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Cradle of Filth is one of those bands that's cool to hate. In fact, they're probably the most popular metal band for that purpose. If you are a black metal fan, it's almost obligatory for you to slander them whenever they are mentioned, usually for such reasons as Dani's vocals, overuse of keyboards, or the pervasive female backing vocals.
Unfortunately for Cradle, these criticisms are pretty substantiated. The vocals do suck, the keyboards are overused, and the band has had some serious problems with all these things from day one. However, on Dusk and Her Embrace, we get a glimpse of what Cradle of Filth might have been.
The vocals are better here than elsewhere. Most of the time, Dani is content to do the high-pitched shrieking thing, which keeps him from doing as much of the pointless growling and other techniques that made listening to Midian so annoying. The shriek is probably my favorite of all of his vocal styles, but in general his vocals suck and it would have been a good idea to replace him long ago.
The music itself is more or less sped up Iron Maiden with a myriad of bells and whistles thrown onto it. It's the reliance on these gimmicks that is the biggest problem. I don't mind listening to Iron Maiden rehashed, but I don't want to listen to Iron Maiden: The Melodramatic Goth Years. If all these things were cut out, we might have a solid album. Nothing revolutionary, but something enjoyable.
As it is, let's outline the problems individually. Number one is the vocals, already discussed. Number two would be the female backing vocals. These are just silly, and sound stupid most of the time (e.g. Beauty Slept in Sodom). There's also the keyboards. Now, I don't mind keyboards; I think Nokturnal Mortum is a great band. Here, however, the keys are used to create this schlock horror atmosphere and serve the purpose of totally drowning out the riffs, which is what I want to listen to.
All that aside, there's some decent songs on here. Funeral in Carpathia is easily the best Cradle of Filth song out there. Heaven Torn Asunder and the title track also have their moments. On the other hand, I never liked A Gothic Romance. To this day, I can't think of anything memorable about that song, though it seems to be a favorite. Malice Through the Looking Glass is another song that I never cared for...it's too riff-lite.
In sum, If you are going to buy a Cradle of Filth album, this is the one. The others aren't worth shooting. But frankly, there's better Iron Maiden worship out there, so you needn't resort to such a drastic measure.