Band Cirith Ungol

Records (77 numbers or more)

Covers of (62 numbers or more)

Gigs (150 numbers or more)

Cirith Ungol was formed in Ventura, California, in the early 1970s, long before the rigid tropes and ironclad traditions that define today’s heavy metal genre had taken shape. Also known as Medieval Obscure Underground Epic True Cult Kvlt Heavy Doom Metal Heroes. There was no rulebook, no template to follow, so Cirith Ungol simply made it up as they went along. According to drummer Robert Garven, even in those early days, the band’s burning ambition was to play “the heaviest metal known to man.” Cirith Ungol’s lyrical approach was profoundly influenced by the high fantasy literature of J.R.R. Tolkien (from whose Hobbit and Lord of the Rings opus they derived their name) and Michael Moorcock. It was probably the first time on both on music – the name Cirith Ungol on 1971 (writer Tolkien), fantasy antihero Elric on 1981 (cover art Whelan/writer Moorcock), the symbol of Chaos Star and Praying Skeleton. Between 1981 and 1991, Cirith Ungol released four acclaimed full-length albums, including the legendary King of the Dead (1984) and One Foot in Hell (1986). Despite amassing a passionate cult following on both sides of the Atlantic, commercial and financial success eluded Cirith Ungol, prompting Garven and vocalist Tim Baker to lay the band to rest in May 1992:

The being called Ungol is dead
its resurrection is doubtful.
But heed it’s teachings oh faithful
for on these memoratic disks contain
the wisdom of the ages
and by your iron fists
may the horror
of false metal be extinguished.
As you now join the swelling ranks of the Legions of Chaos
together we will drive before us
the cringing herd of False Metal
crush their spineless lackeys
and purge the world of their mutant plague!!!

– Cirith Ungol’s mission statement

On 17th Oct 2015 they reformed for the Meet and Greet and signing session on the first Frost and Fire Festival.

On 8th Oct 2016, Cirith Ungol officially returned to the stage by headlining the Frost and Fire II Festival at the Majestic Ventura Theater, playing to a packed house of fans who had converged on the band’s hometown of Ventura, California to witness the kings of the dead rise from the grave. This night was vindication. In Garven’s words, “When the ancient stars aligned, Cirith Ungol crawled out of its ancient slumber, to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world.” Two days later, fresh off their Frost and Fire triumph, the band were honored by the City of Ventura, which proclaimed October 10, 2016 to be Cirith Ungol Day.

As Robert Garven is fond of saying, Cirith Ungol remains “A Churning Maelstrom of Metal Chaos Descending!” Long may they reign!


This biography was written on 31 Jan 2006: A brief Cirith Ungol bio sketch by Perry Grayson

Note: This is a condensed version of my in-the-works full-length bio of Cirith Ungol, which will eventually be published through Tsathoggua Press. -PG

Cirith Ungol was founded in sunny Ventura, California, by three junior high school and high school pals. Drummer (graphic artist and sometimes lyricist) Robert W. Garven Jr., guitarist extraoridinaire (and often space-case) Jerry Fogle (R.I.P.) and bassist/guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter Greg Lindstrom in 1972. The three had begun playing together when they were in their early teens in a “band” called Titanic with another school acquaintance, Pal Galligan. With a desire to play heavier rock than Beatles covers, Garven, Fogle and Lindstrom bailed to form Cirith Ungol. Far from being scorned by their folks, Cirith Ungol actually found the support of the Garven family-their rehearsal room was set up inpage the Garven family’s house. Early on the band took to covering psychedelic heavy rockers by the likes of Cream, Mountain, Budgie (“Crash Course in Brain Surgery” over a decade before Metallica did it), Thin Lizzy (“Return of the Famer’s Son” and “Vagabonds of the Western World“), Hard Stuff and Ursa Major (about half of “Sinner“) and Freedom (“Dusty Track“).

The name Cirith Ungol was arrived at for the same reason Rob Garven and Greg Lindstrom had initally become friends. Both Rob and Greg were fans of British fantasist J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which they were reading in literature class when they first met in 1969. In Tolkien’s manufactured language of Middle Earth, Cirith Ungol translates out as “pass of the spider”. Cirith Ungol is the bleak place where Frodo and Samwise fight the giant spider Shelob in Tolkien’s second installment in the trilogy, The Two Towers. The spider Shelob was the inspiration for the tune “Shelob’s Lair”, which was written by Lindstrom around 1975. You can also see the spider motif repeated in the longsleeve shirt axeman Jerry Fogle used to wear at practices and gigs. Much like Rush, Sam Gopal’s Dream, Zeppelin and even Mountain (okay, so those were Gail Collins’ lyrics) before them, Cirith Ungol took the hippie’s favorite fantasy saga and exploited it in the rock world. Something to write about apage from fast cars and faster women. Not that our intrepid teenage proto-metallers were above penning tunes about those tried-and-true topics. The first Ungol song was, according to Mr. Lindstrom, entitled “Rock ’n’ Roll Hooker“, after which they moved onto even slightly dodgier subjects. One can only smirk at Garven’s lyrics for “Tight Teen” (circa 1976). Sure, they may owe something to Richie Blackmore and Ian Gillan, but it they wouldn’t exactly be up Tipper Gore’s alley.

She’s a tight teen, miniature queen / Not much more than a kid / She’s a tight teen, minuature queen / Seems I always rob the crib”.


Fast forward to 1976, and Cirith Ungol had found their first vocalist, who billed himself as Terry Dactyl (aka Neil Beattie). Neil’s biggest influence was Iggy Pop, and he often spent a lot of time rolling around the boards at gigs with very little clothing on. Pretty fitting for a band with tunes like “Neck-romancer” and “Flesh Dart,” wouldn’t ya say? Needless to say, the authorities at the Ventura State Beach were quick to tell ol’ Terry Dactyl to “keep his shirt on”. The truth be told, Iggy & the Stooges were a huge influence on Cirith Ungol as a whole. When interviewed for his Falcon website profile page, Greg Lindstrom relates that “Iggy is my Elvis”. Greg also remembers, “Robbie used to walk down the street singing ’Penetration’ off Raw Power.” Cirith Ungol Mark II (Beattie, Fogle, Lindstrom & Garven) would play numerous gigs around Ventura and Ojai at venues as diverse as the Foster Park Bowl, Louie’s Life, the Ventura National Guard Armory, the Catacombs, Huntington’s, the Ventura State Beach Pier, Ojai Art Center and the Dock.

Cirith Ungol’s earliest primitive recordings are the evidence that they were among the heaviest bands of the period. After all, in 1975 many of the heavies were lightening up. But the young Ungol stalwarts were fueled more by the loud early 1970s than the fluff corporate record execs were trying to force young bands to sound like. A rehearsal recording from ’75 blew the ears off your humble biographer at first listen (around 2002). Early renditions of “One Foot in Hell” and “Cirith Ungol” are doused with blasts of Greg fuzz bass, Jerry Fogle’s eerie guitar embellishments and wild solos and Rob Garven’s blood drenched drumming. “Shelob’s Lair” and “Half Past Human,” also found on these rehearsal room reels, are equal in both heaviness and epic length to anything on Frost and Fire or King of the Dead. Perhaps they weren’t Alice Cooper, but Beattie is said to have covered his hands and upper body with fake spiders while his Ungol mates played “Shelob’s Lair,” an ode to the giant spider in Tolkien’s The Two Towers. A pagenote: Falcon would later re-record both “Shelob’s Lair” and “Half Past Human.”

But Neil soon tired of Cirith Ungol, leaving Lindstrom, Garven & Fogle to continue as an instrumental power trio once again. This wasn’t too daunting to the three, as they still found themselves playing singerless gigs at venues like the Starwood, the Roxy and the Whisky in Hollyweird, as well as the Ventura Fairgrounds. By this time, Cirith Ungol had also recruited a bunch of their fellow rockers and school pals to be their crew. Brothers Dan and Tim Baker were roadies and Kevin “Dr. K” Sage (no doubt in charge of pharmaceuticals?!) was the stage manager.

With no suitable singer in sight or earshot, friend and roadie Tim Baker tried out for the vocal spot. Although not a trained singer, Baker boasted a unique screaching style all his own. His first stab at recording vocals for a Cirith Ungol song was a “duet” with Neal Beattie on “We Know You’re Out There“, a track about alien invasion.

Armed with their own Dokorder reel-to-reel 4 track recorder, Cirith Ungol whapped out a tape chock full of their blistering tunes. The cassette demo “album” had an orange cover, and it was distributed at gigs. Some of the tunes on the orange cassette included “Show You All” sung by Rob, “Route 666” sung by Greg, “We Know You’re Out There” sung by exiting Neal Beattie and entering Tim Baker and “High Speed Love” sung by Tim Baker.

TO BE CONTINUED! Stay tuned…


The name

In the beginning, they had a few names picked out, all from the J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novel Lord Of The Rings. Some of the others were:

  • Barad Dur (barad-dûr)
  • Khazad Dum (khazad-dûm)
  • Minas Morgul
  • Minas Tirith
  • Uruk Hai (uruk-hai, for short uruks)
  • Cirith Ungol

In the end, the band name was Cirith Ungol. They took their name from the place Cirith Ungol, and who was the tower that Sam rescued Frodo from. The name Cirith Ungol means Sindarin for Spider’s Cleft or Pass of the Spider, from cirith (“cleft, pass”) and ungol (“spider”). Read the Wikipedias Tengwar, Jens Hansen’s English to Elvish translator and tecendil. You can also check with only Cirith and only Ungol if you want to see more of these. While the place in Tolkien’s book is pronounced kirith ungol, the band pronounced it sirith ungol. The band said in a later interview they had some problems with the name:

Everyone in the band was a big “Sword and Sorcery” literature fan, especially Greg [Lindstrom, guitars] and I. He would always turn us on to the great writers who gave us inspiration for our music. We read all the books… Conan, Bran Mak Morn, etcetera, but the books that stood out in my mind are Michael Moorcock’s masterpieces: Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum among others. Greg Lindstrom and I met at an English Literature class where the teacher was reading Lord of the Rings… and Greg and I read it and it had an influence on our music and feelings. In retrospect I wish we had picked something easier to remember because a lot of our trouble has been over our name. People couldn’t pronounce it or remember it, but we figured once they did they wouldn’t forget it! We’ve humorously been called “Sarah’s Uncle” and “Serious Uncool,” for example! I know other bands are using the Tolkien angle. Led Zeppelin even made references to it in their earlier songs. I think he was an influence both then and now on many people.

Robert Garven


I remember some other possible band names we were conpagering: Minas Tirith, Khazad Dum, and Uruk Hai, all names from “The Lord Of The Rings”. Rob and I both liked J.R.R. Tolkien and Enzo Ferrari, so we knew our songs would cover both those subjects!

Greg Lindstrom

Legendary heavy metal (OK, proto-doom) act Cirith Ungol were obviously taken by Tolkien’s Lord of the Ringsand other high fantasy authors like Michael Moorcock, from which the band plucked cover art. The name they picked was either named after a mountain pass in Mordor or the tower that guards it. It certainly has a strange ring. Like most names metal bands have picked over the ages, Cirith Ungol is Sindarin in origin, where ‘cirith’ translates to ‘pass’ and ‘ungol’ is a direct reference to the spawn of Ungoliant. ‘Ungol’ translates to ‘spider’. The Californians eventually even had a song about Cirith Ungol on the awesome King of the Dead album. Either way, while it stands to reason most contemporary bands would have a name appropriated from Tolkien, remember the ’60s and ’70s were times when Tolkien’s works, particularly The Hobbit, were increasingly part of literary culture changes.

Decibel, 10 Apr 2017

Some are misspelling and others are humors:

The one correct is Cirith Ungol.


Promo pictures:

Official websites:

Some of the unofficial websites:

Cirith Ungol Mark History

Michael Whelan 

Michael Moorcock ✍️

Cirith Ungol 


Elric 6. Stormbringer (Nov 1977)

Frost and Fire (31 Jan 1981) album 1

Stormbringer song on Forever Black (24 Apr 2020)

Elric 5. The Bane of the Black Sword (Oct 1977)

King of the Dead (02 Jul 1984) album 2

Elric 4. The Vanishing Tower (Jun 1977)

One Foot In Hell (12 Aug 1986) album 3

Elric 2. The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (Dec 1976)

Paradise Lost (23 Aug 1991) album 4

Sailor on the Seas of Fate song on Dark Parade (20 Oct 2023)

White Wolf (1977)

Elric 3. The Weird of the White Wolf (Mar 1977)
Servants of Chaos (05 May 2001) rare compilation album

Half Past Human (28 May 2021) newly recorded versions of 1970’s rarities

The Dark Towers 5. The Little Sisters of Eluria (1998) by Stephen King

Witch’s Game (05 Oct 2018) maxi single

Elric 1. Elric of Melniboné (Oct 1976)
I'm Alive (25 Nov 2019) live album


Forever Black (24 Apr 2020) album 5

Elric 7. Elric at the End of Time (May 1985)


Dark Parade (20 Oct 2023) album 6
Elric 4. The Vanishing Tower (31 May 1981) - special hardcover edition


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4 years ago

I feel something highly occult is talking to me through your music. Its so fucking cool. I couldnt resist so i joined the legion!!!! Cirith ungol is becoming my new favorite band. And you guys have the best fucking art ever. So getting the LPS tshirts and hoodies and what not so i can wear you guys with pride and honor! Thanks for the magic guys!


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