Cradle of Filth
Existence Is Futile


4.0
excellent

Review

by Benjamin Jack STAFF
July 26th, 2023 | 21 replies


Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The horror… the horror…

The curious, poison-fuelled heart of Existence Is Futile has more than enough B-movie tropes and schlocky, exploitative energy to single-handedly revive the drive-in theatre industry. It has a brazen sense of nastiness that feels more calculatedly icky than the band’s other, more typically gothic-inflected recent releases, and its thematic content echoes this sentiment with garish élan. Yet, it also has a self-awareness to its grandeur; a notable reverberation that bounces back from the band's golden era where the atmospherics were at their thickest and their songwriting was at its most pummeling and relentless. In finding this balance between old and new, CoF are able to carefully dance on a razor's edge that implements the epic scope of their classic compositions and sets it against the cleaner, more metallic hues of their more recent sound. The experience has a maturity that is indicative of more than an aged development- it demonstrates a clear death-grip on their songwriting style whilst being simultaneously unafraid to embrace modernised production choices. Considering the fact that CoF has been fine-tuning this amalgam for their previous three albums, it is hardly surprising that they continue to blaze this trail here. Nonetheless, this is the finest outing of their modern iteration, both in terms of the musical content, and the thematic overtones that proudly tips its hat to the band's most lurid, gruesome LPs.

Once again making use of the cleaner production style featured on their most recent output, Existence Is Futile sounds wonderfully crisp and dynamic despite the relentless nature of the music itself. The combination of guitars, bass, percussion, keys, and assorted orchestral elements feels like an engine straight out of the bowels of hell, amounting to a monstrous, snarling beast but standing out as individual components at the same time. Dani Filth’s trademark just-trod-on-an-upturned-plug vocal style binds the whole experience like coiled razor wire, winding around the structure and piercing through the instrumental mesh like a bayonet through flesh. The central tenet of the album being existential terror instantly plays into the outfit's historic mission statement as well as the immediate context of the album itself, giving the piece a form beyond its obvious musical association. True opener and aptly titled ripper 'Existential Terror', for instance, prods with a classically influenced mainline melody but undercuts this with a hideous vocal and occasional dissonance to punctuate the structure. Much like an invasive thought or a preoccupation that sits just below the perception of consciousness, it thrums into existence within the track, eventually invading in the form of a grand, operatic vocal soar. It's remarkably thoughtful, and offers a level of nuance that CoF have never been known for before. There are still the usual tropes one would expect from a Cradle record, such as 'Crawling King Chaos'' biblical allusions and dark faery tale tonality, but even this typicality is leant fresh perspective by the intensity of the central theme, and can be interpreted as a psychological torment within the weave of the e narrative rather than just a shock-value crux. It certainly helps that the music is consistently engaging and full-to-the-brim with vivid, decadent imagery that, much like the album's Bosch-inspired artwork, repels and intrigues in equal measure.

The usual grandiose Cradle hallmarks are back in full-force; instrumental interludes, grand symphonic flourishes, operatic female vocals etc. All elements, although not as pervasive as on former releases, have been implemented tastefully and appropriately to the LP’s cerebral core motif. The elegant cheese of ‘Black Smoke Curling From The Lips Of War’ exemplifies this in fine style, with opening guitars that mimic the swirl of church organs and a verse riff that thrums like a mournful elegy against the urgency of Filth’s delivery in the foreground. The contrasting yet harmonious elements all synchronise gorgeously and manage to be graceful and assaultive simultaneously, in-keeping with the thematic underpinning of a fraying mind being pulled in a myriad directions at once. Similarly, following number, ‘Discourse Between A Man And His Soul’, is a gothic and weighty ballad composition with more than a hint of Nymphetamine-era hubris to its calculated, somewhat feminine energy. Despite being more by-numbers than most of the other songs here, its simple hook paired with the duology of Filth’s bassy lows and grating mids create an uneasy yet beautiful effect. It tackles the psychological aspect of Existence’s theme more overtly, but still anchors it with a blackened heart in its moody musicality. Elsewhere, the frenetic OTT brashness of ‘How Many Tears To Nurture A Rose?’ deserves a mention, with its blistering passages and lordly choir vocals serving as a welcome nod to more traditional CoF antics without being too self-congratulatory. ‘Us, Dark, Invincible’ and ‘Sisters Of The Mist’ are a latter-album combo that are also worthy of note, full of symphonic razzmatazz, anthemic posturing and aggressive fretwork. The latter especially, with its spiralling riffs and pummelling percussion, is a memorable album cut and also one of the finest in recent CoF memory.

Cradle fell from grace exceptionally hard during the 2010s, and although contextually against the rest of their discography this lapse could be seen merely as a stumble, it set a course for the band that didn't play into their more dynamic traits and instead opted for a more homogenised, typically gothic metal sound. Their gradual ascension back to relevancy required an incremental building upon this foundation until eventually they were able to lay claim to their highly individual sonic stamp once again. Existence Is Futile is the album where they once again truly feel confident and event vibrant in their style, toying with their own conventions in ways that feels both playful and demonic in the style only Cradle can. The dark nature of the record, with its visions of apocalyptic bloodletting, misanthropic aggression and fantastical scale feels served by the depth and technicality of the music on display. Moreover, the nuance to the topicality of the theme is impressive and relevant to the modern world in smart ways, despite the general silliness and preposterous nature of the figurative content. It is a feat of theatrical verve and technical virtuosity, part B-Movie part prestige picture. Musically, it is the most precise and resonant display of pure excess the band have engineered for a long while, and displays the full sonic-boom strength that had been charging for their three previous albums. It’s vicious, uncompromising, and assertively stakes a claim to a new yet vintage aesthetic CoF began pioneering 30-odd years ago.



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user ratings (268)
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Fernando Alves STAFF (4.2)
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Dark Office, Reached...



Comments:Add a Comment 
PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2023


1588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

13/13 on my discog review… it’s finally done. Cheated a little on Cruelty as I reviewed Re-Mistressed rather than the original but I’m gonna count it anyway since I said pretty much everything I had to say about that album then.

This is an excellent album and definitely my favourite of the band’s post-Darkly era. Sits pretty as a 4.1 for me.

Thanks for reading :]

Hawks
July 26th 2023


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

NIIIIICE!!! M/EN

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2023


1822 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This bands last three albums have really pulled them from the grave. Stellar records, stellar review as always, Pump! :D

MoM
July 27th 2023


5994 Comments


This band RRRRIIIIIIPPPS AND TEEEEEAAAAAARS

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
July 27th 2023


4983 Comments


Sup Pump how's the fam

Hawks
July 27th 2023


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Existmence is Futile

Muzz79
July 27th 2023


3094 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Best of the comeback trilogy I reckon

Hawks
July 27th 2023


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cryptoriana

Existence

Hammer



All ahrd 5s though men. m/

Pikazilla
July 27th 2023


30045 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hammer



Existence



Cryptoriana



lol

Hawks
July 27th 2023


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

m//////en

Muzz79
July 27th 2023


3094 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Existence

Cryptoriana

Hammer

I went through them recently. All cracking

Hawks
July 27th 2023


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah all easy 5s for me men.

pizzamachine
July 27th 2023


27350 Comments


Oh snap I haven’t rated any of dese

Hawks
July 27th 2023


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

5 them them Pizzamenchine.

pizzamachine
July 27th 2023


27350 Comments


Lol maybe I should listen first

Hawks
July 27th 2023


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nah no need just 5.

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
July 27th 2023


1588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

Much love mk, and all good thanks daddy! Noisy but it’s nice not to be the only one waking up in the night crying now.

Best of the comeback trilogy I reckon [2]

And lol hawks

veninblazer
March 31st 2024


16839 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hawks it is so funny seeing your comments when you 4.5'd this

Valzentia
March 31st 2024


1412 Comments


"Nah no need just 5"

my brother in christ you gave this a 4.5

Hawks
March 31st 2024


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Was before I cut my 5s son.



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