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Cruelty and The Beast - 97%

doomaxe999, April 30th, 2005

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.