What a long and strange ride it’s been for Cirith Ungol! From their genesis in the early 1970s playing peace rallies to taking on an iconic heavy metal sound, right up to more recent times, these guys have remained dark, mysterious, and rocking hard. They’ve come and gone many a time, but when they surface with a sound all their own, headbangers stand up and take notice. And rightfully so.
Over the years, Cirith Ungol has been involved with Brian Slagel and Metal Blade Records, perhaps most notably appearing on the first METAL MASSACRE compilation back in 1982 (that compilation will forever be known to the world for giving the public the first commercially-released Metallica recording). The band’s 1986 album ONE FOOT IN HELL was released on Metal Blade, and the group returned to the Slagel Stable for their most recent album, 2020’s FOREVER BLACK, as well as the follow-up EP, 2021’s HALF PAST HUMAN
I’ll be the first to admit that, while I enjoy the music of Cirith Ungol, I don’t own many of their their albums; exploring their back catalogue is certainly on my “to do” list. That said, I love everything I’ve heard by these guys and was certainly glad to hear the band would be coming back with a new release in 2023. It’s also been stated the band will stop touring after 2024, so it’s entirely possibly this could be the last album of original studio recordings we get from the band. If that’s the case, is it a worthy effort to go out on?
I’m pleased to report that not only is DARK PARADE a good collection of music from Cirith Ungol; it’s also one of the best heavy metal albums of the year! From the opening moments of “Velocity,” Tim Baker’s vocals grab the listener and never let go. The band is also helped by the addition of Night Demons Jarvis Leatherby, expertly providing the lower end. It’s tough to pigeon hole Cirith Ungol into a particular subgenre of metal, and true enough, DARK PARADE delivers the goods, from its loudest and most aggressive moments to a few slower and more melodic ones, even breaking out the occasional acoustic guitars. The tight musicianship speaks for itself, from the heavier opening moments to the haunting and bleak atmosphere provided by album closer DOWN BELOW.
Cirith Ungol is back on Metal Blade where they belong. If they truly stop touring next year and this ends up being the final studio album we get from the band, it’s a damn fine one to go out on. Always some of the most underrated heroes of heavy metal, this is the album we’ve been needed in 2023 and then some. Highly recommended for heavy metal fans!