Review Summary: From damnation to redemption.
Throughout twenty years in the music industry a band has the right to experiment, to change their sound; to evolve or in some cases, devolve. It will alienate some and introduce others; many will stay loyal regardless of such change. Cradle of Filth was and still is one of those bands, who found a formula that created popularity unseen in the extreme metal scene; however with this popularity came a major label deal (with Roadrunner) and with that came the dilution of their formula. After ‘Damnation and A Day’, Cradle of Filth commercialised their sound, slowly distancing themselves from their Black metal foundations, instead they embraced a more ‘Gothic’ metal approach. Their aggressive nature lessened, replaced by grandiose symphonic arrangements and unprecedented theatrics. Along the way many fans have come and gone, many had lost their faith in the band for one reason: the quality of music was gradually getting weaker and weaker. Gone were the days of ‘Dusk and Her Embrace’ and instead we were offered works such as ‘Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa and Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder’. Now in 2012, Cradle of Filth returns with their tenth album ‘The Manticore and Other Horrors’. Not only have the band embraced their roots, they sound inspired and more importantly motivated.
Cradle of Filth have never been easy to pigeonhole into a genre, throughout the years they’ve shape shifted into many different beasts but with the ‘The Manticore…’ they have firmly taken back their spin on Black metal. With the inclusion of elements they’re famous for, but more refined. The album as a whole is a strong package, delivering great vocal work, adept instrumentation and thespian symphonies that feel organic. In fact, ‘The Manticore…’ is a far cry from their previous works. Dani Filth’s vocal work is powerful, ranging from his signature high screeches to raspy spoken word passages to the deeper growls; the amount of vocal variation and experimentation on ‘The Manticore…’ is astonishing to say the least, especially for a man of his age. Dani is at his strongest when he’s rapidly spitting wickedness alongside break-neck paced guitars a-la ‘The Abhorrent’ & ‘For Your Vulgar Delectation’. When the music slows down for more timid melodies that are represented in ‘Frost on Her Pillow’ & ‘Manticore’, the raspy vocals fit perfectly. It’s quite poetic. However, his signature screeches at times can be too much, the pitch seems to waver becoming a wail; which can be slightly comical. Sporadically, the vocals can sound a bit thin, especially during the screeches. At times the growls can also sound lacklustre in short bursts, due to the lack of vocal power. Furthermore, if you’ve never liked the vocals of this band, then nothing will change. Despite the variation and dabbling with new techniques, it is still very
Cradle of Filth.
As time went on, the band’s music slowly suffered instrumentally. They became sloppier, haphazard and most of all, boring. The orchestral arrangements gradually dwarfed the instrumentation until they were the focus point of the music; causing inauthenticity, exaggerating to the point of being excessive. Although that has changed, the guitars and drum work take the prime position alongside the symphonic elements; providing some truly spectacular moments. The guitar work is faster, more ‘punk’ inspired, crunchier and more importantly furious
. Due to this change, the songs now sound more threatening, more raw and unforgiving. Fast, pummeling riffs coupled with blistering tremolos, dominate the songs creating a chaotic atmosphere. Every now and then they simmer down to deliver a hefty dose of melody; delicate strumming offers moments to catch your breath amongst the barrage. The drumming is full of blast beats and intense, quick-firing fills galore that highlight the ferocious rhythmic patterns. The production makes them sound blatant, carrying more weight within their sound, which is highly effective within the jam-packed song structures. Finally, the symphonic arrangements are less grandiose and more purposeful rather than just being ‘part’ of their signature sound. The orchestration is evenly balanced, coming to the forefront of the mix for song climaxes, soaring choruses and menacing closures. It’s the standard affair sonically, synthesised strings, organs, piano and flutes; all can be found throughout ‘The Manticore…’ Yet there are moments where the band pushes refinement to the side, going all out, dishing up some absolutely dazzling orchestration. These moments are tolerable and for the most part enjoyable, though they aren’t really essential for improving the songs. They drag on for longer than needed. Moreover, it feels quite artificial & simply there for showmanship.
With the stream-lining of their sound also comes the simplifying of the lyrics. Gone are the wordy passages and over-long verses; they’ve been replaced with more to the point lyrics that articulate the stories clearly without any unneeded waffling. Each song is about a monster/evil entity (based around Lycanthropy, Vampirism and Demons) or a sinister story of some sort. Some are stronger than others; for example, the shorter songs actually deliver the most visceral experiences, presenting a higher calibre of music. Overall the lyrical content of ‘The Manticore…’ is well-written, neither the lyrical theatrics nor the song-writing out rightly hinder the flow of the album.
Cradle of Filth have returned to form with ‘The Manticore…,’ they’ve embraced their beginnings and fine-tuned the elements that are undoubtedly key to their sound. Their tenth effort is concentrated, consistent and without a doubt, fun. ‘The Manticore and Other Horrors’ is an impressive effort that displays what the band is capable of, for all the right reasons. It’s a strong sonic journey that will surely please those who have been waiting for many years.