CIRITH UNGOL – Robert Garven – ENG

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CIRITH UNGOL : Master’s Return!

Interview in italian here

A dream come true. These are the perfect words to describe what I think effectively: I have been a Cirith Ungol fan since I discovered heavy metal and, honestly, after the separation of the early nineties, I could only dream of a return like this! We are in April 2020, I reviewed the new and awesome album “Forever Black” and now here I am to introduce you to the interview that drummer Robert Garven released us !! To say that I am excited does not make the idea but, before leaving you to read, I want to thank Valerio C. (with whom I wrote down the questions) and Paolo “PaulThrash” Porro for the fundamental help in translating the answers!

Hi Robert, thank you for your availability and welcome to HeavyMetalWebzine.it! I don’t hide to you that I’m totally excited because in first time I’m your fan! First of all, I’d like to ask you how are your health and how are you facing this period with COVID-19!

Luca, we are doing well, as we hope everyone out there is also, and taking a short break from the band, while this tragedy unfolds around us.

Talking about the new album: how it was received in Europe “Forever Black” from critics and which comments are you receiving from fans who listened to “Legions Arise” and “Before Tomorrow”?

So far, the reviews have been very positive, and we are excited to be back with our first new album in so many years!

Excluding “Witch’s Game”, you have published “Forever Black” after 29 years to the last release. When you understood that is arrive the time to make a new album of Cirith Ungol? What triggered the spark?

After the song, “Witch’s Game”, that we wrote for the upcoming animated movie “The Planet of Doom”, was released as a single in September 2018, many of the reviewers were asking, and or hoping for a new album. I think this suggested to the band that there was a desire to hear more of what the band had to offer, and the wheels at the “Cirith Ungol” secret lair started turning!

The songs that compose the album all been written recently or has something come from the past? In all this years, your style of songwriting changed in some way or is it always the same?

The songs were written in the same manner as before we broke up. We forge a song the same way a metallurgist creates a fine sword, adding the correct alloys to make it strong and true, then pounding these elements of molten metal to add strength and character, then quenching it in the blood of the unavenged!

Two of my favorite songs are “Legions Arise” and “Stormbringer”, but all the album has a very great quality: how did you choose the songs to be included in the album? Did you have to exclude songs from the tracklist or did you work only on the ones we find in the album?

The songs came together very organically, and once we had a concept for the album everything fell into place. We always have a few extra songs we are working on but there is only so much room on a 12” LP!

Greg Lindstrom was a significant songwriter for the first Cirith Ungol: how much of your talent and style is there in the new album?

We all collaborated together. Greg wrote the lyrics for “The Frost Monstreme” and “The Fire Devine”, had had the original ideas for these songs, as a nod back to our “Sword and Sorcery” themes, of our early influences. He is also responsible for the crazy whammy bar action on the album!

Are there any links between the lyrics of the various songs? I think that we can’t talk of “Forever Black” like a concept album, right?

I wrote the lyrics to “Legions Arise”, and it is a call to arms for a new generation to rise up and “Join the Legion”, the two “Sword and Sorcery” themed songs are mentioned above, with the rest of the lyrical content being the dark and brooding dystopian theme created by Tim. It is not a concept album per se; however, the album does have a concept, “Forever Black”!

Like I wrote on my review, I believe that “Forever Black” retakes all the Cirith Ungol trademarks: I described it as a mixture of power and dynamics from “Paradise Lost” and the dark atmospheres of “One Foot In Hell”: can we consider a natural successor of yours old big albums of the 80’s?

Of course, and I am so glad that many have echoed your words. We had unfinished business, and we were picking up from where we left off, from so many years ago! This album is making up for all that lost time.

In “Forever Black” we can hear the 70’s roots of the band. All the epic metal bands more celebrated (Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road, Manowar, Heavy Load, Warlord, etc..) had a strong bases in those years. Is this the secret that allows you to create magical songs, full of feelings and atmospheres, even before heavy?

Well the core of the band definitely had some of our major influences from that era. The goal was to create as heavy of an album as we could. We think we succeeded, but we will let your readers decide for themselves, if they agree!

In my opinion, the sound of “Forever Black” is definitely more effective than the albums of your past: can you explain to us the recording sessions and production of this new release?

Much has changed in the recording technology since our last album, and I think it makes things much easier, however we physically recorded this much as we did in the past; basic tracks, guitars, vocals, more guitars, more vocals! We probably could have gone on forever, except we had a deadline and budget!!!

We can affirm that “Forever Black” is a long awaited album: Do you feel the anxious expectation from the fans?

I just got my first copy last night, and no one has waited for this more than the band. It actually took a while to sink in what had actually happened. Great emotions swept over me holding it in my hands, and I hope that emotion is shared by our faithful listeners.

The global situation caused by COVID-19 has also blocked live music, of course: when all this is over, are you planning to do something to support “Forever Black” live? How much I would like to see you here, in Italy..

It has been my dream my whole life to visit Italy, especially Maranello & Monza!!!! Greg and I originally became friends as we were big auto racing fans, and Italy is ground zero for that passion! I am the proud caretaker of 2 older Ferraris so Italy has a special place in my heart. As amazing as the new album is, we were very excited to be sharing the new music live. This great tragedy has put everything on hold, and our hope is to come out on the other end stronger than before…

In the last years you had played several shows here in Europe: what do you remember about your exhibitions in festivals like “Keep It True”, “Hammer Of Doom” and “Up The Hammers”? What feelings did you feel in front of the enthusiasm of your fans?

There is no way to describe the feeling of playing the heavy music we love in front of a large gathering, and our fervent hope is that can continue into the future!

It was the enthusiasm of the fans that pushed you to publish “I’m Alive” in 2019?

After we reunited Metal Blade Records approached us with the idea of a live album. We had never released one before, and this seemed like the perfect time. But of course, a live album is nothing without the most important element, the audience!

Your discography is completely full of classics songs for heavy metal music, how do you choose the songs to play live?

That is probably the hardest decision to make in the band, and with 5 albums out, with so many heavy songs, trying to decide what to cut out is difficult. That is why we were so excited to play the 2020 “Keep it True Festival” this year, as we were going to play the new album in its entirety along with songs from “Paradise Lost”, with the second night being all the classics. That was probably the only chance we would ever have, to play the new album in its entirety…

What about to make a little game: I’d like that you put beside an adjective to each of your albums, obviously explaining the reasons of the choice!

FROST AND FIRE:

Razor sharp. This was our first album and we released it to be the ultimate demo so we could get record company support. It had all our top 40 hits that we thought could get radio airplay, so essential back then. When no big record company noticed, it turned out to be our first album. What strikes me most is Tim’s razor sharp vocals slashing through the songs. Plus, it was recorded on an 8 track machine and there is lots of clarity to the sound!

KING OF THE DEAD:

Heavy. This album we had complete control over and decided to pull out all the stops and create the heaviest metal known to man!

ONE FOOT IN HELL:

Doomy. This was a very consistent album, and had some of our first doomy elements, brought front and center for all to behold!

PARADISE LOST:

Trilogy. This album could have been so much more. Some of our best material ever, but was marred by our inclusion of a few songs that were brought to the band by the two musicians that came on to finish the album. The irony was they were gone before it was even released. It will always have however, “Join the Legion” and the trilogy to make up for that!

FOREVER BLACK:

Dark. This album was foreshadowing the dark and foreboding future we envision for the world. Not all our songs are fantasy based and the environmental and social upheaval that is to come, is now on display for all to see…

You are famous also for the great cover artwork of Michael Whelan and for the lyrics inspired by fantasy literature. Which are your favourite books today? Do they speak about fantasy literature?

I don’t get to read as much as I would like, but am somewhat obsessed by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I am drawn to his vison of universal terror. I also recently reread Robert E. Howard’s Bran Mak Morn series, which I think is better than the Conan works, great reading for anyone that like the “Sword and Sorcery” themed music!

The world of the music is changed a lot from the 80ies, how is your relationship with the music business today?

We are so lucky to be on Metal Blade Records for this reunion. They are like an extended family with Brian and everyone involved have been essential in making our reunion work. There is no doubt they understand the band, and are supporting us with their heart and soul!

A few more questions before the greetings: although Cirith Ungol have been split for many years, your music is always beloved, even by who was born after your split up. How do you explain it? In your opinion, what there is of magical about your music that makes it immortal even after so many years?

This is one of life’s mysteries, like why doesn’t Ferrari win every race!! If I were to truthfully guess I would say it was because our music with all its flaws, is above all things honest. This reminds me of some dialog from the spectacular 1981 movie, Excalibur:

King Arthur: “Which is the greatest quality of knighthood? Courage? Compassion? Loyalty? Humility? What do you say, Merlin?”

Merlin: “The greatest? Well, they blend like the metals we mix to make a good sword.”

King Arthur: “No poetry. Just a straight answer. Which is it?” 

Merlin: “All right, then. Truth. That’s it! Yes. It must be truth, above all. When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.”

My curiosity: how do you feel when bands or musicians mention Cirith Ungol as one of their major influences?

It is amazing and humbling…

Ok Robert, now we are arrived at the end. As usual, the last words are yours, close this interview as you want! I thank you from my heart for your availability and for an awesome album like “Forever Black”!

I am hoping that all your readers will take some time to pick up and listen to our 5th studio album “Forever Black” on Metal Blade Records, and if they get the chance to make it out to one of out rare appearances. If so they will hear “Cirith Ungol’s” vision of the darker side of man’s eternal struggle “A Churning Maelstrom of Metal Chaos Descending!”

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