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Chaos rose, and it conquered withal. - 95%

hells_unicorn, April 23rd, 2020
Written based on this version: 1991, CD, Restless Records

Whenever an unpopular stance is taken, it is necessary to lend at least some credence to the prevailing position and take a quasi-apologetic tone when making one's case. Wherein one of the most enigmatic bands of the early epic heavy metal movement is concerned, not to mention one highly regarded by a vocal subset of the community, few topics are as controversial as the status of the final studio offering of their original run. It is the textbook definition of swimming against the tide to heap praise upon an album that has been publicly condemned by one of the very musicians that helped create it, and drummer and co-founder Robert Garven was quite specific in his recollection of Paradise Lost, the long awaited and heavily delayed fourth LP of steadfast purveyors of things metallic, fantastical and retro Cirith Ungol. To state that this is an outlier in relation to its predecessors would be an understatement, much of it owing to a massive shakeup in the band's classic lineup, but different doesn't necessarily translate into bad and there is still enough of the band's signature sound in place to make it relatable to the raw, long-winded grandeur of King Of The Dead and One Foot In Hell.

Despite the past protests of Garven and the ongoing ones of this band's cult following, the chief flaw of this album is the year that it was released. Given that some of this material has been noted by the former as having been composed when classic era guitarist Jerry Fogle and bassist Michael "Flint" Vujejia were still in congress circa 1987, it logically follows that the original target date of this album's release would have been 1988 or '89, and the correspondingly compressed and slickly mixed sound definitely conforms more to a late 80s production as opposed to an early 90s one. Indeed, the often cited friction between the band and producer Ron Goudie would seem to indicate that the latter was attempting to pull things away from the band's looser, retro-70s rock-based feel towards something tighter and more in line with mainstream metal sensibilities, particularly that of certain thrash and power metal acts of the time such as Sacred Warrior, Vengeance Rising and Gwar, whom Goudie and his primary engineer Robert Feist were working with at the time. This also explains the approach of having each musician brought in separately and playing to a click-track alone, as it would work as a disincentive against the Ward and Butler-inspired jam-band approach that Garven was keen to take and force a more unified sound.

Be all of this as it may, the exodus of this band's seminal bassist and guitarist duo from the fold also speaks to a change in priority in songwriting and style that shines through in these songs regardless of the radically different production, a shift that brings things closer to where metal was at the time of its likely intended year of release. The entrance of guitarist Jim Barazza of the recently defunct and fellow Ventura, California-based metal outfit Prophecy brings in more of a flashy metallic flourish into the mix, not all that dissimilar to what Herman Frank brought to Accept back in 1983. He was originally intended to share lead duties with Jerry Fogle to bring in a dueling soloist element, according to Garven's account of things, and even in their former ax-man's absence this approach is maintained in the studio via overdubs and occasional input by otherwise unknown session guitarist Joe Malatesta. Combined with a bass performance out of newly recruited Vernon Green that is highly reminiscent of Steve Harris, much of this album finds itself in territory comparable to the likes of Iron Maiden's Powerslave and Accept's Russian Roulette almost as much as it manages to maintain an affinity with the band's 70s roots. Even vocalist Tim Baker's flamboyant banshee howls have been notably toned down to a more measured roar, occasionally even morphing into something resembling a human singing voice.

To state that this album comes off as more disciplined and more controlled may suggest that it is less intense, but the exact opposite proves to be the case when these songs rampage through the stereo speakers. Riff-happy, almost power metal-like crushers like "Join The Legions" and the gallop-happy epic "Heaven Help Us" don't pull any punches, employing recurring gang-choruses and layered vocal harmonies normally avoided on previous outings and balance this band's tendencies towards instrumental elaboration with some truly infectious hooks. The punchy grooves of "Before The Lash" lean to more of a Balls To The Walls vibe and see Baker's raw snarls melding perfectly with a mid-paced, catchy anthem. "Go It Alone", a song that was originally conceived for Barazza's previous band Prophecy, has a tad more of a happy-go-lucky, Twisted Sister/Quiet Riot feel to it, but maintains the heaviness factor sufficiently and proves to be only a slightly weaker link in an otherwise unbreakable chain. On the other hand, the harrowing stomp of "The Troll" and the metallic remake of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown's "Fire" present a darker and more forbidding character more in line with what fans of Cirith Ungol's older offerings were likely expecting, albeit presented in a more powerful arrangement that could stand toe to toe with the likes of Crimson Glory and King Diamond.

Barring the previously mentioned longer offering "Heaven Help Us", much of what is brought to the table on this album is of a far more streamlined and symmetrical nature, but this changes during the final third of its duration. While the general air of tightness and organization persists, a sizable return to the more unconventional and doom-steeped days of yesteryear emerge with "Chaos Rising". This longer running composition spends much of its time in gloomy territory comparable to Candlemass, with Tim Baker even switching out his shrieks on occasion for a dreary baritone that's pretty close to Johan Längquist, though it kicks things up to a swift pace and peppers on the flashy guitar solos enough to put Tipton and Downing on notice. A similar tale are told in the more consistently down-tempo yet still bombastic epic doom trudge of "Fallen Idols", which arguably veers the closest to being a holdover from One Foot In Hell with Green even channeling some of Flint's Geezer Butler influences amid a more heavily layered production. The closing hurrah and title song "Paradise Lost" sees things kicked back up to an faster, more power metal-like stride, with the riff set almost sounding like a more Sabbath-infused take on something Queensryche or Fates Warning might have done back in mid-80s, yet it still feels quite appropriate in the context of this band's previous works.

The passage of time has an ability to heal most wounds, and with Metal Blade Records finally acquiring the publishing rights to this album in 2016 for a proper reissue, it is safe to say that bygones have become bygones insofar as the now reformed Cirith Ungol's attitude toward this album is concerned. Nevertheless, this album's greatest strength is that it defies the otherwise consistent underground demeanor of this band's sound and gives it a greater crossover appeal to those not bound to epic heavy metal purism. It shouldn't be regarded as a wholly commercial beast, though it is far more accessible, but rather as an accidental catharsis of a raw, untamed intensity with a forced sense of structure that emerges all the stronger despite the massive friction that existed during its birth. For those that it may lose due to its more polished and slick demeanor, it ought to gain two or three-fold that number among those who enjoyed the USPM with occasional progressive flashes that defined Crimson Glory and early Queensryche, alongside the grittier offerings of early Omen and Helstar. It may still be an acquired taste relative to a lot of the better known material of the 80s, but it is far easier to acquire while also possessing a greater degree of technical flair and staying power. Potential accusations of contrarianism and the contemptible practices of Restless Records aside, this is the best that Cirith Ungol has to offer, and it deserves far more credit than it has received.

In Hell's corrupt and sunken halls. - 75%

Diamhea, February 23rd, 2014

Despite Garven publicly denouncing Paradise Lost on multiple occasions, it really isn't entirely deserving of the scorn one of it's own creators feels the need to heap upon it. Vujejia is gone, Fogle is gone, and half of the lineup -despite having accrued upwards of five years seniority with the band by this point- had yet to record any proper Cirith Ungol studio material.

Archaic production values are something that often go hand-in-hand with Cirith Ungol material. It is part of the appeal. Still, I can't help but feel that albums like King of the Dead were much more indignant behemoths at their core, often let down by the muffled rhythm guitar and scattershot production values. Paradise Lost rectifies many of these past follies, giving the guitars an equal footing alongside Garven's agitated rhythms and Baker's harpy screeching. The sound is still quite anachronistic by the standards of it's day, but as the first notes of "Join the Legion" rumble through your speakers you can't help but feel that Garven is bitter towards the whole ordeal. Barraza and Malatesta craft some decent traditionally heavy patterns that fly in the face of early '90s convention. The pinch harmonics come off as a bit thin and wanting, but that is just a personal nitpick. Regardless, the leads always end up embodying the individual highlights of most of these tracks, with a fairly coherent style and restrained melodic feel.

There are stinkers, namely the stock quasi-humor romp "The Troll" and the painful stab at mainstream appeal in "Go It Alone". The former was a forced inclusion courtesy of one of the session members the band was forced to use as the lineup fell apart around their very eyes. There is still a lot of classic material here that can't be ignored. "Join the Legion" is a pretty straightforward Ungolbanger that gets the proceedings off to a solid start. "Chaos Rising" starts slowly with Baker crooning in a more measured fashion, but it opens into a spirited-enough scorcher with a solo that will induce tears of joy in even the most hardened of metalheads. "Fallen Idols" is more mid-paced but the melodic intro is just sublime. Match that with the epic nature of the note progressions and step back as a behemoth of a track rises. Baker might come off as more restrained on the whole, but his deeper inflection brings out a new side of him that was sorely missing on the earlier material. He is less upfront and doesn't steal the spotlight quite like he did on Cirith Ungol's earlier masterworks. Don't get me wrong, Paradise Lost still can't top King of the Dead or even One Foot in Hell in pure songwriting prowess, but it has a unique appeal amongst Cirith Ungol's material.

A final note has to be made of "Fire (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown cover)", which comes completely out of left field early in the procession and couldn't have been a wiser choice on Cirith Ungol's part. The closing title track is another punishing number in the vein of "Fallen Idols", and even features some near-guttural roars interspersed throughout the verses. The subtle gang-bellowed chorus is a nice touch, and again, the solo is just divine. The only other track that I can consider skip-worth is "Heaven Help Us", which is a maudlin and lachrymose slower cut that does little for my ears.

So that is it for Cirith Ungol, only leaving dreams of what could have been. Hey, at least we got four albums of great material out of the whole ordeal, Paradise Lost included.

What makes this album so consistent. - 100%

paradisebeyond, December 30th, 2011

Cirith Ungol is a widely ignored, underrated and mistreated band, but it nonetheless remains quite influential and manages to keep a huge fan base. Anyone who thinks this is an exaggeration, please search for “Cirith Ungol Frost and Fire” on YouTube, you’ll find that the opening track for their debut album has more than 44,000 views – not a bad figure.

Cirith Ungol became kind-of-pioneers of doom metal through their second and third releases, which are fairly considered, including on this website. Why does “Paradise Lost” get such a bad consideration? I believe it’s because the style shift. While “One foot in hell” and “King of the dead” presented a much more “doom” sound, “Paradise Lost” returns to the heavy roots of their debut album, “Frost and fire”, while keeping a bit of doom flavour. So, to sum it up, this album is, from my view, the perfect combination between heavy and doom. Heavy enough, dark enough, it cannot get any wickeder.

Tim Baker’s voice sounds like the incarnation of evil, with a more piercing and high-pitched range compared to the two previous albums; Vernon Green’s bass sounds crunchy throughout the entire album; Jim Barraza and Robert Garven sound consistent enough.

As far as the track list goes, I’d say the entire album sounds consistent with just two exceptions: “Before the lash” and “Go it alone”, I think they made it into the set just to make up the album. The other seven songs are simply brilliant, including the heaviest cover ever recorded of Arthur Brown’s “Fire”.

The perfect combination between doom and heavy I was referring to is “personified” by “Fallen idols” and “Chaos rising”, presenting a slower tempo and darker sound compared to others on the track-list. “Heaven help us” is an environmental-concerned song which, along with “The troll” and “Join the legion” focuses more on traditional heavy metal.

And finally, the album closes up with the title track, “Paradise lost”. Likely named after John Milton’s epic poem, lyrics are at the same time enigmatically ambiguous and lyrically beautiful. Tim Baker sounds wickeder than ever, and Garven, Barraza and Green succeed in creating an aura of mystery and doom while at the same time staying heavy and fast. Shiny enough to be considered progressive, this song is flawless, and is comparable, in terms of atmosphere, lyrics, composition, musical skill, etc., to other highlights of old-epic-European progressive metal songs like Crimson Glory’s “Azrael” or Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed be thy name”.

Can’t be dismissed by any old-school metal head.

This is the Straw that Broke the Camels Back and w - 50%

robertgarven, December 26th, 2010

I was one the founding members and drummer of Cirith Ungol. This was our last album. We were treated so poorly by the record company that it broke the band up after 22 years. We had little or no artistic control over the production of this album, and even though we paid a big time lawyer $$$ to review the contract, we unknowingly sold the rights to album forever. When all our other CDs were re-released by Metal Blade of Germany, Restless the company that owned the rights to Paradise Lost, refused to let this cd be re-released. We were not even contacted by the current company releasing it, and will not receive any royalties from its sale. I even tried to contact them and received no reply.

The reason the production sounds like crap is I played drums first and ALONE to a click track and no members of the band were allowed in by the producer to hear the other members record their tracks. This was in complete contrast to all our other albums where we did a powerful bass, guitar and drum track then added the vocals, solos etc later. The original demos were erased so the ones on Chaos rising even though recorded more inteliggently were on a Teac 4 track. To bad the ones with Flint & Jimmy did not survive. I cant make any excuses for this album but Jimmy was a hell of a guitarist and if we would have even the basic control over the production and if of course Flint & Jerry would have stayed things would have been much different. The original plan was Jerry and Jimmy to play double leads but Jerry left as he felt like he was being pushed aside, which was far from the truth. We desperately tried to get him to come back to no avail. He was also struggling with some personal problems at the time which did not help.

To add insult to injury our singer Tim Baker went to a local store and had to buy a copy of the CD. I urge you not to buy this CD and instead look for our other remastered CD's "Frost & FIre" & "King of the Dead" & "Servants of Chaos" these are still in print in Europe (only!) and they were the only projects that we had artistic control over. This is now owned by Time Warner which is ironic....

I was so upset by this project and its production and aftermath I swore "That I would never touch another drumstick or play drums, if it meant being in the same business as these people". Even though we have been offered many reunion tours and dates I have kept my oath, and expect that I will keep it until death...

Playing drums and Cirith Ungol was my life and passion and it is sad that such a great band with such untapped talent and potential had such little support while other bands with so little talent became huge commercial successes.

For those that want to compare us to other bands they dont know half the truth. We were together about 9 years before our first album came out so those that want to compare us with other bands that were formed after we had been playing for years are misguided. We also had to finance our first two albums which took years to save up record and pay for. One of the reasons "Paradise Lost" was such a disaster is that we waited approximately 3 years to record it waiting for the record company to get their act together. That is one of the main reasons why Flint & Jerry left. Then we had to endure the record company being sold etc which delayed the album even longer, making a bad situation even worse. I cried when I heard the final version.....

Sincerely,

Robert Garven
Ventura, CA

Bedtime for Cirith Ungol. - 59%

Acrobat, July 5th, 2009

Hmmm, the concept of the album is a novel one alone: Cirith Ungol still releasing records in the early 90s? They were out-of-step with the 80s for fuck’s sake! You could say the band were probably living under a rock – but in all actuality they probably were (if not on their home planet of Annall Moörckpörk Kazah-Doom). Something that further amuses me is that cover; it is Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s sword-wielding albino warrior king. How strange that is, as you see, Cirith Ungol were never the heroic warrior they were always some low level servant of Chaos – a below-average Goblin or Orc, perhaps. They had no real power in this said army; they could try their ghastly green hand at some decision-making but it would no doubt cause some bickering amongst their comrades. So why the hero and an army of men? I mean, sure Frost and Fire had a heroic warrior but it also had some weird floating monster creatures, is this indicative of a crisis of identity? Perhaps.

Paradise Lost they say? Well, the ranks are certainly dwindling – Flint and Jerry are gone, lost somewhere in the annals of metal. With them, too, goes a great deal of the Cirith Ungol sound, sure, there’s still that mystified Orc who somehow found a microphone when clambering a rock – but where is the swamp-monster bass? What of the song-within-a-song twiddling lead guitars? Lost, all is lost. Replaced by above-average 80s styled metal guitar, skilful enough and confident, certainly better than most of the guitarists who replaced Michael Denner in King Diamond. But sounding like the late 80s (even in the early 90s) isn’t really Cirith Ungol. It’s competent for what it is – but it’s not got the same magic as the band once did. Paradise Lost certainly isn’t a classic like King of the Dead, nor is it a half-classic like One Foot in Hell and it certainly isn’t an album I’ve not yet heard like Frost and Fire. In fact, it’s just somewhat of an oddity for a very odd band; interesting but incomplete

Paradise Lost seems to be obscuring the vision of the band. Some songs are just what you’d come to expect from a – dare I say it – ‘modern’ Cirith Ungol record. ‘Join the Legion’ ranks amongst the band’s best with its struck-by-lightning energy and confident pace. It’s got fire in its belly and hate in its eyes – just what we want from the new Cirith Ungol. There’s a slight nod back to the King of the Dead days with the picked solo section (starting from that massive pick-slide). ‘Fire’ too, proves a novel cover especially amusing for Arthur Brown fans like me to hear his best-known song do in an 80s metal fashion. That first Arthur Brown album is a scary and frankly demonic record at times so it makes sense to finally hear it in some more metallic incarnation.

But within this there seems to be the main (master of the) pitfalls of traditional metal bands: the unfinished epic. This album has fucking three of them – all quite nice on their own but lacking that special something to put them in league with, say, ‘Master of the Pit’. ‘Fallen Idols’ has a cool Ozzy-meets-Priest riff but it feels like it needs to go places, but resigns itself to a mid-tempo when it should break forth into something more epic (ala ‘Master of the Pit’, yes that one again, I quite like it). ‘Chaos Rising’ shows that the band have been listening to music past 1980 – which frankly should have scared such heavy metal Luddites, as the opening riff is pretty much lifted straight from the first King Diamond LP. This one does break into a faster tempo – a sort of sub-Maiden section. It’s cool, but it’s not really Cirith Ungol. Also, is it really necessary to put all three songs back-to-back?

Though, these lacking epics (do they really like Fates Warning’s No Exit, or what?) show a band going through the motions somewhat, despite their still excellent fantasy lyrics, then nothing could have shown the band quite descending into self-parody as ‘The Troll’ does. “Here’s a song about trolls… it’s called, um, ‘The Troll”. Are you bored yet? Well after the panning, stock and trading standard heavy metal riffs in the verses you sure will be. Beware of the Troll? Is this Cirith Ungol or Billy Goats Gruff? Fuck’s sake, who really wants to have Cirith Ungol read their children stories at night? As much as I hate doing it to compare bands like this to Spinal Tap, I’m sort of forced to here (and don’t I feel like one of those filthy forty-somethings with a picture of John Peel above his mantelpiece). Fantasy without the imagination, ugh, count me out.

It actually gets worse, though, ‘Go It Alone’ sounds like a shitty 80s KISS song. Goblins go to Hollywood? Tim Baker starts hanging out with Vince Neil? Yikes. Come back ‘Feeling Free Again’, all is forgiven! Fuck’s sake, just sing about Hawk the Slayer or something. Please.

In all, this is a really fragmented record. A disappointing, if not completely worthless, swansong from one of my favourite obscure heavy metal bands wot I read about in Cathedral’s linear notes. ‘Join the Legion’… or don’t, it’s up to you really, as this record isn’t really forcing me to do anything.

All is Not Lost - 85%

nightzblood, February 15th, 2008

The problems that plagued the recording of this album are well-documented in the other reviews, so i'll not reiterate them here. I wanted to review this album bcause, in the ears of this long-time 'Ungol fan, 'Paradise Lost' contains both the best and the worst the band ever recorded. Let's start at the bottom and work our way up. 'Go It Alone' is easily the worst song Cirith Ungol ever recorded. It's a slick, Sunset Boulevard anthem that would have been more at home on an LA Guns album. Harsh, but true. 'Heaven Help Us' is a passable song, it's just not a Cirith Ungol song, but at least it's not another glammy song. Next up is 'The Troll'; this tune sounds like something that belongs in the Cirith Ungol catalog, but the chorus is simple and repetitive, suggesting it should have remained in the demos bin. 'Fire' from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown was an excellent cover choice for Cirith Ungol; it doesn't blow me away, but it is at home on a Cirith Ungol album.

That leaves five songs, all of which are true Cirith Ungol clasics in my opinion. 'Before the Lash' and 'Join the Legion' easily stand alongside anything else in the Cirith Ungol discography. However, the best material is saved for last in the form of the trilogy that closes the album. 'Chaos Rising', 'Fallen Idols', and the incomparable 'Paradise Lost' could mark the band's finest hour, with all three songs simply pummeling the listener with their crushing, apocalyptic heaviness. After the up-and-down affair of the first six songs, the album closes on a strong note. I suspect that these songs are overlooked by many fans who lost heart before making it this far into the album.

Thus, despite all the trials and tribulations associated with this album, I feel that it still offers up some essential Cirith Ungol material. The demo versions of the five killer songs, as heard on the 'Servants of Chaos' collection, are indeed better than the album versions. For example, there's a short section towards the end of 'Paradise Lost' that was edited out on the album that contains some crushing, heavy bars. The demos offer a tantalizing glimpse at what might have been.

Fallen Idols - 80%

Lord_Elden, November 4th, 2004

The fourth and last album of Cirith Ungol caused much dismay for the band. Having read The Corroseum's interview with band members Greg and Rob I can understand why. It's understandable that the series of events which happened before and during the recording of this release made a negative impact on the band members: Jerry and Flint leaving the band, the label issues, the degrading recording sessions (including the "fucking electric metronome" as Rob puts it) and that they had even less control of the producing of the album than they had while they were signed to Metal Blade.

They found replacements for Jerry and Flint, but at a cost: The new members wanted their songs to be included, Joe Malatesta (who handled the guitar) had written a song called "The Troll" and bass player Bob Warenburg's song was "Heaven Help Us". Personally I like "The Troll" and unlike Rob I think it does actually fit in quite well with the Cirith Ungol sound, "Heaven Help Us" on the other hand, while not a bad song, doesn't. The two other middle songs, "Before the Lash" and "Go It Alone" are written by Cirith Ungol but disrupt the flow of the album somewhat. "Go It Alone" is a semi-happy song and should've been left out. Tim's vocals are more or less clean here (this is also occasionally the case in some of the other songs) and honestly, it sounds like generic Heavy Metal to me. It wasn't included on the ' Servants of Chaos' compilation which makes me suspect it was written later on. The opener "Join the Legion" is a true Cirith Ungol anthem and the cover of Arthur Brown's song "Fire" fits in much better than "Heaven Help Us" and "Go It Alone".

Rob states the demo versions were ten times better than the final product. It seems to me he lets his negative feelings about the whole shebang cloud his judgement to be harsher than required. The demo versions show much promise and thus I can see the album was a letdown but the album versions aren't that far off. Yes, there's more energy in the demo versions, yes, Tim sounds better at times, and yes, as an overall verdict, the demo versions tells me the songs on Paradise Lost could and should have been better. However, even in their somewhat butchered state many of the songs on the album are awesome. It's also worth to mention that the sound quality of the demo material is as expected quite stale.

If the line-up would've stayed intact and they had more control over the recording and production of the album this could've been almost as good as King of the Dead. Even now in the current state does it almost compare favourably to the demo versions of the songs and stands as a strong testament from one of the most obscure bands in the history of heavy music. Thus it would be a mistake to ignore or dismiss this album just because of the sad history behind it as it contains many of Cirith Ungol's best songs (the trilogy of the three last songs on the album).

but some fire does not last forever. - 69%

Agathocles, May 14th, 2004

But there still is some light and warmth on this album.

This album sees Jim Barraza feeling in for Jerry Fogle on guitars and Vernon Green taking over for Flint on bass. And not to mention Tim's voice is not as commanding as it was before. Maybe Tim's vocals fucked up a bit from smoking, I don't know.

This album doesn't contain any solid tracks. Join The Legion is about the only track that contains the passion of their previous works. Not much force was put into this album and its a shame many of the songs could have sounded much better if more passion was exuted. Instead, you get a tired Cirith Ungol thats just happy to be able to record another record. Which is understandable. And dont get me wrong. "Paradise Lost" isn't a bad album, it's just a bit of a dissapointment after hearing their other work. You can't help but think, "What happenned?". I would only suggest diehard fans get this. For a brief period this album was available for dl, and it shouldnt be too hard to come across, but really, it's not worth it unless you've checked out the rest of Cirith Ungol's catalog.

Suggested Tracks: Join The Legion, Fire (a well done Arthur Brown cover)