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Pretty good, but plenty of iffy parts - 75%

TheBlackPlague, January 21st, 2005

Compared to "Damnation and a Day", this album is simpler and perhaps more concise. Simpler isn't always bad and sometimes people prefer to-the-point songs as compared to grandiose concepts and orchestrations, however these new elements lead to many iffy moments throughout the album which can be quite unsettling.

The first noticeable area of difference is the guitar section. Newest addition James McIllroy returns the band to their classic two guitar setting and allows for a good helping of leads and guitar solos. That sounds good coming off of the mostly rhythm-driven "Damnation and a Day", but herein lies the first problem; the leads are relativity simple melodies and their appearances are often predictable and the solos seem a bit on the unfocused side and don't add too much to the songs.

The rhythms guitars are also noticeably different as the black, death, and gothic elements are tuned-down in favor of more modern rock structures (sometimes bordering on nu-metal) and even some hints of metalcore (ending section of Mother of Abominations). A clashing, grindcore-like riff is also heard in "Gilded Cunt" and "Filthy Little Secret" (how clever) sounds like a strange heavy metal/hard rock hybrid. The most common thing you'll hear on this album is a song starting out in one way and then going another. For example, "Nymphetamine Overdose" and "Absinthe with Faust" start off with gothic metal riffs that lead into a modern section. Some of these modern sections sound like bids for accessibility and "Nymphetamine Fix" actually received radio play.

Amongst the shady parts there are some glimpses of good music. The leads and rhythms from "Nemesis" and "Nymphetamine Overdose/Fix" are very enjoyable, the orchestral songs are great and rousing, and the lyrics are still poetic and grandiose albeit simplified a bit. Dani's vocals are still as good as they were on the preceding album (something that can't be said about "Thornography") although his lower growls rarely appear anymore.

Martin Powell's keyboards are the saving-grace of this album. Songs like "Swansong for an Raven", "Coffin Fodder", and "English Fire" have great atmospheres thanks to the symphonic and tender keyboard parts. Elsewhere the keyboards add the classic haunt and spook here and there. Two of this band's best albums were built around this man's keyboards and even though it's sad to see his part reduced (even sadder now that he's gone), it still makes the album.

The bass still doesn't do much in the thrilling department and the drums are much less flashy, but overall the rhythm section is still pretty tight.

It's not a bad album, but the downward spiral has started. Is it any coincidence that this album was released by RoadRunner? I'm not making any accusations, but the timing is kind of suspicious. It's more streamlined, more simplified, and more modern; three adjectives that will make many metal fans cringe (if the words "Cradle of Filth" didn't make them cringe already).