Review Summary: A treat for fans and an ideal entry point for newcomers
Chances are that if you’re not well into your forties, you haven’t seen Cirith Ungol playing live. Hell, if we take under consideration the fact that up until their disbandment in 1992 they had only played around the West coast of the US, that limits the number of people who got to see them live, to a select few. That’s, of course, before 2016 and their reunion at the 2nd annual Frost and Fire Festival
in Ventura, California.
For those who aren’t familiar with Cirith Ungol, this is one of the very first bands who played traditional metal with a strong epic flavor. During an 11-year period, they released four LPs, one of which is considered an underground classic, and vanished into thin air due to frustration from the lack of commercial success. However, these guys are not your typical heavy metal act. The Americans fused their music with proto-doom and ‘70s prog a la Rush elements, which is evident on their song structures and guitar solos, mainly on King of the Dead
comes from the band’s third live performance since their reunion, at the Up The Hammers Festival 2017
in Athens, Greece, and it sounds as if the US act never disbanded. In terms of instrumentation, everything is better than on the studio albums; the guitars are beefier, the bass is audible and drummer Robert Garven doesn’t sound like someone who once swore that he “would never touch another drumstick or play drums.” However, the surprise here is vocalist Tim Baker’s performance; often metal vocalists don’t age well but this is not the case here. Granted, Baker’s vocals are an acquired taste, but Cirith Ungol just wouldn’t be the same without him, as he gives the band’s music an out-of-this-world feeling (just listen to him screaming on the chorus of “Chaos Rising”). The album’s setlist is amazing, as it contains almost the entire King of the Dead
and the strongest cuts from the rest of their discography. In addition, it feels as if they are playing in their home court, as the Greeks’ love for epic metal and Cirith Ungol is well-documented throughout the years.
All in all, I’m Alive
is not only a treat for longtime fans, but also a great choice for anyone who wishes to experience what makes this band so special. Plain and simple, Cirith Ungol weren’t supposed to be so good live after all these years, but somehow they might be even better than in their heyday. Now, all we need is a new album, to complete their comeback and gain some commercial success. Better late than never…