Cirith Ungol

One Foot in Hell

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Never the greatest of heavy metal bands to begin with (although no one could ever accuse them of sounding like anyone else), Los Angeles' Cirith Ungol were really starting to overstay their welcome come album number three, 1986's One Foot in Hell. Where previous efforts like 1981's Frost & Fire and 1984's King of the Dead had contained the odd American proto-metal classic and enough songwriting inventiveness to counter the band's utterly uncommercial talents, One Foot in Hell sounded very tired and uninspired. Limp-wristed semi-thrashers like "Blood & Iron" and "100 MPH" were interspersed with plodding no-hopers like "The Fire" and "Doomed Planet" -- all of them as poorly recorded as ever, yet laden with lyrics that were arguably too simplistic and dumb even by heavy metal standards. Any rare bright spots were isolated to portions of the title track and the second half of "War Eternal," but the once combustible and wonderfully idiosyncratic songwriting team of guitarist Jerry Fogle and vocalist Tim Baker only really clicked as before on lone album standout "Chaos Descends." Baker, in particularly, his strangled rasp still, for good and ill, Cirith Ungol's most distinctive feature, seemed to have been pushed to the background on this occasion; his contributions rendered ghostlike, almost unintelligible, and even inscrutable in the case of "Nadsokor." Worst of all, it wouldn't get any better for Cirith Ungol in the aftermath of One Foot in Hell's release, as their already cult-level standing continued to slip on their way to a ignoble and almost unheralded demise five years later.

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