Review by Vladimir on September 24, 2023.
If someone would have asked me what my favorite heavy metal band is, it would be hard to tell because there are so many names that come to mind, but I can guarantee you that one of them would certainly be the veterans of US heavy metal, Cirith Ungol. Many fans of epic heavy and doom metal regard Cirith Ungol to be a cult band, especially because they are one of the earliest heavy metal bands whose lyrical themes dabble in epic fantasy and science fiction. The band’s mostly known for their everlasting tradition of using Michael Whelan’s artwork depicting Elric of Melnibone from Michael Moorcock’s books, and so Elric would become and remain the band’s mascot ever since their debut album Frost And Fire. Of course, Cirith Ungol isn’t the only band that used Michael Whelan’s art or the only band that referenced Elric or anything else Michael Moorcock related. Many other bands have done the same before and afterwards, but another great example I could think of is the space rock band Hawkwind, who made an entire Elric of Melnibone themed album "The Chronicle Of The Black Sword" (1985), which I highly recommend that you check out. I remember Cirith Ungol as long as I could remember, ever since I discovered them through my longtime friends who are into oldschool heavy metal, but for some reason I didn’t get into them until some years later in 2019/2020, just before the release of their fifth album Forever Black. After all these years of listening and worshipping Cirith Ungol, I still wouldn’t be able to tell which is my favorite album because I personally love every one of them respectively. I adore Frost And Fire for its catchiness and energy, I love King Of The Dead for its raw and doomy atmosphere, I praise One Foot In Hell for its heaviness and aggression, I worship Paradise Lost for its powerful and epic songwriting and I bow down to Forever Black for marking the band’s epic return after more than 20 years. Simply put, Cirith Ungol is one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time, period. Although I was amazed by their previous album Forever Black, little did I know that the recently announced follow-up album would be only a couple of months away, and I certainly had high hopes that the album would do more than just bring back Elric the White Wolf. The sixth album Dark Parade is set to be released on October 20th via Metal Blade Records, and I can definitely guarantee that this is one of the most anticipated heavy metal releases of the year. Enough of my fanboying, it’s time to follow the White Wolf on his perilous journey, where we shall once again behold the mighty runeblade Stormbringer and experience the wrath of Arioch and his Chaos Magick.
Head start with the opener track 'Velocity (S.E.P.)' and we are instantly welcomed with the good old classic Cirith Ungol we know and love. The catchy heavy metal riffing, frequent guitar melodies and soloing, Tim Baker’s wicked singing voice and banging mid-tempo drums, all of these famous traits that dominated in the band’s discography before, also conquer every moment with all the might and glory on this album. By far one of the finest tunes on this album that perfectly demonstrates the band’s artistic capabilities, is the third track 'Sailor On The Seas Of Fate', which starts off with a beautiful acoustic intro before kicking in with epic and heavy riffing that nicely builds up the fast and kickass finale of the song. Other examples that provide great moments of instrumentation is the fifth track 'Looking Glass' for its frequent guitar solos on top of the excellent mid-tempo riffs, which altogether manage to further expand the band’s epic musical background and then some. All of the great things that you will experience from the start pay off wonderfully with the closing track 'Down Below', which won me over for its acoustic guitar sections that present a great beginning and an epic closure to the wickedness of Dark Parade.
The band’s songwriting is top notch as always and they never disappoint, not by a longshot. In a world where songwriting from many classic heavy metal bands starts to show its age, Cirith Ungol is still as wild, heavy, loud and determined as they were in their youth. The riffs on this album are faithful to the band’s signature epic heavy/doom metal style, and although it is very oldschool and traditional, they manage to feel very fresh and modern despite the fact that we’re talking about a band who is over 50 years old. It is a sin to mention the best tracks on this album because they are all great songs with many stand out moments, but the best ones are definitely 'Velocity (S.E.P.)', 'Sailor On The Seas Of Fate', 'Sacrifice', 'Looking Glass', 'Distant Shadow' and 'Down Below'. Without a doubt, some of the biggest points next to the band’s always excellent and fresh songwriting, goes to Tim Baker’s singing voice which is still as fresh and powerful as it was 3-4 decades ago. I mentioned in one of my past reviews that it's seldom seen to have a heavy metal vocalist still pull it off with his or her performance at an older age, but in the case of Tim Baker, that badass voice of his still hasn’t aged and it’s a killer alright. The band once again uses the brilliant artwork of Michael Whelan for their album cover, this time being “Elric and The Sinking City”, which on its own is simply awesome and it fits perfectly with the chaotic nature of Dark Parade. As for the sound production, I simply have to adore how the album sounds strong and heavy, where everything is so well balanced and where every performance is pushed beyond their limits, and yet it’s not too clean or pristine for a modern record.
So, was it any surprise that I ended up praising this album after all? I think that you already knew that this was going to be the final result since I am indeed in love with Cirith Ungol’s sound and style, and yet again the band proves that they are practically invincible. Dark Parade is indeed another great entry in the band’s discography, but on its own it is a powerful and passionate album that was forged by the great gods of heavy music who put blood and sweat in their work. The album is definitely an “all killer no filler”, but I think that isn’t really a big surprise because Cirith Ungol have always delivered and to make another great album certainly wasn’t hard for them to pull off. For longtime fans of this band, I highly suggest you be there when this album is unleashed into this world, because I can guarantee that the White Wolf will be the triumphant champion once again, and if you so dare to stand in his way, then your soul will serve as a fine feast to feed the hunger of the Stormbringer.
Rating: 9.2 out of 101.25k