Califonians Cirith Ungol has escaped the attention of many even during their existence to become one of the more underrated bands. Their formation in 1972 leading to their strongest years in the eighties set them alongside the likes of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden if not in stature certainly in mixing varied genres especially metal into their classic rock sound. The band became renowned for its experimentation as well as its committed intent to bring fantasy based themes and songs about cars. Cirith Ungol pronounced “sirith ungol” by the band differing from the pronunciation “kirith ungol” in Lord Of the Rings which inspired the name, went on to record four well received and acclaimed albums Frost And Fire in 1980, King of The Dead in 1984, and One Foot In Hell and the impressive Paradise Lost in 1986 and 1991 respectively.
After the fourth album the band split though 2001 saw the release of Servants of Chaos with its collection of rarities, demos and live material. With a steady and enthused huge demand for the rarity staying around, Metal Blade Records Europe in collaboration with drummer Robert Garven Jr. will re-release the album January 31st with the added treat of a live performance DVD from November 9th, 1984, the band’s performance at Wolf & Rissmiller’s Country Club. Garven J has commented on the DVD that “This amateur video was never meant to be released. The audio was taken off the mixing console. As we were an opening act, we had little or no sound check, room on stage, and restricted access to the lighting and sound. Regardless, this rare and primitive video is one of the few ever taken of the band”. In many ways that can be applied to the whole release the tracks making up the two CD’s raw and with often basic production but it all gives an insight into the band, their creative process in some ways and a piece of history that has found itself lost to many.
The first CD is made up of four songs that found themselves on the band’s debut Frost and Fire in a polished form, the tracks ‘I’m Alive’ and ‘Better Off Dead’ even in this raw form catching the ear impressively and no surprise they went on to find their place in the bands recording history. Production values throughout are as expected limiting but some tracks such as this duo still shine out. The disc also carries an array of instrumentals in its 16 tracks which show the bands desire to stretch themselves more than in the fuller songs. Even if some feel unfinished it shows the bands thought and songwriting direction nicely with the likes of ‘The Twitch’, ‘Darkness Weaves’, and ‘Feeding the Ants’ standing out.
The second of the discs features live tracks and demos of some songs that appeared in the Lost Paradise album. Again production values pale compared to the eventual studio album cuts but stand out a touch stronger than on CD 1. Amongst the songs there is an early version of Death of the Sun which turned up on Metal Blade’s Metal Massacre One, and amongst the live tracks versions that were previously part of the re-releases of the band’s first two albums. Sound again is not great including the new unreleased live tracks of ‘ Atom Smasher’, ‘Master of the Pit’ and ‘King of the Dead’. The disc also carries a cover of ‘Secret Agent Man’ which begs the question why? Not why it is included but why they did it, uninspired it pales against their own material. With the added ‘Ferrari 308QV’, simply sounds of the car’s engine that was surely there just to leave one with a smile, the package brings 31 tracks that give a look into the makings of Cirith Ungol.
Really the release is aimed at existing fans that will cherish the beginnings and basis of songs they love and discovering ones that never made the band’s grade. For newcomers maybe a tracking down of the first four studio releases would be a first step but certainly Servants Of Chaos which in the accompanying booklet notes is dedicated to founding guitarist Jerry Fogle who died from liver failure in 1998, is an interesting release for a band that inspired many.