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Cradle of Filth have always received an unwarranted amount of loathing from the metal underground, in particular the black metal scene. Yet they have never swerved from their direction of creating interesting, often conceptual albums in a hybrid of black and goth, with a death metal undercurrent and thoughtful lyrics rooted deeply in classic British poetry and prose. The problem is of course they've made some money doing it and scored a lot of the goth chicks, and we all know that's not acceptable. This has never nulled my enjoyment of several of their albums: The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, Cruelty and the Beast, and Midian all come to mind as noteworthy efforts.
Like Cruelty and the Beast or Midian before it, this is a concept album focusing on a fascinating historical figure, in this case the French noble Gilles de Rais. Rais fought with Joan of Arc but became controversial later in life as a occultist, prolific serial killer and all-around pervert. So, in other words, the perfect subject for Dani Filth's lyrical adventures. And he is once again up to the task.
Musically, the album is reminiscent of the earlier works such as Dusk and Her Embrace, anchored in brutal blast beats and fast, vampiric guitar work all adorned in Filth's dripping, ghastly multi-layered vocals. Some of my favored tracks here are the slower "Ten Leagues Beneath Contempt" with its glorious melodies; the bombastic "Honey and Sulphur" with its thrashing symphonic, choral misanthropy; and the monstrously catchy "Midnight Shadows Crawl to Darken". The mix of the album is solid, each orchestral touch is distinct and never befuddles the core metal elements.
This is a far better album than the rather lacking past few efforts Thornography and Nymphetamine, and likely on par with Dusk...and Her Embrace as one of their better overall works (slightly less catchy though). It's got an interesting subject at its focus, who you don't read or hear about all the time. It's pure Cradle of Filth, and love them or not, they are good at what they do, and they are here to stay.