Cirith Ungol: 'King of the Dead' - Album Review

It’s an exciting time for Cirith Ungol. Making their presence be known recently has given them a presence since their various splits in 1992 and 2001. Since announcing activity in 2015 it only seemed natural to look back on their albums and perhaps offer them again with a bit of an update. This shows the band as almost taking up arms again as if preparing for battle. We may see this lead into new material.

King of the Dead was initially released 1984 on Enigma Records and was a defining album for the band. It also includes the song with their namesake ‘Cirith Ungol’ and essentially defined their sound. Their unique blend of Power Metal and Doom Metal started to help define the genre of Doom Metal and saw new movement within Power Metal. Things were alive or doomed should I say. Though it is also worth mentioning that the album saw a re-release treatment in 1999 after signing to MetalBlade Records. This gave the album a bit more fire as they were making a comeback after 4-year hiatus but also saw have a better treatment from its initial limited release. The band consider it to be one of their defining moments which would very much lead into why it’s the focus for their third fire.

‘Atom Smasher’ sees the album off and it’s a song that screams power metal and hums in their guitar work that has that slow sludge of Doom Metal. All the while the vocals are very much of a Power Metal camp similar to the likes of Helloween though also Iron Maiden at times. ‘Black Machine’ is a bit tamer and bit more refined and a bit better for it. Really getting that sense of Doom Metal in there and also showing off some of the better aspects of guitar playing that will prefigure later songs we have ‘Master of the Pit’ and ‘King of the Dead’. It is through the intricate guitar playing that we really start to see where the band managed to really establish their roots. ‘Death of the Sun’ speeds things up but ultimately comes off as a piece of cheesy metal.

From here we start to see a bit more development as the sense of atmosphere is created with some softer songs and again some boastfully intricate songs in ‘Finger of Scorn’ and a wonderful cover of Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Toccata in Dm’ – it really adds some atmosphere to the album. This takes us into one of the albums show stealers ‘Cirith Ungol’ a bestial piece of doom. The album closes with some offerings that at its maximum gives live versions of ‘Last Laugh’, ‘Master of the Pit’, ‘King of the Dead’ and ‘Cirith Ungol’. You can get a sense of their live craziness that actually makes a good statement to see them.

In the extra run of songs is an alternative mix of ‘Death of the Sun’ and here we see a throwback to earlier mixes of these albums. There’s an almost chaotic nature to the songs, that with their remastering feels sloppy and off que. It’s handling a little off base. With earlier productions of the album this actually feels more aligned as the underproduction gives it a little more chaos and raw fire. Complimenting rather than holding back. We capture this a bit with the alternative mix of this song and it’s almost as if the band have a sense of this. Ultimately this is a landmark for the band and an important album for them, but it did more than than it does with this remastering.


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