Cirith Ungol – Servants Of Chaos

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.
RingMaster 09/01/2012

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Majestic Downfall – The Blood Dance

The title of the second album from one-man doom metal project Majestic Downfall is very fitting as by the end of its deeply impacting sonic journey one is left a defiled bloody carcass but with every sense of having had the most satisfying fun possible from a disturbance of this magnitude. The Blood Dance rips apart the senses and leaves them scattered to the blackest pit whilst pleasing and confirming all is ok with some of the most expressive and strongest caustic melodies possible.

Majestic Downfall is the work of multi-instrumentalist and composer Jacobo Córdova (Zombiefication) and has its glorious violations unveiled via Chaos Records. Known for being part of Mexico´s Antiqua for a decade Córdova formed Majestic Downfall in 2006 with the idea of recreating the feeling of 90’s European doom metal mixed with the doom tones of the present. 2007 saw the first demo The First Abyss which became part of a split CD with Italian black/doom metal band Ansia. Majestic Downfall’s debut full length release came in 2009 in the shape of Temple of Guilt and a full blooded mix of doom/dark metal. It carried a fuller and more intense sound evolving on from the first demo and a step to the brutal beauty now found within The Blood Dance. 

Córdova has created a beast that stalks its prey with a melodic grace whilst numbing, stripping and chewing on the remains of the senses and emotions. Though at times this melodic beauty is hidden behind the heavy treacle thick venom blistering the ear through riffs, intensity and the bile spewing guttural growls, it emerges and weaves around the senses to bring a captivating intrigue and flow to the harsh assault. The album is not as immediately accessible as some, the combination of beauty and the blackest intent taking a couple of plays to find its irresistible lure but once it connects the release reveals its glories fully.

The Blood Dance starts with the title track and its deceiving guitar intro, the gentle beckoning beauty it offers welcoming and as one steps aboard the dark ride thick predatory riffs and rhythms grab hold. The track then smoulders and burn within the ear, its caustic sounds unrelenting and punishing whilst a hypnotic groove persuades one to stay and be devoured. The malicious yet sorrowful atmosphere permeates every emotion and is continued to the very last note of the album, through each and every one of its seven cascades of doom and emotive bleakness.

From Black to Dead’ lifts up the heavy slab of intensity to continue the violent assault again veined by a stirring groove. Córdova is skilled at combining the destructive power and crushing intensity with engaging melodies and grooves without letting either side become too dominant to the detriment of the other. Tracks like the excellent ‘Dimension Plague’ with a varied sweep of intrusive acidic guitars and inciting chugging riffs, ‘Army of Salvation’ with a menacing yet reassuring feel, and the mesmeric ‘Chronos’ explore and bring this hard to achieve blend for many to an impressive and thoroughly satisfying success. The latter of the three tracks being the highlight of the album with its rock flourishes wonderfully balanced against the aggression.

Chronos’ also shows  Córdova using his voice fully with cleaner passages alongside the hernia causing grating he uses for the rest of the album and the song definitely is better for it. The only negative one can throw at The Blood Dance is the lack of diversity in his vocal delivery, each track given the same admittedly agreeable destructive growling but after a few songs a similarity lays across the album and one has to focus harder to fall upon the varied quality beneath. For many this will not be an issue and it is really a personal preference which the closing track highlighted.

The Blood Dance is an impressive album which should find few not taking to its muscular and glorious delights. Majestic Downfall has set the death metal/doom genre off to an impressive start for the year.

RingMaster 09/01/2011

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