Release Date – October 20th 2023
Review By Smudge
Cirith Ungol has been around forever. I remember reading Kerrang! Magazine back in the 80’s and their name was always mentioned but they always seemed a bit … strange, so I kind of avoided them. The band was formed in 1971 in Ventura, California and still features original members Greg Lindstrom (originally the bass player now on guitar) and drummer Rob Garven. Oh, and it’s pronounced Kee-Reeth Oo-gold and comes from the Lord Of The Rings and means ‘pass of the spider’ where Shelob lurked.
Cirith Ungol ploughed their furrow with fantasy-based songs verging on power metal and maybe even a bit of prog before the term power metal existed. Despite forming in ’71 they didn’t release anything until 2 demos appeared in ’78 and ’79 then the debut album ‘Frost And Fire’ was released in 1981 through their own Liquid Flames label and features some superb fantasy album artwork by Michael Whelan.
The band released three more albums up to 1991 then split until Jarvis Leatherby invited some members for an informal jam session, although Tim Baker attended, he did not sing. The band reformed and put out a live album in 2017 recorded at a festival in Greece then a full album ‘Forever Black’ in 2020 through Metal Blade. Now here they return with another feast of their brand of metal.
Things get going immediately on ‘Velocity (SEP)’ with some fine guitar lines backed up by some beefy chug before Tim Baker brings some proper power metal vocals. Talk about making you bang your head – this is the stuff, and you can see where the likes of Manowar, Armored Saint, Metal Church and Malice got their inspiration from. ‘Relentless’ is a slower grind with an almost eastern line then we get the 8 minutes plus epic ‘Sailor On The Seas Of Fate’.
Opening with the sounds of the sea, a creaking ship and an acoustic guitar they soon come in with a crunching groove that Black Sabbath would be proud of full of those wonderful darkly melodic lines from Barraza and Lindstrom. Again, it’s fairly mid-tempo and heavy before they let rip halfway through before coming back to the crushing stomp and an early Priest-like outro. Spanish guitar and even a maraca introduce ‘Sacrifice’ on another grinder before the traditional metal chug of ‘Looking Glass’. The title track is a grower that needs a few listens as it brings the prog element before we get back to the proper metal on ‘Distant Shadows’ and the final doomy cut ‘Down Below’.
What we have here is a fine chunk of traditional metal from a band that knows how to do it. Historically Cirith Ungol were both musically and geographically separated from the California scenes simply because they had their sound and their way of doing things and that all comes across in their music. Singer Tim Baker has a unique style which adds to the mystery of the band. On the whole a great record if you like traditional metal and a fine addition to a legendary band’s discography.
Track List –
1 – Velocity (SEP)
2 – Relentless
3 – Sailor On The Seas Of Fate
4 – Sacrifice
5 – Looking Glass
6 – Dark Parade
7 – Distant Shadows
8 – Down Below