Cirith Ungol (band)

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Cirith Ungol
Origin Ventura, California, United States
Genres Heavy metal, doom metal, power metal
Years active 1972–1992, 1996–2001, 2015–present
Labels Liquid Flame, Metal Blade, Restless
Associated acts Titanic

Cirith Ungol is a California heavy metal band formed in 1972.

The group is known for lyrics based on fantasy (particularly sword and sorcery) and is an early epic doom and power metal band.[1]

Their first album, Frost and Fire, contained elements of 1970s hard rock and metal [2] with songs written by bassist and guitarist Greg Lindstrom, but beginning with King of the Dead, they played a progressive rock influenced doom metal with lyrics primarily written by vocalist Tim Baker and drummer Robert Garven,[3] although all band members typically contributed to song composition.


Greg Lindstrom, Robert Garven, Jerry Fogle and Pat Galligan (later a guitarist in Angry Samoans) played in Titanic, their first band in junior high school. With a desire to play heavier music similar to that of Mountain and Grand Funk Railroad, the band parted with Galligan and reformed in 1972 as Cirith Ungol. They played original, instrumental songs before adding Neal Beattie on vocals.

In 1980, they were signed by Enigma Records and released their first album, Frost and Fire, with Tim Baker on vocals.[4]

The second album, King of the Dead was released in 1984, followed by One Foot in Hell in 1986. They disbanded after their fourth album Paradise Lost, due to frustration with the music business.[5]

In 2001, Metal Blade Records released in Germany Servants of Chaos, a compilation album of unreleased demos and live songs.[6] With old tapes and assistance from Lindstrom and Garven, it was an attempt to give fans a wealth of archival and previously unheard material before the tapes deteriorated beyond retrieval. This double CD was later re-released worldwide, with a rare 1984 live DVD recorded at the Wolf & Rissmiller's Country Club in California.[7]

Lindstrom now plays with Falcon, who perform some Cirith Ungol songs.[8]

Founding guitarist Jerry Fogle died from liver failure on August 20, 1998.[9]

Members of the band came together for the 2015 Frost and Fire music festival in Ventura, California, in their first public appearance as a band since 1991, where they participated in a meet-and-greet, signing items for fans.[10]

Cirith Ungol announced that they would reunite for the 2016 Frost and Fire event, playing their first live show since December 13, 1991.[11] On October 8, 2016, former members Tim Baker, Robert Garven, Jim Barraza, and Greg Lindstrom have reunited Cirith Ungol onstage, performing their first show in 25 years at Frost & Fire II festival in Ventura, California. Throughout 2017, the band had set out to headline and co-headline several European and US festivals, including Keep It True (Germany), Up The Hammers (Greece), Defenders Of The Old (US), Chaos Descends (Germany), Psycho Las Vegas (US), Days Of Darkness(US) and Hammer of Doom (Germany)[12]

The Name[edit]

The band took their name from the mountain pass Cirith Ungol in J. R. R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. The name is Elvish and means "Pass of the Spider." While the place in Tolkien's book is pronounced "kirith ungol," the band pronounced it "sirith ungol." The band said 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[13]

I remember some other possible band names we were considering: 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[14]

Album cover art[edit]

Each studio album's cover art is taken from the cover of a DAW Books edition of a book in Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone saga; the art is by Michael Whelan.[15]

Band members[edit]

  • Neal Beattie - lead vocals (1972-1975)[16]
  • Tim Baker - lead vocals (1976-1992, 2015–present)
  • Greg Lindstrom - bass and guitars (1972-1982, 2015–present)
  • Jerry Fogle - guitars (1972-1987)
  • Jim Barraza - guitars (1988-1992, 2015–present)
  • Michael "Flint" Vujea - bass guitar (1981-1987)
  • Vernon Green - bass guitar (1988-1992)
  • Robert Garven - drums (1972-1992, 2015–present)
  • Jarvis Leatherby - bass guitar (2015–present)



Studio albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Metal Massacre (compilation appearance, 1982)
  • The Metal Machine (compilation appearance, 1984)
  • Best of Metal Blade, Vol. 2 (compilation appearance, 1988)
  • Live (EP, 1996)
  • Double Whammy (compilation appearance, 1999)
  • Servants of Chaos (rare tracks compilation, 2001)
  • Metal Blade 20th Anniversary (compilation appearance, 2002)
  • One Foot in Fire (tribute album, 2006)


External links[edit]