Review Summary: Cradle of Filth released another album. They're so cute.
Lately it seems like metal is finally growing up. Jeans and T-shirts are replacing spiked armbands and corpse paint, intelligently-crafted atmosphere is replacing cheesy symphonic elements, and slower, groove-oriented tempos are replacing mindless breakneck riffing. After years of being misunderstood and unfairly described as Satanic and evil, the genre is rapidly gaining the respect that it has always deserved. Bands like Isis, Between the Buried and Me, Burst, Opeth, Mastodon, and others like them are being covered by the mainstream media, all being recognized as metal bands for the thinking man. This recent positive exposure is well-earned and a long time in the making.
But don't look now, because here's Cradle of Filth to fu
ck everything up.
Bands like Cradle of Filth don't leave listeners much room for a middle ground. They are either loved or hated, in most cases vehemently. In terms of exposure, it's good for them because the greater the reactions that their music creates, the more people will talk about them, and in turn the more people will hear about them. It is, however, unfortunate for the rest of metal that Cradle of Filth is so prominent in the media, seeing as how they seem to exist for the sole purpose of perpetuating and fueling misconceptions. For example, here is what Dani Filth had to say about their latest album Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder:
"[It is] our most extreme, dramatic and deeply disturbing album to date. The legend of Gilles de Rais has been given fresh, vampyrical life in this conceptual meisterwerk, swathed in pitch-black magic and a viciousness unsurpassed in the annals of Cradle history. Screw what our detractors say, everyone who has heard this album has bruised their jaws on the pentagram-bejewelled floor."
Now, unless there is someone out there who intends to use the reasoning of "My gilded cunt quivers at the thought of popping this into my Discman" to attempt to sway their mother into buying the record for them at Best Buy (on sale for $10.99!), Filth's quote isn't exactly something that would be looked upon favorably by a normal person. This is the type of thing that has made metal such a taboo over the years. The thing is, it wouldn't be so bad if Cradle of Filth's music actually lived up to his hyperbolic claims, but that's simply not the case.
Made apparent by the above quote, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder is a concept album about Gilles de Rais, a 15 century alleged sodomite, heretic, serial killer, and child molester (listed from best to worst) who was once BFFs with Joan of Arc until she realized what a creeper he was. Despite being Chris Hansen's wet dream, de Rais is certainly an interesting and controversial historical figure, seemingly perfect material for a Cradle of Filth album. To support the ancient subject matter, the band enlisted choirs, string sections, and other such medieval things that ultimately make the album laughably cheesy. Parallels can be drawn with Dimmu Borgir's last album In Sorte Diaboli, which also contained medieval subject matter and symphonic elements (that has always been their trademark though, unlike Cradle of Filth who have always had a more straightforward approach to their theatrics). It's bad enough when a band makes an album that everyone has heard before, but it's even worse when it was one of the worst albums of 2007.
Typically, the album starts and ends with short instrumental tracks, featuring a choir, horns, strings, and even a few interesting percussive instruments. Although they are predictable and cheesy, they end up being the album's most enjoyable moments, mostly because they don't contain Dani Filth. Over the years, Cradle of Filth's flamboyant frontman has been the band's downfall for some and their best asset for others. His high-pitched screams sound like a screeching eagle, or nails on a chalkboard if "screeching eagle" sounds halfway positive. The album's first actual track "Shat Out of Hell" is very similar in sound to Dani Filth's track on Roadrunner Record's All-Star Sessions album that came out a few years ago, "Dawn of a Golden Age." They both feature the exact same drum beat throughout as well as tremolo picked guitar riffs. "Shat Out of Hell" unfortunately lacks what made "Dawn of a Golden Age" a decent track: good vocals from Dani Filth. None of Filth's vocal styles sound particularly great, but his low growling is leagues better than his comical screeching, which makes up more than half of the track. Halfway through the song, the closest Cradle of Filth will ever get to a breakdown occurs, complete with staccato chants from a choir that sound completely out of place.
The picture doesn't get much brighter for Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder. Musically, the band is boring and generic; if you've heard "Tonight in Flames" and "Coffin Fodder" then you've pretty much heard all that they have to offer musically. They've got their super fast riffing, like in the aforementioned latter half of "Shat Out of Hell" and their slower, "epic" riffing, like in the middle section of "The Death of Love." Another parallel that can be drawn with Dimmu Borgir is that the drummer is the only interesting musician in the band. Much like Hellhammer, Martin Skaroupka does his best to keep things interesting with ever-changing tempos and fills, but even his skill can't save Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder from being as generic musically as it gets. Backing vocalist/fat chick Sarah Jezebel Deva shows up a few times to rip off Tarja Turunen's voice and Amy Lee's chubbiness; ultimately, her vocals are just as forgettable as the musical performance. Symphonic elements always have potential in music, but often are ruined by the execution and this album is no exception. Cradle of Filth fall into the trap of using them as a replacement for actual songwriting, relying on the symphonic arrangements to cover up their lack of talent. It doesn't work, especially because the arrangements themselves aren't too interesting in the first place.
To make matters worse, even if Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder was a decent album, it would still suffer from being way too long. At over seventy minutes in length, with two back-to-back eight minute tracks, the album simply has too much material. Add to that the issues already brought up, and there really is no hope for the album. If Dimmu Borgir could be admonished to wipe off their corpse paint and hang up their plastic armor and finally live up to their potential back in early 2007, what advice can be offered to Cradle of Filth in late 2008? Well, they seem to have used up any potential they ever had years ago, so perhaps it would be best for them to just give up entirely. Or maybe stick to covering Celtic Frost.