Cirith Ungol – “I’m Alive”

Cirith Ungol – “I’m Alive” 2 CD/ 2 DVD / Deluxe Boxset (Metal Blade Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Indeed – if there ever was a band who deserved to shout it loud, then Ventura County’s Cirith Ungol definitely stand in the front row! Formed in the early 70s mixing that era’s hard and prog rock with the fantasy literature of Tolkien and Michael Moorcock, Cirith Ungol (a name which itself had many baffled on just how to pronounce it) formed to play ‘..the heaviest metal known to man..’ according to drummer Robert Garven – and that was before heavy metal, let alone epic metal, was even invented! Often described as ‘unorthodox’ or ‘odd’ not just for their music but the individual playing styles of the members, you either got it or you didn’t, let alone liked it with Cirith Ungol – simple as that. But, unfortunately for too many at the time, the band proved to be a tad too challenging, so despite releasing 4 studio albums, Cirith Ungol was laid to rest in 1992 as the frustration finally took its toll. However, even while the tomb was being sealed, little did the members know of the sprouting shoots of the true metal movement taking place in Europe – ironic considering the band had never even reached that far in their live shows! Made up of a new generation of fans, some not even born during the time of the band but weaned on the music of their older brothers, uncles and fathers, who themselves had never forgotten about the kings of the dead or abandoned the dream of seeing them live again, the resurrection of Cirith Ungol began. Recruiting Night Demon bassist Jarvis Leatherby, a seasoned musician and lifelong fan to join on bass, a full year would pass as rusty swords were renewed to shine in becoming a full-fledged band again, but this time not for fame or the stars but appreciation of their fans undying love and the music itself. Headlining 2016’s Frost and Fire II Festival at the Majestic Ventura Theater to a packed house, the show was vindication in itself given the band’s final show in 1991 actually took place there to an almost empty room! Honoured days later by the City Of Ventura itself, who have since created Cirith Ungol Day, the band have held fast over the ensuing years to bring their music to the world, playing Psycho Vegas (Las Vegas), Keep It True (Germany), Frost & Fire London (UK), Legions Of Metal Festival (Chicago), Northwest Terror Fest (Seattle), and the prestigious Bang Your Head Festival (Germany) among many others. Now comes the culmination of their rebirth in a monumental package worthy of the band’s epic greatness aptly titled “I’m Alive” – an expansive double live album and multi-DVD release that spares nothing, including a special in-depth documentary spanning 2 hours in length featuring exclusive interviews about the history and legacy of the band, as told by the current and original members. Musically featuring 22 tracks recorded over 3 shows from Up The Hammers Festival (Greece) to Hammer Of Doom (2017) and Rock Hard Festivals (2018) in Germany, the band is not only on top form in delivering note perfect performances throughout, but ceaseless in its energy, making this live release truly special in returning to their epic glory classics like ‘Black Machine’, ‘Edge Of A Knife’ and ‘Fallen Idols’ – which can now be appreciated by new connoisseurs for how special and cutting edge they were decades ago. An utter pleasure to hear once more, I’m truly proud for the band, its lifelong fans and Metal Blade Records with what must be this year’s perfect live release, even adorned once again by original artist Michael Whelan, but moreover, knowing there is some justice out there in this world after all….
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