Cirith Ungol - Frost and Fire
Liquid Flames Records
Heavy Metal
8 songs (31:26)
Release year: 1980
Reviewed by Thomas
Archive review

This is the debut of the unsung heavy metal dinosaurs Cirith Ungol. Frost and Fire was released eight years after the band was formed in the shadow of Iron Maiden and the likes, and is now considered a cult classic. According to the band members, this is, due to the desire of radio airplay, their most commercial release. The band didn’t get much acknowledgement until several years later, and this was even labeled “the worst heavy metal record ever” by an ignorant Kerrang reviewer. Quite on the contrary this is undeniably one of the best and firmest debuts ever. From the first unleashed note on the title-track to the fierce and whipping scream at the end of their namesake (if you have the reissued version), this is a chilling journey through the dark tunnels in the Pass of the Spider.

The album opener Frost and Fire is pretty upbeat and groovy, while the bouncy I’m Alive is full of tempo-shifts but ends up slowing things down a little. Michael Flint’s dominating and funky bass playing and Tim Barker’s light snarling carries the songs along with thrilling guitar-work. The way Flint works his bass on these ones and all the other songs are similar to Steve Harris, only a little slacker and sometimes even livelier. The guitars are sharp and raw with a fuzzy edge to them. The leads are often pure entertaining thrills, that does nothing but put a wicked smile on your face. Barker’s twisted vocals seem to be a love/hate thing. Honestly I don’t see the problem at all. His voice is sharp as a knife with a pointy tip and the rapid vocal lines clutches your attention in a tight grip. I’ve even read comparisons to Bon Scott and the likes, and that can’t be bad now can it? To be honest, I don’t entirely get that one myself, as his voice is a little twisted yes, but not anywhere near as crazy as Scotts. Cirith Ungol does a great job including touches from early and simple rock music like on the riffy A Little Fire, as well as some atmospheric and humble keyboard sounds here and there on What Does It Take. Edge Of A Knife is a pure rock n’ roll anthem with the appropriate lyrics, a sing-along chorus, groovy breaks and solos and the unmistakable rough attitude. Better Of Dead is packed with groove and incredibly cool instrumental parts. Not musically challenging or anything, just downright enjoyable and something every fan of heavy metal should dig. The end draws near when the fading notes of the brilliant instrumental Maybe That’s Why are reduced into nothingness and the doomy and thunderous live-version of their namesake finishes this off with style.

Cirith Ungol is a band that never got and probably never will get much recognition or acknowledgement for what they’ve done. The fact that they’ve created some cult milestones will forever be drowned in the ocean of big fish such as Maiden or Sabbath or whatever. However, if you dig deep like I did, you’re destined to find tons of quality releases like this and many others. Frost and Fire was hailed as the worst metal album ever because that Kerrang reviewer didn’t know what to compare it to. It wasn’t another Iron Maiden, it was a little different and harder to place on the heavy metal shelf. When we now take a look back, we’ll find that this, for some, is of the same, if not better quality than the commercially successful releases. Go get this if you’re a fan of old-school to the bone rocking heavy metal. You will not be disappointed my friend.

Killing Songs :
Album as a whole
Thomas quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Cirith Ungol that we have reviewed:
Cirith Ungol - Paradise Lost reviewed by Thomas and quoted 82 / 100
Cirith Ungol - One Foot In Hell reviewed by Thomas and quoted 90 / 100
Cirith Ungol - King of the Dead reviewed by Dee and quoted 92 / 100
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