Review Summary: The Manticore And Other Horrors is impressive and tightly focused, proving once again that Cradle of Filth are a master of their craft.
The Manticore And Other Horrors is a concept album revolving around monsters and creatures from various mythologies. This theme is much more flexible than their previous concepts, usually revolving around a historical figure with fantastical and horrific embellishments. The shocking imagery and lyrical content of earlier releases is replaced with a more subdued focus on lore and mythological themes. Cradle of Filth’s image has always been just as important as the music, showcased by lavish music videos and extremely complex, poetic lyrics. The Manticore sounds just as inspired as previous releases while having a much more streamlined sound.
For the third album in a row, skinsman Martin Skaroupka carries the weight of the music by filling each track with thunderous blast beats and furious fills. He was always the highlight of each album since he joined in 2007, and his drumming on Manticore is no exception. As always, the guitars tremolo pick Black/Death Metal guitar riffs throughout each song, sounding slightly more interesting on Manticore than past releases. They balance aggressive Metal riffs with soaring gothic melodies alongside the thundering blast beats and menacing keyboard licks.
While the previous album Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa abandoned their trend of atmospheric instrumental interludes, Manticore brings them back by placing only one track on either side of the record. “The Unveiling of O” and “Sinfonia” are not so much sinsiter intros as orchestral interludes, but adequately set the tone for Manticore nonetheless. The real songs length’s are reduced drastically compared to previous albums, mostly restraining around four or five minutes. The reduced complexity allows for an easier listen and each track maintains the complexity and atmospheric mood changes the band have become famous for.
Cradle of Filth's vocals have always been the focus of each album, and Manticore is no exception. On early releases Dani Filth shrieks like a banshee about vampiric erotica and over-the-top gothic horror imagery. Midway through their career, he mixed screaming with death growls while the music leaned more and more toward Gothic Death Metal. By 2006's Thornography, he was singing in a few of the songs. In The Manticore and Other Horrors there are even more instances of clean vocals, a welcome change after ten albums.
Lead single “Frost on Her Pillow” has more singing than growling or shrieking and featuring a more traditional Gothic Metal sound. Lush atmospheres and textured synths in the music make these slower songs the highlights. The title track is a moody, driving track that could have come straight from the mid-tempo Thornography (2006). “The Abhorrent” and “Siding With The Titans” are the fastest tracks the band has written in years, harking back to the sound from their late 90’s and early 2000’s EPs. “For Your Vulgar Delectation” and others have arpeggiated guitar riffs playing through suspended chords, giving the tracks an aura of mysticism.
Showcasing a modern sound thirteen releases into a band’s career is an amazing accomplishment, especially given the limitations of Cradle of Filth’s image and style of music they remain so faithful to. The abundance of female vocals and symphonic elements have been toned down and let the music and atmosphere breathe. Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder (2008) and Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa (2010) were great albums in their own right but felt overlong and meandering. The inclusion of new drummer Martin Skaroupka largely saved them from falling prey to their flaws. Manticore mostly corrects those mistakes and stands out due to a resurgence in inspiration and welcome changes to their formula.