As many of you know, I formed a vintage-style heavy rock band, Falcon, in late 2002 in collaboration with founding Cirith Ungol multi-instrumentalistj, Greg Lindstrom. Approximately half of Falcon’s output was comprised of my originals, the other half Greg’s old CU tunes that never got a proper release. Greg left CU in 1981, but returned to the fold in their revamped lineup in 2016. Ungol released a killer comeback album, Forever Black, in 2020, which I subsequently reviewed on this here blog. I suggest you check it out here: http://unvanquishablefalcon.blogspot.com/2020/05/review-cirith-ungol-forever-black-2020.html
Rather than a typical review, this is going to be a view from the inside out. Why? Well, to put it bluntly it’s because of my friendship with Greg L., drummer Rob Garven and years of emailing with axeman Jim Barraza. I’ll tackle this topnotch EP song by song.
The opener, “Route 666” dates to 1977 or so. The original demo version was sung by Greg L. Falcon’s version appeared on our debut self-titled album, complete with the same intro of an Alfa Romeo engine revving as the original Ungol demo and this 2021 rendition. Vocalist Tim Baker does an admirable job of rendering Greg L’s lyrics – forceful and metallic. Baker’s voice is pitch-shifted to sound more demonic at several points. Barraza’s rhythm guitar tone is slightly more modern than Greg L’s, but it’s a perfect combination. Double tracked guitar solos abound – each slightly different than the other track. Barraza does plenty of justice to late guitarist Jerry Fogle's axemanship. The tune closes with some atmospheric dive-bombing guitars.
A Tolkien-inspired number, “Shelob’s Lair” - was also resurrected by Falcon. It’s the tale of Frodo Baggins and Samwise’s battle with the giant arachnid, Shelob (spawn of Ungoliant). The new-fangled version sports some extra melody-lines during the pre-choruses. The guitar tones are warm and fuzzy, and the solos are nice ‘n’ wet with delay. For a track conceived in 1975 or thereabouts, this one is ultra-heavy. The bass could be a bit higher in the mix, but that’d be nit-picking.
“Brutish Manchild” saw a release as a free flexi-disc companion to a 2020 issue of Decibel Magazine. The lyrics revolve around the post-apocalyptic theme of man-ape’s fall from grace. Some awesome use of harmonised guitar fills abound, easily as provoking as Gorham/Robertson (Lizzy) or Denner/Shermann (Mercyful Fate). I have yet to hear a Seventies rehearsal or demo tape of "Brutish Manchild". I wonder if one exists...
The title track, “Half Past Human,” further explores the doom of man-ape in Earth's waning years of the distant future. Falcon put a spin on this one, as well, back in 2003. Lyrically, it reads like something out of Clark Ashton Smith’s necromantic tales of the dying continent, Zothique – or Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth. It opens with a lush, depressive acoustic passage and a plaintive theme-like lead backed with some inventive bass licks. The early demo versions of this track, dating to 1976, lack vocals. I had no guide in singing it in Falcon beyond Greg L’s lyric sheet. Tim Baker’s approach to the vocal lines is not very far-fetched from mine. Some cool human-voice synth pads are apparent in this take, aping (pun intended) the function of an old Mellotron. The wahed-out main guitar solo is glorious and Seventies-inflected. In true Ungol-fashion, the outro is lengthened out with a massive gong-infused crescendo, showcasing Garven’s triplet-heavy drumming.
|L-R: Jarvis Leatherby (bass), Jim Barraza (guitar), |
Greg Lindstrom (guitar), Robert Garven (drums), Tim Baker (vocals)