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Some people often try to squeeze Cradle of Filth into a genre-box, and most often it is the black metal genre, which is a genre the band never really belonged to and never will. There is so many influences in this band's music that you cannot pin-point it more than simply extreme metal, or even more simplified: Cradle of Filth. This is two labels the band and its countless members would rather have slapped unto the band, and rightfully so. Around this time the band was often compared to Dimmu Borgir and I do personally not see the link, even as a veteran listener. Two different bands with two distinctive sounds. So let's stop the comparison. 1998 is the year that Cradle of Filth's finest work saw the light of day and launched them further into stardom.
"But Elizabeth laughed, thirteen Autumns had passed, and She was a widow from god and His wrath, finally..."
As depicted in the booklet this is the fourth chapter in the Cradle of Filth anthology. "Cruelty and the Beast" is a concept album that follows the life and crimes of Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory. Compared to "Dusk... and Her Embrace" this album is not as gothic inspired, as this band never repeats itself. I would deem "Cruelty and the Beast" to be a more accessible album than its predecessor, as Dani Filth's vocals are more nurtured and he got a better grip of them this time. This means that the amount of screeching as been dialed down for a more diverse vocal, and this would also carry on to the band's next efforts. The line-up is almost identical to the previous album, the only change being Damien Gregori being replaced with Lector who only had a two-year stint with Cradle of Filth, leaving in 1999 to join Anathema. This album is sadly the last to feature Nicholas Barker, as he would later join Dimmu Borgir, but luckily they found a good replacement in Adrian Erlandsson. A common subject that often divides people when it comes to "Cruelty and the Beast" is the production. Somebody loves it, somebody hates it, and somebody is not too bothered by it. When reviewing these older titles, I try to exhume my memory and recall how I felt the first couple of times listening.
The sound of the drums definitely sounded odd to me back when I first was exposed to this record. Nowadays I do not have a single complaint with the production, but I guess that is something more than 10 years of listening will do to you. Some describe the drums as sounding like a typewriter and I can see where they're coming from, and it will come down to your first expression and/or if you can get accustomed to them. But hey, it is not like the early Bathory and Sodom records sounded great, is it? Some tracks from the album were actually re-mastered for the "Lovecraft & Witch Hearts" compilation in 2002 where they definitely adjusted the sound of the drums. As always, there is a lot happening on an album by this band and in the end, I am quite happy with the overall mix and sound of the instrumentation. Robin's bass is never left out and stands tall right next to the guitars, adding a satisfying depth to the music and helps elevating its sound. Lector brings some fantastic elements with him into Cradle and this album would not have been the same without his outstanding performance. A performance that is not out shunned in the mix, and together with the entire band it brings a dark and sinister atmosphere to the table. The guitar duo, Gian and Stuart, do not disappoint and just like on "Dusk... and Her Embrace" their work and riffs are simply incredible, and delivered with a great sense of variation. Unlike the guitar work on the previous album, you will not find as many '80s heavy metal inspired riffs, instead the band took a more extreme approach. And let us not forget the cast of three female vocalist providers who also appear on the album. Sarah Jezebel Deva with her atmospheric harmonies is an important ingredient when it comes to classic Cradle of Filth. Danielle Connington makes her last appearance on a Filth album, this time depicting a young Elizabeth Bathory. And last but definitely not least, we have the classy Ingrid Pitt lending her voice as the elder incarnation of Elizabeth.
"Elizabeth, mysterious. Cruelty brought thee orchids, from the bowels of the abyss."
Cradle of Filth shines the most when their albums follows the path of a concept album, instead of a more regular lyric driven album, and "Cruelty and the Beast" is the magnum opus of Cradle of Filth to pin-point just that. The structure of the music is once again varied and exciting, and that is a key point when making songs that reaches the length as they do on this record. Not two songs sound the same, which is a trademark of these notorious Brits. Most noticeable is the icing on the cake: the lyrics. Loaded with imagery and an outstanding structure, Dani Filth shows a remarkable talent with his poetry-inspired lyrics. Together with his distinctive vocals it is a perfect match and I cannot recommend it enough, as with many other works by Cradle, to sit down and read the lyrics while listening to the music.
A track like "Thirteen Autumns and a Widow" still manages to raise the hair on my neck and arms when it slowly builds up to the last stanza, and the double pedal kicks in together with the keyboard driven music. It never fails. "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids" is a long-time favourite among fans, and for very good reason. The guitars is a big part of this, as this track is without a doubt the heaviest on the album and you'll see why just after one-and-a-half-minute into the song. Now to a track that I always used to skip back in the day, but now I find it essential to the story, and even the music of this album. The song in question is "Venus in Fear". This interlude track only features orchestration for the music part and then it features a moaning Elizabeth satisfying her lesbian fantasies and her excessive killing of young women who you can hear screaming for their lives. Speaking for myself, it was very provocative to listen to back in the day. What this brings to the album is, that after "Venus in Fear" the music becomes more extreme, as you're pummeled in the face with "Desire in Violent Overture", and lyrically Elizabeth's killings starts to mount afterwards. In short: A turning point for the album, both musically and lyrically. "Bathory Aria" is definitely a track worth mentioning as Cradle of Filth manages to pull off a track lasting for 11 minutes and not failing on delivering a marvelous and exciting composition. It is something that should simply be listened to instead of explained.
"Thirteen chimes of ancient strain, I conjure forth with dirge that fills the void with timbred pain, to fulfil my sexual urge."
I would definitely recommend that you go through this album from start until finish, just as you do not open a book and start at chapter five. This is a truly outstanding and exceptional listening experience. It's a shame that so many people hate this band on principle and almost as a trend. This album is without a doubt Cradle of Filth's magnum opus as everything reaches a higher level. A fantastic album where every member performs exceeds their potential delivering an album that has given me chills in the past, and will continue to do so in many years to come.
"Forever severed from the thrill of coming night, where slow death alone could grant Her flight."
R.I.P. Ingrid Pitt, 1937-2010.
Written for The Legacy Reviews.
This was it, my first real and legit exposure to the ever-beloved, derided and controversial English vampire metal horde that, try as all sorts might, could not be ignored, and like so many other first album exposures this has stood the test of time. It has stuck with me over the years due to it, as well, being one of the very first extreme-styled albums I checked out when I first stick my toes into far darker waters than what thrash and modern metal provided. Though my getting the album was purely by accident, I later learned that anyone even minutely interested in black metal would find this band’s name plastered all over the place, as around ’98-’99 they still had some amount of clout within the genre, whether its more crypt-dwelling of fans and cohorts liked it or not. But at the time, it didn’t matter…what did was whether it was good or not, and as I soon learned, it was. It was fantastic, an aural beauty to behold, and even now I care not for where it sits style-wise and, blasphemous of me to admit it, I can still come back to this far more willingly than a lot of other extreme metal albums that came out around the same time. It had that much of an impact on me…
What made/makes this album work far better than what one would come to expect is its level of tightness, richly dark atmosphere and higher rate of cohesion than what earlier albums had. The previous work, “Dusk…and Her Embrace” has the vampiric night vibe down cold, but it was bogged down that tiny bit by way of wayward arrangements. Not so here. Everything feels just right, moving in one direction and not dicking about with anything less than full-on menace. Taking that perfect marriage of gothic flair, orchestral dramatics and black metal intensity, Cradle of Filth (copyright 1998) have provided one of the best soundtracks to nyctophiliac wonders off its presentation and aura alone. The group goes about it the right way by making the keyboards the central musical figure, basing almost everything off its candle-lit lines of varying moods and voices, with the guitars, bass and drums doing their own part to play off the foundation provided. They have never done their best work off riffs and leads alone, even in their earliest days, and always seemed more at home creating soundscapes than thrashing your fool head off, and they’d not done it better than here, with this. There’s just so much musical meat on the corpse’s bones that even repeated listens over years upon years still warrant the same amount of entertainment and nightly thrills it did upon first glance.
It feels so timeless, so bursting with wicked creative juices and bestial brutality, every little part working so well with one another (even Dani’s screeching fits the stylistic bill better than any other vocal approach he could have done). Cardboard production issues and the occasional misstep song aside, the band comes at the listener with full force like a tidal wave of depthless shadow, rendering all forms of light (natural, holy, or otherwise), save for moon-borne, gone without a trace. Blinding violence and gentle autumnal winds grace its poor victim in almost equal amounts, sometimes within the same song (its dual features in “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids”, “The Twisted Nails of Faith” and the monstrous “Bathory Aria”, to name a few), all of which play in perfect concert for the subject’s own decline into relentless insanity; though “Cruelty…” is a concept based off Countess Elizabeth Báthory, it’s not a fact-by-fact textbook lesson so much as a horror film reimagining, complete with basing itself off the main character in name only and throwing in as many sacrilegious and dark terrors within its setting. It becomes a monster all its own, brought to life by way of Poe-etic odes and generous wordplay no other band at the time shot for, black metal-oriented or otherwise (only fellow countrymen Bal-Sagoth were able to beyond simple lyrics and into the realm of thesis papers). It was such an interesting twist on a gimmick and image that, during that time, was starting to become overwrought old hat, and one could find themselves drawn in and able to craft their own mental image of the horrors to come. Thus has always been the best method of storytelling, if I may say so, and Cradle of Filth proved themselves to be as adept as undead traveling bards as they are ghouls haunting ruined churches and graveyards. If anything, going down such a path has always made their outputs far better than regular, lyric-driven albums, with this being the best example of the lot.
All in all I found this an absolute masterpiece, one of the very few times CoF ever took themselves seriously and made sure we did as well. The years have been very kind to this collective of blackened blood-letting anti-hymns, and even though theirs was a path that twisted and turned a few too many ways, I still come back to this if’n the desire to unleash the inner vampire out for a night or two becomes too great.
Are Cradle of Filth good? Are Cradle of Filth bad? Are Cradle of Filth really responsible for their own actions? And so on, ad infinitum, until we all get bored and just don't care anymore. I bought most of CoF's albums when I was a good few years younger, at a time when the mild extremity and semi-pornographic album booklets and lyrics had more of a lure than they do now. For pictures of hot women in their death throes, 'Cruelty and the Beast' is rather a failure compared to some of CoF's later albums (one contest where 'Nymphetamine' and 'Damnation and a Day' are actually winners), though the music on offer here is much closer to their black metal roots than on any subsequent offering, since 2000's 'Midian' toned down the long tremolo riffs and blastbeats. I'm not the most ardent black metal fan in the world, but I'm aware that some of what followed was pants, so that's the first advantage for 'Woman with 1960s fringe in a bath of blood' album.
The riffing style on this album may be partly alien to many of CoF's latter day fans, with its drawn out, sweeping atmospheres, classic melodies, and greater extremity. I'm not sure exactly where to place CoF in black metal's pantheon and I'm not completely sure whether 'Cruelty and the Beast' is a black metal album, but I hear more similarities to Emperor than any other classic black metal band, despite the similar ages of both bands. I don't believe that Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir sounded particularly similar at this point in their careers, though the keyboards are a noticeable presence on this album, sometimes downplaying the guitars to the extent that the six-stringers must have been crying out in frustration. Other than the whole black metal debacle surrounding CoF, there are some noticeable death metal-influenced parts with a heavier, broader guitar tone and less atmospheric delivery that to my mind belong distinctly to this band alone. Then there are numerous softer parts, where we come close to gothic doom: during these passages, there is more emphasis on keyboards than anything else and Dani Filth gets to do his storytelling pervert voice, which becomes dull at points yet breaks up otherwise long songs into manageable pieces of heaviness and moodiness.
The whole point of CoF has always been not to be restrained by the specific subgenre into which they planted their seeds and to increase the drama, emotion, and general complexity of extreme metal. Reading the lyrics of albums like this usually satisfied me, because Dani Filth is a masterful lyricist, even if he doesn't quite understand the phrase "over the top": 'Cruelty and the Beast' is finally an album on which his vocals are audible, getting rid of that annoying shriek through which he could be saying absolutely anything. Let's have a quick peek at 'Desire in Violent Overture':
"An emanation of phantom madness
The Countess beheld in shroud
By girls bereft of future vows
Soon to wed in white the frosted ground
Burning like a brand on the countenance of god
A yearning took Her hand to His Seraphim, bound"
This is pretty par for the course from our friend Dani - depravity, death, sex, irreligion. You may get tired of his subject matter pretty quickly, but there's no denying that he is a poet and that he has a mastery of rhyme, rhythm, and excess like few others in metal. His vocabulary and innuendos impress, even if the end result is as subtle as a concrete dick (from which I hope he won't take ideas).
Problematically, now that we can hear some of the things he's saying, a little of the aggression drops from the music and takes away the thrust of the meaning. The drums are produced so weakly that the riffs lack the bite they should have, while the keyboards are overwhelming at moments and are calming rather than atmospheric. I agree with Natrix below who simply writes 'Typewriter Drums' - that's correct. The guitar tone is great, if a little quiet, and the bass gets surprisingly broad usage, especially during the slower sections, where it is needed to give some kind of anchor to the sound. The band sound best at quicker paces, since the fast sections have more varied riffs and the melodies are very good, but the slower sections are poor and all to the same purpose.
As such, shorter songs would be welcome. 'Desire in Violent Overture' is not the best song on here, but it sounds better because it's the only one under five minutes. On the other hand, all the interludes are shit and serve little purpose; it's like the band couldn't work out how to break their compositions into digestible pieces, so they randomly inserted fragments of half-baked ideas. The two opening songs are both strong, while the closer and 'The Twisted Nails of Faith' are worth your time, but that's a low success ratio for a fairly long album - we're talking about half an hour of good music with some slightly poor production. CoF come out of this one just about intact: it isn't better than the previous album, or the next one, but there are some parts to recommend.
To those reading this, either curious as to why this is my favourite album or downright offended that this could be anyone's favourite album, let me take the time to explain my position. Cradle of Filth are a band I think get far too much negative attention. Sure Dani Filth can come across as a proper arsehole at times, sure his voice is not for everyone, sure not everybody likes the gothic image and accessibility of their later albums, but Cradle are not the blight on metal everybody makes them out to be. I believe you shouldn't hold bias notions towards an album simply because you do not like the band/how the band chooses to do things. I am a fan of both their earlier and later work, their shift to a more "mainstream" sound does not bother me and I think it's a bit juvenile to criticise any band for changing their style. You can argue that they only did it to make money, etc. However taking a look at Cradles influences, their later work only represents a different end of the spectrum from where they draw their influences. Cradle were never a fully black metal band, they never claimed to be, and their first three demos are pretty much straight up (filthy sounding) death metal. Symphonic/Gothic elements were always present, perfected on this album, then toyed with/accentuated on later releases. So hopefully, with a more open mind, you'll be able to appreciate my thoughts on this album rather than downright disregarding it if you hate this band.
Let's get it out of the way first, the major gripe everybody has with this album is the production and I can sure see why. The drums are clicky and flat, the female vocals of Sarah Deva and Ingrid Pitt can seem buried at times, the guitars can feel thin and the bass buried, also Dani's vocals can seem to overshadow all the instrumentation at times (in both clarity and volume). However, while I do not believe this production is particularly good, I can say it does not bother me and also seems to give the album an odd charm. I am the kind of person that can overlook the production woes of an album if I find the music strong enough to surpass it, for example, Bathory's 'Hammerheart', The Misfits 'Earth A.D.' or Deathspell Omega's first two releases. The bass criticism is one that I feel isn't actually well deserved, at times Robin's bass actually overbears the guitar with it's throbbing glory and gives the music a further texture (See 'Thirteen Autumns and a Widow', 'Beneath The Howling Stars' and 'The Twisted Nails of Faith'). Furthermore, while Stuart and Gian primarily play melodic leads to compliment the music, the bass provides a nice amount of low-end frequency to the mix with which I have no qualms whatsoever. The drums are well played, everybody knows Nick Barker is a talented drummer and his blasts/bass patterns are no less frequent on this album, however slightly toned down just a smidge in order to compliment the melodic nature of this album. The guitars, while thin, are so melodic and the riffs are so memorable/catchy/evil (the closing riff to 'Bathory Aria' being one of the most sinister riffs I've ever heard) that I can't help but be swept up in their atmosphere and headbang along. Little slides along the strings and an occasional pitch harmonic being heard (intentional or not, I have no idea) only add to the nuances this album holds for all those people who love when an album reveals secrets after repeated listens.
I view 'Cruelty and the Beast' as Cradle's peak of songwriting. Ten songs spanning an hour in length. Some people, insultingly, forget about "Lustmord and Wargasm" claiming the album to only hold 9 songs, a fault that can be attributed to an early 12" version of the album that omitted the song. Three instrumental interludes and seven songs spanning from four to eleven minutes makes this a varied album to listen to, not just a 30-40 minutes of 3-4 minute songs (I'm looking at you, every single Deicide album). Structures are varied and exciting, no two songs sound the same (something Cradle are very good at) and each track packed to the brim with intense, clever and well written lyricism detailing the life and crimes of Báthory Erzsébet.
One of the key points of this sort of concept album is STORYTELLING. Cradle and Carach Angren are two bands that do this exceedingly well and many comparisons can be drawn between the two. On 'Cruelty and the Beast', Dani tackles the thrilling tale of Elizabeth Bathory that has become synonymous with the genre of metal and it's lyrical concepts with band such as Bathory (obviously...), Slayer, Sunn O))), Venom, Ghost and Electric Wizard creating songs based upon her. However, go back to 1998 when the album was released, where the concept isn't as overdone as it is today. Cradle didn't just decide to have an album about Bathory to be "evil" or "edgy" (though they have had their fair share of shock value in their time), they created this album to praise and detail her life, to pay tribute to the very inspiration from which Dracula (the full concept, with the drinking of blood to retain youth) was created. Without Bathory, there would be no Dracula. Love or hate vampires (we all know how butchered they've been in recent years), they are important to the genre of metal and the development of the Goth subculture, that if you love metal you should appreciate because if you're going to judge Goths then you're just as bad as everyone else who has ever judged you for liking metal. Capisce? Good.
The lyricism is something that needs highlighting on tis album. Some criticise Dani for his wordiness, sure he is probably one of the biggest lexophiles in all of metal, but if he can't write incredibly wordy poetry then who can? Dani is a poetic genius in my eyes. Sure he later disregarded his talent in favour of more streamlined and somewhat silly lyrics (Gilded Cunt), but this album shows his lexical ability in full force creating some truly beautiful and chilling passages.
"As the Demon slavered foetid vows
And bore His prey away
In talons itching to perpetrate
The nausea of eternal rape
The Sorceress screaming in His grasp
Spat a final curse to stain
The Countess with the promise
That Her lord at war would be cruelly slain
And She would rot.
On the twisted nails of faith."
This excerpt is taken from the climax of 'The Twisted Nails of Faith', probably one of the best climaxes to any song of all time. The lyrics tell of Bathory and her sorceress summoning a demon, Bathory makes a deal with the demon in exchange for the sorceress and the demon then drags her away for "eternal rape", but the sorceress curses Bathory that her husband will die at war and she would die alone and insane (chillingly concluded in 'Bathory Aria'). The intense melodic guitar, Dani screaming his vocal tract out of his throat, the deep brooding bass, pounding drums and mind-blowing keyboards drive me to a musical orgasm at the end of this song. That song is among many on this album that just throws constant barrages of clever lyricism that tells an interesting story screamed at the top of Dani's lungs. Speaking of his voice, it's not for everybody, that's abundantly clear. However, Dani is a distinct vocalist. His banshee screams unmatched is their sound and to me his is the best literal "screamer" in metal (even though his voice has changed considerably over the years). One complaint I've read about his voice is that he doesn't pronounce his words very well, which I think is bollocks. Dani is British so maybe that comes across in his delivery and others cannot understand it, being British myself I have no issues with following along with the lyrics and I really love his little gurgles, growls that sound like Jacob Bannon being semi-submerged in water, deep narrated passages and whispered sections. Though I have been criticised by my friends for liking "shit" metal vocalists (I love Revenge/Conqueror, VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxC, Converge, Hellhammer) so what do I know?
I feel like I've rambled on enough, yet I also feel like I've barely scratched the surface as to why I love this album. Oh well. Hope this was useful to someone and maybe even turned a few people on to an album/band that they may have previously overlooked.
Upon a few listens to I'd have to say that the music far outweighs the mixing and is far better if some instruments didn't outweigh the guitar melodies. An epic and well written album, but the mixing as I said kind of killed it. The guitar was not well heard and I know that COF is extreme gothic metal, however, they still should take pride in recording an album that surpasses it's predecessors. On Cruelty, the vocals and lyrical content were superb, just the guitar work needed not to be drowned out by the vocals, synthesizers and drums. They just made a mistake in that respect otherwise my rating would be far much higher than It is.
There are tempo changes galore and the music fit well with aura of the essence, but most of the changes had to do with synthesizer overtures, not so much in the guitar melody orchestrations. A lot of songs were epic in the fact that they seemed to be more focused on the aura of the album, a desolate, ambient, and captivating essence of a gem. The lengthy songs were devoted to an atmospheric kind of feel and it suited I guess what their focus was which seemed to amylate an evil vibe that took place on the bulk of the album. This is totally extreme gothic metal here and the guitar work wasn't as emphasized here than other past releases.
I had to accept the fact that this is not COF's really noteworthy guitar work like on Dusk, but merely an evil and transient orchestration of blackness, darkness, inexplicable revelation that meshed well with their gothic focus. Dani's voice contained a majority of high-end screaming mixed with burley low-end growls that seemed to pop up on occasion during the songs. The synthesizers pathed the way towards the recording, again, not the guitars. Female vocals were present too, so relevant to expand on the gothic "feel" to this eclipse. I'd have to say that they did a lot of experimentation that I think got blinded if you looked for more of a guitar based aura.
My opinion of the album improved on repeated listens to because I was behind on the philosophical metaphysics of artwork and transient binding of other uses of the guitar, relying more on the synthesizers and achieved a monumental overture of utter gothic annihilation. To conceive of this album as being poor in songwriting style, that would be an injustice to the band when it seemed like they wanted a more epic sounding feel or vibe instead of one focused on the guitars to revolutionize it's essence, when in reality it didn't seem like they really attempt to achieve and ambient sense of purpose.
I'll make the statement that yes, the drums pounding away especially the snare was a tad bit annoying, but it didn't dominate the recording, it simply meshed into the release quite well upon my contingency. Totally evil and despondent release here, which deviated from the norm and seemed to represent the gargoyles of doom. To tell you what to expect musically is a constant sauna of transient, epic, estranged epiphony of sounds like never heard before. It remains in my estimation to get an average rating though because I believe that gothic metal should emphasize more on the guitar overtures, not a weighty amount of synthesizers leading the way for a metal band.
Dani's voice seemed to have a high utmost apocalypse that was tainted with an echo filled sound to it only to drive it away with low end burly bits and as mentioned some guest female voice that dominates the aura that the album keyed off. This is extreme gothic metal revisited like a combination or what the first few albums depicted, but mixing it with all different kinds of sounds coming in from everywhere. A spellbinding apocalypse, blissfully filled with an evil sense of the end of the world in mind upon the main focus that the band achieved on here. I'd have to say a great effort, just not a favorable overall rating, but just average. I expected more guitar oriented bits and got jaded by it's nonexistence,
I started this review almost a year ago today, and it took me a lot of time to actually remember a reason why I wanted to do this. Perhaps its because I feel like this album gets far too much slack for what it actually is, and because of the band that now represents a giant zit on the face of the genre of Metal as a whole. Perhaps it is their own fault and any good they have done in the past is deservedly overlooked for the trash they release every other year.
However, I actually kind of like Cruelty and the Beast. The dark and terrifying tale of Elizabeth Bathory, her bloodlust, her infamous brutalizing of virgins for their blood in an attempt to reach some perverted fountain of youth, and her descent into madness. Now the keyword is clearly "Kind of" this album is not without faults, but it is not beyond recognition. What Cradle of Filth has done here is craft a very interesting and devious concoction of extreme metal coupled with extremely concise, clear, and clever lyricism. Dani Filth is a lot of things, but he is a very good lyricist. Be it detailing a lustfilled encounter between Elizabeth Bathory and a man she meets at a ball, in "Beneath the Howling Stars". The butchering of one of the many young women, and the subsequent bathing, and even getting a sexual thrill from, in the young women's blood, in "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids." As such it becomes clear that this has always been the mode of operation behind Cradle of Filth. Perverse themes that tie into corruption, rage, royalty, and blood lust (see my pun?)
However, there are lots of problems with this album that prevents it from scoring a high grade, in my book. First, the production is terrible. This is one of the most poorly produced albums I have heard in years. Some people like the really leaky and echo-y production. But it sounds like Nick Barker's drums are too flat, and his bass drums are too triggered. The bass is completely lost in the mix, and the guitars are either simultaneously toned down or have too thin of a noise. Often times the only things that come out, powerfully, are Dani's vocals and the synthesizers.
I am sure I am not in the minority when I say Dani Filth's singing becomes incredibly taxing, and quite frankly, annoying after a few minutes. The majority of his vocals sound like an already high pitched, and yipping, Pomeranian getting kicked over and over. Then when he tries to lower his vocals into a darker growl, it sounds as though someone is pretending to be a pilot on a commercial airline, addressing the passengers,with how much his lyrics end up slurring together and becoming incoherent. Its just terrible and the fact that music around him can be so poorly produced, it makes a majority of the song just him yelping into the microphone while a weak and heavily triggered double bass tries to keep rhythm.
I actually am a fan of the interludes on this album, they set a haunting scene, and do a better job than most songs in general, of describing what is going through the head of Elizabeth Bathory. Some of the more haunting ones, like "Venus in Fear," feature a haunting melody playing to the sound of a woman being butchered to death. Through these interludes you can feel the hatred and blood lust boiling in the eyes of Elizabeth Bathory.
The album comes to a head when "Bathory Aria" picks up. A long song that brings the entire story of Elizabeth Bathory to a head. The better part of this song, is the finale when Sarah Jezebel Deva, the female background singer, narrates Elizabeth's final moments of insanity being forced to live alone and in seclusion in his castle where her beauty slowly rots away. Surprisingly the entirety of the album went along a lot faster than I had originally anticipated. Though, again, it seemed as though I was paying attention to reading the lyrics moreso than being interested in the poorly produced music.
Thats really the summary of the album. Its very well written, and there are occasional gems, such as "Beneath the Howling Stars," and "Thirteen Autums and a Widow," but once again its so poorly produced and the annoyance of Dani Filth's vocals just make the rest of the album a real disappointment, not in that it was awful, but that it could have been so much more. Perhaps if the album was put together with a different band, or recorded even with a different vocalist and better production, on atleast the rhythm section, this would be more than salvageable. As it stands, when the final interlude "Portrait of a Dead Countess" concluded, I felt satisfied as though the album wasn't a complete waste of time. Another example of an artist structuring a theme and creating an interesting concept for an album and keeping a listener interested.
Countess Báthory Erzsébet and Cradle of Filth have something in common. Elizabeth purportedly murdered young virgin girls to bathe in their blood and ensure her own immortality. Thus, one might conclude that she was one of history's 'vampires'. Dani Filth and his merry band of Gothic outcasts also wanted to be vampires, pretty hard. Just look at their pictures, in and out of their album packaging from the 90s. So it's only too fitting that the one might create a tribute album to the other, and this manifest rather early in the UK band's career, with '98's Cruelty and the Beast, an album that arrived during the estimable height of their popularity, as smoke shop haunting mall teens began snapping up their t-shirts and pissing off their families, friends, and clergy.
Cruelty and the Beast is vintage Cradle, performing in that confused blend of black and Gothic metal aesthetics that caused one of the biggest rifts in the band's once cult following. Primarily, this is a symphonic black metal in the vein of Emperor or Dimmu Borgir but with a lot more ingredients of traditional or power metal riffing thrown into the mix. You'll still get a lot of the band's vicious tremolo picking speed akin to Dusk and Her Embrace or the debut, dowsed in synthesizers, choirs and Sarah Jezebel Diva's operatic backups, but it certainly seemed here that the band were content with 'stretching' themselves and their Romantically adorned lyrical concepts into a wider array of moody, historical haunted house flavors and Dani Filth's schizoid garden of snarls, grunts and growls back when the guy could actually pull most of his 'character' off on stage.
When it works, as with the excellent "Desire in Violent Overture" (one of my individual favorites across the band's discography), it truly excels. A firm escalation of violent, spattered riffing born from black and grind is slathered with wild leads and a blast bridge (about 1:00 in) that explodes into this glorious, Iron Maiden-like dual power metal melody. I don't like the actual production of the drums on the album, but Nicholas Barker blasts and double basses with the best of them regardless of its rather hollow sound. Other highlights here would be "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids", a thundering atmospheric piece which swaggers about numerous tempos; "Beneath the Howling Stars", which has some of the better faster picked riffs on the album and the band's heavily symphonic, Gothic centerpiece "Bathory Aria" which manages to survive 11 minutes of existence without trampling the listener into a puddle of muddy mascara.
Unfortunately, not all tracks here are created equally, and there are a few like the post-intro opener "Thirteen Autumns and a Widow" or "Lustmord and Wargasm (The Lick of Catharsis)" which amount to little more than scatterbrained fits of Goth-core that bite off a little more than they can actually chew. The intros and interludes are fitting enough symphonic ligaments for this sort of conceptual beast, but aside from possibly the intro ("Once Upon Atrocity") they seem a bit foppish and forgettable. The instruments are all well defined in the mix, and yet I admit I would have gone out for a more fulfilling guitar and drum tone, both of which often feel as if they're about to drown under the overflowing tub of bloodshed created by the vocals and keys. The ensuing effort Midian handled this range of elements and instruments far better, though it was a superior album all around.
As usual, one of my favorite ingredients to a Cradle of Filth album are the lyrics, and those written for Cruelty and the Beast might number among Filth's very best, loaded with imagery worthy of the saga's idealized, part-fictional Hungarian backdrop and the horrors of this particular noblewoman's sanguine vices. A smutty, seductive play upon the classic styles of poets like Wordsworth, Milton and Gray, and there can be no question of the effort spent in scribing them. It's a shame so many people hate this band on principle, since I feel that even their vocal opposition might enjoy thumbing through the lyrics themselves. All told, this is the album the Brits really needed to make in this period: dynamic and slightly more accessible than the last, yet not abandoning the ripping speed and chaotic conflagration of the band's earlier vision. It suffers a bit from inconsistent writing and being 'flanked' by superior works (Dusk, Midian), but there are at least a few examples here of properly drawn virgin plasma to soak in through the years.
Following the same note as Dusk and Her Embrace, Cruelty and the Beast brings forth even more vampire-themed Symphonic Black Metal, but this time there are some differences from the previous release. First of all, there are even more orchestral strings on this one. Secondly, Dani's vocals have become much better and his screeches aren't annoying this time. And last, but certainly not least, the lyrics revolve around countess Elizabeth Bathory's life, describing it in chronological order, as opposed to the lyrics from Dusk, who just offered us different stories about vampires, without being able to connect them in some way. Now let's get to the actual album.
Once Upon an Atrocity is a calm instrumental which begins with Sarah's low-note chanting, sounding almost like an Orthodox Christian choir. Truly creepy! Makes you feel as if you're trapped in a dark chamber in some medieval castle. The strings soon join, and they add more to the epic atmosphere, which sets the mood perfectly for the next song. Thirteen Autumns and a Widow has one of the best intros I've heard in a long time! It starts with synthesized choirs from the keyboard, to which the drums and guitars play a bit. When Dani comes in with his first screech, the drums play some great headbangable beats! And to make it even more awesome, Sarah Jezebel Deva joins in with her beautiful voice, singing the same song that the keyboard choirs are playing. Then Dani begins his growling and other stuff as the instruments and Sarah repeat the riffs with which the song began. Afterwards, the rest of the song is good ol' tremolo picking and Dani screeching. The ending, however, is a slower version of the intro, having some low-note choirs being played by the keyboard and Dani whispering here and there. But even so, the song manages to keep its slow tempo until it ends. Good opener for an amazing album!
Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids is the title track and one of Cradle's most played songs ever. And on its own right! This song is a masterpiece, and my favorite from the whole album! It starts with Sarah playing Elizabeth Bathory's role and speaking with an imposing voice: Hear me now! All crimes should be treasured if they bring thee pleasure somehow! Then the tremolo picked guitars come in, along with Nicholas' insane drumming. Dani comes in and growls a bit, and then the best part of the song starts. A horror movie like orchestral string riff comes in, and Dani whispers a bit. Then the riff is continued, this time with the rest of the instruments playing along it. Dani keeps narrating Elizabeth's story as well. Then the guitars continue their tremolo picking for some time, but not for long, as the strings make a fast return. That is when Dani practically sums up Elizabeth's story with the following lyrics:
"Raped of faith, She now embraced
The narcissistic unrest frozen on the mirror's face
With this disdain, inside these veins
(Highborn wanton that She was)
She sought to keep what age would claim
Her soul was sold and for this toll
Reeking pyres ever smouldered
On the whims of one so in control
Cruelty brought thee orchids
From the bowels of the abyss"
This moment of pure epicness has no words to be described. After that ends, the guitars play some semi-heavy riffs and Dani screeches. You find some string parts here and there, and then we reach the song's bridge: a piano riff, whose catchiness makes you want to dance. The rest of the instruments, along with Dani's voice, add more epicness to that. Once the bridge is over, the riffs before it are played once again. This time we also have Sarah Jezebel Deva interpreting Elizabeth's role once more, as the countess was raping naked virgins before killing them for their blood. Again more riffs are repeated, and then we reach to the album's climax moment: the drums and guitars are playing, more brutal than ever, and then Dani screeches more than once: Cruelty and the Beast! The haunting string riff from before returns once more, everything creating a perfect atmosphere for the moments when Elizabeth tortured and killed those innocent girls. Then the guitars play more tremolo picked riffs, and afterwards we just have the drums, bass, keyboards and Dani. The keyboards play a different symphonic riff, which helps you imagine Elizabeth bathing in the blood of the girls she just killed. Dani repeats the lyrics which I've copy/pasted above, and then the haunting string riff comes back one last time. Then the keyboards, guitars and drums slow down a bit and Dani screams the word 'abyss', thus ending one of the band's masterpieces. Congratulations, Cradle of Filth, for making such a fantastic song, and one of my top favorites!
Beneath the Howling Stars starts with some strings. The instruments soon join them and play some fast riffs. Dani joins in and screeches here and there. There are also some few instrumental breaks, where you can only hear Sarah's singing and the bass. On those moments, Dani would scream 'Beneath the Howling Stars!', and things would get fast once more. By 2:23 we reach an organ interlude. It's probably the only church organ part in this whole album, and an awesome one indeed! It helps you see better the night ball at which Elizabeth attended which is described in Dani's lyrics. Sarah also joins in with some clean vocals. Once the organ riff is finished, a piano one starts, with Dani and Sarah singing/screeching beautifully. After the interlude finishes, we get some faster strings here and there, and also some beginning riffs repeated until the song ends. Venus in Fear is one of Cradle's creepiest instrumentals, ever! At first it may seem it's just another string instrumental, but soon you will hear the tortured screams of the virgins which Elizabeth killed AND the countess' sighs as she is about to have an orgasm. Truly a sick track!
Desire in Violent Overture returns the usual speed and screeches that we are used to with Cradle. Occasionally we get some keyboard melodies, but that's really all I can say about this song. The Twisted Nails of Faith begins with a creepy horror movie-like string intro, which also features a speech from Ingrid Pitt, Elizabeth Bathory's actress in the movie Countess Dracula. Then everything becomes heavy, and we also get Dani screeching as always. After a few minutes of heavyness, a cool string riff comes and everything is then built up around it, including Dani's vocals. Then the guitars stop and we can hear Dani whispering as the drums and piano accompany him. Afterwards everything gets heavy again and soon ends.
Bathory Aria is the second masterpiece off this album, right after Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids. It has all the great elements to make it a black metal symphony. It begins with Sarah's beautiful choir singing, once again sounding like a Christian choir, and she is soon followed by a mournful piano. Dani whispers a bit and when all the instruments join, the whispers become shrieks. Also, orchestral strings join the piano in playing the same mournful riff, making everything a delight for the ear. Once the strings cease to play, the song gets faster, not without Dani doing his typical vocal work. Then the guitar plays some tremolo picked riffs, and all the instruments join in again, but the speed does not remain for too long. In the following riff, Dani mostly speaks with his deep voice, as the drums play some catchy stuff. These elements are repeated until we reach the middle of the song. At 4:52 all the instruments, except for the keyboard, stop playing. Then you hear one of the most beautiful string piece ever, courtesy of Lecter's genius. It gives a perfect image of countess Bathory being on her way to her judges, which would soon seal her fate. The drums and guitars join, but with a much slower tempo than in the rest of the song. Dani screeches a bit more, and then we're left only with his voice, the drums and lead guitar. But not for long, as for once this riff ends, the orchestral strings join once again with the same beautiful riff. Dani screeches a bit to it, and then the speed returns once again. This is when Dani's vocals change from screeches and shrieks to growls. Afterwards, a piano plays and you can hear Elizabeth's accomplices being burned on the stake. Dani whispers something and then the final riff starts. It's a slow choir riff, with slow drumming and guitars as well. That's when Ingrid Pitt makes another return and delivers Elizabeth Bathory's final speech, making shivers fall down your spine. And thus, the countess has died and her soul had been taken "To peace, or hell for company". The only bad thing about this whole masterpiece is that at the very end, Dani just felt the need to do some useless screeching as all the instruments ceased playing. Portrait of the Dead Countess is the song that helps Bathory Aria to conclude the story. With even more mournful strings, this instrumental helps you imagine the corpse of countess Bathory as it had been discovered by the guard from the castle, as well as imagining her funeral. Truly epic feeling!
With all honesty, I'll tell you that Lustmord and Wargasm was a useless addition! They should've let the album end with Portrait of the Dead Countess, instead of adding this song which just has the rest of the album's elements, without anything catchy to add. All in all, this was an amazing listen, and one of Cradle's best albums! If I were to recommend it to someone, I would recommend it to avid symphonic black metal fans, vampiric metal fans OR fans of conceptual albums. This album is epic win on all these three levels. Sadly, it would be Cradle's final symphonic black metal album, but NOT their last great album.
Favorite tracks: Thirteen Autumns and a Widow, Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids, Beneath the Howling Stars, The Twisted Nails of Faith, Bathory Aria.
Cradle of Filth have produced seven albums proper in a career which now spans almost two decades. This album was their last release worth buying. “Cruelty and the Beast” does not really sound much like any other Cradle of Filth album. That is not to say it isn’t good; it is arguably one of their best.
The album is self produced, and whilst the quality is generally good, the drum sound is slightly tinny. This only really stands out after a good few listens, and this is compensated by Nick Barker who is actually a fantastic drummer.
Like most Cradle of Filth records, this is a concept album. It probably sticks to this concept more rigidly than the other releases (for example songs on “Midian” and “Dusk and her embrace” being loosely tied in to one lyrical theme) chronologically recounting the story of the blood countess Elizabeth Bathory.
Whilst the previous album, “Dusk…” was heavily influenced by a NWBHM sound (notably Iron Maiden), “Cruelty…” whilst keeping the heavy metal aura, has an overlying, sisters of mercy-esque, goth feel pulsing through it. This is a welcome change, as they haven’t simply tried to re-hash the preceding album.
Songs like ‘Thirteen autumns and a widow’ and ‘Cruelty brought thee orchids’ have remained fan favourites and firmly lodged in most live set lists since. More epic efforts ‘Bathory aria’ and ‘The twisted nails of faith’ provide a captivating and decidedly spooky sonic experience. Even the albums weaker moments (‘Beneath the howling stars’ ‘Desire in violent overture’) serve as exceptionally good examples of gothic black metal.
Countless bands aspire to producing this kind of material and attaining the success that Cradle of Filth’s own brand of ‘tongue in cheek’ black metal and industry savvy has earned them. This release marks the transition from quality albums to the instantly forgettable filler they produce now, and serves as an epic swan-song for most of the band's original fan base.
Stand-out tracks: ‘Thirteen autumns and a widow’ ‘Cruelty brought thee orchids’ ‘Lustmord and Wargasm – the lick of carnivorous winds’
Cruelty and the Beast, and the band who made it, is either loved or loathed. On one hand, fans praise this album as CoF's best outing and a harbringer of the band's sound, claiming it as an artistic coming-of-age; on the flip-side. those who never liked the band in the first place bash this album relentlessly, citing that the band's over-the top vampiric image had gone entirely too far, and that the music was vapid and weak. While this certainly isn't the band's best or worst offering, it has its faults which set it apart from everything else in the band's discography; which somehow seems to work in CoF's favor.
By no means does this album offer the epic soundscapes of the famous Dusk... and Her Embrace, which took gothic metal to a whole new extreme. CoF tamed a lot of things for this release: Dani's vocals are more in the style he uses now than the ear-piercing shriek seen on the preceeding album, and though the keyboards are still very much present in the mix, they've taken a backseat to guitar harmonies, leadwork, and Dani's incessant vocal patterns. The interludes/intros that CoF are known for still come through, though these one are not as spectacular as ones on later albums; they seem to serve the purpose of setting atmosphere than breaking the music up.
Another noticeable change is the production. Though everything is significantly clearer and more polished than the band's previous albums, the majority of passion and aesthetic is lost; Dusk... and Her Embrace placed the listener into a true Gothic atmosphere with its pseudo-classical flair and Byron-esque lyrics. Cruelty, on the other hand, seems more bent on brutality. Nick's drums are out front in the mix, maybe a bit too much for their own good; the bass drum is exactly the same level as the snare, so there's a non-stop pounding during the faster moments, especially "Desire in Violent Overture". Guitar work seems a bit more ominus in riff work, as seen on "Beneath the Howling Stars" and the sprawling "Bathory Aria". However, the classic Maiden-esque harmonies are still in full swing and work gloriously on "Cruelty Brought thee Orchids".
Despite the differences, this is an important release in the band's catalogue. Indeed, it was the beginning of the band's new sound. The songwriting methods have gotten slightly better; slower moments are more layered and tend to hold the listener's interest more, and the thrashy numbers have more variety. Since the keyboards aren't as obvious, the band achieved a greater sense of balance with the instruments.Furthermore, songs like "Thirteen Autumns and a Widow" have ultimately gone down as fan favorites and classic live songs. "Bathory Aria", though a bit overambitious and disjointed in the latter half, proved that the band did indeed have the balls, talent, and patience to compose a song of epic proportions that expressed the true nature of the album.
The guitar work is definitely one of album's high points. "Desire in Violent Overture" contains ripping lead work and scorching harmonies, while the aforementioned "Bathory Aria" takes the guitar work into more epic, emotional territory. The all-around atmosphere isn't as "gothic" as any of the band's previous songs, but still maintains a nostalgic, vampiric aesthetic. Wonderful harmonies weave webs around the listener on "Thirteen Autumns and a Widow", as well as the closer "Lustmord and Wargasm." Nick's drum skills are also of special note; he doesn't go apeshit here like he does in Dimmu Borgir, and does help to push the music along with swift battery and brutal double bass drumming while maintaining a degree of technicality with fills and rolls.
Cruelty and the Beast shows CoF's keyboards at their best before going cheesy. You won't find an excessive use of organs here, but instead a use of mournful string sections, powerful choirs, and some brass instruments. "Portait of a Dead Countess" is one of the best interludes the band has composed, and the waltz-like pianos on "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids" helps bring a somewhat romantic flair back to the band's sound. "Beneath the Howling Stars" is one of the only songs to use organs, but not for an extended amount of time. Though this album doesn't have as much atmosphere, the keyboards still serve an integral role to the band's sound.
Dani's vocals certainly shifted gears. On the upside, his highs are much more restrained and comprehensible than the vocal work of the first two albums. His growls are still rough, but are better as well. There is some interesting layering here, and Dani does a wise job of crossing the highs and lows together. The lyrics certainly are long-winded and maintain the poetic flair of former works, but there is a larger use of metaphors, giving everything a cryptic veil of mystery.
Though it's certainly an oddball in the CoF discography, it's an important one; not just for the band, but also for metal.
Highlights: "Cruelty Brought thee Orchids", "Bathory Aria", "Lustmord and Wargasm".
Considering how much of a fucking twat I was when I originally reviewed this album, I really hope people were able to find the purpose amongst the bullshit wordcrafting and generally piss-poor sense of "humor" I employed.
Why am I re-reviewing this? To cover my ass, really.
My opinion really hasn't dislodged since my initial listen, but in fact, has become more bitter. If you will, imagine the spine tingling darkness and edge of such musical progedies as say, the Insane Clown Posse, then inoculate a bunch of mongoloid post-black metal burnout BDSM aficionados with the aforementioned "parental advisory" 'tude, and you've basically got yourself a campily sarcastic, macabre-tinged vampire porno romp. Throw in some instrumentation and you've got yourself one of the shittiest turnaround albums I've ever heard.
I'm not really sure what it is about this album that throws me into such a "hulk smash world"-esque rage, as compared to the previous releases (each of which I'll admit my quasi-admiration for), it's not all that different, but there's just something undeniably off about this mundane crank of sound. The excessive keyboarding just seems to overwhelm all possible atmospheric bleakness the guitars would have produced, the catchiness of Dusk And Her Embrace has all but dissipated, and the vocal patterns of frontman Dani Filth just lack the glorious "oomph" required to elevate him above the soundtrack provided by a decent sized rat being slowly crushed by a cardboard bailer. In fact, the vocals are probably the most tangible gripe I can fisty-cuff with. His approach is what initially drew my interest to the group, and this half-assed performance (albeit nowhere near as awful as his followup performances) proves to be impossible for me to get over, especially with the exceedingly lengthy lyrics on this album. The drumming of Nicholas "Uncle Fester" Barker is pretty fucking good to be honest, failing to enter the territory I from this point on dub "BM Generica", featuring lots of those crazy "blastbeats" that are not tired out in the slightest. No sir. Why the hell he screws around with these guys and Dimmu Borgir boggles my mind...
The bonus disc is truly atrocious, though, and I sometimes regret the fact that I even gave it a shot... the way they utterly butt-rape Sodom and Iron Maiden is inexcusable, even though I can't claim fanship of the latter act...
Overall, a total waste of time. Stick with the originals; they kick this shit down a flight of stairs equivalent to the autobon is length. Psh-tosh.
Seriously folks, when this record was first released the media attention it received from the underground cannot be understated. Everything seemed ready to break into the open, with Cradle of Crap leading the way for band after band to bring the diluted "gothic black metal" to the masses.
Thankfully, this CD was universally disliked and the whole movement failed to generate the eventual promise of greatness that later "big label" releases such as "Midian" and "Damnation and a Day" attempted to capture. This record was the thankful weakening point of the whole CoF concept.
Musically, the "classical" compositions work well enough as horror-movie fodder, setting up an ominous mood similar to a Hammer Horror styled film. Sadly, the guitar/drumwork often drones in and out of the mix leaving little melody or hook to work from. This was probably the bands most unique line-up, with each member playing a sort of "role" in the visual aspect of the band but these musicians cannot lift this droning goth-opera styled music to any form of useful climax. Sure, "Desire and Violent Overture" and "Lustmord and Wargasm" blast out some pretty good drum/guitar work but it does little to make the record
The artwork and lyrics make good for the band, but like the keyboard instrumentals they do little to lift this from being a droned-out gothic slop-fest that is more of an ego-piece for Dani and his seventeen annoying voices than anything else. Sure, the man can twist the English language with a certain gift that few others can, but without the strong riffwork and performance needed to bring his witty goth-poems to life the elaborate artwork with it's witty andecotes can do little to improve the entire affair.
It was an interesting concept...and certain members of the band tried hard to put this together in a highly memorable form but the end result of this is a feeling of failed gothic pomp that does little to drive one into a sense of genuine theatrical interest.
Skip it and buy a Bathory record...
(The bonus CD is eqaully pointless...though the Maiden cover rates as "ok".)
The name of this album is Cruelty and the Beast, but actually, it just depicted half of its content. In my opinion, the most appropriate way to describe this one should be Beauty and the Beast.
Because in this album, cradle of filth had continued its style of pretty gothic black metal, which mixes lots of elements from other kinds of music, and makes the song itself sounds kaleidoscopic. Dani Filth¡¯s voice is adapted to the melodic song structure and many female voices that are used in this album. Actually, this one has many samplings of female sound, nearly making it a little over-polished. But you must admit, it matches their style very well. It does not sound like something of plethora, but becomes an important part of this album. With all of this samplings, beside the cruel black metal music, this album gains some erotic atmosphere, which is the most remarkable feature that cradle of filth had brought to the musical kind of black metal.
Compared to their earlier album, dusk and her embrace, this album became more fair-sounding and popular, and in some extent lost some essential spirit of black metal. The music can be accepted by much more people than some earlier black metal, and gives cradle of filth a success in commercialization. But, this is not the point we concern most, what we take care is the quality of the album itself.
Okay, I'll admit that I enjoyed their previous albums, but I sure don't classify this band as black metal for obvious reasons. They're more like atmospheric Iron Maiden with extreme metal elements. Up 'til here, things were at least interesting.
That's the problem with this album. Apart from adding in a few Suffocation-esque vocals, the whole thing really feels tired and boring. Absolutely NOTHING new here. Songs are long, but they don't really build or go anywhere. It is really frustrating, because with bands like this, who build really long epic songs, you expect powerful changes at appropriate moments, but when the change comes around it's a big let down. A few good riffs here and there, then the rest is total filler.
The atmosphere that was on Dusk... is pretty much gone. Oh yeah, they throw in the obligatory keyboard intros, but as I've always found, they're total filler. Crap! Oh, and no soaring Maiden-esque melodies either. It's like they wanted to do Principle of Evil... again to look hard, but instead took two steps back.
What really pisses me off is the drum sound, which is nearly as bad as St. Anger in places. Listen to the first real song on here...the bass drums sound like the fucking snare! And that doesn't change throughout the album. AAARRRGH! Dusk and Her Embrace had a really full sound to it, which worked wonders with this atmospheric music, but on here, with a more "brutal" sound, this shit doesn't work anymore. You need some bottom end for music like this, and this album most certainly lacks that.
Sweet packaging but a cowpie of an album inside...sheesh. At least they ditched the stupid ass vampire shit for this album.