Cirith Ungol belong to the bands that never got to become the big name, but they still command some really faithful following. These are the fans who know their way well in metal, have escaped the current of the mainstream and have simply searched more extensively through the hard sound (perhaps some stuff is only for the few…)
Shadow Nation has located the band from California and the founder and drummer of the band, Rob Garven, sharing some very interesting points with us.
«We refused to switch or pander to the shifting trends by compromising our artistic ideals»
– Hello everyone. Thank you for the honor of talking to Shadow Nation.
– Thank you for the opportunity to talk about Cirith Ungol.
– You were about to arrive in Greece within a few days, in a particularly difficult period (unprecedented price hikes, pandemic etc.), but your concert was eventually canceled. What is the message you would like to send to people?
There’s nothing we can do about the deteriorating condition of the world and much of what is currently unfolding is prophesied in our doom laden music. We would like to send our metal greetings to the people of Greece.
It has been too long since we visited last, and we were looking forward to seeing all of our Greek friends again after such a long absence, unfortunately I just heard today that our European tour was canceled. It’s not the news any of us wanted to hear!
The pandemic has been rough on us, and considering we some of the elder statesmen of heavy metal, three years out of our lives has been a long time, and the hits just keep on coming… I am confident that we will all make it out of this on the other side stronger and heavier!
– Since you were formed in the early 70s, why did it take you so long to release your first full-length album?
We were very young at the time and our main goal when we started writing our own material was to secure a major record label contract. When that never happened, we decided to release our own demo which eventually turned out to be our first album “Frost & Fire”.
It wasn’t designed to be that, but we did such a professional job on it, that it was equal production wise to any album released by a major record label at the time. The photography by Wallace Rollins, the fantastic cover art by Michael Whelan, down to the pressing which was done on German vinyl at a pressing plant in Los Angeles that was well known for audiophile quality discs.
Even though it was conceived as a demo it has all stood the test of time, and will go down in the annals of metal history as Cirith Ungol’s first effort!
– Although you are not so widely known in Greece, you still have some faithful following, including myself. Why do you think Cirith Ungol attract a rather demanding audience? (At one point you stated you had been branded the best epic doom band, while others had labeled you the worst metal band in history)
We always wrote our music for ourselves. We tried to write the heaviest music that we could, based on our influences of all the great heavy metal and hard rock bands that came before us. I think that is why we attract a exclusive number of sophisticated music aficionados. Our music was never intended for the huddled masses, which I don’t think I have that great of taste anyway. I think people who enjoy our unique style of heavy metal are drawn to it because it is so different and honest.
– Were you rather late in making the move to Europe?
Since most of our major influences sprang from the European continent, our goal always was to play here. But unfortunately, we were never offered the opportunity until the band reunited in 2015. It is a shame because maybe our career would’ve taken a different path if we would’ve been able to play outside the United States in our heyday.
– How did you experience the shifts in music during the 80s? Was it something that held you back, or did it give you a boost? Or perhaps you went along regardless of the trend?
Our experience of the shifting music scene in the 1980s was not positive. We believed in the music we were playing, and that style of what is now called classic or epic heavy metal, and refused to switch or pander to the shifting trends by compromising our artistic ideals. Of course, many of the bands that did pander to these trends became very successful.
– Which bands or artists have influenced you more than anyone else, and in which field?
I can’t speak for all the members of the band especially after so much time has passed now, but when we first started, we were heavily influenced by the heavy hard rock bands at the time such as; Mountain, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Blue Cheer, among others. Then came Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Lucifer’s Friend and Budgie, bands that were the early true metal bands.
It is well known that Greg, Jerry and I were also very interested in the Sword and Sorcery themed literature such as Tolkien, Howard and Moorcock, and I was always a big fan of HP Lovecraft and horror literature. Visually we were drawn towards artists such as Michael Whelan and Frank Frazetta. Tim was reading Dante and Milton!
– Do you think grunge had a negative effect on you in 1991? Because Paradise Lost had shown you had got things going once again. What happened after all?
As I mentioned before we never strayed from the path that we were on, which we thought was the path of true metal, and none of the shifting trends that came out really ever influenced us. The main reason most of our albums were spaced years apart was due to the fact that we were always trying to either self-finance our own albums or recording, or looking for a new record deal.
In between One Foot in Hell and Paradise Lost we also lost a few members, which necessitated us to bring some new members on board and that’s always hard to do, especially in a band that has been around for a while. Jimmy was an exception and he is still with the band today, cranking out heavy riffs and leads!
– Would you say that nowadays the hard sound does not have the momentum it once had, both as a movement and in a pure musical sense? Why are most people obsessed with the 70s and 80s?
I don’t think that’s true at all, there’s many bands out today which just like us are following in the footsteps of those that came before them, trying to lay down the heavy music, which we all consider true metal.
Of course, there’s so many genres and sub genres of metal now it’s easy to get confused, but there’s a lot of good bands and musicians out there. I think what draws people back to those early years is the purity of the sound and the concepts. I still find myself listening to a lot of bands from those years myself!
– Are Cirith Ungol preparing anything new after Forever Black?
We are finishing up the material what will be our sixth studio album. We are not sure of the timetable for its recording or release, but the plan is to make it as heavy as our last studio album, “Forever Black”, which heavy metal fans across the globe received quite favorably!
– Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you so much for your questions and in your interest in Cirith Ungol. I look forward to seeing you again as well, and returning to Greece the “Cradle of Civilization!! I never made it up the Acropolis so my hope is that we will come back very soon!