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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’