CIRITH UNGOL

Arguably one of the most enigmatic bands at the turn of the 80s, California’s Cirith Ungol remain one of the cult bands in the mists of metal history. With demand still for the band, Metal Blade will be releasing “Servants Of Chaos” and Shan Siva got a once in a life time opportunity to interview drummer Robert Garvin!

Greetings Elven ones – as a fan of Moorcock and Karl Edward Wagner I haveta say that your cover to “Frost n Fire” remains a classic to this day! I take it that you’re Tolkien fans so what did you think of Peter Jackson’s interpretation of LOTR? I must confess I sill have a place in my heart for Ralph Bakshi’s animated version….

Robert: I can’t speak for all the other members but I thought it was very well done, hoping now for a multi part Elric saga!

I haveta ask, using the name Cirith Ungol so blatantly, did u ever get into any trouble with the Tolkien people legally?

Robert: A company in the US Saul Zaentz bought the rights to make “The Hobbit” and the LOTR in animation. We asked permission to use the name for our band and it was granted. I still have the letter granting us permission to use it. In retrospect we should have used a different name as everyone thinks this was something that held us back as it was to hard to pronounce or remember.

Who came up with the idea of the kneeling praying skeletons? Dude, that is still so classic to this day….do you still have t shirts?

Robert: Gregs dad, who was a very cool guy who liked audio gear and sports cars owned a small print shop and somewhere Greg found that image. It is from a medieval etching. We did the rest and I was doing graphics arts so I came up with the font and there you go. Metal Blade is making T-shirts I think, however Greg still sells the original ones like we wore on stage etc. on ebay.

I remember your band having quite a unique sound, not in the least Tim Baker’s v high vocals so was this intentional (the sound, not his voice LOL) or did you experiment (noting that the band had been around for a few years before the debut came out)?

Robert: Like many other bands we did not plan the sound as much as it evolved. We intentionally wanted to go heavier for “King of the Dead”, because local LA stations said that our debut album “Frost & Fire” was too heavy for airplay. Although “Frost & Fire” was representative of the band at the time we had always considered us a heavy band, so for that reason we decided to pull out all the stops on “King of the Dead”.

When I first heard the band my first thought was ‘now that’s heavy’ and the next was ‘well, I don’t know how they’re gonna make it in LA’ so was the band ahead of its time being too heavy for Cally as it were?

Robert: I guess I should have read this question first as I almost answered it in the last question’s answer LOL. I think since we were raised on mostly Euro rock with some exceptions like Cactus, Sir Lord Baltimore, Dust etc. that we did not necessarily fit into the hair band or speed metal which was starting as we were reaching our peak…..

I sorta lost track with the band as the albums became difficult to get hold’ve back then so what caused the band to split?

Robert: It is a long story but with original members leaving, losing artistic control of our last album and not getting paid for over 20 years really took its toll. I think if we would have got some kind of tour support we may have had a chance.


Were there attempts to get a reunion or reformation of the band – either in one form or another over the years?

Robert: There has been many attempts to get the band back together over the years. I just read a heartfelt one from a good friend at a major festival in Europe to headline, however as much as it breaks my heart I dont think it will ever happen. Unlike other bands that fragmented and joined other groups, we were together for so long it was pretty traumatic breaking up. I never considered playing in another band after the break up and most members did not go on to join other bands (Greg is in Falcon). With Jerry dead, Tim not interested in singing, and me swearing an oath never to touch another drumstick, I can’t really see it happening as much as I would like it. I know it may upset some but I would like our fans to remember us as we were getting onstage than as old men trying to recapture something we may have lost 30 years ago does not seem that great an idea.

I ask simply cos there’s so many old bands getting back either semi permanently or just for one off special shows so is that something you guys would be up for if the offer was there?

Robert: I have no drums, we have place to practice or have not played together for 20 years, several of us live in different states, one of us is no longer alive. I can’t speak for any other members but I am one of the 99% I could not afford the time of from work. I have never been to Europe on vacation let alone to play. There is a downside for being poor…..


What’s the purpose of the “Servants Of Chaos” release which Metal Blade tell me will be a combi CD / DVD package? I’m sure there have been releases like this in the past but has he whole band consented to it (i.e. Tim)?

Robert: The whole reason for “Servants of Chaos” in the first place was to rescue and preserve some of the stuff that was slowly disintegrating. I think Tim was not fully on board at first because he was worried the project would not be up to our standards, and yes some of the stuff is very primitive, however letting it go forever was have been unthinkable for me. I am not sure why the re-release now but Armin Steiner at Metal Blade in Germany had been asking me for video for several years, I finally dug out something that was usable and found an audio cassette from the house mix off the board. Probably without his coaxing I would never have looked that hard! Brian also wanted to re-release “Servants of Chaos” but wanted something extra to make it special. I hope everyone likes the video and wish we could have had the money and resources to do something really professional.

If you could imagine yourself to be one of the fantasy characters traveling back in time what would be the one thing you would change about Cirith Ungol’s history – or would you leave it be preferring the band to be consigned to the mists of HM history?

Robert: You may find this surprising but personally (I can’t speak for the other members but they may have wished for a different drummer!) I would have never started to play drums. Even though my life was and has been absorbed with music for so long, I still dream about drums almost once a week. I wish I had gone to college and been able to have a decent job, not having to work 12 hours a day just to scrape by… My dream is that someday one of our songs is used in a movie or commercial like Iggy (I heard “Search and Destroy” the other night I swear on broadcast TV), but by then we will be to old to enjoy any money.

Wasted Sinners – “Unleashed And Dangerous”

Wasted Sinners
“Unleashed And Dangerous” MCD
(www.wastedsinners.com)

LOL – with names like Dude Rock and Pete Sin, be prepared for some serious kick ass rock n roll – although tempered by remaining members Gary Dainty and Roxx Hydi! And that’s pretty much the essence of London’s WS, GnR fire mixed in with the cool groove of Buckcherry on songs like ‘Fakeness’, ‘Drugs And Angels’, and ‘I Want More’. It’s not too threatening but not exactly wimpy either so I can see a wide appeal for these guys, especially if they have a good live act to match, cos their musicianship is certainly up there and they’ve got bunches of energy!

Dragonland – “Under The Grey Banner”

Dragonland
“Under The Grey Banner”
(AFM Records)

Wow, I’m feeling anything but grey after listening to this stupendous album! Closing off the year in style comes this fine, fine symphonic metal band from Sweden who also seem inspired by the neo classic sounds of Hans Zimmer and Lord Of The Rings – wow, I mean WOW! Needless to say songs like ‘Dunir’s Forge’ and the awesome ‘Fire And Brimstone” reflect both the passion and classic nature of these themes with a musicianship that’s second to none. Elsewhere, like on ‘Throne Of Bones’, the band almost opt for a Falconer style folk spoken word, while the delicate ‘Ivory Shores’ could’ve only been conceived by the Elves themselves. Much more than just a musical release, this astonishing 5th release by Dragonland could almost be a concept album – hardly a surprise when you consider that their first 2 self produced albums were based on The Dragonland Chronicles – and is certainly worthy in stature to anything conceived by Howard Shore for LOTR.

Sworn Amongst – “Evolution”

Sworn Amongst
“Evolution” EP
(Rising Records)

Metalli neo thrashers may not be the most suave metallers out there, but these Yorkies know their stuff in keeping to the basics of solid, crunching riffs, chugging rhythm and gruff vocals. This EP is mixture of new tracks like ‘The Rules Of Engagement”, which incidentally features Annihilator’s riff meister general Jeff Waters, as well as older material like ‘Severance’ and a re recorded version of ‘Darkness’. “Evolution” is also a limited edition release, with the first one-hundred orders receiving signed copies with a free exclusive poster. All in all a nice little appetizer from the steadily growing English band.

Crom – “Of Love And Death”

Crom
“Of Love And Death”
(Pure Legend Records)

Crom was formed in the late 90s as the initial side project of Dark Fortress guitarist Walter “Crom” Grosse as a tribute to Bathory. However, it has since become his full time one man project and quite amazing it is too, not due to any brutality or evil or playing – but the overwhelming passion and emotion inherent in the powerful melodies and ambiences making up the 9 songs herein. Essentially playing epic melodic rock metal, Crom’s music is also tragic, dwelling on the all too familiar theme of the fallen hero, made all the more sad by the fact that he wearily fights on even in his doom, if only for honor. As such, songs like ‘My Song For All The Broken Hearts’, ‘Reason to Live’ and ‘My Destiny’ are highly emotionally charged but also beautiful from Grosse’s soulful vocals to the choral harmonies to delicate guitarwork, all of which have a strong Nordic style. Joining Grosse, who guitars, bass and backing vocals, are Seraph (Dark Fortress, Noneuclid, Revamp) on drums and V. Santura (Dark Fortress, Triptycon, Celtic Frost) on additional guitars and backing vocals. Despite being 3 years in the making, “Of Love And Death” is nothing short of superb in pretty much every aspect from its songwriting to production to playing. But more importantly, it is also unique, showing that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, and also reflective of one man’s passion and dedication. Crom, I salute thee!

Skeletal Damage – “Fire And Forget”

Skeletal Damage
“Fire And Forget”
(Rising Records)

Named after the various personal injuries suffered by the band members (not to mention those brave enough to enter their mosh pits!), as well as their no nonsense style of metal, England’s Skeletal Damage are sort’ve a new version of the old school being guys who grew up to the sounds of Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera. Raw heavy riffing, Hatefield gruff vox and precision double bass drumming typify songs like ‘Kissing Knives’, ‘Where Angels Fear To Tread’ and ‘The Dogs Of War’. However, it’s not an all out thrashblast assault, as Skeletal Damage have indeed learned from the great ones in carefully tempering their furor with slower but the non the less heavy passages. All in all this debut pretty much sez what it does on the tin – although they should supply a pair of earplugs to go with it!

RevCo – “Got Mixxx?”

RevCo
“Got Mixxx?”
(AFM Records)

Gotta hand it to Al(ien) Jourgensen, after all these years, he’s still milking it from the Revolting Cocks aka RevCo. If anyone though that he was getting soft in the head, then it sure didn’t affect his loin with his release of “Got Cock” in 2010. Still as crass, lewd and just plain bad taste to some, RevCo’s blend of industrial / noise / metal (depending on who’s in the band at the time of recording) is cult to others, who undoubtedly form the drooling disciples of Jourgensen who lap up this shit. As if goading us even further, he now releases “Got Mixxx?” but you should be so lucky if its newbies yer after – this is a cock in hand re-mixxx by Blownload frontman Erie Loch that probably has more in common with your local dance club than metal – that is, until they see titles like ‘Trojan Horse’ (deffo not about Brad Pitt!), ‘Piss Army’ and the immortal ‘Me So Horny’ LOL. Some things will always be the same.

FALLSTAF

In a world filled with all kinds of metal you need to raise your profile in order to get noticed Canadian Fallstaf have added a brass instrument to their metal. Interview answered by Ben Forte – bassist of Fallstaf. Anders Ekdahl ©2011 Continue reading