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Cirith Ungol: King of the Dead (Ultimate Edition)

I can still remember seeing the cover of Cirith Ungol's LP King of the Dead sitting on the rack in my favorite local heavy metal record store (yep, those things actually existed) back in 1984, with that fantastic artwork courtesy of Michael Whelan, thinking "wow, how metal is that...I gotta have it!", and bringing it home and discovering just how unique this band really was. The group, who had actually been around for about a decade at that point but King of the Dead was only their second album, blended early power metal and doom with progressive rock for a sound that was a bit ahead of their time, and had a vocalist in Tim Baker who sounded like no other. After just four albums, the band folded in the early '90s and quietly went into the heavy metal history books, before reuniting for a series of festival dates in California in 2015 & 2016 and now even more being announced for 2017. To celebrate all this new activity for the band, Metal Blade Records are reissuing their classic King of the Dead album, with remastering courtesy of Patrick W. Engel, five bonus tracks, expanded packaging and a bonus-DVD of a live performance from 1983.

The original album itself is an underrated gem of underground early '80s metal, here sounding crisp and clear thanks to the recent remastering. Beefy mashers such as "Atom Smasher", "Black Machine", and "Master of the Pit" all feature Tim Baker's gravelly rasp (still one of the most original vocalists ever) over Jerry Fogle's inventive guitar riffs, Michael "Flint" Vujea's muscular bass, and Robert Garven's acrobatic drumming. Quite simply, these are classic metal tunes that have stood the test of time. The bands prog leaning come full force to collide with crushing doom on the menacing "Finger of Scorn" as well as the killer title track, while they let their instrumental abilities really shine on the supercharged "Toccata in D minor". The album closes with the pummeling "Cirith Ungol", a heavy yet catchy example of classic, dark heavy metal, the booming bass matching up with huge guitar riffs every step of the way, and Baker spewing his venom at every juncture. Plenty of lethal guitar solos from Fogle to be heard on the entire album, and it's a real shame the metal world lost this great talent in 1998 after he passed away from liver failure.

The bonus tracks are a real treat; "Last Laugh" was recorded live in 1984, a lively rocker with blistering guitar solos and a wicked Baker vocal, "Death of the Sun" taken from the Metal Massacre I tape, and then three songs recorded live in 2016, with the band in its current incarnation still sounding just as potent as they did in 1984. Despite the bootleg quality of these three recordings, it's a revelation to hear Cirith Ungol in 2016, so longtime fans will certainly want to make sure they get their hands on this ultimate edition. While we weren't given the bonus live DVD to review, no doubt that's the icing on the cake for this perfect reissue of a very important album in heavy metal history from this vastly underrated band.

Track Listing
1. Atom Smasher
2. Black Machine
3. Master of the Pit
4. King of the Dead
5. Death of the Sun
6. Finger of Scorn
7. Toccata in D minor
8. Cirith Ungol
9. Last Laugh (Live)*
10. Death of the Sun (alt mix)**
11. Master of the Pit (Live)***
12. King of the Dead (Live)***
13. Cirith Ungol (Live)***
* Live 1984 (bonus Track on original CD)
** alternative version (taken from Metal Massacre I)
*** Live at Frost & Fire Fest II at the Majestic Ventura Theater in Ventura on October 8th, 2016

Bonus-DVD track-listing (Live at The Roxy, West Hollywood, CA on January 19th, 1983):
1. Atom Smasher
2. I'm Alive
3. Black Machine
4. Master of the Pit
5. King of the Dead
6. Death of the Sun
7. Finger of Scorn
8. Cirith Ungol

Added: April 4th 2017
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1852
Language: english

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