Monday 27 April 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Cirith Ungol, "Forever Black"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/04/2020
Label: Metal Blade Records

“Forever Black” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1.The Call
2. Legions Arise
3. The Frost Monstreme
4. The Fire Divine
5. Stormbringer
6. Fractus Promissum
7. Nightmare
8. Before Tomorrow
9. Forever Black

The Review:

Cirith Ungol are, against all odds, back. Drums, guitars and vocals are handled by the band members who played on the classic albums. Second guitar is handled by a member from the band's later period while only the bassist is a newcomer. The line up matters, as really this is as close as it is possible to get to a fully reformed band. Cirith Ungol's influence and reputation really cannot be overstated- they featured Elric (from Michael Moorcock's books) on their album covers and thus brought the fantasy/sword and sorcery element to metal, treading a path that the likes of Led Zeppelin and Ronnie James Dio had trod before them. They made one of the first trad doom albums in “King of The Dead”. They are a true underground cult band with a devoted following.

After several decades of no music, can the band still cut it?! The answer, pleasingly for everyone is YES. This album is a wonderful thing. It sounds warm and natural with an organic production. Tim Baker's voice remains intact and as idiosyncratic as ever. The songs are there. After a minute long intro, “Legions Arise” serves as a call to arms for the Ungol faithful and it is a joy to behold with excellent guitar passages and great performances.

The quality control does not let up over the course of the following seven tracks (along with the intro, there are nine tracks total). It's really hard to pick highlights; “The Frost Monstreme”, “The Fire Divine”- they are just quality compositions full of the real, old school Cirith Ungol vibe. “Stormbringer” (Elric again) closes the first half/side one of the record and it is an atmospheric epic. It's almost so good, I can scarcely believe it.

Musically, the band are still mixing classic hard rock with heavy metal and doom, with liberal use of a cowbell to be heard on several tracks. The guitar work is excellent throughout and the bass work of Jarvis Leatherby also stands out- seamless continuity from their previous releases, essentially. The likes of “Fractus Promissum” and “Nightmare” groove really convincingly.

Cirith Ungol have always been a pretty concise band- there is nothing beyond six minutes in run time here, so nothing is wasted. The writing is consistently good- well laid out song structures with enough recognisable hooks and changes to keep the modern day metaller interested. Of the remaining songs, “Before Tomorrow” is doomy and dark, whilst the title track is full of menacing riffage and drama. If they don't manage to make another album, for whatever reason, then this one will more than suffice. It's better than fans could have hoped for.

Without question, this will be the comeback album of the year. It sits proudly alongside anything else the band have done and is a credit to those involved that they can still do this after nearly five decades. This is unique rock/metal/doom from the original masters. A dramatic and fulfilling return.

“Forever Black” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook