Cradle of Filth
Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder


3.5
great

Review

by Benjamin Jack STAFF
April 1st, 2023 | 11 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You're a naughty one, Gilles De Rais. You're a haughty one, Gilles De Rais...

There's a scene in This Is Spinal Tap where the guitarist and bassist of the eponymous 'loudest band in the world' muse upon the future of their music, and the twilight years of their career. One of the efforts they remark upon wishing to follow through with is a rock opera based on the life of Jack the Ripper, entitled 'Saucy Jack'. The thing I always found most comical about this spitballing was the irreverence of the tone when contrasted with the comparative seriousness of the subject matter. Of course, the 100-odd year gap between the events saps a lot of the shock factor from the overt display of bad taste, but the notion of heinous real-world crimes being used as fuel for a rock opera seemed to epitomise the satirical bent that particular movie focused on. It's on this similar level of distaste that Cradle of Filth sit with this blood-soaked odyssey, exhibiting a remarkable sense of gleeful edginess every step of the way. Godspeed You! Devil's Thunder ticks all the usual Cradle of Filth boxes with a blood-red marker in an elaborate gothic typeface; lurid subject matter, flowery lyricism, hideous concept, extreme musicality, Dani Filth shrieking like a cat caught in a lawnmower... virtually every trademark is accounted for. Yet, the album feels tryhard, overcompensatory; a surreal byproduct of an established reputation perpetuated in extremis. None of the individual facets of this album make any real departure from motifs the band has peddled throughout their career, but in dispensing with the concepts that blend folklore and fairytale with a more human focus, the effect feels more close to the bone than Cradle have ever previously been. This is what holds Godspeed back from greatness- it is so outrageous and transgressive in a grounded, real-world way, and yet so campy and pantomime in execution, that it feels almost obscenely cute by the time all the bloodletting and other assorted nastiness have elapsed.

Encyclopedia: 'Gilles De Rais was a compatriot of Joan of Arc, a French serial killer and devil-worshiper with a penchant for abusing and killing youngsters.'
Dani: 'Wicked bruv, let's make an album!'

Frontman Dani Filth has expressed in interviews relating to this release that the its central figure, one Gilles De Rais, manifested prominently during his research for the Cruelty And The Beast album (itself a concept piece relating to Hungarian noblewomen Erzsebet Bathory and her fabled passion for bathing in the blood of young women in a bid to preserve her beauty). This seems reasonable, but the details of De Rais' crimes in comparison to Bathory's are far more unpleasant, and made all the more horrific comparatively considering the massive amount of line-blurring between the noblewoman's actual crimes, and where legend starts to creep in. Nonetheless, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder is a mighty album, powerful in execution and with a distinctly sinister edge to its longform musicality that adds some much-needed definition after the more by-numbers stylings of the records immediately preceding it. Good ole Gilly makes appearances throughout the record, his monologues orated with a gravelly gusto by Pinhead himself (returning after a brief stint narrating Nymphetamine), Doug Bradley. These spoken word asides are well-judged and foreboding, and contribute to the atmosphere immensely. This is especially notable when paired with the twinkling opening of instrumental interlude 'Tiffauges', which sets Bradley's brief narration against haunting strings to disquieting effect. Despite the over-the-top nature of the theming, of course, there are still liberal helpings of cheese throughout the album, with single 'The Death Of Love' perhaps the best embodiment of this trait. Slower paced and with a rousing central riff, it is an interesting storytelling display, focusing on De Rais as he watches Joan of Arc being burned at the stake. The female vocal during the bridge is well-utilised if hilariously theatrical, and the chorus structure feeds into this dramatic tendency.

Choirs and other symphonic elements are prominent on the release, both of which had been less overt on Nymphetamine and Thornography, and their usage is both tasteful and appropriate to the intended tone. 'The Thirteenth Cesar' and 'Midnight Shadows Crawl To Darken Counsel With Life' especially showcase these aspects, and they lend the atmosphere a very grandiose sense of dread that complements the campy, haunted-house feel of the overtone. There are some moments of slackness, with the second song, 'Shat Out Of Hell' and the title track being the worst offenders. 'Shat Out Of Hell', although an absolute barnstormer of a true opener for the album, is also very underwhelming in its simplicity, with a weak riff and an underwritten chorus. It does its job well enough, but after 'Gilded Cunt' and 'Dirge Inferno' opened the band's previous albums so admirably, this one doesn't cut nearly as deep. 'Godspeed' is similarly somewhat flat in execution and seems curiously devoid of the dynamism that the outfit's title tracks usually have in spades. Once again, it is definitely serviceable, just somewhat underwhelming. Conversely, 'Honey and Sulphur' and 'Ten Leagues Beneath Contempt' are cataclysmic showstoppers, with grand compositions and a wealth of smart instrumental and production choices. The latter especially is notable for its fiddly guitar riff that dances in the foreground throughout the song, crafting a sense of depth and texture. It's hard-hitting and manages to embody the appropriate energy the narrative requires to tell the story with the necessary verve and razored nuance.

Typically but not exclusively falling into death metal genres, there are a great many heavy bands that mine the paydirt of human depravity to base their music upon, with perhaps the most notable band with this trait being Cannibal Corpse. The key difference, though, is that Cannibal Corpse's music always completely backs the concept, mirroring the frenzy, the ferocity and the brutality of the subject matter. Whilst CoF's style is certainly capable of transmitting story beats and tapping into the necessary evil of the required atmosphere, it is also so overblown and cheesily dramatic here that it can't quite back the inherent vileness of the concept consistently. It showcases the same level of disconnect as a circus cast performing Hamlet with deadpan sincerity, whilst still in full clown makeup and costume swinging on trapezes and bouncing off of springboards. The balance is completely thrown by both aspects of the band's sound when centring around such a grounded concept. The cheese feels too irreverent, too campy, and is inappropriate in its mock-theatrical nature. However, when the focus hones into the darkness of the narrative, it transmits serious outsider energy; the edgy abandon of a teen with a knife collection. Whilst both the musicality and the lyricism are above and beyond competent, both sides are dragged down by their interpretation of the source material, and the effect overall is remarkably eye-rolling. This is unfortunate, as the care and attention that has gone into researching, writing and producing this unpleasant behemoth is undeniably impressive, and the album certainly stands up on its own composite musical merits. As an overall experience, Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder is highly polished and grandiosely gothic in tone, with a thunderous sonic landscape present over the entirety of its runtime. It is just a shame that there is such a discordancy between the narrative foundation of the material and the music itself, as, when viewed in longform as a complete piece of work, it exhibits a worryingly tone-deaf sense of energy and a misplaced, if meticulously realized, concept.



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user ratings (577)
2.9
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Comments:Add a Comment 
PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2023


1587 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

4/13 of my Cradle crusade- a firm 3.3 for this one. Silly as it is, I always felt this album doesn't get a fair shake of the sauce bottle. It's a bloody good time

metalhead2425
April 2nd 2023


390 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review. Surprisingly decent album, especially in comparison to the next two.

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
April 4th 2023


1587 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Cheers mate. Definitely Darkly was way inferior but I’ve found Manticore has grown on me quite a lot in times of late

artiswar
April 4th 2023


13680 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album, Midnight Shadows is a ripper

ToSmokMuzyki
April 4th 2023


11418 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

where will you be my darling

Trifolium
April 4th 2023


39247 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Definitely Darkly was way inferior but I’ve found Manticore has grown on me quite a lot" [2]



Also "Midnight Shadows is a ripper" [2] best track here.

Storm In A Teacup
May 1st 2023


45855 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Devil To The Metal b side on this is amazing

Hawks
July 25th 2023


89542 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Super underrated album men.

Muzz79
February 14th 2024


3094 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This has grown on me hard. Some interesting ratings ^

Hawks
February 14th 2024


89542 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album yeah.

Muzz79
February 14th 2024


3094 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The sound of it is superb with headphones and every song is solid cradle



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