Album Review: Cirith Ungol – ‘Dark Parade’

4/5

The cryptic doors to the vault of heavy metal open! The decaying days of the winter have made my surroundings even gloomier for quite a while. In a grim time as this, what else could be more special than Cirith Ungol returning with their new offering, Dark Parade? The second album since their return, Dark Parade is the follow-up to 2020’s Forever Black. A mystifying voice in my mind gives me the notion that a great adventure lies ahead, and I play the album to find out if that is truly the case.

The record sets off with Cirith Ungol’s classic approach, with Tim Baker’s ageless singing and archetypal guitar melodies bringing all the nostalgia back to the table. “Velocity (S.E.P.)” is a magical fountain to quench the thirst for soulful guitar playing, a fairly great start to the album. It seems like melodies are put on hold for the next number “Relentless,” as more intense riffs pile up behind the guitar solos with a Egyptian feel, which relentlessly appear almost all over the song. The lethal riffs within and the sublime guitar lead at the end make a genuinely promising impact.

Cirith Ungol

As I move ahead, a gloomy acoustic intro with a dark aura makes its presence followed by the sinisterly distorted riffs that only predict an impending doom. As the evil riff mastery lurks within the classic verses, the epic guitar leads also make their return. Halfway through, the song revitalizes and establishes a progressive approach, and this buildup makes it even more engaging to listen to. Eventually, it turns back to the valley of morbid doom riffs and ends in the same acoustic runes that it came from. “Sailor on the Seas of Fate” is quite a long one yet it feels like it finishes too fast and I get the urge to press the replay button.

A sorrowful acoustic intro starts off the next song, “Sacrifice,” and as it plays on it gets a little hard for me to comprehend what follows. So I play it again. Over the course of the song, it felt a little let down for me compared to the earlier three songs. At its best, “Sacrifice” works as an intermission between the earlier song and the next one. With a cracking sound of exploded glass, “Looking Glass” sets about with a riff that sounds a bit modern or perhaps a little unusual for Cirith Ungol standard, yet great to listen to. The band quickly get back to their true form as the fascinating guitar solo comes to presence. Gently caressing my heart, it takes me as if flying around the cliffs of the valleys of Middle-earth like a majestic eagle.

Finally, I reach the title track, “Dark Parade” itself. Darkly slow-paced heavy riffs and the undead vocals of Tim Baker lead the song until I discover that it is sliced up into three segments. Sudden changes in direction happen twice, and the artful guitar solo at the end acts as a pretty little surprise. At the same time, I get this feeling in my mind that the title track could include a little more than what is offered.

The record approaches the end of its corner with two connected songs. “Distant Shadows” reveals this seemingly age-old euphonic tune, one that keeps coming back to fill my brain with unending rapture. The song tends to end with a few grim notes, yet it does not end and acts as the beginning of the final track. Following the very cryptic outro of the earlier song, “Down Below” proves to be no less in richness than its predecessor, if not more. A pyramid of morbid riffs engulfs me as soon as the manic distortions start. Vengeful singing, unrelenting mad riffs, and the hypnotic guitar solos lying in each corner of the song confer a highly satisfying closure to the album.

Cirith Ungol forged their record with epic guitar solos, doomy riffs, and the everlasting uniquely bizarre singing, something that gives me the chills every time I hear it. The band’s craftsmanship seems to know no bounds, yet some parts of Dark Parade could offer a little more I suppose. The comic book stylized artwork adds more to the record when I look at it, a legacy that the band have kept for decades. It saddens me to know of their retirement from live performances, yet no one can doubt their music is immortal, with or without live appearances.

Get the album here.

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Photo courtesy of Peter Beste

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