Saturday, January 30, 2021

CD Odyssey Disc 1446: Cirith Ungol

This next album is probably not the typical fare you would hear blasting out of a Jaguar, which made doing so even more enjoyable.

Disc 1446 is…. One Foot in Hell

Artist: Cirith Ungol

Year of Release: 1986

What’s up with the Cover?  A Michael Whelan fantasy painting. Apparently, all Cirith Ungol covers are Michael Whelan depictions of Elric (a character in a Michael Moorcock series). Given that I discovered a band called Eternal Champion this week (Elric’s title/destiny) things have come full circle.

I don’t remember this particular scene from the book, but this bug king is a good example of why you shouldn’t eat lunch at your desk. Just look at that mess of bones and filth around the throne! Someone is going to have to call Facilities when the place gets mice.

Also of note, is the pose of our hero. It’s a reminder that when picking a fantasy miniature for playing D&D you want one in a normal “walking” pose. Sure, this guy looks OK here raising his sword all perpendicular and whatnot, but when he’s just in a tavern buying an ale, it’s awkward.

How I Came To Know It: A few years ago I was wandering through Youtube after my buddy Ross had sent me a different band and saw Cirith Ungol. I remembered them from my teenage years, but I’d never owned any back then. I went out and bought “One Foot in Hell” that weekend.

How It Stacks Up: I have two Cirith Ungol albums, this one and “King of the Dead”(reviewed back at Disc 1056). They are both stellar, but I guess I’ll give “King of the Dead” the slight edge. It is close, though.

Ratings: 4 stars

There was a time, long ago, when the only music I listened to was heavy metal. When I listen to Cirith Ungol’s “One Foot in Hell” it reminds me why. It is awesome.

“One Foot In Hell” would have been considered very heavy indeed in 1986 and in 2021 it is still pretty damned heavy. These guys were doing doom metal before that was its own full-fledged thing, then infusing it with the galloping power of Iron Maiden. The result is some serious crunch, and the visceral dread you get from a good horror film. Every song made me want to turn it up a bit louder, and you know what? I did.

While the songwriting is a sliver below “King of the Dead”, Tim Baker’s vocals feel more confident than ever, aided by production values that have stepped up, creating the thickness of sound the songs require to punch you in the solar plexus. Jerry Fogle’s guitars alternate between fell and foreboding power riffs and tasteful and elevated solos that fly over the song’s churning power without ever losing the melody.

There are plenty of great tracks, but my favourite is “Chaos Descends” if only for that killer Fogle riff that dominates throughout. If it doesn’t make your strumming hand want to play air guitar on your steering wheel, then you aren’t listening. Cirith Ungol (named after a cursed valley in Lord of the Rings) love all things fantasy, and they sing their passion. “Chaos Descends” is replete with great sword and sorcery lyrics, like:

“The beasts of hell blacken heaven's eye
We shout our fear to a soulless sky”

That is some great shit right there.

Nadsokor” starts with a killer Robert Garven drum bit (yes, the song begins with a drum solo) that then forms the underpinning for the entire song. The song is named after a city in yet another fantasy novel. Tim Baker first whispers the name like a warning, then shrieks it out like an alarm, creating a growing urgency. Then the bridge comes along and slows everything down to a ponderous sludge. The whole song is like a beast slouching to Bethlehem, inexorable and terrible.

Not only is “One Foot in Hell” an awesome metal record, it made me want to dig out and reread all my old fantasy novels. With only eight songs and 35 minutes of playing time, it also left me wanting more. My only regret in writing this review is that it means I’ll be moving on to something else.

Best tracks: Blood & Iron, Chaos Descends, Nadsokor, War Eternal, Doomed Planet

1 comment:

Gord Webster said...

I believe the Jag calls for Budgie. Lots of Budgie.