cirith ungol






Frost And Fire (40th Anniversary Edition)

(Metal Blade Records)

     Ask anyone who regularly subscribes to my 'critique diarrhea', and they will almost assuredly speak of my unrequited love for Ventura, California-born icons Cirith Ungol. Named after the eponymous mountain pass in the Tolkien epic The Lord Of The Rings, their full-length debut Frost And Fire (1981) serves as a prime example of both prototypical Doom and Power Metal. Fraught with a jarring--albeit maddeningly infectious--tonality, the group's refreshingly stark delivery would pave the way for a series of well-regarded releases in the resulting ten years. Re-emerging in 2019 with I'm Alive, the group maintained an uncharacteristic rapid-fire release schedule with the woefully-underrated pairing of Forever Black (2020) and Half Past Human (2021) and now, with the fortieth anniversary (!) of it's genre-defying release officially upon us all, legendary Independent masterminds Metal Blade Records has unveiled the impossibly incendiary Frost And Fire (40th Anniversary Edition) box set.

      On the brilliant Frost And Fire (40th Anniversary Edition) (2021), an expertly assembled six disc (4XCD, 2XLP) thirty song collection of prototypical Doom-tinged Power Metal, each track, beginning with the fist-pumping, mosh-inducing statement of intent “Frost And Fire” and the gritty, NWOBHM-fueled 'instant classic' “I'm Alive”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of Metalheads. Initially a self-released effort (via the group's Liquid Flames Productions), Frost And Fire (40th Anniversary Edition) finds the group submerging the proverbial average listener amid an all-consuming barrage of soaring vocals, blistering fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms. Showcasing their tonalities without adopting false bravado, deploying all things bombastic or, even worse, resorting to the shameless, Velveeta-encr -usted gimmicks of yore, they unnervingly score major points early and often as they unrelentingly race onward.

      Continuing with the synth-laden tirade “What Does It Take” and the swaggering, quasi-'Funky' “Better Off Dead”, the airtight--to say the very least--combination of vocalist Tim Baker, guitarists Jerry Fogle and Greg Lindstrom, bassist Michael 'Flint' Vejua (contrary to the original liner notes, Lindstrom handled all bass duties herein) and drummer Robert Garven steamrolls ahead with a carefully-calculated ease. Newly Re-Mixed and Re-Mastered, Exceeding even the most optimistic of expectations--many of which have been unnervingly lofty following the well-deserved successes of the I'm Alive (2019) and Forever Black (2020), the group fires on all cylinders early and often as they systematically introduce themselves to the masses. Distinguishing themselves from their few legitimate contemporaries by, believe it or not, remaining simultaneously groundbreaking and en -tirely accessible, the group further anchors their then still-burgeoning reputation as a force to be reckoned with.

      Other standouts, including the curiously-titled--yet highly-effective instrumental “Maybe That's Why” and the equally impressive anthem “Cirith Ungol”, and offer the listener the opportunity to vicariously partake in the improbably long-running group's earliest endeavors. While undeniably primitive in its overall delivery and tone, the end results of the group's more than considerable efforts are nothing short of extraordinary and deserve to be treated accordingly. Adorned throughout by now infamous artwork courtesy of legendary Fantasy artist Michael Whelan (a graduate of the Art Center College Of Design, Whelan has designed cover art for Meat Loaf and Sepultura, among others), Frost And Fire (40th Anniversary Edition) is available in a variety of truly unique configurations, including an Artbook edition that features two LPs, four CDs, a Poster, a Signing Card and a D- ownload Card, and the group proffers what can only be described as the ultimate initial Cirith Ungol experience.

     But what can you really expect? Even more of the Cirith Ungol you almost certainly already know and love. While the majority--if not all--of the prototypical wares contained herein are primarily targeted at the most die-hard of completists (the $74.99 MSRP of the Artbook Edition may prove to be cost-prohibitive for the otherwise unsure), the monstrous Frost And Fire (40th Anniversary Edition) succeeds by exhausting (presumable, at least) the group's veritable wealth of rarities. Most definitely not for the faint of heart or those not genuinely interested in the origins of the Doom and Power Metal genres, this is quite possibly as good as 'Old School' Metal box sets get. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself apprehensive to the thought of wholeheartedly embrac- ing the benign banalities proffered beneath the Clear Channel 'New Metal'/'New Rock' umbrellas, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane cure-all for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Select Works

Frost And Fire (40th Anniversary Edition) (2021)

Half Past Human (EP) (2021)

Forever Black (2020)

I'm Alive (2019)

Paradise Lost (1991)

One Foot In Hell (1986)

King Of The Dead (1984)

Frost And Fire (1981)

Cirith Ungol (Demo)

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