Even if one restricts oneself to Metal, and, by the way, DON’T! There’s so much good music out there that one can hardly be blamed for not knowing it all. That said, there remain acts who bring a blush to my cheeks when reminded of my unfamiliarity with them: Manilla Road, Whiplash…and Cirith Ungol. The latter are now back with “Forever Black,” so let’s see how they measure up, shall we?
Well, it would seem, unsurprisingly for a band dating back to 1972, that they straddle the boundary between Metal and Rock’n’Roll. After the obligatory intro of “The Call”, we’re treated to the one-two punch of “Legions Arise” with its early-Maiden gallop and “The Frost Monstreme” which, title aside, would fit right in on your local Classic Rock radio station.
“The Fire Divine” returns things to a more punishing mode, albeit in a Doomier style. Mandatory epic “Stormbringer” explains why a band named for a Tolkien reference bears a cover adorned with the image of Michael Moorcock’s tragic hero, Elric of Melnibone.
“Fractus Promissum” is as catchy as its title isn’t, while “Nightmare” brings us back to epic territory, followed by the relentless pounding that is “Before Tomorrow.” Bringing the proceedings to a close, “Forever Black,” the song, isn’t the fastest OR the slowest song on offer here, but it’s probably the most vicious. Tim Baker spits bile and venom, backed by an unbreachable wall of venom.
Admittedly, Baker’s vocals may not be everybody’s pint of choice and may grow a touch monotonous over the course of forty minutes but, for Pete (Helmkamp)’s sake, aren’t Death Metal fans sick of hearing THAT by now? And adrenaline junkies won’t catch a buzz off of much other than “Legions Arise” and the title track, this is a slow to midpaced stomper, overall, but one well worth investing one’s time in. Like the mountain pass the band is named after, it’s dark and sometimes difficult to navigate, but offers a rewarding journey to those up for the trek.
Rating – 3.5/5