Vengeful Ascension –Vinyl // Digital Download // CD
Metal Blade Records – Released – June 23 2017
Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt
Line Up: Ben Falgoust/ Vocals Sammy Duet / Guitars and Vocals Zack Simmons / Drums James Harvey / Studio Bass Robert “TA” Coleman / Live Bass
December 20, 1996
GoatWhore: Just saying the name puts a smile on my face. Say it with me now: GoatWhore. Did you smile? If you didn’t I’m willing to guess you didn’t say it out loud. Maybe you’re on a bus or waiting for the doctor and afraid to be judged? Toughen up a little. PC culture would love to take our GoatWhore away. Are you going to sit back, stay silent and let them take our GoatWhore? Let me hear you! GOATWHORE!
Fuck that feels better! I sure got some dirty looks stopping through white bread America wearing my GoatWhore shirt on my way home from seeing them live at Full Terror Assault. (Check this shit out, best kept secret in American metal). Seeing GoatWhore live has been a treat each time. The energy is electric and these guys know this full well. In fact, according to their Facebook page when they recorded Vengeful Ascension, GoatWhore aspired to match the live experience as much as possible. Let me say, they 100% have the right idea. On one hand, it’s unfortunate that you simply can’t package up the energy of a GoatWhore concert so they’ll never reach this goal. On the other hand it’s fortunate you can’t simulate a GoatWhore concert because you’ll never be able to download it and that means you have to get off your ass and go see them. Each time I have, Ben Falgoust says roughly the same thing (paraphrased): “Get the album. Buy it from the merch booth, off Bandcamp or steal it off the internet BUT come out to a concert and support the band.” So just what are we stealing off the internet?
First the cover of Vengeful Ascension depicts what I believe to be their rendition of Lucifer, having fought his way back from the depths of hell and risen to the earth, clutching the sun and marking it with some sort of magic symbol. He appears to be sucking the energy out of it and into himself no doubt to power himself for impending battle. This imagery seems to hold true to the theme of the album. Straight from their Facebook page, the following is what they intended the album to be all about. I feel compelled to directly quote Falgoust, his words eloquent and clear:
“There’s that whole idea of Lucifer being the anti-hero. He’s cast out from this place in Heaven to the depths of nothing. He keeps trying to ascend to the top again but no matter what, there’s always this significant force trying to destroy him at any point and banish him back to Hell. If you look at it from an everyday aspect in life, it’s the idea of people, hitting the bottom of the barrel or you know, things just aren’t going right in life… emotion plays a huge part in how people react. Whether it’s based on love or hatred or sadness or whatever, there’s always an aspect of emotion that drives people to an extent. So the whole idea of a ‘Vengeful Ascension’ is built on being at the bottom, working your way to the top, and realizing along the way that there’s other facets to the journey aside from just pure retribution. Within negativity there can exist a positive angle as well.”
I would have needed to write a 10,000 word essay to convey this concept. And for this idea alone I would buy this album and use it as a theme to my rise.
Musically speaking, Vengeful Ascension is very similar to what GoatWhore has been offering up for the past 17 years. They somehow manage to blend elements of several different sub-genres together in order to create their own unique sound. Wikipedia lists GoatWhore as “Blackened Death Metal”, whatever that means. GoatWhore’s Facebook page list them simply as “Metal”, which I feel is more accurate. Album to album, track to track we get emphasis on different sub-genres. Vengeful Ascension leans toward black more so than any.
Track 2, “Under the Flesh, Into the Soul” has elements of speed metal yet mysteriously sounds like something that might have come out of Dimmu Borgir’s playbook. This is one of my favorite tracks on this album and these jerks have not deviated from the practice of giving the most complicated titles to the earworms. Try yelling out “Under the Flesh, Into the Soul” between songs next time you see them live. As if to prove my point, “Mankind Will Have No Mercy” shows up later on the album again with that speed metal feel that I can’t get enough of. This one probably has the least blackness on the album.
They follow this up with the title track, “Vengeful Ascension”. Again, this track is heavy in the black metal but thankfully not without a slightly off-key melody. Later tracks, “Abandon Indoctrination” and “Those Who Denied God’s Will”, are structured very similarly. It allows the track to keep that black metal feel without being boring.
Where the “Sun is Silent” is a slower paced track, thankfully the only one of its kind on Vengeful Ascension. I’ll admit my bias right now; I want to spend my live GoatWhore experience in the pit. I’m getting a bit old so one or two slow ones is a welcome breather. I really don’t have time for any more than that.
In summation, Vengeful Ascension is another great GoatWhore album. The band wants you to hear it and it sounds to me like they don’t really care how. The one caveat is that you go out to the shows. I think that’s a pretty fair deal. For those who just aren’t in the right geographical area or for those who aren’t in a financial position: Go back and review the Falgoust quote above and use it as motivation to bring yourself into a better position where you can afford to get out to a show or maybe plan that trip to the festival you’ve always been dreaming of… where you’re sure to see GoatWhore… and maybe pick up a shirt too.
Tombs are back. Founded in Brooklyn in 2007. Through 3 full lengths, and a plethora of lineup changes, mastermind Mike Hill stood firm, stood tall, and stood fast. Tombs consists of the aforementioned Hill-guitar/vocals, Evan Void-guitar, Ben Brand-bass, Charlie Schmid-drums, and rounded out by Fade Kainer-synths. Tombs are desolate, they are devoid, and live to destroy. Tombs are dark and dank. Tombs are toxic chemicals bubbling in a devoid nuclear wasteland. Picture a dark industrial warehouse, if you will…black metal is the floor. It is what Tombs and Hill stand on. Black metal is the core, the base. The walls consist of death metal, hardcore, sludge, and post punk. The ceiling being the bleak atmosphere and soul crushing noise and ambiance.
‘Black Sun Horizon’ begins the record in full on black metal mode. Blasting darkness into your brain. Tremolo riffing with luscious melodies of evil. Tearing and ripping at your heart, Hill and Tombs flow seamlessly between black and death alongside vocals of extreme and hateful passion.
‘Cold’ is a slower paced sludge dirge with a swing that ebbs and flows. ‘Old Wounds’ pummels you with emotional extremity. An empty feeling of nothingness as we get the first introduction of post punk on ‘The Grand Annihilation.’ With great effect I might add.
‘November Wolves’ is my favorite track off of the record. It begins with a sick ass core stomp, that leads directly into a death metal march. Riffs chugging like a freight train. Groove as thick as thieves. This jam is reminiscent of ‘Age of Nero’ era Satyricon. Killer song.
‘Underneath’ brings in the post punk vocals that bring to mind Bauhaus, or Joy Division with crusty post black metal destruction underneath. You would think this, an odd combination, but it really works.
‘Way of the Storm,’ ‘Shadows at the End of the World,’ and ‘Walk with Me in Nightmares,’ carry on the twisting, turning, genre bending filth. Switching seamlessly and pulling from no less than five subgenres. Few bands can pull this off. Especially without being choppy or pretentious.
‘Saturnalia,’ and the epic closer ‘Temple of Mars’ wrap this stellar album up with Hill and Tombs pressing their boots firmly down on your throat. Its kill or be killed…and these guys ain’t dying.
In closing, on their Metal Blade debut, Tombs exerts more flavor and texture. All different kinds, and they are all disgusting and wretched. Hill’s screams of disillusionment. Guitars sharp as razor wire and drums that crush faces. Tombs are intense with absolutely no let up. Hill has written his best record yet in ‘The Grand Annihilation.’ Same ole Tombs, just more varied, and with a laser focus. If you feel like implementing some headbanging in your life, this is the perfect band and the perfect record to do so.
For fans of heavy rock and doom, there are two words in the lexicon of all their language that has a shared, universal significance. No matter what country you are from, what your native tongue may be, those two words have such massive historical density to them that they instantly evoke reverence upong hearing them: CIRITH UNGOL. Anyone that has been around as long as I have (for the record, I am 47 years old) and has been entrenched within the underground music scene understands the legacy of this longrunning band. Taking on the name of Cirith Ungol in 1972, the four musicians that comprised the band a decade plus later, vocalist Tim Baker, guitarist Jerry Fogle (R.I.P.), drummer Robert Garven and bassist Michael Vujea, made music history in 1984. That was the year that the quartet released their game-changing sophomore album, King Of The Dead, on Enigma Records and simply put, music would never be the same again.
This landmark album went on to inspire and influence untold numbers of musicians, bands and more over the next three-plus decades. It would eventually ascend from the underground and become an iconic, audible bastion in the annals of music history. Cirith Ungol the band would share in this glorious acquisition of reverence and respect as well. They too obtained a state of high honor among those that were enlightened to what greatness this band wielded and so it came as no surprise when Metal Blade Records revealed their plans to pay homage to the band and their King Of The Dead album. Releasing the bonus-laden ‘King Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition‘ mere weeks ago to coincide with the band’s playing their first ever European show at this year’s Keep It True Festival, Metal Blade sparked something in us all. I’d already had an interview with Cirith Ungol in the works but I recognized the opportunity to capitalize on circumstances and thus we at Taste Nation LLC began brainstorming. What we came up with is, what you are in the middle of enjoying right now, the fruits of our labors to properly pay the mighty Cirith Ungol their due.
You’ve seen Matthew Thomas‘ unboxing video and pictorial, you have read Ric ‘Suisyko‘ Dorr‘s review (both here) of Metal Blade Records ‘King Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition‘ and now we present you the coup de grace of today’s event. Without further ado nor hype, no more anxiety from anticipation and want, I and my fellow TNLLC teammates present to you the following: The Taste Nation LLC Interview With CIRITH UNGOL (vocalist Tim Baker, guitarist Greg Lindstrom, guitarist Jim Barraza & drummer Robert Garven)!!!
Pat Riot:The origins of Cirith Ungol date back to at least 1972..what was the inspiration for starting the band? How did it first form at that time and is it true you all began playing as solely instrumental? Fans always debate the correct pronunciation of the band’s name..care to give us the official one?
Tim: As the real historians of the band I will let Rob and Greg answer the first couple of questions. They remember a lot of that stuff better than I can!
Greg: Rob and I met in 7th grade and instantly became friends. He and Jerry Fogle and Pat Galligan (who later joined punk band The Angry Samoans) decided to start a band to play Beatles songs, and I think the only reason they got me involved was that I had an amp. We called ourselves Titanic. Three guitars plugged into one 15 watt amp and Rob with just a snare drum and hi-hat trying to play Beatles and CCR songs. Anyway, Rob and Jerry and I wanted to play heavier stuff like Cream and Mountain, so we quit Titanic, and the three of us formed Cirith Ungol in 1972. Almost immediately we started doing some originals (“Radiation Blues”, “Flesh Dart”) along with our versions of songs by Sabbath, Budgie, Ursa Major, etc. Around 1975, Neil Beattie (aka Terry Dactyl) became our lead singer. He was a little more glam inspired than the rest of us, but he put on a really wild live show, with black widow spider fingertip extensions to go along with our six-foot wide black widow spider for “Shelob’s Lair”. Even though he was a great performer, his voice didn’t quite fit our style, and we parted ways after about a year. We spent the next couple of years writing a lot of songs and playing all the LA clubs as an instrumental power trio, playing along side bands like Quiet Riot, Y & T, and Van Halen, going over amazingly well. We tried out a number of singers, but nobody clicked until 1979, when Tim Baker, our head roadie at the time, tried singing lead on “Hype Performance”. That version is the first song on “Servants Of Chaos”.
Jimmy: In 1972 I was 6 years old living on a farm in Lincoln, Illinois. I thank these guys for starting the band while I was so young, ha-ha. To be part of this reunion at 50 years old is amazing. It is rare, but I have only met a handful of people that I’ve heard pronounce the name correctly and have read the Lord Of The Rings books many times over. I still have not read the books. Maybe one day.
Rob: I was inspired by Greg, because he would always turn me on to new music. I remember him showing me a copy of Mountain’s Climbing, and saying something like, “You have got to hear this!” We incessantly combed the LA area record stores mainly searching for new imported music. There we discovered Thin Lizzy, Scorpions, Lucifer’s Friend, Night Sun and many other heavy bands years before they were even on the radar in the US! There were very few that heard as much early hard rock and metal as us back then. I remember picking up Deep Purple “In Rock” at the local Sears the day they put it on the shelf!
Pat Riot:What took the band almost a decade to get the debut album, ‘Frost And Fire’, recorded and released in 1980?
Greg: Remember, we were only 14 years old when we started, so it took a few years and a lot of jamming to get proficient on our instruments – in my case I’m still working on it! But we wrote songs almost from the beginning, and in 1978 we actually self-released a home-recorded cassette album with a completely different set of songs than F&F. None of the songs on F&F were more than a year old when we recorded it. Some of the songs on KOTD like “Atom Smasher”, “Death Of The Sun”, and “Cirith Ungol” actually pre-date the F&F songs.
Jimmy: In 1980 I was 14 years old. I had taken guitar lessons at a local music store for about a year then. I didn’t hear Frost And Fire until 1987.
Rob: Like Greg mentioned we started pretty young. After the cassette demo we did, commonly known as the “Orange Demo” due to its orange cover, we were ready for something bigger. Since we never received a response from the numerous demo tapes and letters we sent out, we wanted to create a complete album of epic proportions, to show the record companies that we knew what we were doing.
Pat Riot:Speaking of ‘Frost And Fire’, how do you process the fact it is such a hugely monumental, revered album now in 2017? So much there’s even a festival bearing its name, which you all played in 2016. How was that experience?
Tim: For something that was never really suppose to be released as an album, it turns out to have been a great starting point! As far as playing at Frost And Fire II it was a remarkable experience! To actually get on the same stage where we had played our final concert, those long years ago was incredible. Of course the best part was seeing and getting to meet so many people from around the world that came to the Festival – a truly awesome and inspiring thing.
Greg: I think because of Tim’s voice, our quirky playing style, and our inexperience in a real studio, F&F doesn’t really sound like anything else, not even any other CU album. I can hear a bit of Rush and Y&T in there, but for better or worse, it’s pretty unique.
Jimmy: I have to mention that the song “Frost And Fire” is one of my favorites to play live. The experience playing live for the first time in 25 years was so amazing. Although there was a little bit of stressful moments just prior to going on stage due to technical issues (faulty tuner) that could have been unnerving had it not been detected. But, it was promptly remedied. We were 100% ready and played with really minimal issues. It was a success and we also learned a few things in the process.
Rob: We had a great time recording it, and I knew the material was good, and pleased with the result. I love Tim’s voice on that album, it reminds me of a razor blade, thrashing its way through the songs. We had a private tour of the DW drum factory before they built me the greatest sounding custom oak drum set in the world, and I asked the gentleman giving the tour if he had ever heard of our band. I was shocked when he said, “Of course, who didn’t have “Frost & Fire” growing up! As for the Frost & Fire Festival II, it was an awesome experience, playing in our hometown in front of a packed audience from around the world! The next day during the meet and greet there were people who came from as far away as China & Russia just to see the band!
Pat Riot: I understand Cirith Ungol are playing more festivals this year such as Days Of Darkness and Psycho Las Vegas..What is your take-away from seeing the band hold such a spot of reverence with music fans now? Would or will the band undertake any full-on touring plans in the future?
Tim: It’s all about the music – I think the stuff we did holds up well, and with the resurgence of what is now called “classic metal” the timing couldn’t be better! And no – we are not really planning a full on tour, just a bunch of the metal festivals – at least the ones that will have us, hahaha!
Greg: We didn’t have the opportunity to play outside of southern California back in the day, so a lot of folks have been waiting 30+ years to see us live.
Jimmy:I’m very excited for the band and to be part of this journey. The fans are the best, and I am blown away at the ranking position at these festivals. We just gotta stay healthy and motivated.
Rob: We did play a special show in Mexico City after “Frost & Fire” was released and did a radio interview with a pirate radio station that was literally on top of the presidential palace! We are all very excited to be playing so many heavy festivals* this year, some which are still unannounced. You forgot to mention, “Keep it True Festival“, “Up the Hammers“, “Defenders Of The Old“, “Chaos Descends“, & “Hammer Of Doom“, where we are headlining! It is going to be epic an “A Churning Maelstrom Of Metal Chaos Descending!”
*See the Flyers and Promotional Posters for them at the end of this Interview
Pat Riot:Back in the 80s when Cirith Ungol was playing the L.A. circuit, a scene dominated by many lighter fare ‘glam’ type bands, how was CU received at that time?
Tim: We had a fan base back in the day, but really the LA scene for the most part had no idea what to make of us – especially that “singer” lol. We played all the clubs down there and met a lot of great people and bands that are still going strong today!! It was a strange time!
Greg: CU didn’t really fit in with the hair metal scene. As you can imagine, there were people who dug it, and people who didn’t. After I left the band, I saw CU play at the Beverly Theatre with Ratt and Lita Ford. CU commanded the stage, and there were a couple of hundred fans (maybe 25% of the crowd) totally into it, but the other people had come to see Ratt or Lita and weren’t into it.
Jimmy: I had only played a handful of local shows from ’87 – ’89 (LA, Ventura, Santa Barbara). It did seem that the crowds were a bit thin and only the die hards came out and stood in the front to pound their fists and head bang. I remember a mosh pit of punk rockers formed at one home town gig. That was entertaining.
Rob: We did have a loyal fan base in Ventura. Most of our big shows seemed to be on a night when it was raining. We got several hundred people to drive to LA to see us play. We did get some really great reviews from the big LA newspapers such as the Herald Examiner. One writer Marc Shapiro wrote a bunch of great articles on the band after seeing us play with Ratt! He famously wrote about the band, “If hell has a soundtrack then this is it!”
Fan-filmed ‘King Of The Dead‘ preformance from “back in the day”…
Pat Riot: Cirith Ungol released only four official albums in the span of a decade (’81-’91) but the band holds such an iconic place in fans hearts.. why do you believe that is? I have read many things over the years that seemed to indicate a reunion would be unlikely, ever, so what drove the band’s return?
Tim: It’s all about the music I think. Those records hold up pretty well and I think they are good metal albums, and I guess there are a few people out there that feel the same way, hahaha! And yes, for a very long time a reunion was something that was never going to happen, for a lot of well documented reasons. I won’t go into that since that story is pretty well known. The main reasons it did happen is largely due to the efforts of Jarvis, his tales of seeing Ungol stuff all over the world while on tour with Night Demon. The creation of the Frost And Fire Festival, which was the first time in decades the surviving members of the band had all been together, even if it was just for a meet and greet. His support and perseverance to put us back together was something to behold hahaha!! I must also thank Oliver [Weinsheimer] from the great Keep It True Festival. He had been asking us for years just to come over and enjoy his festival, and for years we politely said no. But Rob and I finally went over last year, and to see all the people with Ungol patches, albums to sign, and even people with Cirith Ungol tattoos!! It was a mind-blowing experience and it certainly helped me change my mind about playing again. To see things on the internet and know that there is still a bit of interest in the band is one thing, but to see it in person was amazing!!
Greg: I think Rob needed something to do in his sunset years! And I figured we had better get together and play before: 1) people stop asking, and 2) we get too old to rock and roll!
Jimmy: For years I had hoped for a reunion. Once the opportunity came up, I jumped on it. I am so elated to be playing once again. It’s all good.
Rob: I think our listeners are not unlike our band members and are yearning for something more from their music, something that challenges, and engages them. Even though we wanted to be successful, we did not write the songs to appeal to anyone but ourselves, and I think people get that. I also think they have all succumbed to the “Legions of Chaos! I swore I would never play drums as long as I lived. At the “Frost & Fire I” festival Oliver Weinsheimer came from the “Keep It True Festival” and Jarvis got all the guys together for a meet and greet. They pretty much made us an offer we could not refuse. It was these two guys that will go down in history as the ones that unleashed the Fury of Ungol upon the world!
Pat Riot: How does having Night Demon’s Jarvis Leatherby in the band help things? It looks like his presence would kind of ‘bridge the gap’ between older fans and the current scene’s younger ones or am I off-base with such an idea?
Tim: I hadn’t looked at that way before but I suppose you might be on to something there! His main help was of course getting us back together, with management stuff, and besides being the hardest working man in Metal he is a great musician and a good friend, Night Demon and Cirith Ungol are like a family. Jarvis, Dustin [Squires], and Armand [Anthony] are really great guys and we are proud to know them!
Greg: That’s a good point. I’m sure that Jarvis will bring along some Night Demon fans for the ride!
Jimmy: Filling the slot of bassist was first offered to Flint, but he had other commitments and declined. It was only fitting that Jarvis being a fan of the band, a seasoned musician and has the drive to make Cirith Ungol great again and to take the roll of manager and bassist. It is my pleasure to play alongside Jarvis. His Energy and commitment has proven invaluable and vital to our success.
Rob: When you look up Jarvis Leatherby in the dictionary, it says “All Metal, All The Time”! Actually after traveling to Germany the average age of our new fan base is under 30. I think these new listeners are discovering unique bands such as “Cirith Ungol” for the first time. BTW Jarvis’ band Night Demon I think is going to be a very big act. Their show is outstanding and their new album is killer! I am not just saying this because we are friends; I am saying it because they rock! (Indeed they do! I’ve seen them, have all their released material and I fully agree, Rob. – Pat)
Pat Riot: You all surely get this all the time but will/would/is Cirith Ungol entertaining the idea of recording new music or a new album?
Tim: Yes. We would hope to do a new record sometime in the future and are actively writing new stuff as we speak-along with getting ready to hit the festival scene!
Greg: We are working on new songs and unearthing a few unheard old tunes with that in mind.
Jimmy: Yes, Absolutely.
Rob: Tim has written some great lyrics and we have a few songs in progress. My goal is for the next album to be like “King Of The Dead”, something we will be proud of! Just for the record Metal Blade Records is re-releasing a deluxe edition “King Of The Dead” in vinyl and CD with full color booklets, colored vinyl, and a DVD of a rare show we played at the Roxy, in Hollywood that no one has ever seen before! It also has several live tracks from our appearance at “Frost & Fire II”. They did such a great job on “Paradise Lost”, and we are all looking forward to this re-release. Everyone that is a fan of the band should get this one, as it is our best album to date and they are finally doing it justice!
Pat Riot:David Paul Seymour is one of my absolute favorite artists..are you all excited about ‘The Planet Of DOOM’ cinematic project and the inclusion of Cirith Ungol music in it? Speaking of artists, any specific reason that the works of Michael Whelan have exclusively been used on CU album’s artwork?
Tim: His paintings are the absolute best album covers ever done by anyone-period. We are so honored to have him on our side, he is such a great artist and also such a very nice guy!! Just recently went to a gallery opening of his here in California. It was so special to reconnect with him after many years. And he had the original painting of Stormbringer at the show, the Frost And Fire album cover…to actually see it up close and in person was something I will never forget, just awe inspiring. And the Planet Of Doom project looks like it will be so badass, I cannot wait to see the final results!!
Greg: Back in the day, we had originally envisioned using a painting called “Death Dealer” by Frank Frazetta, who is famous for many Conan illustrations. One day I walked into a record store and there it was on the cover of a Molly Hatchet album! Anyway, Rob and I were both reading Michael Moorcock’s, Elric series at the time, and the U.S. editions all had Michael Whalen’s paintings on the covers. Rob got in contact with Michael, who is one of the nicest guys we’ve ever met, and he agreed to let us use “Stormbringer”. He liked the music and felt that it was an appropriate match for his artwork, and we were totally thrilled and honored to be able to use his artwork on our albums. For sure it has helped us to sell more albums. I even know some people who don’t care much for our music, but buy the albums just for the cover art!
Rob: We are hoping that any new project will feature another of Michael Whelan’s Elric illustrations! I feel very privileged that we were allowed to use 4 of his masterpieces on our albums; they would not have been the same without him! “Planet Of Doom” is going to be an awesome project and we are very excited about this also!!!
Pat Riot:How did Cirith Ungol’s involvement with Metal Blade come about and is it safe to say the band is pleased with the re-issues they’ve provided? Are there any plans to give the ‘Paradise Lost’ record the same treatment?
Tim:The reissues have been great. And of course by the time you read this the Paradise Lost one will already be out!! The KOTD ultimate edition is set for release to coincide with our first ever European appearance at the Keep It True festival in April and it is going to be killer!!
Greg: MB has done a great job with the reissues so far, and the new KOTD reissue is going to be fantastic.
Jimmy: I’m very pleased with the reissue of Paradise Lost in October 2016. It’s also cool to hear some alternate track mixes on the CD. Bart Gabriel did a great job re-mastering, and Metal Blade also gave their all in regards to the vinyl and packaging.
Rob: Brian and everyone at Metal Blade Records have been instrumental in the band’s career over the years. We met Brian when we were first thinking about “Frost & Fire”. He worked at a record store in the LA area and was and still is a good friend. He was launching his record company at the same time, and he hooked us up with the company that would distribute our first 2 albums, Greenworld Distribution. Metal Blade Records in Germany have spearheaded some amazing projects, such as “Servants Of Chaos”, and the deluxe editions recently, and we are proud to be their friends. We were pretty surprised when Brian was asked to name his favorite releases over the history of his label, and he picked “Metal Massacre 1”, which one of our songs, “Death Of The Sun” was on, and “King Of The Dead” as 2 of his top 11 releases of all time!! WOW!
Pat Riot: After nearly 50 years in the musical realm, what is one of your most cherished memories from it i.e. an experience or event, meeting someone, etc. whatever it may be?
Tim: Well for me it is probably making the records we made, and for sure the recent reunion, something that for decades was never going to happen. To be able to finally go out and play around the world is like a dream come true for us.
Greg: Feeling like a proud father, holding a brand new shrink wrapped copy of Frost & Fire fresh from the pressing plant back in 1981. Your first album is always special!
Jimmy: I’ve had the privilege of spending the day with Grace Slick shooting an MTV Video, visited back stage with Carlos Santana (he bogart’s, ha-ha), and even randomly ran into Ozzy Ozbourne here in town (he was 1/2 brain dead, ha-ha). Or I should say that he ran into me. Literally. It was at a Mexican restaurant, he was eating then heading straight to rehab. And of course it has been awesome to play in a band that is finally getting some well-deserved recognition.
Rob: The proudest moment for me was taking the stage as the headlining act at “Frost & Fire II”! Playing on my beautiful Ferrari red DW oak drum set, surrounded by the most amazing set of Paiste cymbals and gong, and beating the drums. Having all that firepower at my command I felt like a metal god for one small moment in time!
Pat Riot:OK, you guys, I have a tradition of closing interviews with an open floor where you have the last word..care to say, share, state whatever you wish about anything..this is all you so have at it:
Tim: I would like to say a huge thank you to all the people that encouraged and supported Ungol all these years – without you the band would be in the dustbin of history, and we certainly would have never gotten back together!! I look forward to telling you all “thank you” in person.
Greg: Huge thanks to everyone who has supported CU over the years. We really appreciate it!
Jimmy: To all the Fans. Your enthusiasm is much appreciated. Thanks for keeping the torch lit and making us feel like Metal Gods. Cheers!
Rob: I would ask anyone that can make it, to come to one of our rare shows. If you like the band, or our music, I promise you will not be disappointed!!! Everything in my life has culminated in this reunion and I want to share it with everyone!
This is Cirith Ungol..what am I going to say after this that’s going to add anything to what has just unfolded here? Nothing. So with that, I want to thank our guests, the magnificent Cirith Ungol circa 2017: Tim Baker, Greg Lindstrom, Jimmy Barraza, Robert Garven and Jarvis Leatherby who was here in spirit. Metal Is Forever!!!
This re-issue is a welcome gift to the fans they have been accumulating since the first incarnation of California based Cirith Ungol in 1972 and have been growing ever since. If you have never experienced all that IS Cirith Ungol, let me give you a quick history lesson. Greg Lindstrom, Robert Garven, Jerry Fogle and Pat Galligan played together in the band Titanic, their first band in junior high school. With a growing desire to play heavier music like that of bands like Mountain and Grand Funk Railroad, the band parted with Galligan and reformed in 1972 as Cirith Ungol. They played original, instrumental songs before adding Neal Beattie on vocals. By 1976, Beattie had departed and Tim Baker took over vocal duties in 1976. The band was signed to Enigma Records in 1980 where they issued their first album “Frost & Fire”, composed of songs in the style they had become known for and complete with fantasy-based lyrics (particularly sword and sorcery). The band pioneered a style of music that has become known by tags as “early epic doom” and “power metal” today. Their second album, “King Of The Dead”, was released in 1984 with eight songs, followed by “One Foot In Hell” (1986) with another eight songs in much the same vein. They disbanded after their fourth album “Paradise Lost” was released in 1991 due to “…frustration with the music business” by their own admittance.
Per the band’s Facebook page, the band took their name from the mountain pass Cirith Ungol in J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novel “The Lord Of The Rings”, as the name translates from the Elves’ native tongue as “Pass Of The Spider.” While the place in Tolkien’s book is pronounced “kirith ungol,” the band pronounced it “sirith ungol.” Surviving members of the band came together for the 2015 Frost And Fire music festival in Ventura, California, in their first public appearance as a band since 1991. There they participated in a meet-and-greet, signing items for fans and announcing that they would re-unite for the 2016 Frost And Fire event, playing their first live show since December 13, 1991. Leading us to this amazing package for those of us that have been fans of theirs from some point in the history of this iconic early thrash/doom powerhouse, as well as the new fans that deserve to have their appetite fed with the revitalized original tracks and then feast on the extras!!
With these remastered tracks, there is a new life from each, from ‘Atom Smasher’ to ‘Black Machine’, through ‘Master Of The Pit’ to the fan-favorite ‘King Of The Dead’ title track. The rich tone and ripping guitar edge are enough to literally sink your teeth into as Tim’s signature vox rip through your flesh as ‘Death Of The Sun’ and ‘Finger Of Scorn’ raise your pulse even faster. For the digipak version, there is a second version of ‘Tocatta In D’ that is done as ‘…Dm’ and has a feel of a new version. There are also more audible notes than the original, it clocks in longer and sounds like the perfect update, even if only a remix from the masters. That is followed by the theme song for the band that is as heavy now as back then but with an even cleaner sound, the title track from the first ‘Frost & Fire’. This ‘expanded’ version of the release has a remixed version of that title track from ‘Frost & Fire’ that is just incredible. The digi version has 4 live performances from 1983 and an extra “alternate mix” of ‘Death Of The Sun’ that RIPS like razors. “The King Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition” digipak CD features a full re-mastering by Patrick W. Engel at Temple Of Disharmony, the five bonus tracks, expanded packaging and a bonus-DVD! Get it NOW and take the ride again… or for the first time and share it out to any that do not know…
Taste Nation LLCPresents: Cirith Ungol – King Of The Dead: Resurrection Day, Saturday, June 10th, 2017! Here is what we have in store for you:
Metal Blade Records‘ Cirith UngolKing Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition unboxing video with Matthew Thomas
An in-depth Album Review of the Cirith UngolKing Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition from Ric ‘Suisyko‘ Dorr
An Interview With Cirith Ungol Drummer And Founding Member Robert Garven with Pat ‘Riot‘ Whitaker
Every so often in hard rock history there comes a game changing record release, an album that serves like some sonic barometer. One where an offering is so monumental that it can be used to gauge music before that album’s release and of course, music after its release as well. In 1984, the up and coming Ventura, California based Cirith Ungolreleased such an album with their sophomore opus, ‘King Of The Dead‘. The album, which was issued through Enigma Records, featured the musical talents of vocalist Tim Baker, guitarist Jerry Gogle, drummer Robert Garven and bassist Michael Vujea and, bluntly put, heavy music would never be the same again. Not bad for a band started by some high schoolers under the name Titanic, changed it to Cirith Ungol around 1972 and only played instrumentally at first.
This second studio album from Cirith Ungol followed their equally revered debut, Frost And Fire, but this record contained an undeniable shift in musical direction for the band. Where the debut was based a bit more in Seventies hard rock elements, King Of The Dead embodied a defined turn toward progressive hard rock and doom metal. The band produced the record themselves while Baker and Garven handled all the lyric writing though some folks aren’t aware that at least three songs (‘Atom Smasher‘, ‘Cirith Ungol‘ and ‘Death Of The Sun‘) were originally written in the mid-70s. The iconic artwork that adorns its cover, itself titled ‘King Of The Dead‘, was painted by Michael Whelan and inspired by the literary works of Sci-Fi/Fantasy author Michael Moorcock.
After two more studio albums, 1986’s One Foot In Hell and 1991’s Paradise Lost, Cirith Ungol would disband in 1992 due to their frustration with the music industry. However, the mythos and legacy of Cirith Ungol would build and increase unabated during the subsequent decades. Their influence was felt across numerous genres and sub-genres of metal and hard rock while countless musicians cited Cirith Ungol as a constant inspiration. Then, in 2015, members of the band came together for the 2015 Frost And Fire music festival in Ventura, California. Their first public appearance as a band since 1991, they participated in a meet-and-greet and item signing where they were immensely well-received. Soon after, Cirith Ungol announced that they would reunite for the 2016 Frost And Fire event, playing their first live show since December 13, 1991 which they did in October 2016.
Now we arrive in 2017 where Cirith Ungol have returned to bless the doom loving masses with a variety of ongoing events. Just last month, in late April, the band played their first ever live show on European soil at the Keep It True festival in Lauda-Konigshofen, Germany. To mark the occasion, as well as celebrate both Cirith Ungol and their landmark 1984 studio album milestone, King Of The Dead, Metal Blade Records have graced fans and collectors both with the utmost must-have release of recent years: The Ultimate Edition Of Cirith Ungol’s King Of The Dead!!!
The revival of the band Bloodclot is something I have been extremely excited about since I first learned it was happening awhile back. Not only because the iconic vocalist John Joseph of Cro-Mags fame has reactivated the band but because of who has joined him in this latest incarnation of it. Alongside him in Bloodclot circa 2017 are guitarist Todd Youth (Youth Of Today, Warzone, Murphy’s Law), drummer Joey Castillo (ex-Queens of the Stone Age, Blast!, Sugartooth) and bassist Nick Oliveri (ex-Queens of the Stone Age, Dwarves, Mondo Generator)! The band has announced that their upcoming album, ‘Up In Arms‘, is due to be released on July 14th viaMetal Blade Records. A Lyric Video for the album’s title track is streaming below and Joseph recently commented on the band’s mission statement more or less saying:
“In this band we’re doing what each of us have always done: give it our all,” John Joseph states plainly. “We work hard, and we have a lot to say. Look around the planet – people are fed up with the corrupt ruling class. They destroy the planet and kill millions for profit, and the formula for our response is simple: Anger + applied knowledge = results. Don’t just bitch. Change it.”
To accompany this fantastic news is some other cool news, that Bloodclot will be hitting the road on a touring run with Negative Approach. Here are the scheduled dates so far:
14 – Amityville, NY – Revolution Bar and Music Hall
15 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
16 – Washington DC – DC9
18 – Virginia Beach, VA – Shaka’s
19 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
20 – Belmar, NJ – Paul’s Tavern
21 – Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus
23 – Buffalo, NY – Studio at the Waiting Room
25 – Pittsburgh, PA – Cattivo
26 – Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class
27 – Cincinnati, OH – Northside Yacht Club
28 – Detroit, MI – The Magic Stick
29 – Chicago, IL – Cobra Lounge
30 – St. Louis, MO – Blueberry Hill
1 – Denver, CO – Marquis Theater
3 – San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside
4 – Los Angeles, CA – The Echoplex w/ Nails, Final Conflict
5 – Santa Ana, CA – The Constellation Room w/ Nails, Final Conflict
6 – San Diego, CA – Brick by Brick w/ Nails, Final Conflict
The legendary U.S. proto-doom band Cirith Ungol are preparing to play their first ever show on European soil, the Keep It True festival in Lauda-Konigshofen, Germany the last weekend in April. To coincide with this historic event, Metal Blade Records will release the Ultimate Edition of Cirith Ungol‘s King Of The Dead album, on that same weekend of April 28th.
The King Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition digipak CD features a full re-mastering by Patrick W. Engel at Temple Of Disharmony, five bonus tracks, expanded packaging and a bonus DVD. The LP will be released as part of the Metal Blade Originals series; featuring 400 g spine sleeves, a 12-page booklet and an A1 sized poster, the vinyl was also mastered and fully restored by Patrick W. Engel in January 2017. This version reflects the original sound of the 1st vinyl pressing, released on Enigma in 1984. Continue reading…