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Cirith Ungol

Forever Black

Review by Mike Korn

Cirith Ungol, named after the evil valley from “Lord of the Rings," is one of the ultimate  cult metal bands from the United States, with a history stretching back to the mid-70s. A favorite in the California early metal scene, they played a gloomy kind of hard driving epic metal with influences from Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Throughout the 80s, they released a series of albums with striking fantasy cover art by Michael Whelan, but they could never really crack the big time. As usual, this led to a break up of the band.

But fans of Cirith Ungol were a hardy breed, and the band continued to gain a strong reputation even when they were no more. At last, they’ve relented to the pressure and are back with a brand new album, Forever Black. It’s really like they never went away. This album seamlessly picks up where they left off, with another Elric -inspired cover image and more thunderous sword-and-sorcery metal. Singer Tim Baker’s unique screaming vocals in particular have not changed a bit since the band’s glory years.

Right now is a great time for Cirith Ungol’s return, with a renewed interest in classic heavy metal. Maybe they can now get the recognition that eluded them before…


This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
The Call

The bass rumbling of a foghorn introduces this brief instrumental intro, giving away to a mysterious low key guitar melody. It paves the way for "Legions Arise."

Legions Arise

This is a hard driving call to battle, with a surging feel. Baker’s gravelly screams are just as unforgettable as ever and give Cirith Ungol a unique feel. This is straightforward powerful metal with a vaguely Middle Eastern feel, and the lyrics are a tribute to the fans who never quit believing in the band.

The Frost Monstreme
This tune is more of a doomy, chugging anthem that reminds me a bit of Manilla Road, a band that has a lot in common with Cirith Ungol. The mid-section has a kind of funky groove to it that features some really jamming lead guitar. The ending section picks up the pace to more of a battering ram like attack.
The Fire Divine
This is my favorite track on the album, chock full of killer riffs and time changes, with Baker’s vocals at their best. There’s also plenty of classic metal leads coming at you from all angles. This is one awesome pure metal tune that showcases the best of Cirith Ungol.
Stormbringer
Cirith Ungol is also known for their epic metal ballads, and this is a good example, with lyrics inspired by Elric’s soul-stealing sword. Baker’s vocals start out noticeably different here, most low pitched and “normal," but they soon return to his more typical tone. This is a song reminiscent of the heavy ballads of Judas Priest and Black Sabbath.
Fractus Promissum
This really sounds like something that could have come from Judas Priest's 70s work. It’s a mid-paced stomper with a ton of wah guitar soloing. It is simple but effective.
Nightmare
A more sluggish cut, this falls into the doom metal category and has a pretty ominous, down-tuned feel.  This is an average song at best.
Before Tomorrow
This medium paced cruncher has grown on me with repeated listenings. It has a melancholy feel to it, and the main guitar solo is bluesier than we usually hear from these guys.
Forever Black
The title track is a super metallic anthem with catchy riffs that almost force your head to bang. The guitar solo here totally rips.

 

 
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