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Time Travel with Cirith Ungol

Few bands in the history of the heavy metal underground have a story as remarkable, improbable, or uplifting as that of Cirith Ungol. It is a tale of pioneering innovation, crushing disappointment, self-imposed exile, populist fervor, and, ultimately, global redemption.

The band 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. There was no rulebook, no template to follow, so Cirith Ungol simply made it up as they went along, allowing their imaginations to run amok and their creativity to be their guide.

Today, five decades later, Metal Digest had a chat with the band.


The time has finally arrived! Half Past Human is now out and we can finally add a copy to our CU collection. How surreal does it feel for you to hold the physical copy in your hands and reminisce on your entire careen in the music industry for 5 decades?

Rob: Opening up one of your own albums and holding it in your hands is an experience you only have a few times in your life. As with all our other projects we put quite a bit of blood, sweat, and tears into every one of them, so grasping the final product is definitely a special moment filled with pride and satisfaction. I am still blown away that we were able to use so many of Michael Whelan’s classic masterpieces for our album covers. I think this one may be one of the best, with Elric stabbing his black sword “Stormbringer” into the “Brutish Manchild”!

Say, I built a time machine, and I choose you to be my (very stylish and badass) guinea pigs. I’m taking you back in time. Where do I set the date to and why? What moment(s) would you like to relive?

Rob: I would personally go back to after our second album “King of the Dead”, and work harder to get a major record deal and better management.

I think we could’ve been much more successful if given the opportunity.

However, messing with time could cause problems that would have a ripple effect affecting the time stream, and our reunion, “Witch’s Game”, “I’m Alive”, “Forever Black”, and “Half Past Human” might never exist.

And now, I’m bringing you back to today. After such an overwhelming time-travel I think I earned a day in your life. What does a day in the band’s life look like today? 

Rob: We are not a traditional band in any sense of the word, and things were a lot different when we were younger and our lives were less complicated. I’m sure every band member approaches this differently but for me, it’s all about the heaviness of the music, and carrying the torch of true metal!

Your die-hard fans keep showing absolute loyalty to the band, year after year. We’ve seen people having extreme collections of magazine clippings, tattoos, customized motorcycles, and the list goes on. What’s the craziest thing a fan ever did for the band?

Rob: That’s an easy one,

I have a folder of photographs of tattoos our fans and friends have indelibly inscribed into their flesh.

Marking our logo or images from our albums onto their bodies is nothing short of supreme dedication. Some are more fantastic than others, but they all show their loyalty to the band and our music, which is almost incomprehensible, and the ultimate tribute!

05. The music industry is not just about the music. Have you noticed specific merch or design trends that come or go over certain periods?

Rob: I think we have been spoiled since the band got back together. Metal Blade Records has put out some really amazing packaging for all of our projects. Our live album with all the extra bits come to mind, and the variety of colored vinyl, etc…  It has been really gratifying to see some of the amazing products with our likeness on them, and of course a return to the 12-inch vinyl LPs!

Your bassist, Jarvis Leatherby, is also your manager. What’s the dynamic between the band members and what’s the process you follow when you have to make important related decisions?

Rob: Of course, the band would’ve never come back without Jarvis, and his dedication to “Cirith Ungol” and Metal. He has allowed the band to retain its creativity while helping us chart a path forward. Most of us are on the same page and we’re just trying to write the final chapter in the band’s history. We never had a manager that knew what they were doing, so the joining of our forces has been epic for the band.

07. Let’s hop on the time machine again and travel into the future. What do you want to achieve in the next 5 years and what’s the next step for Cirith Ungol?

Rob: Our goal is to create a bit more heavy music, get out and share our unique brand of metal at some very exclusive shows around the world, and spread the word of the Legions of Chaos! “A Churning Maelstrom of Metal Chaos Descending!”

Thank you for the wonderful interview.

Until we meet again,

Chelf | Metal Digest.

Thank you, I am looking forward to that!

Come on in!

Metal Digest is an online music magazine specializing in rock and metal. It is aimed at the mobile market, who can get their fix whilst on the go. Whether you walk, drive, fly, sail or teleport make sure you do it with Metal Digest, bitesize heavy metal rock and metal news, reviews and interviews for when you’re on the go.

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