Review by Daniel for Cirith Gorgor - Onwards to the Spectral Defile (1999) Review by Daniel for Cirith Gorgor - Onwards to the Spectral Defile (1999)

Daniel Daniel / October 08, 2022 / 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.

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