Saturday, November 25, 2017

Matt Spall reviews Cradle of Filth

[Matt Spall is a man of sophisticated taste in music, and as you can read from his reviews, he loves to write detailed reviews about bands that often are in the field of progressive music. Yet, he has his guilty pleasures. In some cases, he reveals that he was once a young music fan excited about a band from his own neighborhood, if you will, in England. What are the chances that Matt would love an extreme metal band from his hometown area? Well, Matt and Cradle of Filth have a shared history, and this is the newest chapter in the ongoing affair between an intellectual music writer and a band known for, shall we say, questionable tastes, manners and music. --MMB]
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Artist: Cradle Of Filth
Album Title: Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: 22 September 2017
My first Cradle of Filth review for my website was for the eleventh studio release, ‘Hammer Of The Witches’, released in 2015 by Suffolk’s finest extreme metal export. Unconstrained by the shackles of word limits, I was able to delve into my personal history with the band and go into some detail about why this band remains an important part of my life. If you missed that review and wish to read my personal story, you can check that review out here.
Suffice to say that they made an indelible impression on the psyche of a wide-eyed teenager, who was getting into more extreme forms of metal around the time of the release of ‘Dusk…And Her Embrace’ and ‘Cruelty And The Beast’. And it helped too that this band were so local to me, residing in a location more used to tractors and fields than the unholy noises that Cradle of Filth so deftly created.
Cradle Of Filth have been around for the better part of three decades, nearly as long as I have been alive. It hasn’t always been plain sailing and success for the band, what with the frequent line-up changes meaning that the only original member left standing is the irrepressible vocalist Dani Filth. For better or worse, Dani has always been the driving force behind Cradle Of Filth so there has never really been the fear that the band would ever fold or go off in radically different directions. Nevertheless, it is never helpful to have to keep introducing new members into the fold as undoubtedly the chemistry is affected each and every time. And without doubt, some of the previous eleven records suffered, culminating in material that I didn’t find as satisfying as that of their earlier days.
In light of this, it is very pleasant to be able to report that ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay’ features the very same line-up that delivered the surprisingly excellent ‘Hammer Of The Witches’ a couple of years ago, the album that reignited the excitement that I felt in the beginning. And the benefits of a stable line-up don’t take long to be realised, for this is yet another step up in quality and another indication that perhaps some of the magic that was present in their halcyon early years is well and truly making a comeback.
I’d actually take my comments a little further and say that Dani, alongside guitarists Richard Shaw and Ashok, keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft, bassist Daniel Firth and drummer Martin Skaroupka have delivered their best record for 20 years with ‘Cryptoriana…’
As the album title suggests, ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay ’ is heavily embedded in the world of Victorian Gothic horror and the tone is cleverly set by the opener, entitled ‘Exquisite Torments Await’. Unlike many Cradle Of Filth albums before it, this two-minute introduction is no mere instrumental. It might start with the disconcerting and creepy soundtrack of a horror film but before long, things turn heavy with a lumbering riff, blastbeats and the immediately recognisable shriek of Dani Filth. Lush keys and choral vocals give the brief track a sense of the grandiose before ‘Heartbreak And Séance’ takes over.
The minute I heard this song, I knew that this could be a very special record indeed. It contains everything I like about Cradle Of Filth. Fast riffs, uncompromising heaviness, over-the-top dramatic cinematic pomposity and the most memorable of lush, all-encompassing melodies, the kind of beautiful indulgence that they always effortlessly inject within their own distinctive brand of blackened Gothic extreme metal when firing on all cylinders. I must have listened to this track about ten times before I heard the remainder of the album but instead of getting old or boring, I like it more now than I did at the beginning. Noticeable right from the outset is the guitar solo that is both melodic and expressive, something that I welcome with open arms. And, whilst Cradle of Filth have never been shy with their use of keyboards and synths, Lindsay Schoolcraft really comes to the fore here with a perfectly-balanced use of sounds and textures that bathe the track with lashings of atmosphere.
‘Achingly Beautiful’ follows and another thing hits me as I listen and absorb the album further. Cradle of Filth have always explored songs of a more epic length but on ‘Cryptoriana…’, the compositions weave and dart around more than ever, twisting and writhing with vim and vigour as they make their way through the dark fog-drenched streets of a bygone era. The result is that there is simply more variety and drama within each individual track, heightening the overall impact greatly. I’m not suggesting for one second that this is a progressive metal album, but occasionally, the songwriting hints at it just a touch as witnessed within this particular track.
Lightning-fast staccato riffs, a frantic rhythmic backbone and an unhinged, wailing and gnashing lead solo; they are all parted expertly by understated yet theatrical keys and choral vocals, only to be replaced themselves by a thunderous, sedate riff that makes a huge impression.
The introduction of ‘Wester Vespertine’, with its atmospheric keys initially and then its urgent black metal riffing immediately takes me back nearly a quarter of a decade to the ‘Dusk…’ days. The female spoken word section and the synth drenched melodic Gothic savagery of the returning black metal riff then continue my journey into the past. However, the riff that follows is sculpted more from the realm of thrash, whilst Dani’s vocals do little to minimise the similarities. This composition is sheer extravagance, culminating in the kind of grandiose, galloping crescendo that brings a smile to my face and turns a great song into a sensational one. Without doubt, this is a highlight within an album of highlights.
In and amongst all of the other influences within ‘The Seductiveness of Decay’, the importance of Iron Maiden on Dani and Co. is arguably the most pronounced, thanks to the twin guitar harmonies and galloping melodies that surface frequently. However, it is so well done that the track becomes addictive and a lot of fun, despite the sinister overtones that loom large elsewhere in the song.
Ex-Leaves Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine makes an appearance within ‘Vengeful Spirit’ and in so doing, adds another welcome ingredient to an already rich and rewarding listening experience. The track itself is a little softer-feeling around the edges, more retrained perhaps but retains the sophistication shown elsewhere on this album.
‘You Will know The Lion By His Claw’ features more classic Cradle of Filth melodies, juxtaposed against some of the most of the most extreme material on ‘Cryptoriana…’, led from the outset by a lengthy, agonised shriek from Dani, supported by rich synths and fast-paced black metal riff. The melodies are slightly more subtle but no less impactful, accented as they are in the chorus by some pronounced choral vocals. Again this song goes in all directions within its seven minute length but it retains an almost exclusively high tempo, culminating in some impossibly fast drumming from Martin Skaroupka near the death.
The album is completed by a cover of Annihilator’s ‘Alison Hell’ but not before ‘Death And The Maiden’ brings to a close the original material in powerful fashion. The symphonic introduction is pure decadence, full-on film score territory. I like the fact that this song also deliberately slows things down a touch and delivers a muscular punch to end proceedings. The ubiquitous blast beats remain present but feature more sparingly, allowing chunkier riffing instead to pair up with the flamboyant Gothic overtones. Lead guitar solos are present too, capping off what has become a new and very welcome staple ingredient of Cradle’s sound on ‘Cryptoriana…’
If ‘Hammer of the Witches’ was a welcome return to form, then ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay’ is the sound of a band building on a new-found belief and a rich vein of creativity to deliver, without doubt, one of the best records of their career.
The Score of Much Metal: 9.75
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