Cirith Gorgor - Onwards to the Spectral Defile (1999)Release ID: 12205

Cirith Gorgor - Onwards to the Spectral Defile (1999) Cover
Sonny Sonny / October 10, 2022 / Comments 0 / 1

I'll just start by stating that I've become somewhat disillusioned with black metal over the past few months. I'm not sure if it's because the inate frostiness of black metal doesn't sound the same in the sweltering heat of the summer months just passed here in the UK, or (and more likely) I've just become more disillusioned with the dilution of the core of black metal by any number of recent releases that subsume the inate ferocity and savagery of their black metal content, resulting in what, to my mind at least, feels like a gentrification of the genre. Thankfully October has seen a couple of albums cross my path that have re-stoked my inner fire for black metal. One was Behexen's debut Rituale Satanum (via the review draft game) and this, admittedly to a lesser extent, was the other.

Onwards to the Spectral Defile, at it's best, concentrates on enervating and energetic black metal that is loaded with aggression and a formidable fury. I wouldn't exactly call this raw as the production is a bit too meaty for that, but it is visceral and savage nonetheless and harks back to the best of early Gorgoroth or Marduk. I would have liked to have heard the drums a little bit higher in the mix because drummer Levithmong (not his real name I suspect) batters away with a controlled furiousness that impressively drives the material along despite his efforts not sounding as prominent as I feel they deserve to be.

This isn't exactly an essential black metal release by any means and the band's efforts to throw in some variety by way of more melodic or less frantic sections aren't consistently successful, but when they hit their stride there is enough fire and fury present to satisfy my old-school black metal cravings. I think I would have preferred them to have stripped-out the attempts at variation and to have doubled-down on sheer black metal beligerence and in so doing serving up half-an-hour of red-in-tooth-and-claw black metal, in the vein of Gorgoroth's first two or Panzer Division Marduk. Taking it as it is, though, leaves an impression of a band more than capable of delivering the type of black metal I delight in, but who are hampered by a need to inject some variation which results in a few less than satisfactory moments. The piano outro is one of the parts in question and is totally redundant to my way of thinking, having no relationship at all with what has gone before.

As I was previously unfamiliar with Cirith Gorgor, they have piqued my interest with their debut sufficiently that I feel I need to find out how they developed on subsequent albums and so will almost certainly return to explore their discography further at some point.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / October 11, 2022 / Comments 0 / 0

I must confess to not having heard the debut album by Cirith Gorgor for a good while. A brief look at my spreadsheet where I log all my collection showed me that I had this album as a five out of five rating. SPOILER ALERT – it isn’t. This record had a bit of a cult following back on the old Terrorizer forums and I can sort of see why. The blazing Battles in the North intensity of Immortal, the relentless attack of Gorgoroth and the misanthropic attitude of Marduk all shine through on this record. Similarly, the crude sense of melody deployed by the likes of Sargeist rings around my head for most of Onwards to the Spectral Defile.

That cult status does not strike me as all that valid – certainly in 2022 anyways. Released in 1999, this album dropped long after the heyday of the bm scene and so I hear nothing that I had not heard already from any of the above-mentioned bands. Gorgoroth had peaked long before this record, Marduk lead the way in the intensity stakes as Immortal embraced the more epic aspect of bm in the very same year Cirith Gorgor released this, their debut album. The thought occurs to me that CG just arrived late to the party and wondered where everyone else had gone.

History lesson aside, is OttSD any good? Well, yes, it is. If you like a dose of 90’s scathing black metal with some melody (clumsily) applied, then this is for you. Does the scope of the ambition outweigh the ability to deliver it? Yes, it does. Is the production job a little too high value for the aesthetic they try to portray? Probably. It is still a decent enough an effort for a debut album though and I am being more than a little unkind to it by berating it in terms of historical reference alone. Enjoy this album for what it is and not when it should have been released.

Daniel Daniel / October 08, 2022 / Comments 0 / 0

I didn’t become aware of Dutch black metallers Cirith Gorgor until they’d already released four full-length albums & they’d surprisingly been learning their craft for a good sixteen years by that point. My initial experience came at the hands of this debut album “Onwards To The Spectral Defile” which I remember quite enjoying but apparently not enough to warrant return visits or focused analysis. I’d also touch on Cirith Gorgor’s “Unveiling The Essence” sophomore record from a couple of years later with a similar outcome if my memory serves me correctly however I can’t recall hearing anything the band have done since 2001 & I'm a little hazy on the band in general so it’s probably a good time to refresh things by unpacking this month’s The North clan feature release.

“Onward To The Spectral Defile” is very much a meat-&-potatoes style of black metal record. It doesn’t ever attempt to reinvent the wheel, instead looking to harness some fairly basic & traditional black metal building blocks in as savage a fashion as they can produce. The clear focus of the Cirith Gorgor sound is in the blast-beat driven brutality of bands like Marduk, Dark Funeral & Immortal however they try their best to hide the fact that they’re a bit of a one-trick pony by tossing in some melodic content over the top. In fact, all of the eight black metal tracks included veer off the path of abrasive blasting at some stage with the occasional thrash metal or folk/Viking metal influence popping up here or there along the way. Being a life-long devotee of the more brutal end of extreme metal, I do find significant attraction to the more relentless & abrasive part of the Cirith Gorgor package but I also see the need to break things up by providing a little bit of variety as they’re not as talented at creating atmosphere as the bigger names in that field so they’re always at risk of suffering from a lack of substance even though they can certainly play as fast & brutal as the competition Unfortunately though, the more melodic & thrashy content is vastly inferior to their aggressive stuff & the band even sound a bit messy when they slow things down with their timing not always hitting the mark when they’ve got a little more room to work with. So I guess I find myself at a bit of a contradiction in that “Onwards To the Spectral Defile” clearly needs it’s melodic component but at the same time I also wish it wasn’t there a lot of the time.

The album is very well produced for this style of black metal as you can hear everything very clearly. Nimroth’s shrieking black metal vocals are suitably snarly & sinister & are one of the highlights of the record, even if he doesn’t offer much in the way of variety. I have to say that the guitar solos fall well short of the mark though & add nothing at all to the overall package. They’re simply far too basic & lacking in polish, ambition & accomplishment. Thankfully I can always rely on Cirith Gorgor to return with a light-speed blast-beat session to batter those negative thoughts right out of my brain & that thought pretty much sums up this album for me really. It’s not perfect as it has a few obvious flaws but I can’t resist the relentless savagery that permeates much of the tracklisting & that component alone is able to compensate for the poorer material like the ill-fated thrash metal section in “Sons of the New Dawn” or the flat closing piano interlude “Thorns of Oblivion”. “Onwards To The Spectral Defile” won’t change too many lives but it will certainly give some a bit of casual entertainment when they’re in the mood for a brutal (yet still somewhat melodic) battering.

For fans of Enthroned, Gorgoroth & Sargeist.


Release info

Release Site Rating

Ratings: 4 | Reviews: 3


Release Clan Rating

Ratings: 4 | Reviews: 3


Cover Site Rating

Ratings: 3


Cover Clan Rating

Ratings: 3

Onwards to the Spectral Defile
The North
Black Metal

Black Metal (conventional)

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