).  So this time around we get a very different offering for the bonus song: 'Men Of Straw', the duet with Trevor Sewell.

This, you will recall, was the subject of a post in its own right back in July 2015 and was - and indeed remains - an excellent song.  It's slightly out of keeping with the theme and style of the rest of this album though, not least as the preceding 9 songs are all instrumental (bar the odd sample from films), so having Trev's sonorous tones coming out of the speakers at the end of the album may catch the unwary off guard to start with, as clearly this isn't Hugin singing!  A great chance for a wider audience to appreciate this song though, so nothing to complain about at all!

Another thing you'll notice on this reissue is the fact that the parentheses after the song titles are no longer there, as they were in the original pressing.  So, for example, compare the track listing above to that of the original (below):

01. The Battle (Introduction to War)
02. Calm After Storm (Blood on the Battlefield)
03. Thunderpower (Praying to the Gods of War)
04. Poem to the Dead (Remember the Fallen Heroes)
05. Icy Winds Over the Battlefield (The Dead Become Einherjer)
06. Strength and Honour (Preparing for Battle)
07. Rabensang (The Blackwinged Messengers)
08. And the Battle Continue (Only War is Real)
09. The Secret of Steel (The Price of Each Battle)

Not exactly an earth-shaking issue I would concede, but interesting nonetheless as the longer title adds a frisson of epic grandeur to the songs that arguably is missing now they've been truncated.  Perhaps there should be a small competition to find the most suitable addition to the song 'Men Of Straw'?

Also something Nazgul spotted that could be a typo (or if not is a bit of a mystery) is that on the inside of the booklet the liner notes state the original music was recorded in the Winter of 2007: clearly this can't be right, given the first pressing of the CD was released in 2005 and the tape version a year later.  Whether it should be read that this re-mastered version was recorded in late 2007 is unclear, though that seems unlikely as I'm sure it would have seen the light of day a little sooner than nigh on 9 years later!

Listening again to this recording after quite a time brought one thought of crystal clarity to Nazgul's mind: gosh, this is a quiet album!  Really quiet, to the point that trying to play it in the car in normal traffic requires the volume knob to be enthusiastically twisted upwards just to hear the music.  And revisiting the original Honour and Darkness review, not having recalled what I'd written first time around, there in black and white was the original review saying much the same!

"I recall buying this CD, pointedly titled "The Battle", and thinking to myself "well, we're in for some pagan battle music here with plenty of samples, blood and guts drumming, vocal overkill and the works."  Or some euphemistic thoughts on a similar vein.  What this album delivers is very different - possibly the most laid-back and serene album that Alex had put his name to as Uruk Hai at this point. It must have been a bit confusing for any newbies buying the album on the basis of the title, expecting a mix of gung-ho epic swordplay mixed with a bit of black metal!

Despite the powerful descriptive names of some of the tracks - and you can't tell me that "Thunderpower" and "The Secret of Steel" would lead you to assume some ethereal noodling would follow - this is very piano-based, ambient music. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, it's what the man specialises in after all, but it came rather against expectations for this release and as a result it didn't gel with me first time around."

There's a time and a place for everything, of course (with the possible exception of line dancing) so if you pick your moment and are fully prepared to be wafted away on a gentle journey into the further reaches of your imagination, then this album will work very nicely.  Well, up until Trevor comes along, that is, and rouses you from your torpor.  

So what do we make of this reissue overall?  Well, on the upside it's always good to know that these older releases are still being made available to buy, as the perennial problem of having so many limited edition pressings in Hugin's extensive discography is that they are often unobtainable.  Amusingly, Amazon claim that the original CD release is #2,171,144 on their all-time best sellers list, which boggles the mind and surely must be a triumph of bad data over fact?   Anyway we digress; I would imagine that there are a goodly number of people who have acquainted themselves with this album though re-release programmes like this one.  Approached with the right frame of mind there's plenty to lose yourself in with these songs, and much to commend the musicianship and quality of what's on offer.  So it's definitely a thumbs-up from Nazgul.

There's a general consensus to this celebratory air online too, with various distros and online shops welcoming the return of this release, one noting  it to be a classic of "heathen neo-classical folk darkness. Somewhere between the wide ranging sounds of Amber Asylum, Vinterriket and Vangelis" no less.

Let Battle commence...

Monday, 15 August 2016


Band: URUK HAI with Hulduefni
Title: Untitled split release (though the back inlay simply states 'Split Album 2015')
Format: Professionally released CDr on the WinterWolf Records label (Germany) on 15 October 2015, cat ref WWP0134, being a split release between Austrian Uruk Hai and Portuguese Huldeufni.  Colour covers, picture disc, comes in a clear jewel case.
Edition: 100 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Medieval Space  12.42
02. Spring Time  4.40

Uruk Hai
03. After The Fall Of Gil-galad  6.12    
04. Even The First Shadows Were Felt In Mirkwood  2.31
05. The Blood Of Beren  4.38

Another day, another Uruk Hai release on WinterWolf Records.  It's become a bit of a thing recently, in the virtual pages of Honour and Darkness, but if that's where the action is then that's where Nazgul will drag you (kicking and screaming optional).

It's a relatively short release this, between Hugin's best known project and one that was new to me - Hulduefni, of Portugal.  Indeed, so intrigued was Nazgul with this project an interview was set up to find out a little more about it, and that will be gracing your browser soon to complement this post.  Thus any burning questions that you may have about the origin or meaning of the band's name, their inside trouser leg measurements or whatever else it is that you find essential to know will be covered then.

As usual, a nicely presented item greets the owner of this split release (rather uninspiringly titled 'Split'), which is the usual way with items from this German label.  A restrained cover image in pastel hues meets the eye first off the bat, with the viewer's attention eventually drawn to the figure standing rather forlornly half down down the right of the slope, raising the inevitable questions, 'who is it, and what's the silly bugger doing standing there?'  Perhaps we shall never know...

The entry for this release has been added by the man behind Hulduefni (João Simões) and it's interesting to note the range of musical styles that he's put in the descriptor for the album: Electronic, Rock, Classical, Folk, World, & Country, Ambient, Black Metal, Celtic, Dark Ambient, Drone, Experimental, Neofolk, and Neo-Classical.  That doesn't leave too much to chance, does it?! We'll obviously be picking up this eclectic set of influences in more detail in the upcoming interview, but suffice to say being armed with that information one presses play on the death-deck without an awful lot of clues what to expect from Hulduefni's pair of songs, other than the first one might have a medieval twang to it (or not), and the second one might either be about blossom and little flowers, or involve a lot of bouncing around.

Oh, the anticipation is killing me.  Let's get on with it....

Well, as it turns out, Nazgul was half right.  Sort of.  Opener 'Medieval Space' does indeed vaguely invoke a rather antiquated sound, achieved through the apparent use of (presumably synthesised) dulcimer and other medieval instrumentation.  But it's certainly not a feudal battery in the style of what a band like Jaldaboath are knocking out, dear me no.  It's a form of adding some texture to what is otherwise a bubbling medley of ambient and almost cinematic endeavour.  If Flash Gordon had taken a court jester along with him and left old Hans Zarkov behind, this is the sort of thing they might have jammed to on the way to Planet Mongo.  

The song starts out with some distant little 'pings' of sound, creating the idea of being cast adrift in space, before slowly but surely instruments come along to fill the void and bring all manner of interesting little tweaks and nuances to the track, including the aforementioned 'medieval' dulcimer and other sounds.  It's a grower, this track: the more you listen to it the more you hear, which is usually a good sign of a well composed song.

Second song 'Spring Time' is a little more 'normal' in that it is dominated by the lush sounds of strings and keyboards, and has a fine melody that creates an interesting listen full of light and shade.  Definitely more towards the neo-classical end of the spectrum than drone or electronica, it's a pleasant listen although suffers slightly - like many songs in these genres - by being a touch forgettable after the track has ended.  It could almost be the music that accompanies the credits at the end of a BBC period drama, such is the atmosphere created.

In turning to the Uruk Hai side of the disc (not literally turning, you understand, for that way lies madness) the immediate question is simple: which iteration of Uruk Hai will be on display today?  Given the various flip-flops in style on recent releases, ranging from guitar and vocal-laden pieces through to instrumental ambient metal orchestrations, it's anyone's guess what will greet the intrepid listener today.  And the answer .... a bit of both!

Take lead-off song 'After The Fall Of Gil-galad' (evidently a mere contrivance by Hugin in a quest to put together yet another Gil-galad compilation album, following on from the 'presumed-to -be-definitive' compilations "Gil-galad (The Whole Story)" and "Gil-galad (The Ultimate Story)".  Look out for "Gil-galad (The Neverending Story)" for Christmas 2016!?).

It kicks you in the teeth immediately with an evil guitar riff and Hugin on vocals, and barrels its way along menacingly with yet more of the woes of Ereinion Gil-galad, the last Great Elf-king of Middle-earth and the last High King of the Eldar, following the Siege of Barad-dûr.  It was Bilbo Baggins, of course, who translated the popular song about him into the Common Tongue, thus giving the world this splendid little ditty:

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing;
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

Rumours have abounded for years that there was, in fact, a fourth verse which ran:

At midnight, 'neath a starry sky
anguished wails through nighttime fly
They tell a tale, as time doth pass:
Sauron's fire sure kicked his ass

Though to be strictly accurate these rumours may well have just been made up on the spot by Nazgul.

The song kicks ass too, launching the unsuspecting listener into a maelstrom of music and vocals as Hugin holds nothing back and presses the 'kill' button from the get-go.  It's the Austrian equivalent of Phil Spector's 'Wall of Sound', creating a dense and impenetrable tidal wave of music set to engulf anything not firmly tied down.  Both alarming and enjoyable in equal measure, and complemented with some varied effects and female vocals too.  Quite the modern Uruk Hai sound.

Which is ironic, as the very next track 'Even The First Shadows Were Felt In Mirkwood' - a short, instrumental piece - feels like a throw back to early days by comparison.  Although, that said, only to circa 2013-14 rather than back to the early period 2000-2005 you understand: there's a lot of polish within this short piece.  It's only flaw - similar to the comment made above relating to some of the Huldeufni music - is that whilst its great fun during playback it does leave you floundering a little after it has ended to recall a particularly memorable moment.  The easiest solution to that, of course, is to whack it onto continuous play and immerse yourself in an endless loop until it's finally gone in!

The concluding song 'The Blood Of Beren' is lovely, though.  I presume the song name may come from the legend of Beren's genealogy and lineage, for Lúthien bore Beren a son named Dior, who was considered to be one of the fairest beings to ever live, "for in him flowed the blood of Men, the blood of Elves, and the blood of the Ainur".

If you take out the almost ritualist hypnotic vocal part, in which the title of the song is intoned in a surprisingly effective manner over a crunchy guitar riff, the remainder of the music is actually something that you can imagine appearing on a latter-day Blue Oyster Cult album!  There's nice guitar riffs, uptempo sections where things get a bit more spicy (think 'Moon Crazy' from their "Mirrors" album), great melody and no little panache.  Probably the stand out track on this little album, I'd say.

All in all then, a worthy purchase and another step on the evolutionary path for Uruk Hai whilst introducing us to the interesting world of Hulduefni.  Which leads us rather nicely in a full circle back to the promised interview, which will be heading your way very soon.

Thursday, 11 August 2016


Title: Neo-Form III [Various Artists]
Format:  A free download on the Neo-Form label (Germany) originally dating from 2009, cat ref NF3, and comprising MP3 tracks.  A mixture of modern classical, industrial, ambient, and/or neofolk genres from the seventeen bands featured.  The compilation is still available for free download today (see text).
Edition: unlimited

Track Listing:
01. Cold Fusion  *  Strasse  4:04  
02. Life's Decay  *  Novarch (re-mastered version)  3:19  
03. Gerechtigkeits Liga  *  Funeral March 4:27  
04. Kreuzweg Ost  *  Die Geierwally  5:29  
05. Kammer Sieben  *  Die Letzte Schlacht  4:21  
06. Défilé Des Âmes  *  Trivial (V-mix version)  5:06  
07. Sangre Cavallum  *  Orvalhadas Orvalhudas  3:20  
08. B-Machina  *  Other And Forgotten Visions  4:35  
09. Heldentod  *  Loyalty (original mix)  3:38  
10. Die Rote Form  *  White Trash  3:17  
11. Shining Vril  *  Wet My Whistle 5:49  
12. Code Voire  *  The Silence Of Memories  5:56  
13. Wertham  *  All Is Gone  5:52  
14. Mani Deum  *  Blasphemy, The Word  5:25  
15. Jägerblut  *  Waldpracht (live Schloss Bechburg)  3:23  
16. Les Affres De La Mort  *  Ruins Of Time  5:55  
17. Dawn Projekt  *  The Last Consumer (re-mix)  5:32

Here's another one of those online download compilations that occasionally creep up on Nazgul and tempt him into the darker corners of the Internet.

This 2009 example came courtesy of Neo-Form, a German online magazine based out of Leverkusen in Germany . According to their legacy site, the magazine had been active for a long time, organising and presenting events, publishing music and journalistic material and creating a lasting social network among members of the Neofolk/Industrial/Avantgarde scene. Even though the magazine has been defunct for some time, the free online compilations are still being distributed through several hosting sites, with information about them being disseminated through their website.

The rather sad reason for the decline of the magazine is reportedly the "complete data loss caused by a server migration and two unreliable webmasters in a row" - a sad story indeed.

However, you can still download this compilation (and also Volumes I and II in the series) from here, and Nazgul would endorse such a free resource in the interest of exploring all manner of new music and artistic styles.  Well done, Neo-Form, your spirit lives on!

Our interest is piqued by the inclusion at track 8 of none other than B-Machina (the later day more upmarket neofolk version of Bonemachine, if you will!) and an intriguing track called 'Other and Forgotten Visions'. Intriguing as there has not been a track by this name yet recorded in Honour and Darkness.  However, those of you with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Hugin will recall the 2008 mini album release "Other Visions" by B-Machina, which contained but two songs: 'Other Visions' (running time 2.18) and 'Forgotten' (2.20).  Stitch them together, sprinkle on some fairy dust, and bish-bosh-bash ladies and gentlemen, there you have it, a 'new' song!

Rather handy too, really, given the the original mini album only came in a run of 17 copies so probably went under many people's radars back in the day (and where, realistically, are you going to find a copy for sale anywhere eight years later?!)
Revisiting Nazgul's original review of this one, it reads: "Track 1 'Other Visions' kicks off with an effect that sounds equal parts horses on the move and/or magma escaping the earth's crust, before the most delicate of guitar interludes appears over the top. Equally, on second track 'Forgotten' the guitar is right at the front of the mix over a gentle synth background, at times strident and full-on like a Mexican stand-off in a classic spaghetti western and at times gossamer-thin and a thing of beauty."

Makes you want to dig out your copy and give it another spin, doesn't it!

Saturday, 6 August 2016

FROM THE DARK AGES - promotional flyer update

Title: From The Dark Ages
Reason for second update: The arrival of this previously unseen flyer for this tape-only release

This could be the shortest post in the 8 year history of Honour and Darkness, but Nazgul will be making up for it with a belter of an item to be featured in an upcoming post this month!

Today's feature, however, is to simply acknowledge the arrival into the Castle collection of that Hrossharsgrani promotional flyer for "From The Dark Ages" that was referenced back in May.  It's a nice enough piece of memorabilia - though ultimately rather expensive in the grand scheme of things for a simple piece of printed colour paper - but what the heck, the point of maintaining a collection is to be as authoritative as possible so Nazgul can't very well go around ignoring such items, can he?

Obviously now you get to see the image rather more clearly than in the previous post, it becomes apparent that it's a raven on the cover (not a lopsided man brandishing a sword, as I'd initially thought when I first spotted the item online!)

Should you have some rare, collectible or downright strange items of Hugin-related memorabilia or publicity material in your collection then do feel free to share them with me via the usual email address...! 

Saturday, 30 July 2016


Title: Everlasting Wrath Of The Tyrant
Format: This is the cassette box-set version of the previously reviewed "Everlasting Wrath Of The Tyrant" release, this time issued by W.A.R. Productions circa 2010/11, no catalogue reference.  The set is contained in a hard shell white filing box packed with protective material, and includes 6 hand-numbered cassette tapes (all bearing the same edition number as the box itself), a foil wrapped incense stick, a white feather, and a DVDr disc with all of the songs on it.
Edition: 6 hand-numbered copies only

Tape 1  *  Über Die Nebelberge Weit      
Tape 2  *  Elbentanz      
Tape 3  *  March To War      
Tape 4  *  Blutreich      
Tape 5  *  Gone With The Wind      
Tape 6  *  Thousand Lightnings Strike

DVDr  *  Contains all of the music from the 6 cassettes

Now, if I remember correctly, the Everlasting Wrath of the Tyrant tape series (henceforth known as EWotT) was released in a limited to 33 copies per tape edition by Wulfrune Worxx back in 2010.  The box-set that you see here, however, compiles all of the 6 tapes together, adds in the music on a special DVD-r disc, and then throws a bundle of other paraphernalia for good measure to make an attractive package that complements the CD box-set released by the TryBy label in 2012.

The tape inlays are all black and white, which was the traditional Wulfrune way of course, and although one can normally only imagine what they might have looked like in glorious Technicolor we do get a glimpse of what might have been courtesy of the DVDr paper cover, which does depict them in colour.

The individual tapes rarely come up for sale - for those interested in such things, at the date of writing a copy of the "Blutreich" tape is current up for grabs on Discogs - and the box-set is even less common: in fact, Nazgul has never seen another come up for sale and can thus only surmise that the remaining 5 copies (this being #1 of the 6) are securely held in the vaults of other collectors somewhere around the globe.

Speaking of ways to spend your money, should you still be in the market to pick up a copy of the CD box-set then there is one still for sale on the SkullLine website, albeit for a whisker over €40.

The items accompanying this set include a white feather, a foil-wrapped incense stick, an Uruk Hai logo sticker (the same as the one affixed to the side of the box) and a rather nice white-framed colour photo.  This photograph may seem familiar to you, and if you have already recognised it as the alternative cover for the Hrossharsgrani "...From The Dark Ages" compilation tape then kudos to you!

As with the CD version, this box-set offers the listener an aural bonus is that there is additional material on some of the tapes above that released on the original demos.  This is not the case for all - 'March To War' appears exactly as in original guise - but a quick summary of the differences shows us that "Über die Nebelberge Weit" gains the bonus track 'Moria'; that "Blutreich" gains 'Minas Morgul' as it's additional bonus; "Gone With The Wind" is expanded to include 'Wenn Es Nacht Wird'; whilst "Thousand Lightnings Strike" gains the song 'Land Of Fire & Steel (Rehearsal)'.  

"Elbentanz" goes all complicated on us on two occasions by merging a few songs from the original into one longer track on this pressing, and also adds 'Kazad-Dum' as an additional bonus.

The irony here, of course, is that this particular reissue hardly made any of the earlier and very rare demos more widely available, given the extreme limitation on this particular box and indeed on the EWotT tape set generally. And the CD box-set on TryBy came in an edition of just 15 copies, of course, maintaining the rarity and exclusivity of the individual releases represented within it.

It's almost certain that you'll never see one for sale anywhere, so Nazgul hopes you'll enjoy looking through his copy!

Friday, 22 July 2016


Band: Nachtfalke
Title: Hail Victory Teutonia
Format: Full length album released in 2001 on the Christhunt Productions label (Germany) by this German band, again with input from Hugin: this time, through contributed lyrics to one of the songs.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
01. Ode to the Fallen One  10:34  
02. Searched and Found  07:41  
03. Asgard Riders  03:04  
04. War in Asgard  08:08  
05. Man of Iron (Bathory cover)  02:23    
06. Warrior's Nightmare  07:24    
07. Vikingdance (Under the Flag of Odin's Son)  02:16    
08. To Honour Wotan  13:45  
09. Nordic Warriors  06:49    
10. Hail Teutonia  12:19  
11. You're So Wrong (Black Widow cover)  03:36    

For some strange reason when Nazgul covered off previous contributions by Hugin to Nachtfalke releases, this particular album slipped through the net.  Let's remedy that situation quickly, and note the contribution of lyrics by our Austrian hero to track 8 on this CD, 'To Honour Wotan'.

It's quite interesting, actually, that within the album booklet the lyrics themselves (which may not be exactly how they were originally written by Hugin, to be fair) interchangeably reference both Wotan and Wodan.  So are these 2 characters indeed one and the same?

Well, yes, is the short answer!  In wider Germanic mythology and paganism, Odin was known in Old English as Wōden, in Old Saxon as Wōdan, and in Old High German as Wuotan or Wōtan, all stemming from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic theonym 'Wōđanaz'.  So we've all learned something today, not least the word 'theonym' which is a form of proper noun that refers to a deity.

He's a busy guy, this Hugin fellow: not content with releasing a multitude of his own works he - as regular readers will know - has a habit of contributing songs to other band's albums, artwork for their releases, or lyrics to their songs as in this case.  It makes Nazgul's collecting life a constant and interesting challenge to try to keep up with it all, let me tell you!

Rather handily, there's a review of the entire "Hail Victory Tetonia" album online at Metal Archives, which seems as good a way to round off today's post as any referencing as it does the song in question:

'This is a side project of Occulta Mors, of Moonblood. Nachtfalke play Viking metal in the vein of Bathory's "Hammerheart".

Musically, this album is superb. The keys form the main melodies, much as in later works of Graveland. The backing guitar is mostly relegated to the bottom of the mix, though this isn't a bad thing, because the grating, buzzsaw-like guitar sound makes the perfect backdrop for the epic song-writing at hand. Lead guitar mostly adopts a high tone, and there are some stirring solos here. Last but not least, there's even a little acoustic guitar in places. The drums are well played, though they're mostly slow paced, as befits this sort of music. The production is a little raw, but quite listenable.

The vocals are a major high point, some of the best metal vocals I've heard in years. The main voice used is a deep, grunting growl, but high screams and even clean vocals are also used, to amazing effect. It's especially impressive considering that this is a one-man band! In places, two or more voices sing at once, creating an almost choral effect that's quite effective, but never overused.

As good as the musicianship on "Hail Victory Teutonia" is, the song-writing is even better. Most of these songs are longer than 6 minutes, and the disc itself is more than 70, yet I can listen again and again and never get bored. Some songs aren't as good as others, but the overall quality is quite high. "To Honour Wotan" in particular is an instant classic to me, with its martial atmosphere, echoing vocals, and great acoustic sections.

I'd say that this is one of the best Viking style black metal albums since Bathory's "Blood on Ice". It's better than Hades, better than Morrigan, and better than most of Graveland's Bathory-style output. Anyone who likes this style will most likely worship this album. Seek this out immediately.

 Standout tracks: "Ode to the Fallen One", "To Honour Wotan", "Hail Teutonia'

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


Title: By The Light Of The Moon, By The Ray Of The Stars / Louder Than Words (Lauter Als Worte)
Format: Professionally released double a-side split CD single on the Winterwolf Records label (Germany) in 2016, cat ref WWP0203. Double sided inlay (each artist having their own cover), colour inlays and picture disc.
Edition: 100 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Joe Matera  *  Louder Than Words (Lauter Als Worte)  4.19
02. Uruk Hai  *  By The Light Of The Moon, By The Ray Of The Stars  4.06

It's not the first time these two artistes and friends have worked together on a split CD (you may recall the 2012 collaboration "Travellin' West / Schworzeichn II" between Hrefnesholt and Joe), but now they're back and this is a very welcome return to them sharing their music with the world and each other. Timely too, coming as it does ahead of Joe's 2016 European Tour (more of which later).

Winterwolf Records have done a nice job with this release, which comes limited to just 100 copies (mine being #9) and has a reversible front inlay booklet so you can display it with your artiste of preference to the fore!

Two songs on offer, one from each camp, so let's follow the natural running order of the disc and kick off with Mr Matera's contribution.

And knock me down with a sausage sanger if this isn't a prime cut of melodic rock from the bandana wearing axe-slinger, with a German chorus no less. Check that, then, maybe I should have declared myself knocked down with a bratwurst buttie on this basis instead, but I digress. It's a really nice mid-tempo rocker, excellent melodies and a strong hook, and the sort of thing that radio stations across the west like to play. Let's hope it might get a bit of radio airplay over summer during his tour.

The sort of song that you'd be more than happy to have on as you cruise through big-sky landscapes in the USA or Australia in your open top muscle car, the wind in your hair (or ruffling your bandana depending on headwear preferences) and the sun on your back. It's also very catchy, so you can't help but feel there should be some very positive reaction to this one.

The Uruk Hai track is ... well, not to put too fine a point on it, rather odd!  This isn't to say bad, but it's not at all what you might expect so conversely you need to be mentally fleet of foot to get your head around the fact that this isn't your normal Hugin style sound!

Occasionally this incongruent sound emerges in contemporary Uruk Hai recordings, and really can be traced back in time to the collaborative Uruk Hai anniversary album "With All The Magic & Might He Brought" when a host of guest musicians led to the sound evolving in all manner of directions. This song is similarly influenced, having the guitar input of the aforementioned Joe Matera plus the slightly left-field vocals of Bart Piette (Dead Man's Hill) too. The overall result is an unusual track with lots going on but little of which really sounds like a our hero Hugin was necessarily even in the room at the time, so low in the mix are his traditional keyboards and synths.

It all starts with an acoustic guitar (to my ears sounding not unlike a Status Quo intro, though Joe has a different take on that as you'll read!) before a rather less party-like drum solemnly kicks in ahead of Bart giving it the beans on vocals.  And the vocals have a punky nature to them that feels quite strange within the song generally, until you change your mind-set about what you expected to be hearing.

Only then does it begin to make a bit more sense, though the overall impact still leaves you a tad shell shocked. Add in some other musical weirdness (a short almost ghostly whispered passage; a seemingly random drum section that could be straight out of the Stray Cats playbook) and you have a truly odd creation indeed.

If the Cramps and the Meteors had a jam with Die Toten Hosen and the outpourings were mixed by Al Jourgensen then you might approach the general idea...

Like many of the results in the 2016 European football tournament, not what the audience expected. Indeed, to keep the football metaphor alive, were this a World Cup qualifier the less charitable media might report this outcome as an Australian win in the head-to-head, courtesy of a bizarre Austrian own goal...?!

What you really want to know though is what Joe and Hugin think of each others songs, so let Nazgul enlighten you on this score.  Firstly, Hugin on his contribution to this EP:

"My own track is an outtake from the "...And All The Magic..." album [Nazgul's note: Aha!  Told you so!], it was an instrumental track and I first asked Tony Dolan to do the vox but he sadly was too busy and so it was not been finished in time to make it on to the album. Later the track laid on ice for a while then I asked Piette from Dead Man's Hill to do the vocals and he did it immediately and in perfect time to release it as a split with Joe's track"

And what does Joe Matera make of this Uruk Hai song, on which he plays guitar incidentally?

"When Alex asked me to contribute guitar to this Uruk-Hai track, I was totally honoured. Basically all I had to work with was the backing track tack with no vocals but Alex gave me carte blanche with it. So I felt I wanted to bring to the track some garage-y punk guitar, with blistering power chords that really added to the track's atmosphere and feel. It is also something totally out of the box for me, since my own playing is more rooted in the melodicism of old school classic rock, I wanted to go a different route with this track.

I wanted to enhance rather than try and shape the track into more of my style which would be a disservice to the track. The last thing I wanted was for the track to sound like a Joe Matera track! I wanted to keep to the trademark Uruk-Hai sound but bring my own unique touch, albeit different approach to it.

I think my guitar brings an edge to the track, which fits perfectly with the vocals and overall sound of the track. The opening double bend riff, gives a kind of ominous almost Sabbath-ish touch and the double-note riff that follows stamps a classic rock touch to proceedings, and in some way, is my subtle nod to the kind of riffs that inspired my own guitar playing that echoes Deep Purple and ZZ Top."

And of course let's not forget to repay the complement, with Hugin's view on Joe's song:

"I really like his song and it is great to hear him singing German in the chorus 'Lauter Als Worte'.  I remember back in 2013 I taught it to him and he performed it live first time in Hamburg's BaRRock at his gig there – it was amazing how fast he learned it and he pronounced it absolutely right just after 2-3 takes! There are 3 versions of that song, the full band version, the acoustic version heard on the "Louder Than Words" digipak CD out on W.A.R. Productions/ Mercury Fire Music, and this full band version with German chorus on our split out at Winterwolf Records."

And here's a timely reminder: Joe's out on tour again in Europe from the 25th July, so you can catch him at a number of dates around the continent.  And Hugin will be there too - what more could you ask for?

As they stand at the date of typing, the tour dates are as follows:

'Now And Then' Acoustic European Tour: July - August 2016

  • Wednesday July 27 - Vinyl Corner, Linz, Austria
  • Thursday July 28 - Open Air,  Elia Solar City, Linz, Austria
  • Saturday July 30 (Afternoon) - Wings& Wheels Festival, Airfield Uetersen/Heist, Germany
  • Saturday July 30 (Evening) - S.A.M. Musikertreff, Garstedt, Germany
  • Tuesday August 2 - Speiches Rock und Blueskneipe, Berlin, Germany
  • Sunday Aug 7 - Salon Irkutsk, Munich, Germany

It would be well worth your while pointing your browser towards Winterwolf's site though to grab a copy of this ahead of booking a ticket to see the show in person.