Cirith Ungol are a tradional, doomy metal band from Los Angeles, CA that formed in the early eighties. Their name is elvish for "Pass of The Spider" (The Lord of The Rings).
Cirith Ungol - Frost And Fire (Metal Blade) 1981
Cirith Ungol sound like no other band I know of before or after them. They are generally labeled epic traditional heavy metal, but that really doesn't describe their sound. First of all, vocalist Tim Baker has one of those unique, love-him-or-hate-him styles that seperates his from the pack. His raspy, almost black metal like howl is one of the things that I like so much about this band. The music also is quite unique. While it is heavy metal, the mix of 70's heavy metal influences and the unique blend of semi-doom metal is quite different than most of the upbeat, galloping heavy metal bands from the early 80's. "Frost and Fire" was the band's first album and is not nearly as heavy as the two that followed it. It was originally released by the band on their own Liquid Flames Records in 1980. It was later released by Enigma Records in '81 and then again in '95 by One Way Records as a two on one deal with "King Of The Dead". Metal Blade Records was the last to re-release this album in September of 1999, which is the copy I have. The bonus track is a live recording of a track off the band's follow-up "King of the Dead." Must say that Cirith Ungol had some of the coolest artwork as well.
Cirith Ungol - King Of The Dead (Metal Blade) 1984
1. "Atom Smasher"
Without a doubt, this is my favorite Cirith Ungol CD and one of the finest doom, epic metal discs ever. Heavier and darker than " ", this album was just one of those album I salivated over in the early 80's. From the raw, crunchy guitars, to the pumping bass tones, to the cannons of war, this disc just had it all. Nobody, save for Black Sabbath and Trouble, had this sound perfected quite like Cirith Ungol. Tim Baker's vocals were always something I enjoyed. On "King of the Dead" he really came into his own, sounding like no other vocalist I can compare him to. The lyrics are a bit dark at times, but at others seem to almost have a spiritual, Biblical influence to them. (see the lyrics to "Master Of The Pit") However, I think for the most part the band is just continuing to write dark, fantasy based fictional lyrics.
The disc opens with the powerful "Atom Smasher." Pure heavy metal! "Black Machine" continues in much the same way has a very dark eerie feel to it. "Master of the Pit" is an epic track that is a bit darker musically than the opening tracks. The guitar solos and "jams" on this song are mesmerizing. "King of the Dead" opens with a bass intro and continues to unleash some of the coldest, darkest heavy metal ever. This song has some slight psychedelic tones as well and is one of the bands finest moments. "Death of the Sun" picks up the tempo again and is once again another masterpiece of early heavy metal. I personally prefer this version to the version on Metal Massacre. "Finger of Scorn" starts things off with an acoustic intro before breaking into yet another dark and heavy number. Tim Baker simply annihilates on this song. "Toccata In Dm" is a guitar and bass take on Bach's classical piece. Have always loved this instrumental myself. It just seems to fit the overall atmosphere of this album. The album closes with the bands signature piece, the self titled "Cirith Ungol." This CD re-release also contains the live bonus track "Last Laugh" which is a nice inclusion. Evern the album cover art on this one screams "classic". No fan of doom or heavy metal in general should be without this CD.
Cirith Ungol - One Foot In Hell (Metal Blade) 1986
1. "Blood And Iron"
"One Foot In Hell" is a heavy metal classic. It's one of those albums I spent hours listening to in my dorm room at college. While most of the songs on this disc are five minutes in length or under, the entire disc has an epic feel to it. The galloping guitar work comes off heavy but isn't "happy" sounding like some early 80's metal. Cirith Ungol have an almost gloomy, doomy sound, despite the fact that most of the music is not slow and doomy. Part of that gloomy epic feel is due to the fantastic songwriting and guitar playing, but some of it must be credited to the raw, harshness of Tim Baker's vocals. He really was quite unique for his time. The closest comparison might be Nazareth's Dan McCafferty. However, Baker's style is more aggressive and certainly a precursor to the early thrash and death bands that would soon be dominating the metal scene. The disc starts off with the classic "Blood and Iron", a fast and furious heavy metal romp. From there on the heaviness never really lets up. "100 MPH" is one of the more infectious tracks on the disc. After a three minutes of non stop headbanging, the song will stick in your head like super glue. Lyrically, Cirith Ungol continues to explore dark themes or science fiction.
Cirith Ungol - Paradise Lost (Restless Records) 1991
1. "Join The Legion"
Most people seem to think that this is the band's worst CD. I disagree. Personally, I like it, although I certainly understand what people are talking about. "Paradise" lost is much less dark and doomy than anything from the band's past. Regardless, songs like the infectious "Join the Legion", "The Troll" and "Fire" (orignally by The Crazy World of Authur Brown), are all excellent classic metal tracks. "Heaven Help Us" is a little out of character for Cirith and even has Tim Baker singing in a clean voice. This song is a bit more 'happy' than the rest of the disc. "Before the Lash" returns to the heavier, slightly darker sound of the band, and also has Tim back to singing in his gravely, signature voice. "Go It Alone" also has the more upbeat sound that "Heaven Help Us" had, however, I like this song a bit better. It has an almost pop metal sheen, which is overshadowed by Baker's very non-pop-like vocal style. "Chaos Rising," despite the ironic name, starts off as a mellow acoustic ballad with Baker once again singing in a clean vocal style. However, this song builds in intensity finishing off as a fantastic epic metal song. This is probably once of my favorite tracks on the disc. "Fallen Idol" slows things down to a more characteristic, slow, doomy sound that Cirith Ungol are know for. The title track finishes the disc off on a heavy note. Unfortunately, this CD is out of print, having been released on the defunct Enigma/Restless label. Some of the tracks were released on the 'best of' package put out by the band. However, as I understand it, the band cannot get the rights to this album and don't expect to be able to re-release it any time soon.
Cirith Ungol - Servants of Chaos (Metal Blade) 2001
This one is for the die-hard Ungol fans only. "Servants of chaos" is a collection of demos, unreleased songs, practice tapes and live songs with a playing time of 140 minutes. It's a shame some of this stuff didn't ever make it to an official release as some of it is downright creepy and haunting, which is how I would describe Cirith Ungol to begin with. There are extensive liner notes with the band commenting on each and every track included on this compilation. The band makes it perfectly clear that they like the demo material included on this compilation more than they do the final recording on their last studio album "Paradise Lost." Apparently they felt they lost creative control on that album due to their producer. Can't say I disagree either. Even the smokin' cover of "Fire" is better here in it's raw form. (According to the liner notes the band is also pissed that they lost the rights to Paradise Lost to Restless Records who refuse to reissue of release the disc.) "Death of the Sun" on disc 2 is the version that originally appeared on Brian Slagel's first Metal Massacre CD. I found this comment by the band interesting, "I think it was the best on on the album. Our song was faster than Metallica's, go figure!"