Cradle of Filth
Cruelty and the Beast - Re-Mistressed


4.5
superb

Review

by PumpBoffBag USER (83 Reviews)
November 3rd, 2019 | 97 replies


Release Date: 11/01/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Your idealised version of this album, realised

Production can make or break an album. This is a statement that should incite little to no controversy, even amongst the more passive music fans among us. A good record mixed badly can seriously mar the listening experience, and a bad record with solid production can elevate an otherwise unremarkable selection of songs. And then, there’s Cruelty and the Beast. An album so tainted by poor mixing and production choices that the band itself has been its most vocal critics. Rather than beat the dead horse, allow me to sum it up for the uninitiated; Cradle Of Filth’s greatest achievement was fed through the studio mangle, and to call the outcome ‘amateur’ would be unbelievably generous. In fact, prior to writing this review, I went back to the original recording just to ensure that it sounded as hideous as I remembered. It does, and this fact cannot be understated. So, finally, 20 years later, the album has been retouched in the most respectful manner possible, completely rinsing every poisonous second of its formerly disastrous runtime and polishing it until it truly shines. Minus the silly subtitle, this album now feels so fresh it could have been released yesterday.

Disdain for the production of the original recording aside, back in 1998 Cruelty and the Beast was a truly ferocious creation, and although the mixing seriously cast a shadow upon the overall experience, the general power and wonderfully menacing songwriting of the release still shone through. Quintessentially gothic in tone but feverish, frenzied and utterly lurid, the album could perhaps best be described as a depraved fairy tale. The tale of Elizabeth Bathory, the blood countess; an historic serial killer who was responsible for the deaths of many young girls in Hungary during the 1500s. Due to her status as noblewoman, she was able to get away with these crimes for a long period of time, but was eventually found out. Like many stories from history though, fact and fiction collide all too easily, and there is a great deal of disagreement regarding the actual nature of Bathory’s crimes. The most unpleasant and enduring aspect of the story was that she bathed in the blood of her young victims, believing that this would prevent from aging and losing her good looks. As typical as such a concept has come to be for a band like Cradle Of Filth, this album is perhaps the strongest example of their musicality and theming actually working together cohesively. The orchestral refrains, atmospheric narration and creative effects all mesh admirably, but it is the song structures and general scope of the record as a whole that truly sells the experience. This was a main concern I had for a remix album; whether an updated production would create a cleaner but less impactful product. Happy to say, that’s not the case. All updates are tasteful, and actually accentuate the perverted whimsy and aggressive eccentricity in a way absent from the original recording.

Re-Mistressed opts for a clearer, mercifully less muddied approach to production, finally affording the percussion some serious bite and texturizing the guitars to perfection. Gone are the bafflingly feeble drums and comically distorted guitar tone, and in their place; a sleek, well-oiled machine that seamlessly blends modern metal production with the extreme, gothic energy of the album’s theme. This is best observed on the whirlwind verses of ‘Desire In Violent Overture’, which spiral so satisfyingly without the tinny rattle of 1998’s drums beside them. Similarly, ‘Beneath The Howling Stars’’ main riff practically sparkles with its tantrum of cataclysmic fast descends accompanied by Filth’s vicious ascending screech. Other elements, such as ‘The Twisted Nails Of Faith’’s opening shrieking strings, are also tweaked to give them depth, and now they positively trill with foreboding energy. Even during later sections of the release, such as the mid-point in ‘Bathory Aria’, in which classical elements are utilised as a backdrop for the main body of the music itself, the eerie depth remains casting an intimidating glow shining through the tapestry of sound. Certainly, a noteworthy upgrade from the flat, virtually inaudible space they occupied on the original release. All thematic facets of the album, such as the instrumental tracks and the brief narrations, are now crystal clear and feel far less cartoonish than they did previously, due in part to some modified echo effects. Ingrid Pitt has never sounded quite so sinister, and even the lustful moans and chilling screams found on ‘Venus In Fear’ have been contrasted in a more intricate style so as not to seem as deliberately ‘layered’ as they had previously been. Clearly, the updates made to this seminal work have been a labour of love from start to finish, finally affording the album the production value it truly deserves.

A great many tracks on the release have multiple movements contained within them, and these reflect not only the horror elements of the story, but also the state of mind of the character at the album’s centre. The theatrically titled ‘Cruelty Bought The Orchids’, for instance, with its lurches between almost metallic simplicity and vicious thrash in the blink of an eye. Then later, the extended caterwauling of Filth against the repetitive breakdown, followed almost immediately by the classical refrain in which Filth lowers his tone and muses in shriek alongside the piano. It all serves to represent a mind in conflict, reasoning on one side, justification on the other. The breakneck pace at which the song moves sells this notion, and the way it all fits together without clashing is nothing short of spellbinding. Later, ‘The Twisted Nails Of Faith’ with its more discordant tone and evil aura hold a mirror to a mind completely given to base instinct and twisted desires. This leads straight into ‘Bathory Aria’, undoubtedly an album high-point, with its haughty, almost operatic construction and incendiary leaps from enraged breakdown to curiously harmonious interlude. It is this intriguingly schizophrenic yet never conflicting songwriting style which combined brutality with quaintness in such an innovative way that it led to me embracing the album, and the band, many years ago. This newly-realized re-tread not only emphasizes these elements to the standard they should have previously been; it goes beyond that and creates an album ten times more atmospheric and ten times more hard-hitting and fierce. It is no longer a chore to slog through the release, and any modern metal sensibilities that have been employed are warranted and never garish, allowing the album to retain its palpable depth and deliciously dark vibe. The long overdue definitive version of this masterpiece is finally here, and it’s as ugly as it should be.



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user ratings (45)
4.6
superb

Comments:Add a Comment 
PumpBoffBag
November 3rd 2019


951 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

So I've wanted to review this album for a long time, and this new version gave me a chance to approach it in a slightly different way. Not really a fan of the band's recent direction so this was a joy to revisit



cc appreciated as always.



zaruyache
November 4th 2019


21565 Comments


Where TF is hawks

Digging: Death Toll 80k - Step Down

sixdegrees
November 4th 2019


7454 Comments


died while attempting to suck his own dick

big RIP

Digging: Gary Glitter - I've Got Sweets

Willie
Moderator
November 4th 2019


17986 Comments

Album Rating: 4.8

The original version of this album was so hard to listen to with headphones because the clicking drums would literally cause headaches. This is how it should have sounded the entire time.



Digging: Hypno5e - A Distant (Dark) Source

Pikazilla
November 4th 2019


6278 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I wished the guitars packed more bite

Poet
November 4th 2019


6052 Comments


Oh man, Dani's screams sound so much better on this.

oltnabrick
November 4th 2019


37789 Comments


very blissful and sort of reminiscent of Slowdive

Digging: Coil - Worship The Glitch

Grimlin
November 4th 2019


1254 Comments


The original version of this album was so hard to listen to with headphones because the clicking drums would literally cause headaches.

Lol, seriously? The drums are buried beneath everything else a majority of the time, yet that is what gives you a "literal" headache? Very selective and delicate hearing, I guess. The original never really sounded bad in my opinion, though I did order this and fully anticipate hearing this thing in beast mode.

Willie
Moderator
November 4th 2019


17986 Comments

Album Rating: 4.8

Not really selective. The high pitched clicking from the drums cuts right through the music. Especially at high volumes, which is the only way to hear this.

Scheumke
November 4th 2019


1359 Comments


Never was able to properly listen to their older stuff because of the mixing. This is sounding much more like their latest two and I really enjoy it so far!

Digging: Alcest - Spiritual Instinct

Grimlin
November 4th 2019


1254 Comments


@Willie I don't know, man. I'm listening to this (the original version) right now on my stereo, and the vocals and guitars dominate. I suppose different systems or headphones with give different results, but probably not that dramatically. Nothing here seems to inflict physical pain though.

PumpBoffBag
November 4th 2019


951 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I have to back Willie on this one. I do love the album as a piece of music but the original release sounds so dire I've not listened to it nearly as much as I should have. The drums are the worst offenders, but virtually every element needed a severe overhaul, which this remaster has addressed very well.

Trifolium
November 4th 2019


11175 Comments


I like the sound of the original. Haven't heard the remaster in full yet, but did listen to Lustmord. Put me off a little, especially the guitar sound.

Haha, I guess it is never perfect! Maybe this thing is cursed.

Nero
November 4th 2019


42 Comments


The drums.. they re finally audible. Excelent remaster

DungeonBoy
November 4th 2019


6941 Comments


Good review, I just hope they're happy with it now

Digging: Alcest - Spiritual Instinct

iamthesunset
November 4th 2019


6 Comments


Does Venus in Fear give anyone else the most awkward stiffy?

TheSpirit
Contributing Reviewer
November 4th 2019


26187 Comments


no but the old production was better.... guitars don't sound so good in this

Digging: Sigh - Imaginary Sonicscape

DungeonBoy
November 4th 2019


6941 Comments


I heard one track on headphones, and I agree

Demon of the Fall
November 4th 2019


13514 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'Never was able to properly listen to their older stuff because of the mixing. This is sounding much more like their latest two and I really enjoy it so far!'



This sounds promising, I like the original recording of this more than Dusk, but still not as much as I'd like. I do absolutely love Midian mind, so guess it depends on what you mean by 'older'.

Digging: Schaliach - Sonrise

Confessed2005
November 4th 2019


5031 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Amazing remaster. Rules hard.

Digging: Norma Jean - All Hail



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