Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Alphabetical Discovery - Week C, Day Five: Cirith Ungol

In 1972, riding dragons arising from the sandy vistas of California, Cirith Ungol breathed their first eccentric flames. They didn't release anything until 1980's debut full-length Frost and Fire, a more conventionally heavy-metal record that flaunted elements of the eccentricities - croaking, higher-pitched, goblin-throated vocals and an engulfing bass lead sound - that would catapult Cirith Ungol into power-doom-progressive realms with their three later releases.

'Atom Smasher' opens 1984's King of the Dead album - its bubbling, warped bass lines ensnaring as strained vocals welcome the listener to 'the brave new world' and guitars progress and solo into an atom-smashing oblivion: this is just the tip of the iceberg, an example of things to come. Perhaps jarring at first, the odd production and idiosyncratic vocals, for me at least, grow more endearing and ultimately work in harmony with the fantastical themes. Yet underneath the quirky soundscapes are incredible instrumentals - there are speed-riffs, doom-riffs, psychedelic-riffs, punk-riffs, jazz-riffs, jazz drumming, thrash-drumming: riffs to satisfy all your needs! Cirith Ungol's sound is ultimately a power-doom hybrid - part Sabbath, part Rush, part The Grateful Dead. 

And the doomier elements - not to say the other aspects are sub-par - are strikingly good: the seven-minute 'Master of the Pit' a particular example of quirk mixed with an aggressiveness and a bluesy-progressiveness; 'King of the Dead' a downcast journey; 'Finger of Scorn' a conflict between folky-prog and expansive doom. 1986's One Foot In Hell and 1991's Paradise Lost are equally as interesting, with songs about doomed planets and  trolls (a song about the internet way before its time) and even a cover of 'Fire' by Arthur Brown. First reactions might be 'what the hell am I listening to?' but after the initial tumult of banshee wails, pulsating solos and crazy progressions you'll be sucked into a memorable and endearing world.

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