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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’
Ah, CRADLE OF FILTH...those wacky vampiric Brits who, rather unfairly, have become metal's whipping boys and prime examples of what NOT to do in the black metal scene (you know...record competant music, tour, get signed to larger labels...those are SINS within the anti-social black metal scene!), though sometimes I wonder if such hatred and angst directed at the band is either from bands who genuinely hate them for who they are, or are just plainly jealous that their nihilistic music isn't palpable enough to garner a larger audience, like CoF's. If the latter is true, then that speaks volumes for the maturity of many underground BM acts, and maybe they should just call it quits right now.
Poor CoF...no middle ground in their "love/hate" relationship, which is a pity. Me? As a black metal fiend/fan, I enjoy the works of a LOT of different acts, from DARKTHRONE to EMPEROR to VINTERSORG...and yes, one of those bands is CRADLE OF FILTH. Unleash torrents of condemnation if you will, but make sure the argument is valid, lest your delusions expose you for the fraud you truly are. Hate me, but do it honestly.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here..."Cruelty and the Beast" is, possibly, the album that tore CoF's fanbase in two, alienating older fans while embracing newer ones in the process (some band that starts with M did that on an album with a Black cover, with equally destructive results, though I think fans are BIT more jaded with THAT group than CoF). Upon listening to it, I actually loved it...much of the material is CRADLE OF FILTH at their darkest, most atmospheric, and truly vampiric, up there with the previous album, the brilliant "Dusk...and Her Embrace", though a bit more caustic. Doing a concept album about Elizabeth Bathory is quite appropriate for a band of this caliber, and the album as a whole does her justice.
So, let see about the music...tremelo-picked guitars? Blast beats? Raging tempos? Screeching vocals? That sounds like BLACK METAL to me! (Those of the unaware should refer to my review of "The Principle of Evil Made Flesh" for my diatribe about CoF's "black metal status".) However, this time around, the band made the keyboards a bit more of the main instrument, and it helped, a lot. Lector's synth lines add a sense of malevolent darkness that would grandly bequeath a story of the Countess' stature, and play in sync with the guitars almost perfectly. Speaking of the latter, it should be known that Gian Pyres and Stuart Anstis were easily CoF's BEST riff-smiths (refer the the last two albums for prime guitar tastiness), and their additions, along with nocturnal pulsist Robin Graves, are second to none, . Nick Barker, he of gigantic drum skills and gut, does his business with his standard old-school blast-beats, though, intelligently, changes it up when need be...except that he needed to trade in the cardboard boxes for a REAL drum kit (a stab at the weak-sounding skinbeat production). Dani's shrieks are at their most inhuman sounding, shredding out some of the best written/read lyrics he'd penned since "Vempire...", and when combined, the group truly shines, as evidenced on tracks such as "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids", "The Twisted Nails of Faith", and the monstrously epic "Bathory Aria".
Such a shame that the consistant line-up changes would painfully distort CoF's outgoing product, but as it stands, "Cruelty and the Beast" should serve as a final, immortal testament to not only the Countess, but also the band's vampiric black metal frenzy. Well done, lads...well done!
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.
Why is this release good? Well, it has a lot of "good" parts and not much filler (unlike later releases) and has a really harsh drum sound, along with razor guitars. The songwriting is still somewhat serious, and it's a really awesome headbanger. Why isn't it great? Because unlike Dusk and Her Embrace, it's impossible to take this thing even 90% seriously. It doesn't posess that dark, demonic atmosphere of the previously mentioned masterpiece. The instrumentals are mediocre at best (with the exception of Portrait of the Dead Countess) and even that one seems to building up and such without really going anywhere. It's akin to driving really fast and wasting gas, while really having no destination in mind and going in circles while your at it. The instrumentals end without having a climax (girls, imagine a dude who cums in a minute- guys, imagine a girl with a really loose vagina. The instrumentals are like that.)
The Bathory Aria has about 4 or 5 minutes of filler. They had something going with part two and even part one, but they didn't elaborate on that, and spent time on part three, which was pretty horrid, to tell you the truth. The riff on part three was repeated over and over again, and kinda sucked. They had a brief pause, and it seemed they might actually play a great riff, and they returned to the horrible riff.
Another thing, Dani really needs to shut up!!!! The songs did not increase in length from Dusk and Her Embrace, but the lyrics almost increased twofold. Shit, I wished Dani Filth would just SHUT THE FUCK UP for once.
About the good parts of this album. The second track (the first true song) was really awesome. It was the epitome of the beauty side of COF, and was truly awesome. The drumming was good, but it was fucking awesome throughout the whole album.
The third song, which was slower, but way more epic, was pretty awesome. Again, though, Dani needed to shut up. But we already knew that. The song, the first time I heard it, left me floored. It was that good.
The forth one, Beneath the Howling Stars, was a bit boring upon first listen, but really grew on me after that. It has a kind of "halloween, transylvania" feel to it. The pipe organs don't hurt, also.
The sixth song is a vicious thrashy song. It seemed out of place on this album, but oh well. The drumming is fucking awesome on this song.
The seventh, The Twisted Nails of Faith, was pretty much filler shit until the ending, which I felt should have been the ending for the Bathory Aria.
The tenth song, Lustmord and Wargasm, is like the sixth one, Desire in Violent Overture, but better. It was pretty much heavy, fast, AND melodic. Totally awesome.
But a detriment, was the lyrics. Instead of writing dark eulogies and eloquent oratories like on Dusk and Her Embrace, Dani basically was saying "Look at me and my humoungous vocabulary." It was kinda embarrassing to read them.
What's particularly sad is that this is the last truly awesome album. Midian was ok, but it's sad, because you compare a song like A Gothic Romance (Red Roses for the Devil's Whore) to songs like Gilded Cunt, Coffin Fodder, and Filthy Little Secret from Nymphetemine, and it almost makes me wanna cry, if I wasn't so busy laughing at how horrible COF has gotten. Even when they did Midian, the lyrics were in the Sucking department. The music soon followed. Even Midian's predecessor, From The Cradle To Enslave, sucked. Apparently COF is dead set against alienating their original base so they could appeal to the more moneyed mallcore and mallgoth crowd. I hang my head in shame. X[
Cruelty and The Beast, Cradle of Filth’s third official release into the music world under the label Music For Nations, enraptures a listener who delves much more deeply into the music. A person can skim through the songs and not truly appreciate the genius of this record. This is mainly due to the fault of the production. The drums are severely weak, thus, there is no power. Guitars seem thin - and if your treble is too high your stereo, you will most likely have bleeding ears after Daniel Filth is done. The keyboards are extremely processed and do not come out very well. Sarah Jezebel Deva also seems to just disappear, but if you listen closely, you can hear her beautiful work.
In order to appreciate the quality of this record, you need to look past the obvious flaws of production, and the acquired taste of Mr. Filth. Another thing to note, is that there had already been short of a dozen line-up changes prior to this record. Lez Lector takes over keyboard duties from Damien, Stuart Amstis had taken over the guitar spot of Paul Ryan after the Principal debut, and Gian Piras was the chosen one to replace Paul Allender, who had left the band in 1996 to raise his son. The only original members at this point were Dan Filth, Robin Graves, and Nicholas Barker. So, coming into Cruelty and The Beast was almost a whole new band.
The album is a conceptual - lyrically based on the “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, a 16th noble woman who bathed in blood of young peasant and noble women. After an estimated 650 victims, her accomplices were put to death, and stone men covered up the windows and doors, leaving one small hole for food to pass through. She died at age 44, face down in her castle in 1614, just four years after she was walled inside her castle.
We start off with the instrumental “Once Upon Atrocity,” which is a very thought provoking piece. It’s dissonance creates the atmosphere for the opening chords of “Thirteen Autumns and A Widow.” Faint chorals fade in as the album starts. An array of instruments start to come in and create a great introduction to the album.
After the instrumental, “Thirteen Autumns and A Widow” comes roaring with tremolo picked chords. Quick drumming and vocal layers start to come in as a simple, but effective, chord progression remains to play. Then the interesting parts come, Cradle of Filth are very successful at combining melodic qualities while still maintaining a level of extremity. The spoken words of the melodic tremolo notes are quick effective behind Nicholas top drumming. Also note the nice solo! However, Dani sings over it, so you can’t get into it as much as you would like it. This is a pretty packed song, with various feels and tempo switches. Listen to Nicholas bass drum work and his cymbal usage, complimenting the guitar riffs.
Next, Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids, Sarah speaks a nice passage, and the trademark Filth scream echoes your stereo and a beautiful synchronized tremolo riff beckons to be turned up louder. The great thing about this song: Robin is audible. There are many instances where is bass stands out and makes the presence of the song that much more powerful. This song is filled with harmonies and melodic guitar riffs, with vocal overlays. It’s particularly difficult to hear everything at once, as there are plenty of keyboard tracks adding to the power of this song. The most amazing part of this song starts at 3:03, as the tempo picks up and Dani shrieks, and Nicholas pounds his snare and the Sarah sings beautiful over the top, and then the drums and keyboards take over. Followed by that is a spoken verse with a great piano line and accompanying strings. On top of all that, harmony guitar riffs! Simply amazing. This song will need to be listened to multiple times before you’re able to comprehend everything that is going on at once.
Beneath the Howling Stars starts with an eerie organ progression and the trademark Cradle of Filth tremolo guitar riff, and Nick’s superb blasting abilities. Nick’s bass and cymbal usage to compliment the synchronization of the guitar riffs are definitely something to take note of. At about 1:00, Nick rips off sextuplet double bass drum fills like we eat our cereal in the morning, as he keeps impeccable time. Again, the musicianship of Gian and Stuart shine as they play a perfectly harmonized guitar part. After some time, the song slows down, a tubular bell rings in the background as a pipe organ plays a somber progression. Sarah performs quality spoken quotes as Robin’s bass powers through.
After that, we move into the instrumental Venus In Fear. This is probably the only thing I do not like about this record, as it’s basically a bunch of women screaming with a keyboard pad synth playing some simple notes, and very delicate bell sounds are played in the back. The string part is quite nice though. But it’s somewhat all ruined with the torture screams.
Desire In Violent Overture - Amazing! The trademark tremolo riff, and Nicholas’ blast beat explode your speakers as Dani does what he does best: scream. One thing to note right now, is DanI uses his vocals in quite a range during this whole album, but it’s quite notable on this track. Another thing, is the obvious leads played by Stuart right before Nicholas starts to blast again, just like a machine! After this, there is a groove part, with a harmonized guitar riff. The harmony is three guitars ending with a pick scrape into power chords, palm muted at the end. Nick’s fill blazes you back into the blast beat as Gian and Stuart tremolo pick their way into a bass solo before the bridge is repeated, with slightly different orchestration. The song does have a repetition, but the overlays of vocals and keyboards do keep you interested, as does the quality of Nick’s skin beating as he rips off sextuplet bass drum lines again, and intensifies his blast beats by using the very raw china cymbal.
“The Twisted Nails of Filth” comes into your mind with a high pitched string line… with a varying degree of spoken words and instruments, the best part being the very low note made by the strings. The song then bursts into a groove drum beat with Dani shrieking (of course) and power chords. This is probably Cradle of Filth’s most “thrash” song on this album as the power chords play a big role. Nick’s use of the crash cymbal brings out the guitars rawness as they are played in an intricate picking style. Again, not to point out Nick’s bass drum usage during the drum and vocal solo would just be a sin. It almost seems that two people are playing at once, as the kicks are doing something totally different from of the kit. This song is quite repetitive as well, stacking up to almost 7:00. But there is a great blast part followed by a nice synth section with overlaying vocals - creating an atmosphere is what CoF does best!
Ah, the epic “Bathory Aria.” An 11 minute masterpiece, as the song flows from section to section, creating the whole world of the 16th century. Starting with a very saddening piano line, and a whisper of Dani’s voice. Enter the feedback of guitars, and then the ballad of Elizabeth Bathory starts. This song contains various degrees of compositional mastery, brought forth by all members of the band. It definitively will take you more than one listen to understand what is all going on! And then, with a thunder, the song kicks into high gear, with a high guitar melody and a crunching tremolo power chord underneath. Continued through this song, is that high melody. Other great things to point out about this song are the abundance of riffs. This song isn’t exactly repetitive. Even though it is 11 minutes, you generally have more than enough to listen to. I do have to say, though, that the end of the song does drag on and does get a tad bit boring. A minor detail!
“Portrait of the Dead Countess.” An effective suffix to the epic Bathory Aria. A combined layer of string lines play as if to paint a portrait of, you guess it, Elizabeth. The song will allow your imagination to run free, and picture whatever it is you’d like to take as her world.
The album ender, Lustmord and Wargasm, is great. A perfect closure to the concept of Ms. Bathory. Strings slowly fade in a melodic string line penetrates the rhythm of the lower strings. The violin slowly vibratos as other instruments and chorals start to fade in, and finally, the blasting of guitars playing the same melody overtake you as Dani begins his magic. This song is packed with beautiful harmonized guitar lines, blast beats, vocal overlays, and keyboards. It’s definitely an encore to the album, Cruelty and The Beast.
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.
I'm quite aware that black metal fans hate this band, as they're not black metal but are often confused for it much as Marilyn Manson is for goth. A lot of metal noobs confuse anything with shrieky raspy vocals -- originating in Bathory, though they wouldn't know it -- and corpse paint as black metal, myself included for the first month or two I found CoF about 5 years ago. This certainly isn't black metal, as it lacks crucial elements of the genre, though to think that this band never listened to Bathory or Mayhem would be absurd.
CoF's style of music is usually called "faggoth," and usually contains a few is half-decent fast tremolo riffs reminiscent of bands like Dark Funeral, some occasional bass work, but is mostly defined by the overdone but weak drumming, the really shitty vocals, and especially the all-drowning keyboards. However, this isn't goth either, even though CoF is known for their terrible cover of goth as well as black metal songs in their attempt to court fans. Most goths would probably find this to be very tacky, though they may or may not like the lyrics.
This entire album is a drawn-out account of the fictional life of our favorite blood-bathing countess, Elizabeth Bathory. The lyrics to the album are actually very well written, show a large vocabulary that's actually well-used and not just thesaurus abuse, and it far surpasses the usual ubiquitous "dark" poetry. However, most of it is based around vampires, demons, witchcraft, and eeevil women, and most metal heads would probably consider it to be for "goth" pussies, which I will not completely refute.
Once Upon Atrocity is just a simple pseudo-symphonic keyboard intro that grows from quiet to loud. Nothing amazing or memorable.
Thirteen Autumns and a Widow instantly shows what most of this is about -- keyboards and pseudo-symphonic effects, along with hideous vocals that drown out the occasional fast riffing and drumming. Dani Filth can write lyrics, but he's probably the shittiest vocalist in metal. This song mostly drones on, and sucks.
I considered Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids a song I liked years ago or so, but it's rather mediocre in my book nowadays. The drumming is weak and the keyboards are poorly used but the riffs aren't half bad. It's seven minutes long, but switches up enough to stay somewhat interesting.
Beneath the Howling Stars could have potential, if it didn't have whispering slow moments filled with keyboards and a dying rat on vocals. There's actually some pretty good riffs in this song, but it's the exception, and not the rule.
Venus in Fear is just a female orgasm keyboard song with screaming mixed in. I can see them thinking as they made this: "Does this make you randy?"
Desire in Violent Overture -- the guitars might be good if I could hear them over the fucking overdrumming. At 40 seconds, they begin doing 5 second half solos. The guitars at 1:15 aren't a bad idea, and might have worked somewhere else -- though it's sort of a slowed down, simplified Iron Maiden riff. They also really should just let whoever the girl is (Deva?) sing instead of Dani Filth, and then it'd be a huge step better.
The Twisted Nails of Faith begins with some pseudo-Halloween music. The riffs that begin the actual song a minute later aren't terrible, and if it sounded like this the whole time, it might be worth listening to. Then we hear a screech of "Three moondials froze..." and the guitars almost disappear. The lyrics to this song, however, are kind of funny.
Bathory Aria. 11 minutes of suck, and that's all I have to say.
Portrait of the Dead Countess is another quasi-sympnhonic sounds like something I heard in a movie before.
LustMord and Wargasm sounds like there's a rapid-fire cap gun off for most of the drumming. When you hope there's going to be some guitar work, it just comes back with more tick-tick-tick drumming that doesn't even thud. Then, at 2:35, it becomes good for a whole 15 seconds. Dani Filth's vocals drop from shrieks, and the riff is pretty thrashy. If they could sound like that the whole time, it'd be much better -- but they just return to the usual random shrieks, terrible overdrumming, keyboards, and random female vocals with random good riffs here and there, as well as an unremarkable ten second solo at 7:05.
Fortunately, I also have the single CD version with none of their ridiculously butchered and outright godawful cover songs. An album full of those would be almost as bad as St. Anger...
This isn't absolute total shit as some would say, but it's pretty bad. It has some occasional riffage in it, even if everything else is rather horrid. It's not worth any money, and the only thing that's really any good about it is the lyrics, which are on countless internet sites for free.
If you really want to join the cool crowd and must, must listen to Cradle of Filth, get Dusk and Her Embrace instead. This album, however, is slightly better than Midian and isn't nearly as bad as Bitter Suites or anything afterwards. Or if you just happen to like the vocal style for some reason, get an Anal Cunt album instead, Seth does it far better. If you're looking for black metal but don't know where to go, pick up Beherit's Drawing Down the Moon, Graveland's Celtic Winter, Immortal's Pure Holocaust, or the classics like Hellhammer's Apocalyptic Raids and Bathory's The Return.