Monday, 28 November 2016

REALM OF LIGHT - update


Band: DRACHENFEUER
Title: Realm Of Light
Reason for update: It's a-coming, it's a-coming...On 25 January 2017 to be precise

Another heads up for you, and this time about an older project that has endured a very long gestation period before being formally released.  Mind you, dragon's eggs take a fair while to hatch of course, so perhaps this was an inevitable delay....

The release in question is the "Realm Of Light" double album from collaborative project Drachenfeuer (being Jim Kirkwood and our old chum Hugin in cahoots together) and as you will see by following the link to Dark Age Productions the album has now got an official release date, being 25 January 2017.  Yaay!

Let's see what the label have to say about this ground breaking event:


"The music of DRACHENFEUER is an epic journey through Middle Earth and its creatures. Soundscapes that will transport you to a land where dragons breath fire, where warrior legions raise their swords, where the beauty of friendship comes to a dark edge and where mighty forests cover the land in darkness…

DRACHENFEUER is for fans of Summoning, early Mortiis, Ringbearer, Bal-Sagoth, and Elffor

The album was recorded at W.A.R. studios in Austria and at Sleepy Rabbit Studios in England, mastered by Jim Kirkwood.

DRACHENFEUER was founded by Jim Kirkwood and Alexander Wieser back in 2007. Both artists have been writing music since the 80’s from Black Metal to Gothic, Ambient and more….

DRACHENFEUER have released 2 tracks on both volumes of the mighty “The First Ring” compilation so far (2007 & 2013) and in 2009 they have recorded their debut album “Realm Of Light”, 7 years it was lost in the vaults until Dark Age Productions picked it up for a limited edition release. As Jim Kirkwood released 80+ albums since the 80’s under his very own name, Alexander Wieser has worked on several projects such as: Uurk Hai, Hrossharsgrani, Eismond, Solid Grey, Hrefnesholt, Elisabetha, Manwe…

Available as a limited edition double CD release housed in a lavish six panel digipak with an exclusive 1.25″ pin badge."


You can pre-order now (and if you're not planning to, then yah-boo-sucks-to-you) and there's a sample song 'Dol Guldur' on the Bandcamp page to get your ears around.

To give you an idea of how long this has taken to get to this stage, Nazgul's original review of the demo of this release was back in May 2010!  Interesting to note, by the way, is the shortening of the title: the original demo was "The Realm Of The Light" whereas the official release title is a more pithy "Realm Of Light"

Another reason to look forward to 2017, which promises to be yet another vintage year for fans of all things Hugin!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

THREE AGES OF WAR

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Three Ages Of War
Format: A split CD release with Argentinian band Heulend Horn, released on the Furias Music / Orion Music Entertainment label (Argentina) on 5 January, 2016, catalogue reference F1018. A full colour booklet and a picture disc make up this package.
Edition: 500 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
Heulend Horn
01. Voice of Deception  7.39
02. Horrific Creature of Darkness  6.08
03. The Greatest Servant  6.35
04. Fangs of Doom  6.31
Uruk Hai
05. Where Once He Walked Alone  11.12
06. The Deep Elves  8.36
07. The Black Years  11.12

Not having read up on Heulend Horn before sticking this CD into the Castle death-deck I'd been expecting an ambient project in similar vein to Hugin's Uruk Hai, so it was rather a surprise when the snarled vocals and spiky guitars snatched the very breath from my mouth as this split release kicked off in earnest!

Huelend Horn is a project of Friedrich Curwenius, previously of Mitternacht and sole member of a few Dungeon Synth projects in the style of older Mortiis.  The Huelend Horn band, however, is inspired by epic pagan metal: influences are cited such as Graveland, Lord Wind, Bergthron, Wyrd, and Summoning but there's a crucial difference: the guitar sound and the grim vocals that prevails in Heulend  Horn's songs tips them into black metal territory whilst keeping epic melodies and rhythms.

Currently the band comprises Friedrich (all instruments, vocals) plus Lord Edwar (lyrics, and backing vocals).

In looking into the meaning of the band's name Nazgul came across a website for the band, which gives us a little more detail about how this particular split release came to be (though bugger all about the origin of their unusual name):

"In March 2015, Uruk Hai, the well-known Austrian fantasy ambient metal project of Alexander 'Hugin' Wieser, and Heulend Horn got in contact. Immediately, Hugin and Curwenius told Furias Records of their initiative to make a split, and the label accepted without hesitation. It is the first split to be edited by Furias Records.

After a couple of mails, Uruk Hai delivered three tracks (more than 30 minutes of music), but Curwenius only had a few draft compositions for Heulend Horn. Anyway, in the first days of April, Heulend Horn got four tracks (27 minutes) for joining with Uruk Hai's music. All tracks, for both bands, are unreleased, brand new songs.


There is going to be a special entry for the release day, but the Uruk Hai - Heulend Horn split name will be Three Ages of War. The cover, case and booklet art is already finished, and the layout was made by F. Curwenius."


For those still interested in the hunt for the meaning of this band's name, incidentally, I managed to finally track down a post on their site from April 2015 that informs us that "Heulend Horn roughly means 'howling horn'".  Phew, so now we know...!

As you might imagine, the principal point of focus for Nazgul were the three Uruk Hai songs.  Now, without this sounding unnecessarily critical, I think that one initial issue that came to light for me is there does seem to be a fair bit of 'I've heard that before', particularly in respect of some of the percussion employed.  This never hurt The Ramones or Status Quo in their day, of course, but garners similar criticism as being a bit 'same-y'.  One man's repetitiveness is another's 'signature sound', of course.

And to be fair, when you've listened to the sheer volume of Uruk Hai releases that Nazgul has there's a pretty fair chance that bits here and there will sound familiar (after all, there's only so much variation you can put into a genre of music) so this may be more of an issue for me than a more casual listener.


That said, there are some deft touches on these three tracks such as the 'horn' sounds on 'Where Once He Walked Alone', and the woodland introduction to 'The Deep Elves'.  There is a lot shoehorned into 'Where Once He Walked Alone' though, and really it develops into a great ambient track as it unfurls around you.  

The good thing, though, as Nazgul has learned over the years, is that a lot of ambient music like this catches your mood and attention differently when listened to at different points in time.  You do have to be in the right place and right frame of mind sometimes, and due to recent work pressures (yes, I know, break out the violin) Nazgul has been forced to listen to this album mostly from the car whilst battling not through armies of the undead, but through the brain-dead motorists littering the roads around Castle Nazgul. 

As a consequence, therefore, this one is filed in the 'to be revisited' pile when the upcoming festive season might afford your old uncle Nazgul a quiet night in by the fire.  Don't let that put you off seeking out a copy of your own in the meantime, however, as there is much of merit here.

Monday, 21 November 2016

ZEN


Band: SOLID GREY
Title: Zen
Format: Currently available as a digital download on the Bandcamp website
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:

01. Light Song  06:03  
02. Solid Grey  03:42  
03. The Last & The First Grey  05:27
04. When Summer Dies  05:29  
05. The Holy  03:58  

Now here's an early entry in your must-have list of Christmas items!

It's an unheralded second album by Hugin's Gothic/New Wave/SynthPop project Solid Grey recorded back in 2011 and now available for the first time as a digital download on Bandcamp.

You will recall, I hope, that the debut Solid Grey album was the excellent "Pull The Strings Tighter" release that was recorded in 2010 and released in 2012.  Getting a positive review in this Blog may seem like a shoe-in, but it was - and remains - a very interesting and different side to showcasing Hugin's musical tastes and influences and should really have done rather better than I suspect it did in sales terms.

You may also recall that this is a project in which Hugin is joined by Bart Piette (Dead Man's Hill) and once again on this "Zen" release lyrics come courtesy of Inga Whitehouse.

So hot off the press is this entry to Honour And Darkness that Nazgul has only himself come to know of the release today, and has only listened to the first track 'Light Song' from the website.  That song crashes and booms from the off, to settle into an amalgam of The Mission having a picnic with Fields of the Nephilim, with Bart's trademark deep, dry vocals.  Great stuff. 

A cracking album in prosect then, but be thankful for the early heads-up for you to check it out for yourself and make your own mind up.

And so we should all be heading to spend our money on this for Christmas - why not, 'tis the season for giving and all that, so let's give a little love (and a lot of money) to Hugin for all of his efforts on our behalf.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

SIEGHETNAR / URUK HAI split – Independent Reviews!


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Split release with Sieghetnar
Reason for post: Here are two independent reviews of this older release, culled from the darkest corners of the Internet for you.  It's always good to get a bit of outside critical comment on Hugin's releases to balance out Nazgul's crazed dispatches, after all....

Once in a blue moon, or so it seems, someone other than Nazgul writes a review of one of Hugin’s releases online.  Much like waiting for a bus, not one but two independent reviews of the Sieghetnar / Uruk Hai split CD have now emerged from the primordial ooze at the bottom of the Internet, and as such – and to give you a respite from Nazgul’s constant monologues – here they are!  This release was last seen on Honour and Darkness over 6 years ago, believe it or not...!
 The first review comes courtesy of Metal Soundscapes
“Sieghetnar and Uruk-Hai are two bands with many similarities. First of all they both belong in the generic ambient black metal genre. Sieghetnar is the personal project of Thorkraft from Germany and Uruk-Hai the personal project of Alex Wieser from Austria. Both bands have released many albums and re-released several of them in various editions. Back in 2010, Nordsturm Productions released a split album with 3 songs of each band, which I only recently got in my hands. I guess better late than never.
The first part of the album belongs to Sieghetnar and lasts a little over 17 minutes. The band plays atmospheric instrumental black metal without any vocals at all and very limited ambient parts, compared to their other works. These 3 songs are based completely on the melancholic sound of distorted guitars that together with the discreet synth orchestrations create a dark depressive atmosphere. It is a very solid work from the band, who usually prefers to add long ambient parts in it’s works.
 The second “side”, which is much longer – over 31 minutes, contains the 3 songs from Uruk-Hai. With each composition lasting for about 10 minutes, Uruk-Hai perform their characteristic fantasy ambient soundtrack-like music. Epic atmospheric ambient synths are enriched by many samples and battle sounds. The 3 songs of this split are unusually “heavy” for Uruk-Hai standards, since they are full of distorted guitars and screaming vocals, both somewhere in the background, accompanied by beautiful ethereal female vocals, folk instruments and countless enchanting melodies. For me, this split is by far the best work Uruk-Hai has released the last years and one of their best ever!
I must admit I wanted this album mostly for collectible reasons, but it definitely exceeded my expectations, especially the Uruk-Hai side! If you don’t know these bands, this split is a perfect way to get a taste of their music, with very good songs from both of them. I have to inform you though, that Uruk-Hai usually move in more ambient instrumental paths in their other works.  
The split is released by Nordsturm Productions in a limited to 500 copies standard jewel-case edition, with a 4-page booklet illustrated by Alex ‘Hugin’ Wieser. Unluckily there are no lyrics and the package / artwork isn’t at the same level with the music.”
Reviewed by: dimiarch.  Rating: 8/10
Our second comes via Metal Archives:
‘Contemplation vs. bombast - 87%’
“Pairing these two bands was a good idea, as both rely heavily on atmosphere in their music.
 Sieghetnar: 83 %
 Sieghetnar continues in its good old familiar way: raw slow/mid-paced ambient/symphonic instrumental black metal with a cold, contemplative feel to it. The structure of the songs is, as usual, quite simple but they flow very well and keep the listener's interest up. The first track consists of only guitar and synth, and with a duration of only three minutes, serves more like an intro.
"In Spektren des Imaginären Lichts" has a strange fade-out at a bit after four minutes: the metal fades rather abruptly before the keyboard part that ends the track enters. This is the only thing that really disturbs me on this split. It interrupts the flow of the music, the transition between the two parts could have been done in a smoother way.
Flow is absolutely the keyword here, just like on Burzum's "Filosofem". Sieghetnar uses the same type of "hypnotic" elements to capture the listener. Thankfully "Versunkenheit" doesn't have any interruptions like "In Spektren..." and is therefore the best Sieghetnar track on this split in its melancholic splendour.
 Uruk-Hai: 90 %
 Uruk-Hai presents the listener with three well-produced tracks of highly cinematic, bombastic and enjoyable Tolkien-inspired ambient. This one-man band's discography is huge and definitely not all of it is gold, but for this split very good material has been chosen. It appears that when Mr. Hugin's on, he's really on.
 All tracks contain Tolkien-related samples, but I don't know their source. The best description I can come up here with is "Summoning without the metal parts". The music consists of powerful drums, majestic synths, piano, choirs and occasionally additional instruments like horns, violin, clarinet etc.
All tracks feature guitar occasionally as well but it's very down in the mix, only creating some distortion in the background. I'm not sure whether Hugin himself does any vocals here, or whether all vocal parts have been sampled. But as there are some black metal vocals too, I suppose it's either him or a guest vocalist. Thankfully these vocals aren't annoyingly hysterical 'n' screamy like the ones Pr. Sergiy (Moloch) does when he contributes vocals to Uruk-Hai. I've never liked that guy's voice much.
No use in picking out any individual track here as each picks up where the previous left off, creating a continuum. Uruk-Hai does very well at portraying Tolkien's world, these three tracks felt like three mini-movies.”

Review by: Pestbesmittad, August 13th, 2013

Thursday, 3 November 2016

PROMO 2003 / A NIGHT IN THE FOREST

 

Band: URUK HAI
Title: A Night In The Forest
Format:  A promotional version of an early mix of this album, released in 2003 in slimline case with hand-written silver CDr disc and bespoke black and white copied inlay.  Believed to have been an early demo that would have been sent around prospective labels prior to acceptance by The Drama Company for its formal release in 2004
Edition: Unknown, but very few

Track Listing:
01. Untitled  66.58

Note: The formal release subdivides the lengthy track into 4 'chapters', with a slight longer total running time: 
1. Chapter I: Enter Fangorn 17:27
2. Chapter II: The Spirit Of The Wind 15:00
3. Chapter III: Elevenpath 23:57
4. Chapter IV: A Light Into The Darkness 15:32


This is a fairly timely item to feature on Honour and Darkness given that there's been a 2016 reissue of "A Night In The Forest" on CD with all new singing and dancing artwork and layout, and Nazgul will be bringing that to you sometime before the end of the year.

Today, however, we feature another rare find - the sort of thing collectors dream of and which, even after all these years, can still appear unbidden out of the blue to surprise and delight.  The CDr you see here is believed to be an early promotional demo for this fabulous album, which would have been touted around record labels during the hunt for a suitable one to release it formally.  Which, as you will recall from Nazgul's original review, turned out to be Spanish label The Drama Company for the original CD pressing.  A subsequent 2005 tape release was also issued, with bonus track 'Fire', on Bulgarian A.M.F. Productions.

What's particularly interesting about this promo is not so much the music - which remains epic and lush and full of foresty goodness as ever - but the inlay itself.

For starters, there's no mention of songs being recorded in 'chapters' as they were delineated in the 2004 release.  As on the formal release it's still one long continuous track, albeit still interspersed with birdsong at the logical breaks between sections, but the actual titles for the individual parts are not yet named.

Also of interest is the alternative title given for this piece - "Promo 2003" - hence the dual title of this release in today's post.  The recognised title of "A Night In The Forest" does appear on the cover of the demo too, in grey script on the black and white cover image, but you could take your pick regarding the actual official title for this.

Of real interest though - particularly to mad collectors and fans (and you know who you are) -  is the mini-discography that Hugin helpfully adds to the inside of the cover inlay.  Whilst a number of these titles are very familiar to us all, there are no less than 3 referred to here that do not exist within the four walls of the Castle library, and furthermore 2 of these Nazgul had never heard of before!

Step forward the following:

  • "Nemesis Vol. I" tape cassette
  • "Cross The Stix Vol. I" CDr
  • "Only The Strong..." demo CDr

Now, over the years I've been doing this I've seen reference to the "Cross The Stix" release before, albeit I'm pretty sure that it was spelt differently ("Crossing The Styx", as in the fabled River Styx rather than incurring the wrath of US melodic rockers Styx) and I thought was a tape release.  So either Nazgul's memory is faulty, or there could be 2 versions of this release somewhere out there (or even 2 different releases with similar names, improbable as that would be).

Of the other 2 titles though ... not a clue, have never come across them before.  Oh dear *sighs* another couple of mysterious avenues to investigate further...!

The inlay also shows Hugin's old address in Leonfeldnerstrasse in Linz: a boon for a bit of cyber stalking and pure nosiness in these says of online everything.  But in a fittingly bizarre coincidence (or is it a coincidence....?) if you stick that address into Google maps and then zoom in a bit on the satellite map view, there's a building over the road from Hugin's old haunt that is a second-hand clothing store called Second Hand Boutique Stix.  How weird is that...?

This is the perfect time of year to listen to this demo really, just as the autumn colours on the trees entice you into leafy walks through the woods and forests in your own part of the world.  Nazgul has been listening to this CDr on the way to work in the morning for a week or two now, and it's as soothing and relaxing a way to get through traffic as anything else I've tried.  There are lovely melodies and real 'feeling' behind this music, and it will be interesting to see how the 2016 remastered and reissued album sounds by comparison some 13 years on.

Which will, of course, give us a good excuse to bring all 4 known versions of this release together for the traditional family group photograph, just in time for Christmas.

Friday, 21 October 2016

DIE LEGENDE...


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Die Legende...
Format: A piece of artwork designed for an Uruk Hai cassette release circa 2004, but ultimately unused
Edition: never released 
 
Proposed Track Listing:
01. ...Von Elbenwald
02. Khazad-Dum
03. Ein Licht Geboren Ward
04. Nordhimmel
05. Die Berge
06. Die Ring 

#25 From the Vaults of W.A.R. 
 
Bizarrely this would appear to be the first entry in 2016 in the ongoing 'From the Vaults of W.A.R.' series, in which the obscure, previously unknown or lost to history outings from many of Hugin's projects are dusted off for their 5 minutes of fame in the fiery gleam of the Burning Eye.
 
It's for a proposed tape release called "Die Legende..." (and no, you don't need me to translate that title for you surely) that compiles recordings from the 2000/01 period, giving them (so it is advertised) an end mix circa 2004.  This explains the use of the old style Uruk Hai band logo - as seen, for example, on contemporary tapes of this period.

Personally I think the artwork on this cover is magnificent, perfect for an Uruk Hai release and impressively menacing as fantasy artwork of this type should be.  Rather a shame, then, that it has been consigned to the dustbin of history deep within the W.A.R. bunker ... until now, that is.  What a t-shirt that would have made...!
 
We know from the inlay that the intended recordings are early in the Hugin's musical history.  Some of these tracks, indeed, appear by the same name (but presumably in different form) elsewhere in the output of other projects: 'Khazad-Dum', for instance, being an early Hrossharsgrani track that appears on such demos as "In The Mystic Forest" and "Rehearsal CD1" from way back when.

If the track listing is familiar to you, then doubtless you are having deep subconscious twinges that are directing you to two specific releases where these songs did make their public appearance more formally:

(1) On the "Honour" demo, where they were incorporated into side two of this ever-wonderful release under the title of 'Die Legende..."; and

(2) On the subsequent reissue of the material, both on "Lost Songs Of Middle Earth" in 2008 and then on the lavish box-set "Legacy Of The Tyrant" of 2011/2012 (depending upon which pressing you have).

We have to presume that the creative forces that churn and wrestle within Hugin led to last minute changes in release schedules and composition of demo tapes, with 'Die Legende..." not therefore appearing as a tape release in its own right but being subsumed within the longer "Honour" release.  The music will out, latterly followed after a mere 12 years intermission by the originally artwork...!

Unheralded surprises still languish within the Vaults of W.A.R. biding their time until being thrust into the cold light of day, so keep your eyes peeled for further offerings in this vein in Honour and Darkness.  Though hopefully in a rather shorter period of time than has elapsed between more recent editions of the series. 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Uruk Hai > DEFCON 1 logo

Band: URUK HAI
Title: It's not really a title: Let's call it the DEFCON 1 logo
So what is it, then? Well, a bit of fun, really, conjured from the hand of Hugin...

SPOILER ALERT: We are NOT at imminent threat of impending nuclear war...!
Here's something fun: an Uruk Hai themed DEFCON 1 logo!
You're immediately left wondering 'why', 'what', and - very possibly - 'when'?
The 'why' is straightforward enough: in Hugin's own words, it was just a joke to spread the DEFCON 1 message in the past as a means of promotion for the band.  This image appeared on Facebook a while ago, and no where else as far as Nazgul recalls.
The 'what' is a little more complicated, so bear with me: The defence readiness condition (DEFCON) is an alert state used by the United States Armed Forces. The DEFCON prescribes five graduated levels of readiness (or states of alert) for the U.S. military. It increases in severity from DEFCON 5 (least severe) to DEFCON 1 (most severe) to match varying military situations.
The DEFCON level is controlled primarily by the U.S. President and the U.S. Secretary of Defence through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combatant Commanders, and each DEFCON level defines specific security, activation and response scenarios for the troops in question.
In general, there is no single DEFCON status for the world or country and it may be set to only include specific geographical areas.
Defence readiness conditions vary between many commands and have changed over time, and the United States Department of Defence uses exercise terms when referring to the DEFCONs. This is to preclude the possibility of confusing exercise commands with actual operational commands. On 12 January 1966, NORAD "proposed the adoption of the readiness conditions of the JCS system", and information about the levels was declassified in 2006:
DEFCON 1 - 'COCKED PISTOL': Nuclear war is imminent. Maximum readiness
DEFCON 2 - 'FAST PACE': Next step to nuclear war. Armed Forces ready to deploy and engage in less than 6 hours
DEFCON 3 - 'ROUND HOUSE': Increase in force readiness above that required for normal readiness. Air Force ready to mobilize in 15 minutes
DEFCON 4 - 'DOUBLE TAKE': Increased intelligence watch and strengthened security measures. Above normal readiness
DEFCON 5 - 'FADE OUT': Lowest state of readiness. Normal readiness
And so to the 'when'.  Be warned - should this logo appear on your computer screens as a sustained flashing image, then it's time to adopt to time honoured 'duck and cover' method of survival, and to kiss your ass goodbye... !