Review Summary: Whilst the previous album showed that Cirith Ungol had one foot firmly planted in epic, lengthy songs, One foot in Hell proves their other foot remains rooted in purely consistent straight edge heavy metal.
Of those who have ever listened to Cirith Ungol, many will tell you that the band's true career highpoint was found within their second album, the underrated classic that is King of the Dead
. That's perhaps the reason then why One foot in Hell
is often overlooked, even by the band's most devoted fans. Released in the same year as various thrash metal landmarks, One foot in Hell
appears somewhat out of place for its time, but in no way does this mean that the output sounds dated. Far from it in fact.
Cirith Ungol's third album features less emphasis on lengthy, epic, prog-tinged material and more on the simplistic, more straightforward side of songwriting. That said, whilst many would fear the worst (the idea that the band would opt for a more half-hearted, chart-bothering affair must have seemed inevitable at the time of the album's release), the band's instrumental performance is still top notch and certainly consistent as always. Opener “Blood & Iron” is furious, the slow-burning heaviness of “Chaos descends" proves worthwhile and the closing title track features arguably one of the best Cirith Ungol riffs ever. The production also sounds cleaner and more polished than on the band's two previous albums, but instrumentation is still a key ingredient. The guitar work is solid enough to keep devoted “true” metal fans interested, and the constantly impressive solos add an electrifying energy throughout.
The songwriting, as said before, is notably more simplistic. This could also be called playing it safe, but Cirith Ungol manage to use the traditional heavy metal genre to their advantage, creating accessible albeit powerful tunes as a result. The rather silly “100 Mph” and equally as unnecessary “The fire” however show the band's tendencies to sometimes be too far in their own comfort zone. Yet this is more than made up for with those distinctive, almost shrieking vocals on the near epic that is “War eternal”, admirably one of the better examples of when Cirith Ungol enter epic territory and succeed as a result. The tight rhythm section on other songs such as the slightly eerie “Nadsokor” (covered later by Italian doom metal band Doomsword) and very dark “Doomed planet” makes for a very nice listen, inviting the listener to bang their head to the power of those mechanical, almost tribal drum beats.
One foot in Hell
isn't quite as good as its predecessor, but still surely deserves a place in any metal fan's album collection. What we have here is simply another collection of more or less classic, consistent, straight edge heavy metal tunes from a band who were at this point in their prime, and once again you can see just why Cirith Ungol are hailed worldwide as a direct influence on some of the top doom/heavy metal bands today.