The entire Forgotten Scroll editor’s team, reviews the newest CIRITH UNGOL album:
“Dark Parade” is the sixth album by the Metal Pioneers CIRITH UNGOL. An album that marks a triumphant return of the band into discography, three years after their “Forever Black” release.
Those who follow the Forgotten Scroll Zine since its early days -both in its printed and on-line editions- are probably aware that this particular band was the main reason that started it all:
Back on the day two UNGOL fanatics decided to publish a fanzine just because they have managed to track down drummer Rob Garven, who back then, accepted to give them an interview.
Ages before the above mentioned fact that took place exactly 20 years ago, there has been a strange journey deep inside the realms that the unique music of this band have managed to generate. For the person that signs this actual text and for many people out there, the music of CIRITH UNGOL have managed to work as a main guide, shaping a unique point of view about Heavy Metal, about Music, about Life.
So I guess that you have already understood that for many of us out there, this particular release it is not just a second studio album from a band that has got themselves into a reunion mode. I would put it straight ans simple: There are people out there who actually need CIRITH UNGOL on the globe and who mark the band’s triumphant return from the dead as the ultimate justification in a world with no justice at all.
CIRITH UNGOL are here, so our Black Flame is still Alive.
So you want to know my opinion about “Dark Parade” right?
“Dark Parade” is a an absolute deposit of Faith and Soul in the bleak path of anti-heroism that this band carved from its first breath, from the first day of its existence. A path that was illuminated by a strange light, which was not sunlight, nor starlight, nor moonlight. A path that guided us the fellow travelers to the facing of our own fears, our own victories and defeats, through the music of CIRITH UNGOL.
“Dark Parade” is a triumph of pessimism and agony, a battle cry to the final march of death, a manifesto for the lands of the dying sun. A statement that the Steel which marked our souls, is not dead yet.
All the classic CIRITH UNGOL musical features are here:
Features that thousands of bands through the decades have used as elements and main points of their own forms of musical expression.
Features that gave birth to so many genres within the Metal world through the years. But this band never cared to describe anything on purpose. Why? Because they always played the music of their soul. A strange music that was simply there even before the first glimpse of light touched this soon to die realm that we are all wandering into…
The album marks the classic CIRITH UNGOL sound, mainly focusing to the “One Foot In Hell” era -in my opinion the most “difficult” CIRITH UNGOL album to date, and you know this difficulty is the main source of its majesty-. At the very same time this latest release highlights a band full of talent and inspiration.
I am simply shivering as I listen to hymns like “Sailor on the Seas of Fate” -a composition that features one of the best riffs to be heard in this particular album, and yes I am referring to this ala “Chaos Rising” riff which is presented straight in the middle of the song-.
Each and every song in this album is a manifesto to the CIRITH UNGOL legacy. A fine piece of dystopian, epic art in the form of music, expressed through songs like “Dark Parade”, “Down Bellow”, “Sacrifice” and “Relentless”.
Tim Baker on vocals, Jimmy Barraza on guitar guitar, Greg Lindstrom on guitar, Rob Garven on drums and Jarvis Leatherby on bass are not simply offering to us a fine Heavy Metal album. They are continuing the CIRITH UNHOL legacy.
The production is heavy as hell and does justice to the album and of course the front cover is for one more time a painting of Michael Whelan: “Elric and The Sinking City”.
Closing the review I have to share a final thought: The band recently announced a retirement from the live shows. I just hope that they will continue to deliver great albums like this one.
“Dark Parade” is the ultimate CIRITH UNGOL trademark in our dark age. An outstanding album of dark, mystical, Heavy Metal Art.
Thanks for existing, CIRITH UNGOL. Keep on guiding us.
When I was asked to review CIRITH UNGOL’s new album, it kind of took me by surprise. Their catalogue consists of musical milestones that defined and shaped the genre I adore, and although it’s only a handful of albums that they have released so far, I have the deepest respect for them. So, for me, writing about such an iconic band does not come without some serious reflection; well, it should not come easy anyway because it’s CIRITH UNGOL we’re talking about, some REAL-LIFE METAL LEGENDS, damn it!
And just as Shelob had been there before Sauron and before the first-stone of Barad-Dur was laid, so the band named after her passage, the deadly Spider’s Cleft, had been in action before heavy metal even existed; founded in the early 70’s, CIRITH UNGOL managed to create an unprecedented musical style trying to play “the heaviest metal known to man”.
They’ve been called the forefathers of doom metal, they were named power metal pioneers, they are unarguably regarded as one of the US metal leaders, considered to have played from hard rock (at least in their beginning) to progressive metal (when none could understand their psychedelic, dark metalness).
I think you understand very well where I’m leading to – CIRITH UNGOL need not labeling because CIRITH UNGOL were not made for labelling. Not many metal bands can claim being as AUTHENTIC and TRUE as they are. Indeed, this is a band like no other and I’ll say it a thousand times, I’ll scream it from the top of my lungs, THEY ARE UNIQUE IN EVERY SENSE!
When they tried to sound commercial (as the Ventura-acts wanted them to be with their debut, “Frost and Fire”), they were “just too heavy” and when they unleashed their real essence to the world, starting with “King of the Dead”, they were “weird”.
Oh, dear! What a beautiful chaos they created!
Anyway, in 1983, while playing at Roxy, the poster described them simply as HEAVY METAL band. But after all those years, now we finally know. They are not heavy in the sense of music and sound, not merely for your ears! They are heavy for your own precious soul! The gloom, the menace, the haunting and the otherworldliness of them crush the very life out of you, leaving you in an endless, bleak void – BLACK FOREVER!
As put in their own words, “We’re frost and we’re fire, we’re pleasure and we’re pain” – THAT is what CIRITH UNGOL are about.
So, having made crystal clear the importance and difficulty of reviewing such an extraordinary band, I’ll try doing so with their new album, “Dark Parade”, yet another dark adventure made of CIRITH UNGOL’s exceptional music, full of heaviness and diversity!
The first single from “Dark Parade” has been the opening track “Velocity”, a genuine welcome of solid mid-paced blast, reminding vaguely some of the finest moments of BLACK SABBATH and JUDAS PRIEST. The amazing double guitar work of Jimmy Barraza and Greg Lindstrom and the unearthly voice of Tim Baker gave me the chills right from the start of the album; brilliant!
“Relentless” followed, sounding dangerously attractive, bringing to mind the early days of MERCYFUL FATE; I just relished listening to the inspiring lead guitar parts of this song and after these first two great tracks, I couldn’t even imagine what will come next…
It proved to be an eight-minutes long anthem called “Sailor on the Seas of Fate” – a great paradigm of CIRITH UNGOL’s songwriting when it comes to EPIC DOOM metal. It’s a majestic song, complex and masterfully developed. What surprised me mostly has been the fact that it flowed so nicely that I actually checked the timer when it ended; absolutely mesmerizing!
With “Sacrifice” in the middle of the tracklist, I was already more than convinced that CIRITH UNGOL’s sixth album is a monumental one! The song, both exotic and aggressive, full of bone-crunching riffs and intricate solos, with the outstanding rhythm section of Rob Garven (drums) and Jarvis Leatherby (bass) and the inimitable, unnerving voice of Tim Baker, is simply great; CIRITH UNGOL at their best!
Next one, “Looking Glass”, has been the second single from “Dark Parade” and honestly, it blew my mind. In the band’s familiar style of merging some marvelous slowed-down soloing sections with sharp-edged riffs, it resembles older songs of CIRITH UNGOL, like “War Eternal”; as such, the lead guitar here is dominant but together with admirable drumming and bass playing, they make “Looking Glass” an astonishing track. Well, I must just say it: only CIRITH UNGOL could combine up-tempo with gloom, being ominous in a bluesy way!
The album’s three final tracks form a thematic trilogy of total despair for mankind’s future – “the tale of the ever-malignant curse of mankind’s dominion” as Tim Baker puts it. Starting with self-titled “Dark Parade”, a pure doom metal gem the kind of early-era TROUBLE played, it goes on with “Distant Shadows”, a slow, threatening song of massive riffing and full-force pounding rhythm; the curtain falls with “Down Below”, a dystopic epilogue, terrifying, cynical and pessimistic, yet glorious in some twisted way.
All in all, “Dark Parade” is another uncompromising, timeless album of CIRITH UNGOL, maybe the darkest one they ever brought out. They started writing songs for it as soon as the previous album, “Forever Black”, was released, three years ago, but the pandemic took a toll on the band as on all of us. It’s been a period of survival struggle in the shadows of pain and loss; still, if there’s a band out there to properly praise doom, it’s only CIRITH UNGOL; and they did so with eight songs of spellbinding yet frightening beauty!
So, if you’re one of the devoted, answer the call, arise, and follow the Chaos Star once again; and if you’re somehow a stranger to CIRITH UNGOL’s music, this is your shot at glory: JOIN THE LEGION!
OK, I am dreaming, right? Is this real?
Am I living somewhere in the 80s? Should I wait for my mom to call me to eat bread with cocoa spread? Should I look for Thundercats and Bolek and Lolek cartoon on Saturday morning? Have I done something in my previous lives in order to enjoy the new HEAVY LOAD and CIRITH UNGOL albums in the same year?
Seriously now. CIRITH UNGOL are a mythical band. Especially for those of us who looked for obscurities in the late 90s and found solace in the old Metal Blade CD editions and later on in the Steel Conjuring mega interview. And though many of us dreamed of CIRITH UNGOL returning from the dead, nobody could believe that an album like “Forever black” could ever become reality. And not only it became reality but now Ungol returned with a new album proving that the King has not quenched his thirst for heavy metal.
“Dark Parade” is the extract of all the years of UNGOL recordings and an album that has everything: from classic UNGOL metal rockers to dark doomy nightmares but lets check them out track by track:
1.”Velocity“: This is the fast entry song, a straight rocker a long lost cousing of “Atom Smasher” since the riff slighty resembles the “Atom Smasher” break between the lyrics. This is a track that struggles to be performed live and I can’t wait enjoying it on
2.”Relentless“: A slower track that strongly reminded me of songs “The Fire“, “Chaos Descents“, “Paradise Lost” etc. Loved it, definetely UNGOL sound.
3.”Sailor on the Seas of Fate“: though the intro riff reminded me of “War Eternal” the song quickly transforms into a post-UNGOL epic/doom hymn in the vein of “Fallen Idol” or “Chaos Rising“. I love this style and I definetly think that UNGOL nailed it there.
4.”Sacrifice“: In the same style as “Relentless” a slow nightmarish doom song.
5.”Looking Glass“: The absolute highlight of the album. A doom obscurity that stands as a link between the sound of “King of the Dead” and “One Foot in Hell“. As the band mentions in the press-release the last four songs form a kind of quatrology: a venture into the subconsious the dark and bleak visions of one’s mind. To quote Tim Baker: “Is it a nightmare tale of self-reflection or just another journey through the cracks in our reality and the curse of broken dreams?”. Frankly, I felt shivers in my spine listening to these four last songs.
6.”Dark Parade“: It begins where “Looking Glass” finishes. A heavy 70’s riff combined with the dark and sinister vocals of Tim Baker.
7.”Distant Shadows“: A mid tempo with a touch of despair. Loved the intro and the lead harmonies.
8.”Down Below“: The “cloack and dagger” finale song, fascinating as it is, it strongly resembles of “One Foot in Hell” and “Forever Black“.
A fitting end to an obscure album.
I don’t know if there is more to say. UNGOL sound more powerful than ever. The global events that took place the last four years have forged the sence of despair that is evident through the album. It strongly resembles the “Paradise Lost” trilogy, the sense of an ending and the glimpse of hope that slowly withers away. The band recently stated that they would stop their live performances, something that completes this foreboding atmosphere. Yet the Legion still stands: Jim Barraza delivers its finest guitar work, the bands performance is stellar, the King is still here and as UNGOL once said:
“I’ve still got strength, I’ve still got life and that will never change!”
Haill to CIRITH UNGOL!
CIRITH UNGOL have written their own name in the history of Heavy Metal. The band’s first four albums are considered among the best moments of epic heavy metal and even though the last of them, “Paradise Lost”, was their most classic heavy metal moment ‘till then, their hardcore fans still adore the archaic style of “Frost and Fire” and “King of the Dead”. On the other hand, “One Foot in Hell” was the transition album to a more metallic sound, and it is perhaps the album that most heavy metal fans – not just the fans of the band – prefer. Of course, the link between those albums is Tim Baker’s voice who gave that extra-ordinary epic/doom flavor to CIRITH UNGOL’s music.
Around 1992 the band broke up, but in 2020 a new album, called “Forever Black” was released. No one would expect the “Judas Priest from the dungeons” sound of the first albums, or the 90s classic metal sound of the band, but CIRITH UNGOL actually balanced nicely between the past and the present.
The new album, “Dark Parade”, comes to verify what started with the previous album; CIRITH UNGOL of the 2020s have a modern, powerful sound and a very dynamic Tim Baker, but at the same time the “old spirit” of the band, mostly the one found in “One Foot in Hell”, is still present.
“Dark Parade” follows the powerful style of “Forever Black”, which means that we also see here many “One Foot in Hell” references, but the new album is in many ways more aggressive, doomier and darker. Of course, those traits have always characterized the sound of CIRITH UNGOL, but this time they are a bit over-emphasized. This isn’t bad of course, but someone who loved tracks such as “Fallen Idols” for instance, won’t find that style here.
“Dark Parade” is by all means a CIRITH UNGOL album and the fans of the band who like the heaviest and the darkest side of CIRITH UNGOL will enjoy this new release. It would be nice to see again the mid-tempo epic face of the band which we met in “Chaos Rising” or similar anthems of the band, but the “Dark Parade” style is suitable for those who prefer the nervous, “screamy” and the heavy-as-dark side of metal.
Aris “Soulless skies echo with the screams of mankind’s fall” Kntg
“Dark Parade” will be released, October 20th on Metal Blade Records. Pre order the album here.
Check the discussion about the album in our forum pages.
Listen to CIRITH UNGOL‘s new tracks on our radio show: