Saturday, 14 October 2017

THE TOME OF LOST WORLDS [V/A]

Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Tome Of Lost Worlds [Various Artists]
Format: Online download courtesy of the Dungeon Synth webpage, described by them as "a seasonal collection of new and recent work made by the users of the Dungeon Synth Facebook group".  It was 'released' on 22 September 2017.  
Edition: Unlimited

Track Listing:
01. Garadrak  *  A Questing Knight  05:05
02. Nan Morlith  *  Of Mim, Last of the Petty Dwarves  05:32  
03. Gatekeeper  *  Locked in an Eternal Afternoon, Under a Cold Sun  09:33  
04. Symbiosis  *  Nolstagia  03:47  
05. Lux Viridis  *  Hole in Ocean  03:27  
06. Inoriand  *  Vestibule of Winter  06:12  
07. Breidablik  *  The Gate To Eternity  03:40  
08. Uruk Hai  *  Die Erste Schlacht  10:12  
09. Alba  *  Innocence Lost  08:54  

With all the doom and gloom surrounding the last post, let's lift our spirits with this rather nice online compilation courtesy of the Dungeon Synth webpage.  It is described by the label as a seasonal compilation from current Dungeon Synth artists from both Facebook and the Forum. The artwork has been sourced from various artists, with overall mix and design by Kaptain Carbon.

There have been a few such 'seasonal' offerings before, as seen on the label's Bandcamp page, with this latest one being the seventh part.  Whilst there are no tell-tale signs of fallen leaves, conkers or pumpkins to indicate this current instalment is the product of the autumnal season, you can't beat a bit of dungeon synth as the nights grow longer and the evenings get chillier.  So let's dig in...

"The library, that was once discussed as having manuscripts from a different age, was famous for its catacombs. That was not all it had. Sections of the library held secrets including the ruined wing to the north. Overgrown with vines and exposed to the conditions of outside lay swaths of tomes people found too mysterious and dangerous to give proper care for. This is where some of the most infamous books find their fate. Whether originally stored in the north wing or thrown here out of some fear or spite, the books of the northern wing now lay buried under vegetation and felled trees.

This is where you most likely will find it -- The Tome of Lost Worlds. Said to possess enchanting descriptions of far away places and even simple incantations to build bridges between here and there. It is no wonder the keepers wanted it lost among the ruins of the northern wing for I heard there are places that some wish to be lost forever."

It could almost be an estate agent's script for the library within Castle Nazgul, could it not?  But don't be confused, for this is more background information from the label about the nature of the musical offerings on this downloadable feast.

The point of focus for Honour and Darkness is the Uruk Hai song at track number 8, namely 'Die Erste Schlacht' ('The First Battle').  As you doubtless will recall, this is a song that we've previously identified in this blog as appearing on the "Die Kriege von Beleriand Teil 1" back in March of 2016.

And something of a modern day classic song by Uruk Hai it proves to be, predictably epic and grandiose but none the worse for that!

It's not only Nazgul who's partial to this track: one independent comment on the Bandcamp page from user 'gatekeeper's_saveroom' notes for the release as a whole and this song in particular;  "Not polluted by the shabby commerce and the artificial glamor of these days, you can immediately feel that this music comes from somewhere else. A lost world hidden deep inside, following nothing but its own, unseizable pulse. Favourite track: Die Erste Schlacht."

Dungeon Synth as a genre will be familiar to most I'm sure, and traditionally encompasses bands in the style of Mortiis, Burzum, Wongraven et al.  My favourite attempt at trying to define the term comes in the following quotation form Tiwas of Finnish band Gvasdnahr:

"I kind of think of Dungeon Synth as a lone, ancient castle, hidden in a dark desolate corner in the shadow of Black Metal. Only a few know it’s there. And out of those few who dare to enter, only a few are capable of finding its treasure."
Let's find out a little more about the background to this particular compilation though, courtesy of Kaptain Carbon:
"Tome of Lost Worlds represents the 7th compilation made in 2017 and the start of the third round of seasonal collections of new dungeon synth. Since starting this project, I wanted to showcase new and recent works from a variety of artists who are either entering into the genre or even working on new material. The series has naturally fallen into three volumes which have become the traditional volume, the experimental volume, and finally the narrative volume. Tome of Lost Worlds represents the traditional volume or at least the one with the more identifiable dungeon synth music submitted. For as much as I adore the fringes of the odd, the sweeping sounds of ancient fields and long forgotten ruins holds something magical.
The first of the fall compilations offers a mix of traditional dungeon synth with the work of Garadrak, Nan Morlithn, and Anglezarke. Beginning with Gatekeeper and running to the end of the compilation is a series of artists which lean and run towards the ethereal side of the sound. While still rooted in dungeon synth, the sounds of Inoriand, Uruk Hai, and Breidablik possess an almost heavenly sound or at least an intangible quality much like coloured mists in the morning. This trend continues until the closer by Alba which is a sobering and melancholic piano driven track used to wake up the listener from their deep daze. As for flow, this compilation starts on the ground and eventually ends up in the clouds lost in daydreams.
The art for not only this compilation but the next two volumes was done by the very talented Dale Forward. Forward was not only quick and precise when being commissioned for the Tome of Lost Worlds but willing to license more of his work for other compilations. His black and white work not only fits the genre but possesses a dreamlike quality which suits the music on the compilation. The next two pieces will also showcase this artist’s versatility from the very narrative to the very abstract and almost nightmarish. While I enjoyed showcasing different artists for each of the compilations, Forwards art fit exceedingly well and also was there when circumstances deemed it necessary. I couldn’t be happier having a picture of a monstrous skull climbing out of the pages of some forgotten book. It was Forwards art which inspired the writing that accompanies the volume of some forgotten and ruined wing of a mystic imaginary library.
Tome of Lost Worlds is to be followed in a week by On Old Misty Roads and finally the third volume of the Dungeon Synth Forum’s narrative compilation. Each volume will have its own aura and texture with further volumes leaning towards the shadows. For now enjoy the 7th volume which offers an escape into the descriptions of lost worlds. Somewhere near the Codex of Dreams is a tome which has pages filled with stories of lost worlds. Find it and you will never want to go home."

Definitely worth exploring, and how nice to see our old friend Symbiosis on the tracklist. Nazgul encourages you to venture to the Bandcamp site immediately and - given you can name your own price to download the music - empty your wallet accordingly.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

URUK-HAI


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Uruk-Hai
Format: The item is described as a limited edition lathe cut 12" record 'made by hand on a rare Japanese Hara record lathe' and released by Beasst Productions (USA) in 2017 (no catalogue reference number).  However, does the item actually exist...?
Edition: Reported to be 100 copies only

Track Listing:
Side A
01. Uruk Hai  7.29
02. Nordhimmelstag  3.19
03. Moria  5.56
Side B
04. Kortirion  5.56
05. In Durins Halls  4.49

Caveat Emptor!

These advertisements for this 2017 release looked to be a really enticing prospect: a limited edition lathe-cut vinyl 12" of the original Hrossharsgrani demo recording that ultimately spawned the Uruk Hai project.

Indeed, the blurb for the release created by our friend Hugin for the label quoted none other than yours truly directly off Honour and Darkness: "The original "Uruk-Hai" demo tape was of course, intended as a Hrossharsgrani release and made in a tiny quantity of only 6 tapes. However, the story goes that back in 1999 when Hugin played his for his friends the general consensus was that it was so far removed from the battle-machine that was Hrossharsgani, and so ambient and ethereal by comparison, it shouldn't be issued under that band's name. So it was that the original six demo tapes were retained by this close-knit circle."

And before you write in to complain that the release is categorized on Discogs as an Uruk Hai release, not a Hrossharsgrani release, let me reassure you that this is actually incorrect, as the narrative above makes abundantly clear.  The project led to the creation of Uruk Hai (the band), but was recorded as a Hrossharsgrani demo under that banner.

All of which is very interesting, but skirts around the main reason for this post: it all looks like a rip-off in progress!

Nazgul received a direct email from Beasst Productions about this release, and - inevitably - placed his order swiftly.  Some 6 weeks later, no goods received, no response from the label to questions, nothing. 

Eventually a lengthy Paypal claim was necessary to secure a refund, during which RPM Shop (the online shop for the label) lied about having sent the parcel, stating that they would provide the tracking number for it.  That they didn't came as no surprise to Nazgul, as I have my doubts that these items physically exist let alone that it was ever posted.

Scouting around online, Nazgul found a customer on eBay.ca who has had exactly the same experience with RPM shop: 30 days of no contact and non-fulfilment of order, leading to negative feedback being left and a refund being forcibly obtained.

Relaying this incidents to Hugin also uncovered the fact that the label had gone quiet on him too, despite some extensive chasing up in the last week or so, meaning that we're all in the dark about whether these lathe-cut records actually even exist.

Without a physical copy in hand, all Nazgul would suggest to you is that you treat this release/company with extreme caution at the moment, and if you really feel the need to put money their way do so via a service/card provider that you can claw back a refund on if it all goes pear-shaped.  Which, on current form, it really looks like it might do.

Just for completeness sake, if you want to understand more about what a lathe cut record is and how to produce one, check out this useful site.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

VON BLINKENDEN SCHWERTERN IM REICHE DES NORDENS - update


Band: URUK HAI
Title: Von Blinkenden Schwertern Im Reiche Des Nordens ("Of Gleaming Swords In The Land Of The North")
Reason for update: A chance to look inside the envelope...

We have to cast our net even further back today for the basis of this update, to the 23 October 2009 to be exact.  For it was on that date that Honour and Darkness covered the Uruk Hai / Arkillery split release "Von Blinkenden Schwertern Im Reiche Des Nordens" in both tape and CDr format.

Were you to flick back to that distant review, you will come across the slightly bizarre revelation from Nazgul that as his CDr version was still sealed, he had chosen not to open it.  Even more bizarre, given we're now eight years down the line, that copy still sits pristine and unopened on the shelf in front of me!

So when the opportunity arose to grab a second copy of this rare release (I safely presume it to be rare as in the many, many years I've been looking around for Hugin's stuff this is only the second copy I've ever encountered and the only one offered for sale).  And so bought it was, and into the collection it came.

And happily enough, it was already open so no harm in having a peep at the contents of the wallet is there?!  And what we basically get is a silver CDr with a hand-written front (consistent with other Arkillery releases, actually) that gives us both of the band names and a couple of runes in black sharpie.

Also written onto the front of the disc is the number 10.  Now, in the Discogs post for this item (now illustrated with this very item, as it previously incorrectly had the tape inlay showing instead) someone has entered the information that this CDr was released in an edition of 250 hand-numbered copies.  I don't believe this is correct: the tape version certainly was limited to 250 copies, and I suspect duff information has been copied onto the CDr version page.

What the actual limitation was on this version is therefore still unknown, but if we purport that the number '10' on the disc has some bearing on the edition then as a minimum ten copies must therefore exist.  And no, before you ask, Nazgul is not inclined to open his original copy to see what that number is, at least not at this point in time!  It will remain an enduring mystery...

Whilst we're on the subject of Arkillery-related items, it seems something of a surprise to me that their releases have never been reissued or compiled in any way.  I've got a few on CDr, and recently updated Discogs with their details in order to bulk out the band's discography a little, so there's a nice little group of demos in the band's name clearly existing.  Does anyone know whatever happened to Rob Gaude, the man behind the band...?

Until the next time, adieu!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

ORKSTAHL - update


Band: URUK HAI
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



Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
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

THE EAGLES OF THE KING


Band: URUK HAI
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

END OF TIME

 
Band: GUTS FOR DINNER
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

HELL:WACH


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

ENSLAVED IN EVIL DARKESS - update II

Band: URUK HAI
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

TOTENFAHRT


Band: URUK HAI
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.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

ARCHIVES - update


Band: Moloch (featuring Bonemachine)
Title: Archives
Reason for update: Some rare pictures of the actual, physical item!

Early on in December 2016 Nazgul featured the Moloch release "Archives" as it contained a track "Berkana" that had been remixed by Bonemachine and which had previously appeared on just a couple of releases: one being the massive Moloch box-set "Traumklänge und Klagelieder" and the other being the blink-and-you'll-miss-it limited edition tape "Schicksalswinde".

At the time of that post the only photo of this item Nazgul could track down was the cover image in close up taken from the the Metal Archives pages, but as that was all that was out there it was used.

Most helpfully, the nice man behind Moloch forwarded the set of photos you see above to Nazgul, which gives us a rather better view of this exceedingly rare release in all of its glory.  Inevitably Nazgul did enquire whether a copy of the box-set was still available for sale, but alas: no.  All sold out, long ago.

However, in the interests of keeping Honour and Darkness as up to date as possible for all relevant Hugin-related items - no matter how tenuously connected to the great man - today's post continues Nazgul's crazy mission and rounds off a rather spartan July as far as updates to the Blog goes: mental note for August - must try harder...

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

An interview with ... Out Of Season


What's this then, Nazgul?  Well it's a rare interview feature, that's what!  Once a common sight in these hallowed pages, the 'An Interview With...' slot has lapsed somewhat in recent times so Nazgul is more than pleased to resurrect it today!
And who is it with...?  The American label Out Of Season, who have been referenced in more than a few recent reviews of Uruk Hai material, so old Uncle Nazgul thought he'd go forth and find out about them for you...


Welcome to Honour and Darkness!  Please introduce yourself?
Greetings, and thank you for the invite of the interview! My name is Kyle, owner of Out of Season, since its inception in 2015. The label releases dark ambient, black metal and 'dungeon synth' music on cassette tapes, and to date we have 45 releases.


So as the owner of underground label Out Of Season, how did your involvement in the music business begin?
I have been first listening to black metal and its related sub-genres since approximately 2001... A friend made me a tape copy of Summoning's "Nightshade Forests" EP and then shortly thereafter I heard the early Mortiis Era I albums (the forefather of the sub-genre that is now known today as "Dungeon Synth" in my eyes) along with various other black metal side project bands such as Neptune Towers, Wongraven, etc.


This really sparked my interest in both black metal and dark ambient music. After a few years, in approximately 2003, I started another label which lasted from approximately 2003-2008 releasing mostly black metal on tapes, as well. This gave me a lot of prior experience for down the line when I decided to start Out of Season a few years ago in 2015, but a lot had changed in that 7-8 year window when I had previously stepped away from running a label, for sure, in terms of the internet and technology, and people's tastes and expectations.

Is there a philosophy or mission statement behind Out Of Season?
Not necessarily, there is not a published one, but unofficially, I strive to release high quality product of artists that I think are special and bring something refreshing to the table in terms of their creative output and that they carry a certain 'spirit' of being which is not anything spoken, but just something that I can tell instinctively.

The entry for your label on Discogs states "Dungeon Synth/Black Metal/Dark Ambient tape label based in USA" - whereabouts are you based, and what is the local music scene like?
I'm based in the Portland, Maine area, which is a coastal city in the most northeastern state of the USA, which borders Quebec & New Brunswick (Canada) on the north & east, and New Hampshire to the west & south.


The metal scene here is very strong with most shows having good attendance. Perhaps the most well known band most would have heard of from our area right now is Falls of Rauros - but there is a number of other good bands too -  namely Apollyon, Feral and Obsidian Tongue to mention a few.

What's your view of the metal scene in the USA at the moment?
To be honest I don't really follow or care about this, aside from my local area. Since we are in a somewhat remote area of the country, not very many tours come here, and people often have to travel to Boston (2 hours south) or even Montreal (5+ hours northwest plus a border stop) if they want to see specific bands. This makes people appreciate the bands that DO make the effort to come to Maine even more, and also makes the shows a bit more special versus living in a place like NYC, where there are 100 great shows every week.

Running a label sounds like a glamorous lifestyle, but I imagine it's far from it! Can you give us some insight into life in the underground scene?
You are correct in that it is not glamorous whatsoever, especially at a label of this level... I do not have much of a social life, partly due to the fact that I spend many, many nights in my basement workshop putting together orders and taping up boxes by myself. A lot of days I will finish my job and then start work on the label for another 5-6 hours at night - its a bit taxing at times... Everything is done 100% by me - all the layouts, prepping for production, assembly (if required), order processing, packing, shipping, etc. It's a total DIY effort at its core!

Is music your sole business activity, or do you make a living in other ways too?
I would never want to depend on or make my "hobby" my main "job" - there is not much money involved, for one! Some releases I make just 100 of and it takes months and months to sell them all (if at all!). The appetite for this kind of music on the physical medium is still quite small and has even dwindled over the years... My normal runs used to be 300-500 in the early 2000's - now just 50-100 only.


I much prefer to have a normal job and then pursue the label as a separate part of my life as a labor of love, where it doesn't matter if I make any money doing it, I can just do it as i want and not care about any "profits."

Out Of Season seem very dedicated to the cassette tape format, which to many readers will seem like a long-dead format.  What's the logic there?
Cassettes capture the spirit of the underground perfectly. We are connected to the roots of these genres. Tapes you can hold in your hand and look at the art. They just have a certain 'feel' that I don't feel is captured by other formats.  They are also inexpensive to sell and produce compared to especially vinyl, which allows us to keep the prices down in the store. Now with some vinyl being around $30 each, you can buy 4-5 tapes for the same price, which I think is still really awesome!

Amongst the label releases have been some recent works by Uruk Hai - how did Alexander "Hugin" Wieser and yourself cross paths?
I have been a big fan and admirer of Hugin since the early days. Back when I was doing my previous label, I first got copies of his tape releases on Skullfucking Tapes in a trade (I believe this was "Across the Misty Mountains" and "A Viking's Journey"!)  The fantasy art and atmosphere really grabbed my attention and from then on I followed his work. The vast output of creativity and his ability to stick with it for so many years now - this is the 'spirit' that I mentioned before that I look for in the artists I work with. Its something unspoken, but he 100% has this!


Initially we discussed making the cassette of the U-H/Balrog split release as I quite enjoyed this upon hearing it, and then talks progressed into doing the 'Twilight' album on tape, as well.

How 'successful' have those releases proven to be, or is that not something that you measure?
I made 100 of each Uruk Hai release, "Twilight" and the split with Balrog ("Ashes of Battle"). Like I said, the appetite for this kind of music on tapes is not incredibly high unfortunately, but this is something I want to get released as it deserves to be out there in the tape format in my opinion. "Twilight" sold out a few months ago and "Ashes of Battle" is still available from me, with about 10-15 copies of the 100 left. So, in my eyes, these were 'successful'. It really depends on the release though and at times it's hard to know how many copies to make to meet the 'demand' that exists.


What are your impressions of Alex Wieser, the musician?
My interactions with Alex have been not that many, but we email from time to time, and he seems like a very nice and dedicated person to his craft as I elaborated on a few questions ago, which I admire. He isn't afraid to move beyond the boundaries of his 'comfort zone' and create new styles of music!

Do you have any particular projects or releases of his that you are particularly partial to?
Probably those first two tapes I mentioned before, the first two that I got so many years ago. I still listen to them often, and those are the two that I recommend if I get the question of where to start with Uruk Hai. I also really enjoy the split with Balrog that I released. I think this tape is fantastic.

Returning to yourself, which of your own label releases would you point someone towards to get a representative idea of the genres you support?
Someone else recently asked me this, and I suggested that from an acclaimed point of view, to check out Thangorodrim "Taur-Nu-Fuin", a true masterpiece work of 'dungeon synth' which I had the honor of releasing on tape. This is sold out, but will be re-released by Deivlforst Records on vinyl very soon!

From a personal/overlooked standpoint, I suggest checking out МИРА ДРЕВО "Следы на снегу" (Mira Drevo "Footprints in the Snow") - this is fantastic dark ambient music from Russia! And to round out for the black metal side of the label, to check out the Arath "Ungedul" and Emyn Muil "Túrin Turambar..." tape releases. All of these really capture the full essence of the label, I feel.


 Are there any funny tales from life in the underground scene that you'd care to share with Honour and Darkness? 
Unfortunately, I feel like the underground metal/dungeon synth/dark ambient scene is very straight laced for the most part. I've not had many 'funny' experiences per say, but I did always enjoy back in the day when I first started trading tapes with people from around the world, getting requests to 'send back my stamps!' so they could reuse them in  whatever country they were in. These were simpler times - people are too demanding now and have no patience!

Your house is on fire (no, really, it is...) - what three possessions do you save first?
My wife and cats, all the rest can be replaced or doesn't matter as much!

Your 3 books and 3 albums for live on a desert island would be....?
Wow, very difficult question! For Books, I would probably say a Norse mythology book, "The Odyssey", and Lord of the Rings! For Music, even tougher, but first three that come to mind would be the "Conan the Barbarian" soundtrack, Summoning "Minas Morgul" and "Storm of the Light's Bane" by Dissection.

Your vote for the best cover art to a demo or album you've ever seen?
Again, have to mention Summoning's "Minas Morgul" - it is an absolutely stunning painting and layout....Perfect!


Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with us - do you have any message for Alex and/or the readers of Honour and Darkness to end this interview with?
Thank you for offering this interview, and for the engaging questions.

Please check out my website at
http://www.outofseasonlabel.com - there is a list of upcoming releases and more info there.
 
And what a splendid fellow Kyle proved to be!  It's down to the dedication of good souls like him that the underground scene thrives and - ultimately - gives you the music that you want to hear at affordable prices.  So why not point your browser towards Out Of Season and see if there's anything there to tickle your fancy?

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

BEYOND UNIVERSE


Bands: URUK HAI and EISMOND
Title: Beyond Universe: A Journey Through Atmospheric Dark Arts
Format: Promotional sampler with a silver CD on the Kristallblut label (Germany) released in 2016.  Comes in a DVD size case with a wrap around cover, no other inserts.
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:
01. REMMIRATH  *  Shambala Vril Saucers
02. THE EARTH KING  *  Autumn Temple (edit)
03. FROZEN OCEAN  *  CE-4 (edit)
04. URUK HAI  *  Cirith Ungol (edit)
05. BEHEAT GORUM DE MENTHEURD  *  Winds Of Loneliness
06. FUNERAL FORNICATION  *  Sorrowspell (edit)
07. SIEGHETNAR  *  Flug Des Raben (edit)
08. OBSCURA MONOTONIA ANIMAE  *  Crepesculum Aeternorum Cruciatuum (edit)
09. OBSIDIAN GATE  *  Plagues Upon Them!
10. FORGOTTEN WINTER  *  Chuva II (edit)
11. SCHATTENVALD  *  Winterkonig I
12. DIABOLICAL PRINCIPLES  *  Sowers Of The Lie (edit)
13. EISMOND  *  Moonsick (unreleased bonus track)

Life's a funny thing.  There I was, preparing an entirely different post on a super-secret previously unreviewed release featuring both Eismond and Uruk Hai, when along came this compilation featuring, errr.... Eismond and Uruk Hai.  Weird.  Much like a London bus, you don't see any for aeons and then two come along at the same time...

This effort is a sampler released on the Kristallblut label, hence featuring acts signed to that particular label.  Many of these will be pleasingly familiar to regular readers, either through having had split releases with Hugin's projects in the past (Sieghetnar, Funeral Fornication) or though association with other projects covered in passing in this blog: The Earth King, for example, being an off-shoot of Dead Mans Hill (who release the split "Dead:Meat" with Hrossharsgrani).

Of interest to us in this compilation are two tracks in particular: an edited version (thankfully, as the full length version would have filled the available recording space!) of Uruk Hai's 'Cirith Ungol', but - excitingly - a previously unreleased Eismond track, 'Moonsick'.

The former is a very truncated version of what was an extraordinary release (or more accurately, set of releases) from around 2010, when the myriad of versions of this song ran from a mere 57 minutes in standard format to a whopping 78 minutes in a 'special extended version' that seemingly never ended!  Here, at a paltry few minutes, you'll get a taste of what's on offer but nothing more than that.  But that's rather the point of a label sampler release, of course.

The Eismond track is a highly contagious affair, and is credited as previously unreleased.  This is because, Nazgul can reveal, that it is from the upcoming Album "Moonchild", release date unknown but highly anticipated!  This song was finished in November 2015, suggesting that the "Moonchild" album tracks were likely to have been completed in 2016 and awaiting unveiling ever since.

It's a relatively cheap buy, for once: this sampler is currently floating around Discogs and other similar sites for only a few Pounds, and is well worth picking up on that basis.  Nazgul's copy has a large crease through the cover as it was originally sent out by the label in that manner (silly sods) so at some point I might have to pick up a cleaner copy for the library collection.

Something different - but reassuringly familiar - for you in the next post, the like of which we've not seen for around 10 months or so on Honour and Darkness: stay tuned!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

ENSLAVED IN EVIL DARKNESS - update



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Enslaved In Evil Darkness
Format: A cassette tape release on the Obscure Dungeon Records label (France) in April 2017, cat ref ODR013.  Tape comes with a full colour pro-printed cover, and is advertised as being accompanied by a small poster of album artwork.
Edition: Limited to 30 hand-numbered copies only

Track Listing:
01. Out Of The Shire   
02. Enter Mordor   
03. Orc-March   
04. Beneath The Moon   
05. Morgoth   
06. Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)   
07. Underneath The Stars   
08. Lay Of Leithian

Oh dear, this may take a little untangling both from a content perspective, and from the business side of things too.

Let's do the music side of affairs first, which is by far the happier part of the story.  What we have here is essentially a rereleased and expanded version of the original "Enslaved In Evil Darkness" tape release on AMF Productions from 2005. 

That release was a split tape between Uruk Hai and Finnish band Valar, with both projects contributing 3 songs: in the case of Uruk Hai, the tracks in question were 'Out Of The Shire', 'Dark (Are The Fires Of Mordor)' and 'Underneath The Stars'.  The three songs are faithfully included on this new tape, albeit jumbled up in running order at track positions 1, 6 and 7 respectively.

You may also recall that back in May 2015 Nazgul included as Part 19 of the 'From The Vaults of W.A.R.' series coverage of a proposed - but ultimately never issued - CDr version of the "Enslaved..." release that had been mooted by US label Lifeless Productions.  This is of interest here as that release had contained 4 Uruk Hai songs, the additional one being 'Orc March' which, as the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted, is included on this 2017 reissue at track 3.

So far, so good - a reissue that pulls together all 4 intended Uruk Hai songs onto one release.  And not only that, it sprinkles a further 4 songs into the mix as well.  You'll be interested to know from whence they come, Nazgul perceives, so let's deal with that next: 3 of the songs are drawn from the "Lothlorien" CD (and, to be fair, appear on a few other releases too but this is the principal source), and they are 'Enter Mordor', 'Beneath The Moon' and 'Lay Of Leithian'.

The final extra track, 'Morgoth', is a product of the 2009 demo of the same title.

So on the face of it, this is a good news story wrapped in some nice artwork and a welcome 2017 release in the Uruk Hai discography.

Except ... there's often a complication on the path to Nirvana, and in this case it seems to be a potential case of 'dodgy business dealings' by the label that has brought a bit of a cloud over proceedings.

Now, I have no reason to unnecessarily besmirch the reputation of French label Obscure Dungeon Records but a couple of interesting facts have come to light since the 'release' (and I say that guardedly) of this tape.  Firstly, Hugin has yet to receive any artist copies of the thing for his own resale, which is a big no-no in this world, especially if the label are selling copies already.

And we know the label have been because Nazgul bought a copy.  Now, my copy came from a dealer trading under a different name on Discogs so I can't definitively connect the seller to the label, but given they are based in France it is more than a coincidence I'd imagine.  And - I might point out - whilst the tape did eventually arrive it was sans the promised 'little poster' and no amount of badgering of the seller has led to its arrival, despite claims it was being posted out to me (it wasn't).

That seller is no longer retailing the tape, and surprise, surprise (not!) the label's own webpage shows the tape to be 'out of stock'

The unavoidable conclusion therefore seems to be that this label has printed off a batch of tapes, sold them all (in whatever quantity they felt like most likely, as would you trust them at this point to stick to a limitation of 30 copies as advertised?) and not given any to Hugin for this own benefit. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, smells like a rip-off to me.

So I'd tread cautiously around this particular bunch in the future, from a buyer's perspective and indeed from an artist's perspective too.

Which is a shame, as in theory this would have been a very nice release to celebrate had all things gone as they should have.  Let's pop on a pair of rose-tinted spectacles then, and postulate the theory that the reason the label reports being 'out of stock' is because they have belatedly done the right thing and shipped the agreed number of remaining copies of this tape over to WAR Productions in Austria. 

Time will tell, and if there is a happy ended then Nazgul will be happy to set the record straight, as he did with the Dungeons Deep label's "Nachtkrieg" CD saga of 2010!

Update:

Nazgul drafted this post about a week ago, but in agreement with Hugin we gave enough time for the label to reply to Hugin's last emails querying the whereabouts of his own copies of this release.  At today's date nothing has been heard from Obscure Dungeons, so Honour and Darkness press on to publish and be damned!

Interestingly, also at today's date, I see another copy of this tape listed for sale on Discogs but this time from a seller in the US who I know has retailed a lot of Hugin's tapes in the past.  That listing also advertises the tape as not coming with the advertised poster, so I do begin to wonder if any other posters were actually printed up by the label at all (apart from the one used in the picture, below)?

Label's own promotional photo of this release with the elusive poster pictured (left)