Saturday, 23 September 2017

ORKSTAHL - update

Title: Orkstahl
Reason for update: A 'proper' version now obtained!

It seems almost inconceivable that the last time Nazgul visited the "Orkstahl" release was back on Christmas Eve of 2009.  Incredibly, that's almost 8 years ago - how time flies?!

The reason for revisiting this very limited fan-only/die-hard release may seem something of a vainglorious exercise, but you have to go back to the original release to understand Nazgul's motivation!

You see, the original - and indeed only - version of "Orkstahl" was effectively a gift from Hugin to three friends/fans, and came therefore in a limited edition numbered, rather cunningly, 1/3, 2/3, and 3/3.  They all were distributed around the globe and that was that, until the existence of the release must have come up in some conversation or other and Nazgul received some time thereafter a special 'promotional' copy of the wee beastie, which bore the reference 'x/3' on its cover.

Now you don't have to be a genius to consider that this was Hugin being kind to long-time collector Nazgul, as really there never was the need for a promotional version this release being limited as it was.  I suspect it was made as an act of friendship as an extra copy outside of the official limitation.

And that's all fine and super, and very generous indeed, but of course from a collector's perspective (read: mad obsessive point of view) the copy in Castle Nazgul always felt like it sat apart from the 'real' Orkstahl family and was never therefore really one of the gang.

Hence this latest acquisition!

It's a rare time indeed when you get a chance to lay your hands on a collectible like this, but what's now in the collection is one of the original three copies - and #1/3 at that - to fill that little void in the Castle Library. 

It is to all extent and purposes exactly the same as the other copy, other than the fact the metal plate on the front has a very different looking finish to it from the x/3 copy, as you can see side by side.  Which of course now raises the question in Nazgul's mind as to whether both of the other copies had unique plates, or whether it was my original copy that differed simply because it was made at a different time from the original three and thus was milled/cut from a different source?

The metal cover of copy x/3
A little bit of research identified that copy 3/3 (below) is the one that is being used to illustrate this release on Discogs, and on the face of it there is a different looking finish there (akin to looking through a grey fog bank at the Misty Mountains behind!) as opposed to a patterned or stippled effect, which the other two have.  Whether this was intentional variation or just how they came out (or how they photograph in the light, perhaps?) is uncertain. 

Copy 3/3 and a slightly different style panel again

Perhaps if you are the proud own of copy 2/3 you might like to send me a photograph of the plate for a comparative analysis...?!

And that's this update done really, another triumph of obsessive collecting behaviour over common sense.  Of course, both versions will be treasured in the Castle vaults but for slightly different reasons.

Speaking of recent purchases, by the way, a couple of other rare Uruk Hai items have been bought recently for a specific reason to provide updates to you all, my esteemed readership, and these shall be brought forward in the spotlight of the fiery eye as the autumn season unfurls itself in a shroud of yellow and brown over the Castle grounds.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

DEMOS 88-99

Title: Demos 88-99 War Sampling's by Bernd Barnickel [V/A]
Format: Silver CDr in bespoke front and rear covers, not released on an official label
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
01. Empyrium  *  Astrum Luciferi (demo 95)
02. Falkenbach  *  Laeknishendr (demo 95)
03. Dimmu Borgir  *  Raabjørn speiler draugheimens (demo 92)
04. Ensiferum  *  Old Man (Väinämöinen) (demo 96)
05. Hrossharsgrani  *  You And Me (demo 95)
06. Hrossharsgrani  *  The Sign Of Nargothrond (demo 95)
07. The Sins Of Thy Beloved  *  Silent Pain (demo 95)
08. Therion  *  Megalomania (demo 89)
09. Ensiferum  *  Knighthood (demo 95)
10. Dimmu Borgir  *  Inn I Evighetens Mørke Part I (demo 92)
11. Dimmu Borgir  *  Inn I Evighetens Mørke Part 2 (demo 92)
12. The Sins Of Thy Beloved  *  Even Though (demo 95)
13. Rimmersgard  *  Circle Of The Scroll (Jarnauga II) (demo 99)
14. The Sins Of Thy Beloved  *  Garden Of Eden (demo 95)
15. Paradise Lost  *  Paradise Lose (demo 88)
16. Ensiferum  *  Tale Of Revenge (demo 95)
17. Ensiferum  *  Outroduction (demo 95)

It's not often that you find Nazgul flummoxed by a release, but this one's had me scratching my head a bit.  I found it online, and the fact it came with a couple of Hrossharsgrani tracks on it made it a shoe-in for the Honour and Darkness collection.

But WHAT it is - or more aptly, perhaps, WHY it is? -  remains something of a mystery.
For openers, I have no idea whatsoever who Bernd Barnickel is, assuming it is a real person.  There are more than a few Bernd's listed on Metal Archives but none of this title.  Likewise a Google search brings up a few people of this name, but given their jobs (including a furniture maker and a forestry manager) I honesty think we're barking up the wrong ... ummm .... tree?

No, it's a bit of a puzzler.  Another odd thing about it is the fact that the guy's name is on the cover at all, as you'd imagine that if this was a personal collection of tracks for some kind of sampling purpose then you'd call it "Demos 88-99" and be done with it.  Not a lot of point in adding your own name to it if it is a one-off for your own personal use only, is there?  But equally were there more copies distributed, given that some effort has been expended on putting a nice set of printed inlays on it?

And are those Bernd's initials in green on the front of the disc, by the way...?
As far as the spread of music goes, there are some really good songs on here from a number of bands that will be very familiar to most of you.  And thrown into the midst of all of them are a pair of Hrossharsgrani songs, 'You And Me' and 'The Sign Of Nargothrond', both from the demo "In The Mystic Forest".

But here's another weird thing: the attribution on the rear cover for these songs says 'Demo 95', whilst in reality the release "In The Mystic Forest" came out in 2000 as a tape demo?  And the earliest of Hrossharsgrani demos, "Blut", was issued in 1998 some three years after the date cited for these songs. 

This is equally true for other tracks on this CDr: by way of example, the three Dimmu Borgir tracks are attributed to demos released in 1992 although according to Metal Archives the earliest date for demos from this band is 1994.

So does this merely represent some sloppy referencing on the inlay, or were earlier tracks and/or demos knocking around somewhere that our mysterious Mr Barnickel had access to?  Probably the former scenario, one imagines, but I guess we'll never know for sure....

Ignoring the fact that whoever did the inlays managed to misspell Hrossharsgrani, let's take some positives from this release.  As weird as it is, it's not a bootleg nor a pirated copy of anything, but seems to have been a bespoke project for *some* defined purpose, currently unknown.  It pulls together some pretty good songs too, and makes for a perfect listen in the car on long journeys.  It's also presumably fairly rare, and quite possibly a one-off, making it even more interesting in the Castle collection!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


Title: The Eagles Of The King
Format: A 3-inch CD in colour paper sleeve self-released by Hugin (no label details or catalogue reference).
Edition: 6 unnumbered copies only

Track Listing:
01. The Return Of The Eagles  4.56

Once in a while Nazgul makes a passing comment on the lines of, "... *insert random song title* that would make a good single" when a standout track pops up on a CD or tape release.  And more often than not, this observation falls within reviews of Uruk Hai material.

Well, in a perverse sense, this is sort of what you have here: a single song, old-school 3-inch CD single (remember those, from back in the day, sometimes coming in blister packs or snap-packs and always with those fiddly adaptor rings so you could play it in a normal CD player?  Ah, good times).

If you've ever heard the music of Uruk Hai - and I am rather supposing you have, given you're here, and reading this - then take all of the best bits of soaring, lush orchestration and Mirkwood-infused melody and pack it onto a few short minutes of aching wonderfulness, and this is what you'll end up with.

Absolutely bloody marvellous.

Of course, with only 6 copies floating around it's not going to dent the charts in the sense that a 'single' should, even in the rarefied environs of Shelob's local online radio show (you should you see her web-site!), but what the heck: that's not the point of this release.  

As a celebration of all things wonderful in the world of Uruk Hai, it is - quite simply - Top of the Pops.

Thursday, 7 September 2017


Title: End Of Time
Format: White CDr disc inside a DVD size case with full colour cover, self-released on Hugin's own W.A.R. Productions label (Austria) on 10 January 2017, cat ref WAR 102.
Edition: 10 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Intro
02. End Of Time
Bonus Tracks
03. Butcher XTC
04. Let's Kill
05. Ballad Of A Gore Angel
06. Torture
07. Holiday In Frostland
08. Death F*ck Armageddon

Now, to be fair, the announcement in April on Honour and Darkness that a new Guts For Dinner album was in the works was hardly likely to send you all into raptures of anticipation, combined with the fevered shaking of piggy banks.

Indeed, the level of interest in this peculiar side project of our Austrian musical hero Hugin has always been on the low side - the band's Facebook page only has 19 followers, for heaven's sake!

Yet despite this, iterations of "Demo 1" and now "End Of Time" (which is essentially that self-same demo with a couple of newer tracks added in) have spawned an improbable number of releases over the years, in tape and CDr format.

This latest version is perhaps the most professional of the lot, both in terms of the quality of the bespoke cover art and original band logo and in terms of the sonic quality of the newly recorded songs, which are a step up in production terms over the original GFD material.

Time is a distinct factor in this evolution though: looking at the credits for this demo, it's apparent that the material culled from "Demo 1" has a recording date back in the 2000-01 period, whilst new songs 'Intro' and 'End Of Time' were committed to tape (and thereafter to a lunatic asylum, presumably) in December 2016.  One might expect a little progress, and the sound of 'End Of Time' is more akin to an actual White-Hand Uruk-Hai singing the song as opposed to a drowning man gargling into a bucket of sick.

The new 'Intro' is an entirely throwaway few seconds of noise, sounding not unlike a Bonemachine outtake actually, but hardly meriting much of a mention in the grand scheme of things.

Given the history, it would seem precipitous to rule out further GFD releases coming our way in the years to come, so Nazgul is certainly not going to be daft enough to suggest that this is it.  Let's wait and see what comes next...


Saturday, 19 August 2017


Band: WACH
Title: Hell:WACH
Format: Professional digipak self-released by the band on 23 March 2017.  Graphic design credited to Reverend Kim, with additional credit to the 'pedal those keys' inner image to Adam Voice.  Music recorded between 2004-2006 at the 'wachzimmer', recompiled and remastered in 2017.
Edition: 100 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Plague & Waste  4.30
02. The Real You  6.35
03. To Honour My Forefathers  6.19
04. Twenty Eight  12.45
05. Mind Control  3.34
06. Brume  5.30
07. 39 Gates To Hell  6.00
08. Eerie  4.00
09. Nostromo  5.20
10. Experiment Heimat  6.21
11. Der Knabe Aus Stahl  5.08
12. Behind The Mask  3.00
13. Wach Machine  3.10

Like a wraith ghosting around the peripheries of Honour and Darkness, nothing is heard from WACH for long periods of time and then, suddenly and almost always unexpectedly, the band returns briefly to disgorge its latest offering before departing as silently as snow on velvet until the next time...

And out of unchartered waters earlier this year fell this rather nice looking release, in gloomy but atmospheric black and white digipak format, limited to just 100 copies, and containing a selection of older music from ten years ago and more that has been reanimated - Frankenstein-like - to moulder and fester on your CD player in the year of our Lord, 2017.

You don't so much listen to a WACH album as you experience it, particularly when the songs are of this vintage rather than of the slightly more ambient and contemporary nature of a release such as "Nordwand".

Not knowing quite what to expect when pressing 'play' for the first time is a moment of uncertainty, excitement and trepidation all rolled into one; akin to queuing up to experience a monstrous new rollercoaster for the first time (or standing next to Odium's notorious ogre Phil Knight at the urinal in the Plough & Anchor after 7 pints of 'Old Buggerer').  In short, you'd better be fleet of foot and on your toes, in case the aural assault that follows requires volume modulation or a total change of proximity to the speakers.    

Reviewing something like this is a tricky business, as you don't typically get songs comprised in traditional verse-chorus-solo-verse format with WACH,  oh dear me no.  Instead, you have aural compositions blending sound in the most unexpected and challenging ways.  So who better to lead us through this potential minefield of sonic boom-ery than current WACH member, Reverend Kim:

"Hell WACH is a collection of very special WACH Tracks, at least very special for me, Plaque & Waste, the first song of the record, was also WACHs first song ever, and it was only available as special bonus video on the first record (and shared on Myspace back then) but not really accessible as audio track, which I always thought its a shame because its such a great track.

Similarly with 'The Real You', which was a bonus track on one of the "THE FEAR" Releases and only very few people were able to listen too, many of the other tracks were also used on different compilations back than, and now we have forged them together with some still unreleased songs from our still huge collection of unreleased material to create a unique, and sonically still typical WACH record, that is not just an compilation of rare tracks, but became an album with many highlight and melancholic moments that still sounds like it was recorded as an conceptualised album as we did the times before.

The Last Song on the record, is WACH-Machine, which was WACH's 4th recorded song, a very young and different song as typical WACH, and also Hugin created a great video for it back than, and it was intended to release it sometimes as vinyl single, but it has not happened during the years out of financial reasons, so it was just released as video but not properly on an audio CD which again, was a pity in my opinion, so we were really happy about the outcome and background of HELL:WACH.

Also we decided to self-release it without a Label, to keep it very simple, we also did zero promotion and there was also no heads-up about this record, so some of our loyal fans were very surprised about this suddenly new record, and it was very fun for us as well."

The album also continues the tradition of word play: 'Hellwach', it turns out, actually means 'totally awake' but of course makes for a nice pun too when split into two!
All in all this is great stuff, and really interesting to hear such a mixture of modern and early recordings in the one place.  Nazgul's copy has been signed both by Alex and Chris, and I'm sure if you were to order your copy directly from them (and I believe copies are available) then you might be able to arrange a similarly super signed item too...

Saturday, 12 August 2017


Title: Enslaved In Evil Darkness
Reason for update: A happy resolution to the previous post!

It was back in June as I'm sure you all vividly recall when Nazgul recounted the rather sorry story of the "Enslaved In Evil Darkness" debacle, which largely centred on some rather dubious sounding activity by the label in question.

Well, let's take a minute to update you on that saga given a few developments that have since occurred.

To recap on the salient points: the tape reissue of this demo was advertised by the label as coming with a small colour poster - the copy Nazgul bought certainly didn't, nor did copies received by another contact in the USA.  No copies of the tape had at the time of the original post been sent to Hugin, whilst the label page suggested all their copies were sold out.  All of which reeked rather of a rip-off in progress.

Well, behind the scenes a few emails have done the rounds between the various parties involved, with the upshot that Hugin has now received his copies of the release, which is the main positive outcome as far as I'm concerned. 

The guy who sold Nazgul the tape featured in the original post (which came from Discogs, from a seller who may or may not be connected to the label directly, it's been impossible to determine) got in touch and offered to send a copy of the poster to me along with a free gift.  And sure enough, after a passing of a few weeks a copy of the poster did indeed plop through Castle letterbox, along with a rather nice double cassette featuring a set of Summoning cover songs by French band Muldeponie.

As far as Nazgul can untangle the version of events put forward, the poster was only supposed to accompany the first 10 or so of the 30 copies of the tape but due to a cock-up in how the label advertised it the impression was given that all copies were so blessed.  This may - or again may not - be entirely accurate, but Nazgul is happy to have secured a copy of the post nevertheless as it is rather nice.

I just wonder how many other owners of this particular release ended up with one...? 

So it does now seem to be a conclusion of all's well that end's well here, which is a nice thing to be able to report, and credit to the various people who invested time and effort to sort it all out.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


Title: Totenfahrt
Format: Professional released CD in standard jewel case in full colour cover on the Winter Wolf label (Germany) in 2015, cat ref WWP0139.  Picture disc CD.
Edition: 100 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01. Totenfahrt (Einklang)  5.25
02. Totenfahrt  22.48

Leaving aside the advisability of naming a song so, particularly to an English speaking audience with a juvenile sense of humour, todays outing into the weird and wonderful ways of Uruk Hai sees us encountering another CD from the WinterWolf label.  There have been a few of these released in recent times, in low volume but to a high standard of finish, including "The Dusk, The Dawn, The Earth, The Sun" and the untitled "Split" release with Huluefni, both previously reviewed in Honour and Darkness.

By Hugin's own admission, the "Totenfahrt" CD is not particularly representative of the 'classic' Uruk Hai sound (assuming one can actually claim that there is now a classic sound, given recent variations of style) and is instead more of an experimental release.

It certainly forgoes the gentle synths and cautious melodies of other contemporary Uruk Hai releases, instead throwing fuzzy guitar riffs and martial drum patterns our way.  After the taster that is 'Totenfahrt (Einklang)' one proceeds directly into the meat and potatoes of the main course title-track, which booms and buzzes along merrily whilst gradually introducing a chiming bell (sounding not unlike the opening part of Black Sabbath's debut album being chewed up in a cement mixer), vocals, keyboards and all manner of musical japery.

It will take you more than a few listens to get your head around, and some less intrepid souls may give up on the lengthy second song before the varied diet appears part way through.  But this would be a shame, as this song grows on you, in the same insidious way that mould and moss invade a tombstone left to stand in boggy ground.

The main song does suffer a touch from what you might term the 'Man Vs. Food' syndrome: taken as a smaller portion it would be perfectly appetizing and palatable: as an enormous helping, however, it does tend to repeat on oneself and this can lead to a tad of indigestion.

That said, Nazgul imagines that WinterWolf could probably sell you a copy of this still despite its limitation of 100 copies, so there's little reason not to pop over to their online shop to spend some of your shekels.