Review Summary: Cradle Of Filth hit their peak on a masterful, although flawed, album that packs in so much of an epic nature and brilliant atmosphere that it becomes essential
Over the course of recent years, British symphonic black metal band Cradle Of Filth have become little more than a parody of their former selves. Since their glory days with albums such as Dusk And Her Embrace, the band have taken many turns for the worst, with their low point being found on Godspeed On Devil's Thunder. Given the disaster the band's career has become, one would be forgiven for forgetting how solid the band's earlier works were, from their debut through to Midian, and some would argue even proceeding onto the next album they were continuing their good run. Where the band's high point was met on has become subject of discussion, as with all long-running bands of any genre, but in my opinion their peak was on Midian.
Midian is arguably one of the best symphonic black metal albums ever recorded, featuring many of the band's biggest hits including the fan favorite Her Ghost In The Fog. This album embodies everything that made all of Cradle's early work so enjoyable, with fantastic high pitched shrieks from Dani Filth, a wide variety of lyrical themes including a warped love song and the usual Satanic imagery found within the genre, and some fantastic use of keyboards. Some may consider this to be the band's major cash grab, with Her Ghost In The Fog in particular clearly being geared toward a more commercial sound with its catchy vocals and haunting lyrics and overly accessible nature, and this may well be true. However, to say that this is a bad album due to its commercial side is bordering on blasphemy, as Midian truly is a solid release.
One of the major highlights of this album, as with all Cradle albums, is Dani Filth's vocals. Dani has one of the most unique voices in all of the music industry, and a rather wide range, including his signature insanely high pitched shriek, a slightly calmer style of this that is semi-clean, and the occasional old mans spoken word sections. When you first heard Dani's shrieks, you may be more than a little put off by it as it is so unique among black metal vocalists. Whereas many of the genres vocalists have an unintelligible style that involves putting as much aggression into their vocals, Dani instead relies on hitting some of the most inhuman notes out there whilst always being one hundred percent understandable. After a while his voice will grow on you as you get more used to it and you will realize just how good a vocalist he truly is. Out of all the black metal vocals in existence, Dani's shrieks go down as some of the best and most memorable.
Another thing worth noting is the lyrics Dani pens that are spewed from that mouth of his with absolute venom. As a graduate in English Literature, one would expect some deep and interesting lyrics to read, and Dani Filth provides exactly this. The best lyrics also accompany the two best songs on here, Lord Abortion and Her Ghost In The Fog. The latter is the one that stands out the most, dealing with a mans love for a girl who was raped and murdered by five men. Whilst it may seem ridiculous that a black metal band are telling a love story, it really does work within the context of the song. All throughout Her Ghost In The Fog, there is a real atmosphere of longing and desperation, mainly created by the beautiful keyboard work dancing around in the background. This is an album where the guitar work actually goes largely unnoticed throughout which is so rare within extreme metal.
If you pay attention to the riffs, they are actually rather decent although they are nothing too special. For the most part they rumble along at a fast tempo whilst you primarily focus on Dani yelping his lungs out and the keyboard work that is so prominent in the mix on here. However, the guitar work truly does make for a fantastic backdrop for the rest of the instruments to build off. The same could be said for the drumming which is both intense and well written but is also something that does not particularly stick out against the keyboards and the vocals. This release really does take a few listens for everything to sink in purely for the fact that there is so much going off at once. Throughout the duration of this album there are constantly numerous different sounds being showcased, carried through the masterful keyboard work that creates a beautiful melody, with the crushing riffs and fast drumming and Dani screaming that one simply does not know what to do upon first listen.
Despite the fact that there is a lot to love about this album, and even though there are so many good points to it, there are a few points that really do detract from the album as an overall product. The first of these would be the completely unnecessary interlude track entitled Satanic Mantra. Essentially all this is is Dani Filth making evil noises and the sound of a Satanic ritual but instead of sounding cruel and dark, it sounds completely ridiculous and makes it nearly impossible to take the rest of the album seriously. Also, the songs are far too long at times, with Tortured Soul Asylum and Tearing The Veil From Grace both being around the eight minute mark and not holding the listeners interest for half of that. These songs are not enjoyable throughout but instead fast lose your attention as they simply do not have enough substance and repeat themselves too much. Also, Dani Filth's old man spoken word sections of a few of the songs really do detract from his credibility and take away from the songs. It is nothing too crippling for the album to have a few moments such as these but his spoken words really are horribly done and are cringe-inducing.
This album has enough good about it to more than outweigh the few negatives that can be found in it, and is a fantastic release that everyone should experience. This was from the year 2000, when Cradle Of Filth were still a more than respectable band within the extreme metal community and really is a brilliant album. It may be a little long and inconsistent at times, but the beauty of the keyboards contrasting with the aggression and passion behind Dani Filth's vocals is more than enough to make this worth buying alone. I recommend this to anyone looking for a varied experience that is firmly rooted within the Symphonic Black Metal genre but has so many deviations from the formula that would usually be expected from the genre that it is one of the most unique and interesting releases out there. The recommended tracks are Lord Abortion for its brilliant vocal performance and Her Ghost In The Fog for the dark atmosphere created by the keyboards.