Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Cirith Ungol reimagines music that was long thought forgotten for their new EP.

The California metal band Cirith Ungol released four albums in the 1980s to early 1990s, most notably (for me anyway), King Of The Dead (1984). Big dark fantasy themes, wailing guitars, and the unique and unforgettable voice of Tim Baker helped write the band’s name in the book of eternity. They passed into the mist only to return in 2019 with a live album and in 2020 with their first studio release in decades, the earth shaking Forever Black. Cirith Ungol was definitely back. The band is Tim Baker (vocals), Greg Lindstrom (guitar), Robert Garven (drums), Jim Barraza (guitar), and Jarvis Leatherby (bass).

Half Past Human contains four songs from the vaults – songs that were written but never released during earlier sessions. These pieces have been re-worked and newly invigorated for fans to hold them over until the touring starts up again.

“Route 666” revs to life with a roaring engine and hits the road with pelting goodtime riffs and pops. Dual complementary lead guitars are the highlight. “Shelob’s Lair” sends us on a trek through the darkness and lifts us up with an energetic and impassioned lead break and outro. “Brutish Manchild” is the shortest track and could function well as a single or a rousing live standard to whip the crowd into a frenzy at just the right moment.

The closer is “Half Past Human,” and it is more on the epic side than the others. The song starts out quietly, forlornly, then builds steadily to a louder, fuller sound. The composition has a sweeping production with extended elements that highlight the best aspects of the band and never overstay their welcome. It is just the right nightcap, and it is good to have these songs finally released. Fans will be delighted that they are seeing the light of day. Recommended.

Half Past Human is out on Friday, May 28th, and can be accessed through the links below.




Metal Blade Records,

FFMB review of Forever Black,

Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Cirith Ungol, Forever Black review (Metal Blade Records, 2020)

New music from Cirith Ungol in 2020. Things are finally starting to look up.

The name of the band comes from J. R. R. Tolkien’s writing, but I didn’t know that when I first saw the King of the Dead album at Stonehenge Records in Muncie, Indiana. What a cover painting (by Michael Whelan)! This was in the early 1980s and I had never heard of the band, didn’t know they were from California, or even what they sounded like. I put the record on and the first song started, “Atom Smasher.” I still remember the opening line, “Welcome to the brave new world! The future’s here or haven’t you heard?” The music was heavy, the vocals were out of this universe, and the guitar break was completely different from anything I was used to hearing. I was hooked. My favorite song on that album is “Master of the Pit,” which I still play surprisingly frequently decades later. I remember trying to find more music from the band and I couldn’t. Their first album, Frost & Fire, had been released in very small numbers and no copies had made it to rural Indiana where I was. I had to wait.

The band released two more albums, One Foot In Hell (1986) and Paradise Lost (1991). The former one is a killer, and you know from the jump (“Blood & Iron”) you are in for a wild ride. Their fourth album didn’t have quite the punch of the first three, but there is still a lot to like there. The writing might have been on the wall about the end of the band but I didn’t want to see it. Heedless of my wishes, in the early 1990s, the band broke apart.

Twenty plus years later, Cirith Ungol resurrected, with the lineup largely intact. The band today is comprised of long-time members Robert Garven (drums), Tim Baker (vocals), Greg Lindstrom (guitar), and Jim Barraza (guitar). Added to the pack is Jarvis Leatherby whose running the bass now. They sound great together, like no time has passed. The big question for me was always going to be Tim Baker’s vocals. His voice was so big and unique back in the day, and you could hear the force he exerted every time he sang. On the new album, Baker’s vocalizations are slightly smoother than on the earlier albums, but there is no mistaking him, and there is no question that this is Cirith Ungol music. The dark fantasy themes are there in the songs, the epic guitar structures, too. You can hear the classic metal forms in the writing, the heavy rhythms creating a fortress of sound for the voice and lead guitar to rise around and leap out. I like the album all the way through. The three songs that stand out for me are “The Frost Monstreme,” “Fractus Promissum,” and “Forever Black.” Especially “Fractus.” I can’t get it out of my head. It is a pounding anthem with an amazing lead break and lyrics you can’t forget, like, “Do we cower in the shadows or step into the light / Embrace the blinding fury borne of chaos’ holy might / Rise up from the darkness, put an end to wicked schemes / Or do we bow our heads and follow someone else’s dream.” Whether it is the 1980s, the 1990s, or the now, that sentiment is going to speak to people.

Forever Black is out now. Grab a download at Bandcamp, or get the CDs and vinyl while they last at your favorite retailer. This is exactly the album I was hoping for from Cirith Ungol. Highly recommended.


Cirith Ungol, Forever Black review (Metal Blade Records, 2020)