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Year 1996 marked the beginning of Cradle's vampiric metal era, which lasted for a few years, sadly. However, the VEmpire EP and this album proved to be improvements in terms of quality and heavyness when compared to their first full length: The Principle of Evil Made Flesh. While VEmpire tried to capture some of Principle's atmospheres and offer it a little vampiric feeling and more professional playing, Dusk and Her Embrace made the transition from raw black metal to symphonic black metal (with a little higher quality, but far from the 'clean' quality of Enthrone Darkness Triumphant). We also observe a change in the lyrics, Dani slowly replacing Satanism and Paganism with Vampirism. As for the music... gone are Benjamin Ryan's church organ playing. On this release it has been replaced with more orchestral strings, some of which are quite amazing. But let's see how the actual songs sound like:
Humana Inspired to Nightmare is an epic orchestral instrumental which sets the tensioned mood of the album quite fast. Although I think it should've been a little slower at the beginning, it managed to get the atmosphere for Heaven Torn Asunder perfectly. When the 2nd track starts, you notice the recording quality and vocal change. Dani's vocals have become much more high pitched, but sadly, not really in the black metal way. He sounds more like an annoying chirping bird, and most of the time when I listen to this CD, I can't wait for him to stop shrieking. Heaven Torn Asunder is filled with his shrieks and lots of speed. Not much to say about it, Funeral in Carpathia begins with some fast drumming, courtesy of Nicholas Barker, and then the guitars join in with some tremolo picking, finally managing to bring back the black metal feeling I've been waiting for. You will find some clean vocal parts done by Sarah Jezebel Deva here and there, but mostly, this song is about how fast Cradle of Filth can get, catchy guitar riffs and solos, and of course, Dani's annoying screeching.
A Gothic Romance (Red Roses for the Devil's Whore) starts with one of the most beautiful string intros I've ever heard! It sounds almost like waltz music. And from this short dance rythm the strings slowly transition the feeling from romantic to scary horror movie-like. We are also greeted to the actual song via a wolf howl and Dani's screeching. This time they take things slower, Dani narrating with a deep, gothic voice. When things get faster, he'll return to screeching, but not for long, since Sarah Jezebel Deva has to have her part. And in the middle of the song we can hear one of the string riffs from the beginning, this time with Dani saying 'Red Roses for the Devil's Whore' while Sarah does some sighs in the background. Then the guitars join in and play the same riff as the keyboards. But not for long, since they change to some other riffs, but this time with Dani doing some great vocals: he is growling, and almost sounds like Shagrath! After that the song becomes faster and Dani is doing his usual screech. Still, this is certainly one of the best songs off the album. Malice Through the Looking Glass follows the same slow pattern as Gothic Romance, but its string intro is a little more 'haunting' than the previous song's intro. The song's beautiful pianos, choirs and strings make a great music feast for the ear, and this is more than enough for me. The creepiest part of it is when the instruments slowly fade away and Dani does a scary narration with some animal howling in the background.
And so we have reached the title track of the album! Hell, I think that this is one of Cradle's best songs ever composed! It starts with some relatively fast drumming and Sarah singing in the background. Dani comes in with his screeching and when he is done, Sarah stops singing and the guitarist plays exactly what she sang. Afterwards, Dani again does some narration with his deep voice while Sarah sings a bit. Then the song gets all fast and Dani does what he knows best: screeching. Sarah has some come backs here and there, and the keyboards play some fantastic riffs on orchestral strings and church organ. Sadly, this masterpiece lasts only 6 minutes... The following track, The Graveyard by Moonlight, is a rather calming and soothing instrumental. Its title shows its meaning: to capture the feeling of a graveyard by moonlight. The piano sets the perfect mood for that, but when it stops playing and there's a moment of silence, you could feel the tension rising. Sarah's chanting announces that something bad is about to happen, and when the strings bump in, the vampire has rised from the grave once more to haunt in the night! Fantastic feeling and amazing track!
Beauty Slept in Sodom has a funny keyboard intro, very different from those of A Gothic Romance and Malice Through the Looking Glass. Other than that, it shares the same structure as the other songs off this album. And now, for the final track: Haunted Shores! Its string intro is indeed haunting and extremely catchy. Once it finishes, you wish it was longer, but there's no time for that, the band has to finish this album in an epic way! The tremolo picked guitar is back, and so are Dani's screeches. For the most part of this song you will find speed and screeches, but there's a part in the middle where you have only the strings, the drums being as fast as always and Dani doing some 'clean' vocals with his deep, gothic voice. Afterwards, the guitars join in and he shifts to shrieks. For some reason, I can't drop my attention from the drums. After some more tremolo picking and shrieking, we approach the final part of this song, which features a speech given by none other than Cronos from Venom. The way he delivers it is so epic that you get the feeling that an apocalypse of ghosts is drawing neigh. Truly a great way to end an epic album!
When it comes to Cradle of Filth, there will always be people who love them and people who hate them, so it would be quite difficult to know who might love this album or not. I think that if you are a fan of vampiric metal or symphonic black metal, you should like this.
Favorite tracks: A Gothic Romance, Malice Through the Looking Glass, Dusk and Her Embrace, The Graveyard by Moonlight, Haunted Shores.