Review Summary: Everyone needs to grow up sometime! Except you, Cradle.
Much to my embarrassment, and to the chagrin of many of my close friends, family, and ancestors, I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Cradle Of Filth, or as I call them, Dani Filth and his ever-changing crew of misanthropes. It was this very band that introduced me to modern extreme metal genres- during my final years of high school I was loaned a copy of Nymphetamine
, and from then on, metal became my new vocation. I have since been able to enjoy a massive variety of music in the genre; Immolation, Death, Opeth…. But I can never help thinking, if I hadn’t listened to Cradle Of Filth when I was that age, what would I be listening to now? Hence began my Cradle crusade; I touted Cruelty And The Beast
as a masterpiece, defended Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder
, insisting that it was yet another misunderstood ascension to greener (or bloodier) pastures via a new musical direction. Hell, I even recommended Thornography
to perspective listeners as a decent starting point. There does come a time, though, when everyone needs to grow up and take a more realistic approach to life. When I needed to see with clarity how mediocre a good number of bands I had grown up listening to were. When I needed to be a little more objective regarding Cradle’s work. With my anticipation nearing fever pitch, I waited patiently for the release of Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, insisting to anyone that would listen that it would surely be album of the year. hmm. Yeah, about that.
Cradle have essentially become the middle-aged men in corpse paint, sat at a dinner table with adults dressed in their Sunday best. No one wants to ask them to leave, because they’ve been there so long, but they’re definitely ruining that atmosphere for everyone else. It’s not about the controversy anymore either; there has been moral panic in the media relating to music for a long time, but it is only more recently that such outcry has related to the presentation and sound of the music, as opposed to the actual content. Slipknot are a notable example, as they were responsible for giving parents nightmares about what their brand of music was doing to their kid’s brains. In recent years, though, this trend appears to have calmed down somewhat, and with popular genre releases filling up the mainstream, most of the music that would give your granny a heart attack is safely tucked away in the underground (and on the internet, but my granny doesn’t know how to use the internet). It was very much a product of the era; such things as dressing up like a decomposing body and using the word ‘cunt’ on your band merch got you attention, albeit the wrong kind. Now, it’s almost tragically cute; Black Veil Brides use excessive make up, and virtually every ‘core’ band around has at least one shirt design featuring lyrics that look like they could have been written by David Mamet. Cradle still take themselves as seriously as they always did though, and therein lies a problem. It’s not ‘staying true to your roots’ in this case, it’s a resolute refusal to grow up, and this is what holds Darkly, Darkly
back from being anything more than an insult.
Cradle’s brand of metal is present and accounted for on every track of this album, but gone are the subtle asides and touches that made the band at least a little bit different. All atmospheric elements, such as the narration on Cruelty And The Beast
, the natural elements of Dusk….And Her Embrace
, and even the chanting and quintessentially ‘gothic’ facets of Godspeed
, have been overhauled and replaced with cheap theatrics and cliché grandeur. There is an impressive amount of orchestration on the album and some of the melodic interludes that utilise these effectively soar majestically, but when the very next second of the song features what sounds like a wounded cat howling in the vicinity of a combine harvester engine, it’s a tad redundant. The majority of songs are almost indistinguishable from each other, apart from possibly a quiet bridge section here, or a quietly anthemic postlude there; every song sounds like a remix of the one that preceded it. Lead single, ‘Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)’ is a laughably self-referential slice of gothic twaddle, which features an overly simplistic, unfulfilling riff and hideously exaggerated growls by Filth. The feminine vocal throughout does add a touch to the sound, and is melodic enough to carry the song for the 20 seconds or so it is featured, but the female vocal, particularly in this genre of music, is fast becoming a cliché as well. The reason I mention this song specifically is because it is the only song that is memorable at all. Even the title track, which features, of all things, a female vocal in the bridge section, does not offer any respite, being a bludgeoning, uninspired mess.
The most disappointing thing about this album, however, is perhaps the concept. Cradle have had their highs and lows, there’s no doubt about that, and more recently their output has more chequered than a starting flag that’s fallen into a bucket of tar, but the concepts the band pens their albums around have always been meticulously researched and cleverly implemented. With this release, though, they could have called the album anything. Absolutely anything, and it wouldn’t change a thing. The music would still be flat, and the concept would be as bizarre and ineffectual as before. There’s nothing quite like misappropriated anticipation; it’s like the difference between popping a balloon and letting it go; you pop the balloon, all the work you put into blowing it up in the first place feels validated, in a powerful, if short way. If you let it go, the result is a balloon that parps its’ way around the room, hopelessly aimless, until all that’s left is a sad, empty hollow shell. The real tragedy? The balloon will just get inflated all over again….