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Album Review: Cirith Ungol: Dark Parade
Early doom and power metal based off The Lord of the Rings, Cirith Ungol have made their grand return with their 6th studio record Dark Parade. The band are named after the mountain pass Cirith Ungol in J. R. R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novel, 'The Lord of the Rings' and their lyrics are normally based on fantasy elements; particularly 'sword and sorcery.' After a 25 year hiatus, the band returned in 2020 with their long-awaited album Forever Black which was met with great success. Fast-forward to now and they have produced quite possibly their final album after a recent announcement that they would be retiring from live performances at least in 2024.
Drummer Rob Garven says of the new album:
"Band members lost close relatives and we struggled as best we could through the pandemic which ravaged the earth's population and economies. As horrifying as it was, it was the perfect backdrop for our doom-laden message of a world on the edge of destruction."
Deviating away from the 'sword and sorcery' elements which they have used in previous years to craft their material, Cirith Ungol have instead focused on something of a Lovecraftian affair for inspiration. The record opens with 'Velocity (S.E.P),' an explosive guitar solo straight from the get-go before Tim Baker rips the track apart with his commanding, powerful vocal ability. This track embodies everything this band have always been about; sheer heavy metal on a foundation of doom with soaring solos, thunderous drums and old school attitude. 'Relentless' chugs its way in to play with a middle Eastern groove-laden vibe and mid-tempo stomp reminiscent of Mercyful Fate. 'Sailor on the Seas of Fate' opens with a melancholic, acoustic melody on the back-drop of the open seas before the guitars kick in with a heavy doom presence and chugging baselines. This track is a slow-building beast at just over 8 minutes long full of epic solos and a sense of foreboding. 'Sacrifice' opens with an intricate flamenco style guitar before descending in to a sinister yet lumbering pace full of rasping, desperate vocals and a soaring onslaught of intricate guitars.
'Looking Glass' opens with the sound of shattering glass and more brooding, doomy guitar stomps. There's an element of blues throughout this track with catchy, lumbering hooks and more flying solos, a definite nod to the band's previous records. The title track offers thunderous, war-like drumming and a commanding presence which builds on more catchy hooks and heavy, doom elements. Towards its concluding section, this track descends in to a quicker pace with frantic shredding and Black Sabbath style rhythm. 'Distant Shadows' continues the oppressive doom style with incredibly heavy basslines and a dark, punching attitude. Finally, the conclusion of the record is presented with 'Down Below;' a hauntingly melancholic track dripping with powerful broodiness, crushing delivery and a distinctive sense of foreboding.
The end result of this record is that of pessimism, destructions and fear rooted in classic doom metal and powerful NWOBHM but delivered with a modern approach. Dark Parade could very well be Cirith Ungol's swan song but it's one that certainly packs a punch and honours their legacy.
Release Date: October 20th 2023
Released By: Metal Blade Records
FFO: Black Sabbath, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate
01 - Velocity (S.E.P)
02 - Relentless
03 - Sailor on the Seas of Fate
04 - Sacrifice
05 - Looking Glass
06 - Dark Parade
07 - Distant Shadows
08 - Down Below