Format: There exists both a cassette tape and a CDr version of this release: the tape is a W.A.R. Productions (Austria) release in glossy colour cover, no catalogue reference, and unusually comes with no additional inserts or cards The CDr pressing comes through Kristallblut Records (Germany) and W.A.R., again with no catalogue number, and comes in a DVD-style box. The music was recorded in the W.A.R studios in November 2014. Both versions contain the same tracks.
Edition: Cassette tape hand-numbered and limited to 8 copies only. The CDr version is presumed to be unlimited.
Track Listing (both versions):
01. Die Erste Schlacht 10.12
02. Dagor-Nuin-Giliath 17.30
03. Dagor Aglareb 19.31
One of the earliest posts this year was of Hugin's epic "Glaurung" album, the third part of the Beleriand trilogy and reviewed entirely out of sequence by Nazgul just for the hell of it. And so, without any logical reasoning whatsoever, here is the first part of the trilogy, "Die Kriege von Beleriand Teil 1" (The Wars of Beleriand Part 1)
In that January post we covered off a little about what the reference to Beleriand was all about, and you will recall (or you should, if you were paying attention - didn't you know that there's a test immediately after you finish reading this?) that Beleriand was a vast region in north-western Middle-earth during the First Age, with many realms: Arvernien; Doriath; East Beleriand; Falas; Gondolin; Hithlum; March of Maedhros; Nargothrond; Nevrast; Ossiriand; and Dor Daedeloth.
The wars are a reference to the many battles between the Elves of Beleriand and the forces of Morgoth in the centuries making up the First Age, and are also referred to as the Wars of the Jewels due to the involvement of the Simarilli (three jewels of immense might and beauty) in them all. The ensuing conflicts were long and extensive, resulting in untold torment and boundless suffering, much like watching an Aston Villa home game, amplified a few degrees. As ever, Morgoth used Angband as a mighty fortress, and the base from which to launch his devastating attacks. While the Ñoldor had their victories, the Doom of Mandos always hung over their efforts. Many Men fell in these battles on both sides, and for a long time after the Elves had scorn for the Houses who supported Morgoth.
There are generally regarded to have been six major battles in the Wars of the Beleriand and innumerable skirmishes, falls, sackings and sieges. The third part of Hugin's trilogy picked up the story of Galurung the dragon, who features towards the end of the saga in the the Sack of Nargothrond, where the city was destroyed by Glaurung and his Orcs during the 5th battle. Given that leaves 4 preceding battles to account for, it could be argued for the sake of neatness that this Part 1 release covers the first two, and the second part the middle two.
But let's proceed on that basis and see where it gets us - indeed, let's see if the song titles on the CDr and tape versions of this release have any bearing on that thought process. Well, strike me down with a feather if it all comes together! Track 1 translates "The First Battle" whilst track 2 is the name of the second battle in the Wars of the Beleriand, which leaves us nicely with Dagor Aglareb (the 'Glorious Battle') as the third battle. As Colonel Hannibal Smith would say, "I love it when a plan comes together!"
So this would seem a good opportunity to briefly acquaint ourselves with the concept of the Wars of the Beleriand.
The First Battle of Beleriand was fought before the Ñoldor arrived, and was fought by the Sindar and Laiquendi against Morgoth. While the Noldor still toiled through Araman, Morgoth had already arrived in Middle-earth, and had occupied his old fortress of Angband where his servants Sauron and Gothmog had long been breeding Orcs. Unexpected by the Sindar, Morgoth decided to try and secure the area quickly, and he sent out his armies. This was the only battle against the Dark Lord in which the realm of King Elu Thingol took an active role. Morgoth's forces broke into two hosts, passing west through the vale of Sirion and east between Aros and Gelion, some of them even scaling the passes of Anarch and Aglon.
In the east, King Elu Thingol of Doriath took the offensive, meeting the Orcs at Amon Ereb. There King Denethor of the Laiquendi met him, and the Orcs were forced back-to-back. The lightly armed company of Denethor fell on Amon Ereb before Thingol could rescue him and King Denethor himself was slain, but the Orcs were eventually defeated. Those few survivors were slain by the Dwarves of Mount Dolmed. The death of King Denethor in this battle led the Laiquendi to pledge to never again name a king or participate in the wars between other Elves and Morgoth.
In the west, the Elves of the Falas under their Lord Círdan attacked the western host, but they lost that fight, and retreated in their cities of Eglarest and Brithombar. These cities were besieged afterward, and Doriath was unable to gather a strong enough force to send aid. The Havens were only freed when the Orcs withdrew to fight the Noldor under Fëanor.
After the First Battle, Doriath was protected by the magical Girdle of Melian. Although sounding like some form of athletic support, this was actually fence of enchantment set around the kingdom of Doriath by Melian his Queen, preventing entry into his land without his will and consent. Which in modern parlance might be termed the magical Firewall of Pensak....
Dagor-nuin-Giliath (Battle-under-Stars) was the second battle of the Wars of Beleriand, but the first fought by the Noldor.
The battle began when the Noldor of Fëanor had arrived unexpectedly at the Firth of Drengist, and passed through the Gate of the Noldor into Hithlum. They encamped on the northern shore of Lake Mithrim. Morgoth hoped to destroy the Noldor before they could establish themselves, and sent his forces through the passes of the Ered Wethrin. Although the Orcs of Morgoth far outnumbered them, the Noldor were still empowered with the Light of Valinor, and quickly defeated them.
The Orcs retreated north through Ard-galen, with the Noldor in hot pursuit. The forces of Morgoth that had been besieging the Havens of the Falas since the First Battle of Beleriand marched north to attack the Noldor in the rear, but a force led by Celegorm ambushed them at Eithel Sirion. Trapped between the two Noldorin forces, the Orcs fought for ten days, encircled at the Fen of Serech.
All but a few Orcs perished, and Fëanor in his wrath pursued even this small group. The tables turned at the edge of Dor Daedeloth, as Balrogs poured forth from Thangorodrim. Fëanor stood his ground and long fought alone, until he finally fell. Then the armies of his sons reached him, and the Orcs and Balrogs retreated. Fëanor died in sight of Angband, thrice cursing Morgoth. It was rumoured that Fëanor cried like a baby at the moment of his death. Rumours, it must be said, that I have just started.
Immediately following this the Moon rose, and with the rising of the Moon Fingolfin and the second, greater Host of the Ñoldor arrived in Lammoth. There they were attacked by Orcs which had been sent there by Morgoth to attack Fëanor from the rear, and they fought their first battle, the Battle of the Lammoth. The Ñoldor were caught off-guard, and Fingolfin's son Argon was slain. Fingolfin and his host pursued the Orcs until they were completely destroyed, and then passed into Mithrim as the Sun first rose.
It was thus a bittersweet victory for the Noldor, as they had destroyed most of Morgoth's forces in one strike, but their greatest leader had been mortally wounded, and they had lost one of their princes.
So there's certainly a lot going on with the plot, but what of the music? Well of course you should know what to expect by now, shouldn't you: sweeping instrumentals of majesty and grandeur, lots going on and more than you can readily absorb on just a cursory listen or two. It's evocative stuff, guaranteed to transport you to the battle fields and hidden corners of Middle-Earth or your money back.* In actual fact, from the clashing of steel and the sounds of struggle that heralds the first song, you know Hugin is reaching back into his past for influences as well as bringing his contemporary sound to bear on the piece.
In the words of Gandalf the Grey, "A rollicking roller-coaster of an album, or my foot's a kipper."
Absolutely essential for any fan of Hugin's art, and a real joy to listen through and immerse oneself in. Trying to pick it apart song by song really can't do it justice, and believe me I've tried over the years (suggesting, most likely, that it's your humble scribe that needs a creative reboot) so take it from me when I note that it is certainly worth seeking out and playing loud.
Noted in the credits for this release is the fact that the cover photograph was taken by one Zigor Ozamiz Yarza. This is, of course, our old friend Zigor of Extreme Ambient
He tells us: "The cover of "War of the Beleriand" is from a photo that was taken by me and it was an honour that Hugin choose to use it. The photos were taken during a trek to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal, back in 2013. That is the Dhaulagiri massif and it was taken from Poon Hill early in the morning. The highest point is the Dhaulagiri mount which is the seventh highest mountain in the Himalayas. The full picture can be seen here.
STOP PRESS! Just as Nazgul was about to commit this post to the web a picture was spotted on Hugin's Facebook page that showed an extract of a Terroraiser review, which features coverage of all 3 of the Beleriand series! It's in Cyrillic of course, and the resolution isn't great so Nazgul is still none the wiser about what it says other than the overall rating for the trio of releases was a robust 7/10. If there are any Russian speaking readers of Honour and Darkness out there who can shed more light on this review, do get in touch through the usual channels!
|Interesting Russian review ... if only we knew what it said...?!|
* there is, of course, no money back under any circumstances. Caveat Emptor!