EPIC METAL: The red-headed stepchild of heavy metal is back! California epic heavy metal band Cirith Ungol is one of the most unique metal bands in existence. Initially forming in 1972, the current lineup—featuring longtime vocalist Tim Baker, founder/guitarist Greg Lindstrom, original drummer Robert Garven, guitarist Jim Barraza, and bassist Jarvis Leatherby—has released its fifth full-length album Forever Black.
Cirith Ungol has always obtained a cult-like status similar to bands Manilla Road, Slough Feg, Pentagram, and Brocas Helm, and on Forever Black—the band’s first collection of all-new material in 29 years—its nine tracks sound as fresh and vibrant as ever.
After the one minute instrumental opener “The Call,” the first proper track, “Legions Arise,” assures fans that Cirith Ungol hasn’t lost its trademark attributes. Baker’s searing roaring vocals, Lindstrom’s intriguing guitar skills, Garven’s bombastic syncopation, and the band’s overall aesthetics have undoubtedly remained intact. It has a One Foot in Hell era vibe that could be the evil twin of track “Blood & Iron,” while songs “The Frost Monstreme,” “Stormbringer,” and “Fractus Promissum” possess a Frost and Fire era 70s rock flavor. “Nightmare,” one of the darkest tracks on the album, is decorated with intricate harmonized guitar leads in the vein of Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash, and Judas Priest, while “The Fire Divine,” “Before Tomorrow,” and the title track are glorious nods to Black Sabbath.
Once again the cover art is graced with the classic fantasy artwork of renown Connecticut based illustrator Michael Whelan, whom has painted every Cirith Ungol release since its 1981 debut album, Frost and Fire, based on the Elric series by sci-fi/fantasy author Michael Moorcock.
Forever Black is the perfect amalgam of the band’s first four albums with a modern flavor, while doing justice to their overall repertoire. Cirith Ungol’s endurance, perseverance, and legacy remain ironclad. What a comeback! ~ Kelley Simms