Editors’ Notes It’s hard to believe that nearly 30 years have passed since Cirith Ungol’s last album dropped. Neither part of the thrash movement of their ’80s heyday nor the death metal uprising in 1992 when they pulled their own plug, these sword-and-sorcery-inspired purists have always been men out of time. Until now: After decades in hibernation, the Ventura, California-based metal band reunited in 2016 to headline metal festivals around the world. Featuring original and longtime members Tim Baker (vocals), Robert Garven (drums), Greg Lindstrom (guitar), and Jim Barraza (guitar), Cirith Ungol has coalesced around new bassist and manager Jarvis Leatherby, who spearheaded the band’s revival by booking them for the second installment of his Frost and Fire Festival—which was named after Cirith Ungol’s first album. “When we first got back together, it took a little while to get into the groove of it,” Baker tells Apple Music. “But once we got acclimated, it just seemed like old times again. This new album still sounds like us—just hopefully fresher and better.” Below, Baker outlines the duality of Forever Black—the sword-and-sorcery themes of the album’s first half, and the real-world darkness of the second half.

The Call
“This is an instrumental intro thing. It’s the call of the legions to rise up, which leads into ‘Legions Arise.’ I think it’s pretty much the same riff from that song, but slowed down. You can hear the horn of chaos in there that Rob played. We’ll probably use this piece as an opener for concerts and stuff.”

Legions Arise
“The point of the title was to connect it to ‘Join the Legion’ [the opener of Cirith Ungol’s last album, Paradise Lost]. Rob wrote the lyrics to this one. Every one of our albums has a song kind of like this to open, like ‘Blood & Iron’ or ‘Frost and Fire,’ so it’s got a faster pace to get everyone’s adrenaline going at the start of the album. It’s something to get your blood pumping and get the crowd going, and hopefully the listeners, too.”

The Frost Monstreme
“This song and the next one, ‘The Fire Divine,’ are callbacks to our first album, Frost and Fire. In the song ‘Frost and Fire,’ the second line is ‘The frost monstreme and the fire divine,’ so now there’s two songs describing exactly what those things are. Greg wrote the lyrics to these songs, and I think they’re based on Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series, these sword-and-sorcery type of books. I haven’t read those novels, but there’s heroes and villains and death, like most good sword-and-sorcery things. So it’s dark, and it’s also right in the pocket of stuff that we’ve done in the past.”

The Fire Divine
“Where ‘The Frost Monstreme’ is more of a heroic type of song, ‘The Fire Divine’ is pretty blasphemous. It may or may not be Greg’s commentary on organized religion and things like that. I don’t want to get too far into politics or religion, but this is more of a rocking song and the lyrics are very dark and very cool.”

Stormbringer
“So this is a reference to the character that’s been on the cover of all our records, painted by Michael Whelan. His name is Elric [of Melniboné], and he’s from an old series of books by Michael Moorcock. He’s an albino prince, and Elric’s sword is called Stormbringer. The last book of the series is also called Stormbringer—the painting on the cover of our first album is actually called ‘Stormbringer’ too—and that’s what I based this song on. Elric is weak, but whatever he kills with the sword—man, beast, or demon—it sucks its soul up and gives him the power to live and the energy to fight more battles. Hopefully the song will turn people on to the books.”

Fractus Promissum
“The title is Latin for ‘broken promise.’ I wrote this one describing our dystopian state of affairs that we always seem to have in the world. It’s describing the nightmares that we’ve been living through since mankind began. For me, this song and the two at the end are kind of in a similar vein.”

Nightmare
“This is probably the doomiest song on the record. I think everybody's going to really love it because it's got a great chorus and stuff. It describes a twisted recurring dream or vision that someone may or may not have had. I'm not talking about anybody in particular here, but it’s pretty evil. And let's hope that it never comes to pass.”

Before Tomorrow
“Again, this is a commentary on our dystopian nightmares and Orwellian dreams and the horrors that have gone on for millennia. I try not to be a literalist when I’m writing lyrics—I try to leave things open to interpretation—so this might mean different things to different people. I don’t want to put too many ideas in anyone’s head, but obviously this is telling a tale of darkness that’s going on in the world and has always gone on. To me, that’s really what the whole second side of the album is about. The first four songs, excluding ‘The Call,’ are really the sword-and-sorcery stuff. The rest are about the evil that men do to themselves and each other.”

Forever Black
“This song is kind of like you’re shoveling dirt on somebody’s grave—or society’s grave, or the world’s in general. I think it’s probably one of the best songs we ever did. I think it’s a good ending for the album. It puts everything into perspective and puts the nail in the coffin, so to speak, for all the other things you’ve been living through on the album. ‘Look into my soul, forever black.’ Look at the world—everything’s going to hell. You’re born into it. You’re going to die as part of it. It’s forever black.”

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