Elizabeth Bathory could possibly be the most heavy metal topic of all time. She sacrificed virgins, bathed and drank in their blood and most importantly, cherished her vanity above all. She was perhaps the most "kvlt" person ever to live upon this Earth. It goes without saying, that re-writing her life chronicles for a concept album would be like striking gold lyrically, and it seems that Cradle of Filth are one of the few bands that have gotten jackpot. Following the immensely popular Dusk...And Her Embrace
, Cradle was put into the black metal spotlight and microscope simultaneously, and were expected to pull out the stops for their third full-length. Luckily for the fans (and the band themselves) follow-up Cruelty and the Beast
is an epic slice of symphonic black metal, spewing with screeching vocals, blast beats, tremolo picking and a story that inspires fear in the heart of female virgins worldwide.
Starting with the usual instrumental piece Once Upon Atrocity
opens with choral chants and orchestral arrangements that would seem fitting to depict the darkest regions of hell. It leads perfectly into Thirteen Autumns And A Widow
. Starting with a demonic sounding organ, the sound erupts at the sound of Dani's layer vocals and eerie female background vocals. The music is fast and hard, with blast beats and tremolo picked guitars. The guitars shift to become more melodic, a simple yet effective lead is played over Dani's voice mixed with that of the "Countess". The melodic playing continues, but eventually they layer female vocal chants that go along with the melody nicely. The song ends slowly, with Dani switching between high pitched whispers and and his more mid range scream.
Next song Cruelty Bought Thee Orchids
starts with the Countess giving a brief speech, but once the music kicks in, it merges into a full on melodic black metal assult. After a short synth break, there is a slow chugging riff intertwined with hellish vocals. The song shows Dani at his vocal best, utilizing his whole range, from his ear piercing highs, to his perfect death metal gutterals. The guitars break off, and the synths take a rare stride into uplifting territory, before they are dragged into hell again, fueled by the sudden black/thrash guitars. The song reverts back to the chugging riff for the remainder, capped off by a high screech. Beneath the Howling Stars
begins with chilling violins, then accompanied by pure black metal riffage and blast beats. There is a creepy bass fill followed by some great classic metal style lead harmonized guitars. The best is yet to come however as the song takes a blackened thrash state, with crazy palm muted guitar riffing and fast double bass pedal lead drums. Once again the song slows down, first starting out doom influenced, but then becomes increasingly neo-classical as more instruments come in.
Venus In Fear
is the by far the scariest song on the album. With the beginning carrying some serious evil carnival music vibe to it, the song starts to incorporate tortured screams, screams that are only produced by the most violent and painful kinds of torture. Yet, this is another, even great sadistic quality to the song: The sound a moaning Elizabeth Bathory, who enjoys these hell-spawned screams so much, she actually gets off on them. Desire in Violent Overture
starts with typical black metal riffing, it switches over to an Immortal styled technical black metal riff. One thing thats I've always found greatly enjoyable about Cradle (and their earlier material in particular) is they can flawlessly find ways to bring in their diverse influences. From thrash to death metal to the rawest kinds of black metal, over the course of even one song, you're treated to the greatest elements from those genres. This song is probably the most straightforward black metal song on the album and keeps a strong BM aesthetic.
The Twisting Nails of Faith
opens with some disturbing synth work and for the most part continues on the depressive path, becoming more melancholic as it continues. The melodies in this song are much darker then those on the other songs, and finally a reprieve comes in the end,where they (the melodies) become uplifting and even somewhat happy, creating a great contrast to the rest of the song, and it really helps them stick out. Bathory Aria
is for sure, Cradle's Stairway to Heaven
. Beginning with a dark piano introduction and creepy background vocals, Dani's voice comes in as nothing but a hoarse whisper. The guitars, drum and bass come in, perfectly complimenting the tone already set. The song builds in intensity until the guitars completely take over, creating a labyrinth of twisting tremolo picked riffs, and beautiful melodies. The song however doesnt stay for long and slows down for a black doom section, complete with epic keyboards and slow pounding drum beat. The song ends with the long, evil growl of a hellish beast (who at the sound of it, is mighty angry.
Portrait of the Dead Countess
is a beautiful song and for once on the CD the melodies begin happy and end happy. The keyboards in the song a marvelously epic, and convey a feeling of relief, like a huge horror (Bathory) has finally passed (Bathory's death). Finishing song Lustmord and Wargasm (The Lick of Carnivorous Winds)
although heavy, starts with the happy melodies the song before it started. The middle of the song contains a thrash breakdown, but after some great harmonized leads it turns back into straight black metal and ends in a short, but sweet solo.
Cradle has truly created something one and million the the albumCruelty and the Beast
. Transcending the limits of normal music, this album transports you to the very chambers in which The Countess bathed in her pools of blood, the very walls where the bodies of innocents lie chained, dead and cold. With this album, Cradle has presented you with a mean to travel into the world of medieval folklore and experience true evil first hand. This is an experience that absolutely none should pass up.