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CIRITH UNGOL Forever Black

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Tuesday, April 21, 2020 @ 8:25 AM


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CIRITH UNGOL
Forever Black

Metal Blade Records




Long before the rigid tropes and ironclad traditions that define today's heavy metal genre had taken shape for a template to personify its proverbial battle armour, Ventura, California’s own CIRITH UNGOL a.k.a. The Kings Of The Dead have been abiding by their own good book since their inception in the early 1970’s – and that book was Lord Of The Rings. True, their predecessors such as LED ZEPPELIN and RUSH had beat them by about a couple of years quoting from the same scripture in parts, but the legendary lineup of vocalist Tim Baker, guitarists Greg Lindstrom and Jerry Fogle, bassist Michael "Flint" Vujea and drummer Robert Garven have otherwise been enjoying their newfound quest since their headlining comeback performance at 2016’s Frost And Fire II in their hometown of Ventura to be bothered with keeping tabs on those who had traversed paths before them.

In fact, CIRITH UNGOL’s enduring popularity both in North America and especially overseas has inspired them to start adding new material for the first time in 29 years to their modest four-album catalogue. The end result is Forever Black, a compilation of nine new songs highlighting their trademark dark and foreboding riffs, pounding rhythms, and soul-searing vocal attack that have earned these Kings their place as the latter-day rulers of the doom metal kingdom. The only notable change would be the subbing of longtime bassist Flint for NIGHT DEMON bassist Jarvis Leatherby, who, especially with the blessing of both parties, placates the sonic driving rhythmic groove of CIRITH UNGOL’s sound.

Throughout the album, a world of fantasy is depicted in detailed form from the music’s haunting sonic undertones to the lyrical imagery, from the exhilarating up-tempo call to arms that is "Legions Arise" to the clever incorporation of past glories in "The Frost Monstreme" to the somber and dynamic "Stormbringer" to the bleak yet riveting melodic tones of “The Fire Divine” to the primal chest-beating epic finale of the title track. Lyrically, Forever Black explores topics ranging from high fantasy themes to rallying cries for the legions to apocalyptic visions of burning fires, incarnate evil and jet-black darkness. And further harnessing the imagery that CIRITH UNGOL are best known for, famed fantasy artist Michael Whelan, who allowed them to use his painting "Stormbringer” for the cover of the band’s 1981 debut Frost And Fire, has also lent his artistic talents for the cover of Forever Black – a lone warrior standing his ground amongst the vast cold emptiness surrounding him, poised to stare ahead at what’s in front of him while daring himself not to look back.

It could almost be a metaphor for CIRITH UNGOL themselves as they continue to tread forward into the fifth year of their comeback journey – a trip through dark times for which Forever Black successfully sheds light upon.

5.0 Out Of 5.0

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