People have always considered reunions and comebacks more favorably than long-term farewell tours (is it right, Scorpions?). And it’s not only about that the first ones give hope and second just take it back. Usually, tours are commercial case. Comebacks are too sometimes, but occasionally it’s just a long-awaited (or the opposite, sudden) event that doesn’t aim to make a profit on the old fans’ nostalgia, especially when we’re talking about underground bands. That’s how Possessed returned to the stage and the similar thing happened with Cirith Ungol, which reunited in 2016 and now they release their fifth in a raw and the first album since 1992, named Forever Black.
A little bit of history: Cirith Ungol formed in early 70s. The band played Hard Rock but constantly strived to make their sound heavier, so essentially they became one of the Heavy Metal pioneers. The band’s members also loved fantasy a lot, especially J. R. R. Tolkien and Michael Moorcock and this love also influenced the band: the name Cirith Ungol was taken from “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy and album artworks were created by Michael Whelan, who also designed Moorcock’s books; the band still works with him.
The debut album Frost And Fire was released in 1981: a quite simple and fast Heavy Metal prevailed in this album but also there were some Power and even Doom elements. Three years after King Of The Dead was released, with much more complicated, diverse and darker music. In 1984 Cirith Ungol release One Foot In Hell (the band members were less satisfied with it than with the previous one) and in 1991 the last album to date, named Paradise Lost was released – next year the band will declare about disbandment. Nevertheless, after 22 years, in 2016 the band gets back on stage with almost original line-up. This happened because of the band’s fan-base persistence and Jarvis Leatherby’s hard work (Night Demon‘s vocalist and bassist). Today Cirith Ungol are: Tim Baker (vocal), Jim Barraza (guitar), Greg Lindstrom (guitar), Robert Garven (drums) and Jarvis Leatherby (bass).
Ok, enough with historical overview, let’s get back to the album. First thing I want to say is that you shouldn’t expect something extraordinary and outstanding from this album: the only fact that it is released is a big thing itself. Yet, Cirith Ungol gave their listeners exactly what they wanted: the oldschool Heavy Metal, quite dark, sometimes epic and goes Doom from time to time. So the band coped greatly and provided a great and honest work to their fans. Starting with short and quite grim intro “The Call”, the album rapidly turns to NWOBHM with galloping riffs, distinctive bass and good drums (“Legions Arise”). This music also marked with the record’s quality, which made to immerse into early 80s. Tim Baker’s vocal is raspy and ominous, without some outstanding techniques (which is understandable, taking his age into account) but it fits good to this music. The same can be said about “Nightmare” with epic guitar intro; it is fast-paced actually and Tim’s voice sounds especially evil.
In “The Frost Monstreme” some Doom elements can be heard. By the way, guitarists Jim Barraza and Greg Lindstrom’s duo sounds really great here with seemed simplicity of riffs and solos. The ending “Forevere Black” has also many Doom elements, which turn the song to something Black Sabbath-ish: a smooth rhythm, slow tempo, heavy riffs and great Jarvis Leatherby’s bass. And Tim’s voice adds the necessary evilness to the song.
And of course Forever Black has a ballad like every Heavy Metal album, “Stormbringer”. Actually, the music in chorus becomes darker, some tension appears and “Strombringer” becomes not quite a ballad in its common meaning but after that everything comes back to the “regular” formula, Tim even sings clean. Obviously the band couldn’t avoid some clichés, musically and lyrically (“we slay the beast and drink its soul” – isn’t it great?) but on the other hand fans wanted exactly this, so there are no complaints!
All in all, Cirith Ungol fulfilled all expectations and disappointed some skeptics: they didn’t wasted their talent, didn’t got into sef-plagiarism but delivered a good and consistent Heavy Metal/Doom album with oldschool sound. Forever Black is a real oldtimer and I really hope that it’s not the final “final” album from this band.
Forever Black will be released on April, 24 via Metal Blade Records.
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