Review Summary: May the demons of old rejoice, for Cradle of Filth are back on stage.
Oddly enough, the memory that emerges immediately when I think of Cradle of Filth is not about the very first time I listened to them or some album cover I might have stumbled across at the record store, but rather an interview Dani gave to the now-defunct French Hard Rock Magazine. A then skinny, funny-looking Dani Filth appeared in his home kitchen doing the dishes like just another day at the office. Something that surprised me at the time, as it contrasted with the usual bad boy trademark image associated with black metal. This eccentric scene, along with the fact that some friends claimed the band was a travesty that shouldn't be taken seriously, left me with a rather dubious first impression. I've never been the type to follow the herd or judge the book by its cover, but this awkward (non-musical) first encounter somehow generated some backlash against the lads, as silly as it sounds now. In a way, part of the conservative black metal community (of which I never belonged) had a similar response, though not entirely for the same reasons. Cradle of Filth's theatrical goth side has always triggered mixed reactions from the dark horde, more devoted to Nordic blasphemies than to the baroque-ish incursions of the Brits. Whatever one's interpretation of the band's early tensions with the genre's fanbase, or at least with part of it, the truth is that it somehow helped to separate Cradle of Filth from the rest of the pack, while allowing them to broaden their target audience beyond the orthodox circuit. Although I’ve never been a devoted enthusiast of the band's early days, I have come to increasingly appreciate them, particularly their last two albums which curiously coincide with the recruitment of guitarists Rich Shaw and Ashok. Even though Hammer of the Witches
didn't present anything really new, they did bring some excitement to a formula that was already wearing thin. They weren't exactly a breath of fresh air, in the full sense of the term, yet they represented a moment of renewal and reconciliation with a niche somewhat displeased with the band's latest outputs.
The band's latest gothic horror novel, Existence Is Futile
, embodies the reinvigorated spirit of the previous two chapters much due to the now stable line-up, which, except for the addition of Anabelle Iratni, has remained unchanged. Even old acquaintance Doug Bradley (known for his role as Pinhead in Hellraiser) lends his voice once again in 'Suffer Our Dominion', a song that revolves around overpopulation and its deleterious effect on the planet. A narrative attached to the album's main concept which deals with existentialism and the possibility that there is no purpose to life. Musically, the band wanders through safe territory, delivering a stylistic cocktail that blends a range of melodic flavors in its symphonic black metal formula. Be it the Jeff Waters-ish thrash riffs on 'Suffer Our Dominion' or the hardcore punk fragrances in 'The Dying of the Embers', Cradle of Filth always embed contrasting textures in their musical approach. The Alice Cooper-esque theatrics in 'How Many Tears to Nurture a Rose?' which features an interesting symbiosis between Dani's vocals and lead guitar, or the power metal nuances in songs like 'Existential Terror' and 'Necromantic Fantasies', are other examples of the diversity present in Existence Is Futile
. This three-dimensionality is hardly new in the band's portfolio, yet it manifests itself here with remarkable fluidity.
There is a restrained cinematic feel to Existence Is Futile
that provides some simplicity to its grandeur, much like a fantasy movie that avoids overproduction by focusing mostly on plot and characters. This greater simplification and catchiness (within the band's scope, of course) are possibly the aspects that most distinguish it from the two previous albums. The gap is not significant, but it does exist, however subtle it may be. And I loved these little peculiarities, as a matter of fact, I found myself immersed in them. Songs such as 'Crawling King Chaos', 'Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War' or 'The Dying of the Embers' were my loyal companions these last couple of days. Of these, I would like to highlight the epic chorus of the former and the guitar solo of the latter, which while not technically outstanding is of striking appeal. Necromantic Fantasies' bridge and subsequent chorus are also among the album's many standouts while being its most iconic moment as well. Although I can't claim Existence Is Futile
to be Cradle's best release to date, given the lads' vast portfolio, it certainly ranks among their greatest achievements. As such, it not only solidifies the new cycle launched by the current line-up but also celebrates the band's thirty-year career in the best possible way.
Orbiting around the frivolity of human existence and overpopulation, Existence Is Futile
is yet another successful chapter in a gothic horror novel that began thirty years ago. It is thus both a celebration and a testimony to the power of perseverance. And even if the song remains the same, the audience will not budge, for the show has lost none of its glamour.
Let all candles be blown out in this theatre of horrors. May the demons of old rejoice, for Cradle of Filth are back on stage.