"Forever Black"

(Metal Blade)

01. The Call
02. Legions Arise
03. The Frost Monstreme
04. The Fire Divine
05. Stormbringer
06. Fractus Promissum
07. Nightmare
08. Before Tomorrow
09. Forever Black

RATING: 7.5/10

Countless leather 'n' denim clad metalheads have been waiting for ages for the return of CIRITH UNGOL. It has been nearly three decades since their last album, 1991's awesome "Paradise Lost". CIRITH UNGOL fell into obscurity at the dawn of the grunge era. They didn't obtain the commercial success of many of their peers, but the legendary California-based heavy metal band was an artistic success that was responsible for memorable, valuable work that helped establish the template, including their featured contributions on the renowned 1982 "Metal Massacre" compilation, which also included the likes of RATT and none other than METALLICA. CIRITH UNGOL's body of work has been impressive enough to carry their name through the years and across the globe obtaining cult status and reverence within the fanatical heavy metal community. Now, their triumphant return has arrived at the onset of a modern-day pandemic. The world has changed immensely, for better and worse, since their inception, but as their fifth full-length album "Forever Black" proves, CIRITH UNGOL hasn't changed one bit.

The ensemble was born in 1971, disbanding a couple of decades later and leaving a legion of adoring fans hopeful for a rebirth. Prior to the new album, the band returned to the stage in recent years. They reunited for the traditional heavy metal spectacle, 2016's Frost and Fire Festival, before embarking upon an impressive multinational festival tour. The seminal act extended the "Witch's Game" single in 2018 to tide fans over who were yearning for a fresh album.

"Forever Black" offers enough sword 'n' sorcery madness and doom 'n' gloom to satisfy their longstanding fanbase as well as the newbies who have been drawn toward the epic heavy metal style in recent years. The release sets off with "The Call", a cinematic intro replete with a bellowing horn that feels like a call to arms — imagine "Conan The Barbarian" — leading into a militant march. With the stage adequately set, CIRITH UNGOL lunges forth with all guns blazing on the rip-roaring speed metal track "Legions Arise". The song seems to reference the spirit of the act's debut "Frost and Fire", albeit delivered with increased aggression and a faster pace.

Elsewhere, "Nightmare" seems like it was pulled straight from the eighties with regard to the over-the-top, unabashed flamboyance that's evident throughout. Indeed, it is far more than simply being "epic." Tim Baker narrates the evil track with his characteristic commanding barks and wild jackal-like howls. Whether or not Baker's vocals or Jim Barraza's ominous riffs steal the show on this track depends upon who you're asking.

As a matter of fact, even though the songwriting is concise and succinct throughout "Forever Black", there's simply so much going on in terms of detail and nuance that album highlights are likely to be significantly varied amongst listeners. In any event, CIRITH UNGOL has returned in a big way. It's everything that longtime fans would want. "Forever Black" is sure to be a crowd pleaser, and hopefully these legends are here to stay while maintaining their current momentum.


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