Cult heavy metal icons Cirith Ungol today unveil their latest single, “Looking Glass”. The monolithic new track comes by way of the band’s impending sixth full-length, “Dark Parade”, set for release on October 20th via Metal Blade Records.
Few bands in the history of the heavy metal underground have a story as remarkable, improbable, or uplifting as that of Cirith Ungol. Formed in Ventura, California in the early 1970s, Cirith Ungol created a sound the world had never experienced before. Rather than passively channeling their influences, the band was driven to forge an altogether heavier, darker, more apocalyptic sound. It was obscure and arcane, mysterious and eccentric, epic and expansive, but most of all, unfailingly, bone-crushingly heavy, dark, and doom-filled.
Wasting no time to ride their molten wave they started with their 2020 studio comeback “Forever Black”, Cirith Ungol started writing songs for “Dark Parade” as soon as “Forever Black” was released. Then, like everyone else, Cirith Ungol were hamstrung by the global pandemic, struggling through illness, seclusion, grief, and depression in their quest to create dark, vibrant art. And like the greatest warriors, they persevered, working on one song at a time – distractions be damned. The first track composed was the crushing “Relentless”, which reinforced their confidence and clarity of vision. The rest of the album came naturally, fueled by personal misery and the tragedy of worldwide collapse.
With all eight demos finished – which are included on the expanded edition of the album – Cirith Ungol started recording “Dark Parade” in October 2022. The end result is an unrelenting triumph of pessimism and pain; a head-over-heels, Lovecraftian tumble into an abyss of horror and despair and arguably the most vitriolic expedition Cirith Ungol has undertaken to date. Despite the fantasy-inspired art on the band’s albums and their Tolkien-derived name – the band stopped exploring sword and sorcery-related themes in the mid-’80s. Most of the subjects they’ve addressed since then have been far more real and frightening than any ravenous make-believe creatures fighting sword-wielding warriors.
Up-tempo but still moody, latest single “Looking Glass” begins with a shattering mirror and gains steam with trenchant riffs that slither between a multitude of muted chugs. During the understated midsection, the tone turns dusky as the tune reaches its pinnacle, with lengthy, blues-based leads. Rob Garven’s drums match the shifting mood beat for beat. “It has the quintessential Ungol slowed down middle section, like ‘Join The Legion’ [from 1991’s Paradise Lost] and ‘War Eternal’ [from 1986’s One Foot In Hell],” says Garven. “I spent quite a lot of time getting the drum fill at the beginning of the solo just perfect.”
“Looking Glass” marks the beginning of a conceptual four-song sequence that introduces listeners to “The Dark Parade”, a visceral and poignant multi-song presentation that leaves little room for happy endings. “Is it a nightmare tale of self-reflection or just another journey through the cracks in our reality and the curse of broken dreams?” asks vocalist Tim Baker, shedding a little light on the “darkness” within. “It’s not quite what Lewis Carroll [author of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Through The Looking-Glass etc.] had in mind, but an even more bleak and deadly vision. Alice found that her visions were the complete opposite of her dreams, but here they are one and the same. Will waking dispel the nightmares, or are our waking hours just the extension of them? Once we smash the mirror, there is no turning back.”
Photo by Peter Beste