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Review: Cirith Ungol - King of the Dead (Ultimate Edition)
Cirith Ungol
King of the Dead (Ultimate Edition)

Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 2017
Originally released in: 1984
Duration: 74:49
Tracks: 13
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 5+/5

Review online: May 24, 2017
Reviewed by: Omni
Readers Rating
King of the Dead (Ultimate Edition)

Rated 4.93/5 (98.57%) (14 Votes)

To coincide with the band's performance at Keep It True XX, Metal Blade Records has reissued this album as an ultimate edition remastered by Patrick W. Engel at Temple of Disharmony and featuring additional tracks, extensive liner notes and a DVD containing a 1983 live performance by the band. King of the Dead is the band's most legendary album, and it seems appropriate that this new edition is available to celebrate the continued success of one of underground heavy metal's most defining bands. The lineup on this album consists of vocalist Tim Baker, guitarist Jerry Fogle, Michael "Flint" Vujea and drummer Robert Garven. Greg Lindstrom had left the band by this point, although he did contribute material that the rest of the band used with his blessing.

In comparison to Frost and Fire, King of the Dead is a noticeably darker album that features a more epic style. Perhaps due to the band's longevity, the style of Cirith Ungol remains heavily rooted in 1970s heavy rock and metal, resulting in an album that is incredibly unique for a 1984 release. As the sole guitarist on the album, the late Jerry Fogle recorded multiple guitar parts and his distinctive axe work is a true highlight during the album's many extended guitar sequences. Flint's bass parts are massive and they play a key role in the progression of the songs rather than just being a rhythm element. Robert Garven plays with a hard-hitting style that provides a suitable framework for the musical tapestry created by the other instrumentalists. Perhaps the most recognizable element of Cirith Ungol's sound is Tim Baker, and his unique snarl is more venomous than it was on the band's debut album. The lyrics on the album feature themes of sci-fi, fantasy and a variety of other subject matter, with a consistently dark approach that suits the ominous music. Songs such as "Atom Smasher" and the title track are among the band's most loved creations, although "Finger of Scorn" is a strong contender for the finest song of their career. An updated version of "Death of the Sun" is also included after the song's original appearance on the first Metal Massacre compilation in 1982 alongside other bands that included a young Metallica. The eponymous "Cirith Ungol" is a chilling journey quite loosely inspired by the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and an appropriate closer for such a fantastic album.

While the band would go on to release two more albums, King of the Dead remains arguably their definitive work and a favorite of the band members. Sadly, Jerry Fogle passed away in 1998, which makes his work on this album even more poignant. The ultimate edition also contains a live track entitled "Last Laugh" that was recorded in 1984, the original "Death of the Sun" from 1982 and three live bonus tracks recorded in 2016 during the band's reunion show at Frost and Fire II. The sound quality and strength of the performance on these recent live tracks is excellent, and it's definitely nice to have Cirith Ungol back. The bonus DVD features a live set from 1983 that heavily favors songs from King of the Dead. While the video quality isn't perfect, the band puts on a good show and the performances are fantastic. This ultimate edition comes heavily recommended to new fans of Cirith Ungol and those who already own King of the Dead.

Additional Information

- DVD duration: 42:31

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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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