Zine Antichrist Magazine • Issue Interview with Cirith Ungol • Journalist Stanley Hatt Published Wed 08 Nov 2023
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Hi! The new album, “Dark Parade,” seems to explore themes of doom, societal decay, and environmental collapse. What inspired the band to delve into such a dark and apocalyptic concept for this record?
Tim: The name Dark Parade conjures up the latest searing entry in Cirith Ungol’s ongoing chronicle of man’s never ending fade into Doom. Nightmare tales of pain, suffering and corruption – a Dark Parade into the abyss…

Rob: I’ve read a lot of reviews that said the album is based on Lovecraftian themes. I just want to set the record straight, that is mostly what I was thinking of during the whole album process, however to be factually correct it’s probably not what the other guys were thinking of!

How did the band’s approach to creating music change during the long gap, and what lessons from the past albums did you carry into this new project?
Rob: To be honest we’re still creating music the way we have since the dawn of Ungol, forging the song, the same way an ancient blacksmith created a heroic battle sword, mixing the correct alloys, to make it strong and true, then pummeling these elements of molten metal, to add strength and character, finally quenching it in the blood of the assembled masses! By the time it is completed, our hearts are blackened, and our souls are scorched!

The first single, “Velocity,” showcases a shift in your musical style, incorporating down-picking chugs and drawing inspiration from bands like Sabbath and Priest. Can you talk about the evolution of your sound and the creative decisions behind this change?
Rob: It is not really a shift in musical styles, we have traditionally started out each album with a similar upbeat song that sets the tone of the album; “Frost & Fire”, “Atom Smasher”, “Blood & Iron”, “Join the Legion”, “Legions Arise” and now “Velocity”! It’s our way of warming up the listener to the actual havoc to come!

The album features a conceptual four-song sequence called “The Dark Parade.” Could you elaborate on the concept behind this sequence and how it fits into the overall narrative of “Dark Parade”?
Rob: This concept mirrors the same path we have trodden on our last three studio albums; “Paradise Lost”, “Forever Black”, and now Dark Parade. On each of these offerings, side one contained songs with various topics, but side two was reserved for Tim’s dark vision of the downfall of mankind. From my vantage point it seems very prophetic, and if you look around you the story is continuously unfolding as I’m typing these words.

How did you approach the lyrical content for this album, and what messages or emotions do you hope to convey to your listeners?
Tim: The title Dark Parade harkens back and draws from all of our previous efforts, all the various paths of our catalog. Shadowed in the lineage of songs like “Nightmare”, “Before the Lash”, and all the way back to “Death of the Sun”, the similar threads have been woven to tell the tale of the ever malignant curse of mankind’s dominion. There is actually a long drawn out story of how I came up with the title, but that may or may not be explained at another time…Let’s just say for now it was partially borrowed from one of the lines from “Before the Lash”, just twisted around. The rest is for a more detailed telling…

“Relentless” incorporates Middle Eastern guitar touches, adding an exotic element to the music. What inspired this choice, and how did you blend these diverse musical influences seamlessly into the song?
Rob: We have use similar elements in other songs, and compared to traditional metal bands, all of our songs or exotic!
Tim: Relentless, overwhelming, Forever Black. Our many and treacherous demons thwarting our every effort to stay sane in an insane nightmare. Prayers? Fealty? To whom and why? A twisted path to our inevitable downfall, despite the frail attempts at avoidance. The future leads nowhere? As of now it seems likely, Eternal and Black.

The band has mentioned personal struggles, illness, grief, and the pandemic’s impact on the album’s creation. How did these real-life challenges influence the writing and recording process of “Dark Parade”?
Rob: I’m not sure if the album would’ve been any different if the pandemic was not raging around all of us. Of course, you’re always affected by outside influences, but the journey we started many years ago we have stayed true to, and continue our search for the wellspring of true metal!

The album artwork and themes seem to have a Lovecraftian influence. Can you discuss the visual aspects of the album and how they complement the music’s tone and atmosphere?
Rob: Michael Whelan along with being the finest artists of our times, is one of the band’s best friends. We have been lucky enough to showcase his fantastic art on all of our albums except “Servants of Chaos” (2001). This Whelan masterpiece we used for Dark Parade is the spectacular, “Elric and the Sinking City”. Elric looks like he’s gazing out, looking for something, it also seems like he’s contemplating possibly some of his previous triumphs or defeats. I sense a look on his face of weariness, but also one of purpose at what lies ahead, not unlike where our band is at this moment in time.

Cirith Ungol has a rich history dating back to the early ’80s. How do you think the band’s sound and message have evolved over the years, and how do you see “Dark Parade” fitting into your discography in the context of this evolution?
Rob: Obviously every bands’ music has evolved over time and we are no exception to this rule, however we have tried to stay true to the founding principles of the band; to play the heaviest music known to mankind. “A Churning Maelstrom of Metal Chaos Descending!”

“Looking Glass” is described as having a slowed-down middle section reminiscent of your earlier works. What motivated the band to revisit this style, and how do you balance paying homage to your roots while also pushing musical boundaries?
Rob: This song is so incredible with the looking glass shattering intro, and Tim’s introspective lyrics, this has got to be one of my favorites on the album! It has the quintessential Ungol slowed down middle section, like some of our songs such as “Join the Legion” and “War Eternal”. Like hidden gems sometimes we incorporate nods to some of our previous songs in new compositions, it’s sort of a treasure hunt for the listener! I spent quite time to get the drum fill at the beginning of the solo just perfect. You can hear a primitive other fill on the demo version of the song on the expanded edition. On this album I tried to use less is more, wanting very heavy powerful beats. This is the sleeper song on the album, with its heavy chugging riffs, cool beat and powerful solo section!

The album includes an expanded edition with demos. How do these early versions of the songs compare to the final tracks, and what insights can listeners gain from exploring the demo recordings?
Rob: We have always recorded demos going back to the band’s earliest recordings (The Orange Tape). This time-tested technique has two purposes; one, we get a preview of what the song will be like in a finished version, and two, it prepares us for going in the studio with a finished song so as not to waste a lot of precious time. On most occasions we do two or three versions of the demos before we’re ready to hit the studio!

How do you define your music, especially considering the diverse influences evident in “Dark Parade,” and what do you think sets Cirith Ungol apart from other heavy metal bands?
Rob: I define our music as the heaviest music that we were able to forge. I think what sets our band apart from many other bands was our focus from the very beginning of knowing exactly what we wanted to accomplish and how we wanted to achieve that. When other bands were falling for many of the gimmicks or fads that would come or go, we stayed true to the Metal that we were raised on, which we consider the ultimate true form of metal, and we have never strayed from that path.

Do you believe that music, especially metal, has a unique role in reflecting and processing the collective emotions of society during times of crisis?
Rob: I think that all forms of art including music, reflect the society that they were born in. Music also has the amazing ability using it’s primitive beats and tones to tap into those emotions deep within the human psyche, unleashing all manner of trapped consciousness, and bringing that all to the surface, raw and exposed!

How do you approach creating music that resonates with both longtime fans and new listeners, and what kind of impact do you hope “Dark Parade” will have on your audience?
Rob: That’s the rub, most of the music we have created over the years we created for ourselves, hoping that there was a select few of discerning metallurgists out there they would appreciate our efforts. Our band has never been a band for the masses, but a band that has strived to fulfill our own goals, and to hope that we would engage those few astute listeners, that would hear our call!

Looking ahead, after the release of “Dark Parade,” what are the band’s aspirations and goals? Thank you for your time!
Rob: Stanley, it was a distinct pleasure speaking with you today to discuss “Cirith Ungol”, and our new album Dark Parade. I would like to thank you, and all of your readers of Antichrist Magazine for supporting the band over the years, as we embark on the final chapters of “Cirith Ungol”. We hope to see all of you at one of our final appearances in 2024. We will live on forever in the hearts and souls of our “Legions of Chaos”!

You never lost hope, you never have strayed
Arise now my children, arise from the grave
We lead not the weak, they won’t answer the call
As chaos descends, false metal will fall

 

Interview with Cirith Ungol

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