Cirith Ungol – “King of the Dead (Ultimate Edition)” CD / DVD (Metal Blade Records)
Now here’s a name. Forming in California during the early 70s of molten rock that became proto metal and ultimately heavy metal, Cirith Ungol took in the whole sword n sorcery pandemic that was sweeping the nation to deliver their debut – and now cult classic – “Frost and Fire” in 1981 making them one of the few US bands that could match the onslaught of Britain’s NWOBHM. And so the legend began….continuing through this sophomore (and arguably the band’s best release) onto a 3rd and finally ill fated 4th album in 1991, ultimately spelling doom to the quest owing to irreconcilable differences with the band’s label and general disillusion with the music business. Well the band may have thought it the end – but the fans knew differently! With a string of re-issues and compilations over the years, 2 successful reunions at the Frost and Fire music festival in Ventura, California, along with massively awaited first European show at the Keep It True in Germany this year have only served to reignite once again, the interest in this mystical metal band who originally and always have played the ‘true’ metal that is ironically very much in demand these days! This ‘Ultimate Edition’ release is a full re-mastering of the original sophomore, along with ‘Last Laugh’ (live 1984 – bonus Track on original CD), an alternative version of ‘Death of the Sun’ (taken from Metal Massacre I) and 3 live tracks from 2016’s Frost & Fire Fest II festival in ‘Master of the Pit’, ‘King of the Dead’ and ‘Cirith Ungol’, which I would say are coincidentally the 3 best tracks on the album, representing the band at their best. From Tim Baker’s shrilling voice to the late Jerry Fogle’s raw yet virtuosic guitar, Flint’s rumbling bass runs and Robert Garven’s pounding pagan drum work, the complex yet epic sound still holds captivation for me, when heavy metal was about presence and effect given life through lengthy songs, multiple solos, and stirring choruses that were in effect mini concertos felt from the smallest club to big halls. Cirith Ungol were the band who achieved this during and even before their time, and whose inspiration were felt by an entire generation, if cruelly denied to the band themselves. Completed by the bonus live DVD providing footage of an 8 track vintage 1983 show at the famed Roxy in West Hollywood, Cirith Ungol seem to have last received some true justice in being a name that now lives thankfully beyond legend.