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Classic Review: Cirith Ungol - King Of The Dead
Cirith Ungol
King Of The Dead

Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 1984
Duration: 50:08
Tracks: 9
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: October 13, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers Rating
King Of The Dead

Rated 4.69/5 (93.77%) (61 Votes)

Cirith Ungol are unsung dinosaurs in the metal scene, and this is probably their best known album - and the only one I have. These guys had the benefit (or determent?) of having one of the most distinguishable (or irritating?) vocalists ever. Tim Baker sounds like no other man on the face of the goddamned planet. I mean it. The guy sounds like a cross between King Diamond and a neurotic troll, and I mean that in the best way possible. His warbly, screechy, batshit-crazy vocals are half the reason this album is so much fun, and while about 50% of the people who hear them will wrinkle their noses and move their hands to the "stop" button, the rest of you can be reasonably assumed to be seasoned classic metal fanatics like I am.

And so on to the music. The riffs here are juicy, Sabbath-lite material that is really quite fulfilling when you have that old school metal sweet tooth craving every now and then. The songs are all reasonably laid back and melodic, none of them being really flashy or frantic or anything. Cirith Ungol were just having a good fucking time. They didn't try to be anything that they weren't, and that's respectable. "Atom Smasher" is a perfect opener, with a rocky, gravelly riff and some great vocals from the lead troll - and this is also great because the formula really doesn't change throughout the album. "Black Machine," "King of the Dead" and the mammoth "Finger of Scorn" all provide some groovy, catchy riffs that will stay in your head all night. And I really do like the lead guitar work here. It's loopy, meandering, and lazy, but it just sounds really good. Pure classic metal bliss.

King of the Dead is a dark and primitive, yet also very catchy and fun, listen, but overall it doesn't provide enough innovation to really be a top class album. This was 1984, the year of Don't Break the Oath, Ample Destruction and Powerslave, and while I appreciate this one a lot, it just can't stand up to what the budding metal scene was doing back then, being too samey and laid back to make nearly as much of an impact. It's not as esoteric and weird as Lords of the Crimson Alliance, for example, either. Fun, and extremely enjoyable, but not essential.

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Review: King of the Dead (Ultimate Edition) (reviewed by Omni)
Review: One Foot in Hell (reviewed by MetalMike)
Review: Paradise Lost (reviewed by Omni)
Interview with Cirith Ungol on April 16, 2017 (Interviewed by Omni)
Interview with vocalist Tim Baker, drummer Robert Graven and bassist Jarvis Leatherby on December 1, 2019 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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