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I was worried when Cradle of Filth unveiled a song from this album ("Tragic Kingdom"). I can't speak positively of that song, it was predictable and the writing wasn't impressive, also the opening riff seemed to have been stolen from Absolutus' "The Scale of Nothingness".
However, when I listened to the entire album, I was much consoled. "Tragic Kingdom" and "Shat Out of Hell" were probably the worst songs on the album, but the rest made up for them. Unlike the previous release, Thornography, this album was composed of a nice variety of moods and dynamics.
Looking at the music individually, I was immediately impressed by the new drummer. I liked Adrian Erlandsson but not nearly as much as Nicholas Barker, and Marthus plays much more like Barker did, but of course in his own unique style. Depending on his future work, he may be my favorite CoF drummer of all. The riffs on this album were at least as good as those on Nymphetamine, some being quite memorable, and the bass was very powerful in some places just as it was back in the days of Robin Graves. I wasn't terribly impressed with the keyboards, but I think that will change now that the girl from Abigail Williams is joining them. The vocals... I wasn't expecting much out of Dani's tattered vocal cords, but it was actually a much better performance than Thornography, and he didn't try to sing. I was also very satisfied with the production, especially of the drums which sound very full and alive in contrast to the drum production of their earlier work.
I only have a few problems with the album, the biggest of which being song structures. This is what first threw me off about the album, it is so ridiculously predictable. Every song pretty much has verses and choruses; anyone who has listened to Cruelty and the Beast knows that they can do better. They once put so much thought into their structures, but the repetitive composition on their new work gives it a really mainstream feel at the end of the day. It also didn't help that Dani insisted on screaming the title of the song in nearly every song.
As a concept album, I feel it is successful. The changing moods of the songs followed the story or Gilles de Rais. It in no way compared to Cruelty and the Beast's portrayal of Elizabeth Bathory, but de Rais's story was a good one for CoF to work with, and they did a good job. At times, however, I felt the storytelling was much too straightforward. Where on Cruelty... everything would be metaphors and allusions to Lovecraft, on Godspeed... he comes out and says what he means too much.
My favorite track is probably "The Death of Love". This was a welcome change after the hard-hitting "Shat Out of Hell"; instead it is a slow and melodic song featuring the only notable female vocals on the album. The riffs in this song are very memorable just like the ones they used to turn out on a daily basis, and the backup vocals are very well written and executed. The song is still structured the same way as the others but it actually worked in this context.
Also worth mentioning are the longer tracks on the album, "Midnight Shadows Crawl to Darken Counsel With Life" and "Darkness Incarnate". These two will be the most satisfying to long time Cradle fans, they bring back that dark and intense feeling. I can't tell you they sound like Midian or anything, but they are good songs. The track following these, "Ten Leagues Beneath Contempt", is also quite good.
Finally I believe 13 tracks are too many for a concept album. It could definitely have done without "Tragic Kingdom" as it basically says the same thing as "The 13th Caesar".
The album is certainly a refreshing change of pace and a step in the right direction, fans of their classics or their new albums may both enjoy this release, as will fans of serial killers.