1998 saw the release of Cradle of Filthís 3rd full-length album, <b>Cruelty and the Beast</b>. Like any release by the band it has been met with a great deal of criticism, but at the same time a great deal of praise and an even greater amount of fans that flock to their shows world-wide. This albumís story centers around that of Elizabeth Bathory, or the Blood Countess, who drank the blood of virgin women in Hungary in the 15th or 16th century.
Moving on to the album, it begins with <b>Once Upon Atrocity</b>, a traditional Cradle of Filth intro that includes some synthesizers and organs accompanied by eerie vocals in the background that slowly and progressively build directly into the second track on the album, <b>Thirteen Autumns and a Widow</b>.
It begins with a tradeoff between guitars and keyboards until the band unites with a typical Dani growl/screech. The song is a good opening track, relatively heavy and filled with riffs of tremolo picking and nice breakdowns that have a lead guitar over ringing power chords. Also, as customary with nearly every Cradle track there is some great drumming by Nicholas Barker. As the song proceeds, trading between riffs, it eventually slows down to a building climax that is filled with eerie keyboards before everything unites and rings out.
The third track is <b>Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids</b>, which is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Filled with nice guitar riffs, and for me, who is a fan of Daniís vocal abilities, there is just a culmination of everything that there is to like about Cradle of Filth. There is a nice breakdown during the middle part of the song that is a welcome change of tempo before they begin to build again into another heavy part and then they eventually progress into a catchy ending riff that is fun to listen to both off the album and live.
Next comes <b>Beyond the Howling Stars</b>, it seems heavier and filled with Barkerís blast-beats, but overall it doesnít seem to create the same mood as the first two (mainly Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids). Nevertheless it is a solid track that does maintain the same Cradle feel and provides some nice guitars and some nice keyboard breaks. Overall there is nothing overall impressive in this track.
To another all ďinstrumental" track. <b>Venus In Fear</b> is just over two minutes of eerie keyboards mixed with women screaming in pain and agony or enjoying orgasms, or both at the same time. It is an interesting addition to the album, but a track that could have been done without. However, itís purpose is to provide an audio interpretation of Bathoryís torture chamber in her Hungarian castle.
The <b>Twisted Nails of Faith</b> is probably my second favourite track on the album. It begins with this high-pitched keyboard that can be at times annoying, but when it does end the song breaks into a nice heavy riff ignited by a Dani Filth scream. It has some very catchy guitar riffs that sound really nice in combination with Daniís vocals. It maintains a very heavy pace until the 1 minute 30 second outro, which for me makes the song. Just the repetition of a riff with chugging guitars and a nice lead riff behind it accompanied by Daniís vocals. As the fade-out begins it is just Dani growling: ďOn the twisted nails of faith."
Arguably the best track on the album <b>Bathory Aria</b> is an 11-minute piece of excellence. The song is divided into three parts:
I. Benighted Like Usher
II. A Murder of Ravens in Fugue
III. Eyes That Witnessed Madness
Benighted Like Usher begins slowly but builds into a relatively heavy, fast-paced piece until the transition into the second part of the track, which maintains a heavy beat until a nice breakdown with a whispered/growling piece by Dani that, for me, sounded amazing. Riffs are added between but they return to this little whispered piece that is also accompanied by a nice little guitar riff going over in the background that is eventually harmonized, which is common of Cradle (two lead guitars, harmonized). Unlike the transition between the first two parts of the song, there is a slow instrumental breakdown that is eventually accompanied by Daniís vocals marking the beginning of the 3rd and final part to this track. There is some eerie guitar riffs that proceed slowly with Daniís vocals. At most points of this part, it is relatively slowly paced with the exception of instrumental breakdowns, but the purpose of the closing part to this track does exactly that, closes the story of Elizabeth Bathory. It concludes with a spoken monologue by a female voice that represents Bathory.
After that 11-minute track there is a 3 minute keyboard break in <b>Portrait of the Dead Countess</b>, which is a nice piece of keyboards that are a welcome addition to the album.
To close the album, there is <b>Lustmord and Wargasm (The Lick of Carnivorous Winds</b>. It begins with a nice keyboard intro that is accompanied by a lower keyboard harmony and eventually the band unites to play the same riff, faster and heavier. This can be considered one of the best tracks on the album, giving Bathory Aria a run for its money. It is one of the heavier tracks with some incredibly fast drumbeats and fills by Nicholas Barker. Unlike most of Cradleís songs on this album, it does not slow down and build to a crashing ending. It begins slow, builds to a fast tempo and never relinquishes it, finishing with a quick culmination and a sudden end.
Overall this is one of my favourite Cradle of Filth albums, rating up with <b>Midian</b> and <b>DuskÖ and her Embrace</b>. From me it gets a 4/5, excellent and one of Cradle of Filthís better releases. They grew a lot to create a very melodic and unique sound since their release of <b>The Principle of Evil Made Flesh</b>, but they maintained a heavy and attractive sound that seemed to disappear with the likes of <b>Damnation and a Day</b>. Since this release, Cradle of Filthís lineup has changed dramatically, in fact; only Dani Filth remains, which has undoubtedly changed their sound. The only change that didnít, in my opinion hurt the band was the addition of Adrian Erlandsson, by no means is he an inferior drummer to Nicholas Barker. However, the loss of guitarists and bassists definitely adjusted the sound of Cradle of Filth, and it is unlikely we will see Cradle of Filth produce another album that was as wonderfully done as this, ever.