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After the other shoe dropped in the form of "Thornography", it was pretty evident the shit was hitting the fan. CRADLE OF FILTH, considered crown princes of the metal world by the underground elite, had hit a creative nadir so intense even mere interest with the band began to sway. Even long-time fans were starting to grow more and more disillusioned, akin to life-long sports fans watching their favourite team going through one hell of a losing streak. For most, "Nymphetamine" was the first few nails in the the coffin (rather unfairly, I might add), and "Thornography" was the killing blow to any shred of credibility. Even I found myself less interested in the band, and the threat of a new album a few years later only mildly sparked my curiousity. After all, what could POSSIBLY come after this less-than-masterwork?
What would come would be the best album CRADLE OF FILTH has done in years.
When it was first advertised as sounding like a "mixture between Dusk...and Midian" I was skeptical...after all, such bold claims were made with some of the bonus "Thornography" tracks, and they proved to be fruitless ("Devil to the Metal" sounding like something off "Vempire..."??? Not a chance). But once I was able to crack open the disc and devour its contents I was wholly floored. This is, for the first time in years, some of CRADLE"s finest, sharpest, angriest, and most epic work. It helps prove that the band is at their best at the behest of a concept album, as most, if not all of them, have served up plentiful platters of metallic tastiness ("Cruelty and the Beast", most of "Midian" and "Damnation and a Day", for example), this being no exception, as a story about the Gilles de Rais seems to fit the band's style and image quite nicely. Gone are some of the days where the guitar was the first and foremost instrument, and more emphasis was given the symphonic elements that were sadly lacking in previous recordings. And when the band, as a whole, come together musically they fire on all cylinders in their heaviest and, yes, most "black" material; guitars running the gauntlets of speedy heaviness and cavernous slowness but with a modernized touch ala "Nymphetamine, percussive madness and blast-beats aplenty from new drummer"Marthus" (who does NOT disappoint), dark and dreary keyboards weaving a tapesty of Dantean Hell akin to some of "Dusk...and Her Embrace"'s more epic songs, and Mr. Filth even performing some above-average shrieking (it's quite obvious these days that his voice isn't what it used to be, but it's still good and can keep him going for years to come) delivering some sick and obscurely twisted lyrics, some of his most controversial, with fluidity and nary a sense of displeasure. Speedy tracks like "Shat out of Hell", "Sweetest Maleficia" "Honey and Sulpher", and the title track beat the listener into gore-ridden submission,but relief is at hand with the dirgey "The Death of Love", the more-soothing-than-chaotic "Midnight Shadows Crawl to Darken Counsel with Life" and the breather track "Ten Leagues Beneath Contempt". All in all, a meatier entree has yet to surface.
So in the end, this is a refreshing take on CRADLE OF FILTH's tried-and-true musical formula that cators to all known forms of fandom. Such big shoes to fill when the band get together to hearken a new release, but hope is re-ignited that they can once again hit it out of the park.