Review Summary: Witchcraft of the ugliest kind
Following a three LP stint featuring individual concepts as their groundwork, Cradle Of Filth's sixth full-length is more of a grab-bag of thematic content, anchored by the usual gothic preoccupations and decadent overtones. Put simply, listeners will know what to expect, and non-initiates will get exactly what they expect from a band with a name like 'Cradle of Filth'. Despite the initial lack of focus and the instant familiarity of the sound, Nymphetamine is able to capitalise on the outfit's established motifs, delving into the various metal influences without feeling hindered by a need to retain a musical throughline to capitalise on a thematic arc. The release displays more traits in common with preceding album Damnation and a Day than it does with prior albums from the band's musical heyday, but it is certainly the superior outing out of the two, drawing liberally from the well of black, death, and traditional heavy metal genres to rich and arrayed effect. In broadening the scope of the release whilst still keeping their core musical appeal, the band is able to assuredly stake their claim with a slightly inferior yet still revitalised sound, chipping away further at the more prominent black metal influence and becoming more accessible in the process. The buffet of directions exhibited occasionally threatens to burst through the seams and overwhelm the less-substantial narrative content, but stops short of becoming too embroiled in its own indulgences and is able to present Cradle in a polished, pleasingly aggressive light before their inevitable tumble in quality some years later.
The cleaner production of their more recent previous efforts is retained and the effect is impressively crisp, affording definition to the riffs but allowing the distortion to feel thunderous and appropriately sinister. Lyrical content covers all of the bases expected from a Cradle release such as love, religion and death, but there is also some nuanced topicality relating to nationalism and terrorism, and the political statements inherent in each. These concepts are all liberally sprinkled with gothic reverence and a prominent lovecraftian influence that peppers the release throughout, allowing even the more modern themes to retain that 'Cradle' sense of atmosphere. The songs that concern love or conceits thereof are harrowing and bleak, with 'Gabrielle' and the title track being album standouts for this reason. The lyrics themselves are to Dani Filth's typical impressive standard; grandiose and poetic, with a literate kink given to the brutishness of the subject matter. His delivery comprises the usual caterwauling and screeching, and the breakneck pace of his vocalisations, particularly on 'Medusa and Hemlock' and on true opening track 'Gilded Cunt', is particularly impressive. The latter especially demonstrates a frenzied, rapturous incarnation of the Cradle sound, and is probably as close to their early, more extreme cuts as this album has to offer. It's vicious, fevered and has a hideous mid-point and outro breakdown that decelerates the tempo in a nasty, borderline spiteful manner and truly demands attention.
The moments when the release steps its hairy, pointed toes out of the expected sound a smidge are of particular note, as they display genuine flair for melody and intricacy. 'Coffin Fodder', with its dualling guitar hook and verse riff that follows, is a worthy expression of thrash-inspired sensibilities and rollicking energy, and is undoubtedly the album's catchiest, and possibly most memorable moment. 'Filthy Little Secret' also demonstrates this, with a groovy, galloping riff that again embodies a prominent thrash influence, albeit to a slightly lesser extent. Elsewhere on the release, 'Nemesis', with its swirling guitars and declamatory vocal delivery is a rousing showcase of Cradle-lite energy, and 'English Fire''s brooding, doom-inflected regalness is a confidently mysterious beast with a heavy atmosphere. The epic full-length version of the title track that the release is built around, 'Nymphetamine (Overdose)', breaks down the barriers between Cradle's more accessible present sound and their days of yore, offering a fully-realised concept and a more expansive scope than the rest of the LP. Grand, incendiary, and featuring multiple movements, it is certainly a diverting cut, rife with intriguing musical moments. Unfortunately, it is also a little disjointed, with the excess of the opening section feeling disconnected from the lachrymose melancholie of the song's slower, central piece. This opening part to the track, whilst fiery, feels a trifle underwritten and has a distinct sense of the humdrum to its blistering pace, despite the assured vocal performance and stellar production.
Nymphetamine signifies a Cradle continuing to tread the water that they had previously ventured out into on Midian, and then later with more confidence on Damnation and a Day. Their confidence in the waters this time around shines through quite prominently, and the exploration of typical themes, whilst hardly surprising, betrays the passion for their particular brand of metal extremity. Lamentably, due to the lack of a concept, there is a sense of reductive energy to the release overall, which is unfortunate for a band with as huge a sound as this. Nonetheless, the individual songs stand up on their own merits for the most part, and apart from a few weaker passages and the cheese factor that has plagued Cradle for their entire career, this is one of the finest moments from their most accessible era. Some of the themes that premiered on this release would be explored more extensively on albums that followed, but it was on this album that the outfit would peak on their post-Midian efforts, before their dramatic resurgence in quality some releases later. Nymphetamine represents Cradle Of Filth at their finest and most well-balanced combination of streamlined, vicious, gothic and delirious, and has plenty of the expected tonality to satisfy casual metalheads and faithfuls alike.