With so many cool bands out there to check out I offer you some minor guidance by introducing you to CIRITH UNGOL. Anders Ekdahl ©2020
What was the reason for forming in the first place, what bands was it that you guys looked up to in the beginning?
Rob: The band actually formed in 1971 after Greg Lindstrom, Jerry Fogle and I left the band Titanic, to form “Cirith Ungol”. Our goal was to play the heaviest metal known to man. We holed up in an upstairs lair at my ancestral home and for years we wrote and recorded music, honing our songwriting skills and style into what would become, what is easily recognized today. Many of those early demos can be heard on the double album released in 2001 “Servants of Chaos”. It was a magical era, and we never gave up hope in pursuing our vison of what we considered true metal!
Some of our earliest influences were; Mountain, Budgie, Dust, Sir Lord Baltimore, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep etc. Our band was always searching out new music mostly by scouring the import sections of local record stores around the Los Angeles area. Back then before the internet this was not an easy task. We bought the first album of many of the bands mentioned above, not even knowing who they were at the time, some based on their covers alone. I remember clear as day seeing Black Sabbath’s first album and showing it to Greg, in a store across the street from our high school and saying, “Hey look at this album, these guys look good!”
CIRITH UNGOL is very much a cool metal band name. How hard was it for you guys to it? What had that name have to have to fit your music?
Rob: The name came about when Greg & I first met when we were about 13 years old and in 7th grade here in California. We were in an advanced literature class, and were assigned to read the “Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien. The novel had a lasting effect on us, and opened the door to all sorts of other “Sword and Sorcery” literature and themes. The name was from a very dark and sinister place in the book, and we even back then saw our music as being headed in that direction so it seemed like a good fit. We reached out and got permission from the group that owned the rights back then.
Everybody is influenced by certain things. What inspires you today?
Rob: I am still inspired by good heavy music. But what inspires me today is the worldwide heavy metal community, and how it has become one large family me very cool people! I am also inspired by the sound of vintage Ferrari engines, but that is another story!
What would you say is the most different thing to releasing albums today compared to like say 20 years ago?
Rob: Well back then everything was a struggle, but since our reunion many people have shown interest in the band, and that has been very rewarding. We now have a fantastic manager, and the best record company in the world, Metal Blade Records.
I believe that digital is killing the album format. People’s changing habit of how they listen to music will result in there being no albums. Is there anything good with releasing single tracks only?
Rob: I guess I see it from a different perspective. About the time of our “Paradise Lost” release in 1991 they had stopped making albums altogether, so the fact that they have a made a huge comeback is thrilling. I had a fabulous collection which I had to sell for next to nothing, so I am a bit bummed by that, but I think for the foreseeable future there will still be a market for vinyl. I try to at least buy a bands physical CD, so as to support the whole effort. We released “Witch’s Game” as a single, but that was only for a very special project for the movie, “The Planet of Doom”. I can’t say we may not do something like that again, but the full length album is definitely where our goals are set!
What part does art-work and lay-out play when you release new recordings? How do you best catch people’s attention?
Rob: I think that is very important. I was a graphics artist, and did the layout on our first 3 albums, so you have touched an important subject with me. The album cover art is essential. Take for example the fantastic painting we chose for the cover of our new album “Forever Black”, “Elric in Exile”. It perfectly reflects the dark and brooding mood of this album. It was painted by Michael Whelan, whose art graces our 4 other studio albums, our single, “Witch’s Game”, and our live album, “I’m Alive”. He is a world-renowned artist, whose masterpieces have been featured on albums by bands such as Sepultura and Smoulder, and authors like; Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, and Arthur C Clarke.
Ever since we forged a relationship with him for our first album, “Frost & Fire”, our dream was to use his series of Elrić of Melnibone covers from the 1980’s DAW Book editions, for all our future covers. Of course, back then we were a young band and had no idea what the future held for us, or how many albums we would ever produce. So once again, we are honored and privileged, to have his work again gracing our latest album, and we hope to continue to work with him on any future projects! He has been one of the bands longest and best friends through the years, and I am sure many have bought our albums just for his amazing artwork!
Has social media re-written the rules on how to promote your music? Or do you go about doing promotion the same way?
Rob: Of course, that is where most get there information today, for better or worse. The band has a presence on many of the social media sites, to get the word out. It also allows us to stay in touch with our good friends around the world. The internet when used properly is a thing of beauty, but it can also be a platform to spread misinformation or worse…….
When you play in a band, does that make you feel like you are a part of a scene, of something bigger and grander?
Rob: Yes, we are all brothers and sisters of metal, drawn together with a common purpose, and you do not definitely have to be in a band to be part of this scene. Actually, you can have more fun just being a spectator. As much as I love playing and being on stage, when we get that rare night off and can hang out and hear the other bands that is allot of fun also!
How much of a touring band are you? Is touring/gigging still a great way of spreading the word of the band?
Rob: After the band broke up we all went on separate paths with our lives, careers, interests, etc. When we decided to get back together, we had to take into consideration that many of us had more complicated lives. This means we have only been able to play a handful of shows each year. But each one of those was a spectacle! That is why this whole shutdown has been so dreadful for so many, especially those that have paid the ultimate price.
What will the future bring?
Rob: We never stopped working on new material, and that continues to this day, pounding out the heaviest metal known to man! Hopefully after the world makes it through this tragic pandemic, that we can once again spread the word of Ungol, and share our vision of the darker side of man’s eternal struggle “A Churning Maelstrom of Metal Chaos Descending!”
Thank you for your interest in “Cirith Ungol”. I think you are in Sweden, we were lucky enough to play Muskelrock, and hope we get the chance to return to your beautiful country soon!