Zine VC Reporter Slogan That's Metal Show • Chapter Frost and Fire pays homage to Cirith Ungol • Journalist Michael Aushenker Published Mon 05 Oct 2015
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Frost and Fire Fest pays homage to Cirith Ungol
by Michael Aushenker

Eighties hair metal may have run its course, and Nirvana may have supplanted Guns N’ Roses by 1991, but true heavy metal has never really faded away. Attend any comic book convention or county fair and you’ll spot many a Slayer or Testament T-shirt. Just last month, the venerable Aussie rockers of AC/DC saluted a sold-out Dodger Stadium.

Now’s your chance to spot sandy Ventura’s dark metal roots when the inaugural Frost and Fire Fest bombs the riffage at Bombay Bar on Oct. 17.

Witchita, Kansas, stompers Manilla Road and cult favorite Ashbury headline a bill that includes Night Demon, Salt Lake City’s epic metal practitioners Visigoth and Louisville’s female-fronted Savage Master.

Most triumphantly, Tim Baker and Robert Garven of the legendary and long-defunct Ventura band Cirith Ungol, will be on hand to autograph records and memorabilia. This is a big deal, despite the fact that the band, which formed in 1972, will not be performing, and hasn’t since the early ’90s. The festival is named after one of its albums.

Cirith Ungol and Night Demon in Casa de Soria VCR - Frost and Fire pays homage to Cirith Ungol | Cirith Ungol Online

Members of Cirith Ungol and Night Demon recently shared a meal at Casa de Soria in Ventura, in the booth where the restaurant has kept a framed glossy of Cirith Ungol for 30 years.

“They’re the band everyone always wanted to see,” said festival organizer and Night Demon leader Jarvis Leatherby, who explained how the erstwhile Slayer and Venom tourmates quit over music industry disillusionment. “They really thought they were getting the shit end of the stick and they were tired of it,” says Leatherby, who recently spotted a vinyl copy of Frost and Fire fetching $89 at an L.A. record store.

“It is ironic, as when we were at the height of our power, we had a hard time playing here in Ventura,” Garven told VCReporter, although Cirith Ungol did play the Elk’s Lodge, Foster Park Bowl (twice), the Promenade (twice) and Ventura High School’s Larrabee Stadium.

The Tolkienian-named group’s “epic metal” is not the only strain sweeping Frost and Fire. “There are so many sub-genres of this style of music, more so than any other genre in the world, even classical,” says Leatherby. The Night Demon lead vocalist/bassist gives props to the World Wide Web for keeping metal’s black heart beating like a double-bass drum.

Take left-for-dead Ashbury, which has seen its album Endless Skies turned into an objet de’fascination years after the fact. (The Tucson outfit will play Endless in its entirety at the event.) Naturally, Night Demon (also featuring guitarist Brent Woodward and drummer Dusty Squires), which is influenced by the British heavy metal classicism of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motorhead, will be playing. Steel Prophet features original Anthrax singer Neil Turbin subbing on vocals. Bat boasts Municipal Waste’s Ryan Waste and D.R.I. drummer Felix Griffin. L.A. newbies Wolfcross, Sacramento’s Hellion Prime and Ventura’s Gygax will round out the bill.

“The heavy metal audiences are the most loyal, diehard people of any genres, even classical,” says Leatherby. “They still buy merchandise, CDs and vinyl. They live it, they breathe it. There are a lot of chicks who are into it, too.”

While Europe has some 200 metal festivals, Leatherby can only name three that are stateside: Brooklyn’s Defenders of the Old, Chicago’s Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse, and Throwback Metal Fest in Las Vegas.

As a well-heeled promoter who has brought Slayer to Ventura, Leatherby promises attendees from as far away as Canada, Mexico, Germany, France and Greece. Leatherby has even lined up a three-day Frost and Fire for October 2016 at the Ventura Theater.

Meanwhile, Cirith Ungol’s Baker and Garven drink this all in smiling.

“I am proud of the music we’ve created and gratified that it is still appreciated today by the faithful,” Garven says. “Our music is quite popular in Europe. I just wish we could roll the clock back to when we were in our prime and together still.”

Frost and Fire is not the first metal festival named after one of Cirith Ungol’s songs (Chaos Descends unfurls annually in Germany) but it’s certainly closer to home. “I’ve lived here forever,” Baker said of the town where he raised a family. Ventura “allowed us to develop something unique.”

So Baker and Garven welcome Leatherby’s endeavor with devil-horn gestures. “It’s about having some great bands and a great time here in Ventura,” says Baker. “Every metal head owes him a big thank-you for bringing in some kick-ass bands!”

Frost and Fire Fest, Saturday, Oct. 17, from 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Bombay Bar, 143 S. California St., Ventura. For tickets and information, visit frostandfirefest.


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