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Ironic, isn't it? Metal (especially of the black and death varieties) suffers from musical elitism almost as much as punk, yet, much like punk, the genre was founded on doing what ever the fuck one fucking wanted to and not giving two shits what anyone else though. Strange, really.
Undeniably, one of the bands to have suffered most at the hands of such bigotry is Cradle Of Filth. However, in all fairness, it is not totally undeserved. For one thing they are clearly marketing themselves at a more mainstream audience than others in the collective category we have come to term "extreme metal." Furthermore, their image is founded on trying to look scary, trying to look extreme and trying to look like vampyric overlords of darkness or whatever the hell they're going for. While this in itself isn't so bad, they throw it in your face so damn much its more than a little off putting. Its more "hey, look at us, we're extreme! Aren't we cool! Roar!"
On the other hand, its undeniable they're introducing more and more people to far superior black and death metal, Hell, I'll openly admit this was the second "extreme metal" band I found myself enjoying enough to purchase a CD by (the first being Opeth). While I've now moved on to higher ground, I still get out the Cradle a little. I get a bit of flack for it, but at the end of the day, this album is surprisingly good at times.
So, where to start on giving a critique of this album? Well, I must say it is no wonder many more traditional black metal fans turn up their noses to this album in particular when they start at the logical place - the beginning. For me, this album starts at Nymphetamine (Overdose), about half way through. Why? The earlier tracks are simply poor, illiterate attempts at filling the stereotype. The opener proper (Gilded Cunt) is perhaps one of the most embarrassingly poor attempts at being "liek sooo extreme!!!111" I have ever heard. Sure, Venom were just as crude, but Venom did it for kicks, these guys are clearly doing it to seem brutal. The feeling of the song is abysmal, trying to seem fast and crazy and evil...and failing. There is absolutely no substance to it ever, many cliches are apparent and none of them sound like they fit the song anyway. After this things pick up, but again, its all so... lyrically sterile, songs like Nemesis ("Black is my heart! Black is my heart! Black is my heart I am Nemesis!") and Absinthe With Faust confirm what elitists have been saying for years.
However, once you get to Nymphetamine (Overdose), things begin to pick up. For a start, that song is beautiful (though I prefer the shortened version at the end of the CD). As much as "operatic metal" pisses me off, it is a brilliantly composed (if perhaps too radio friendly for comfort) and executed epic. From here on out the previously hackneyed riffs, abysmal structures and horrendous matching of lyric to music begin to dissipate. English Fire, and Filthy Little Secret are both memorable tracks with catchy lines that get lost in your head and never quite find their way out. Swansong For A Raven takes all the poorly timed and executed classical features that made the first half of the album so dull and turns them into immaculately placed, powerful features of an epic song. Sure, its hardly Opeth or Symbolic era Death, but everything pulls together with finesse.
All in all it js evident that this album could have been improved so drastically by simply removing the first half, or at the very least shoving them to the back, to stop potential purchasers hearing the abysmal beginning to what is otherwise a fine album. Of course, even the second half is hardly essential, but its a pleasurable listen and stands head and shoulders above 90% of all the "metal" the kiddywinks are buying these days (even the most elitist of elitists should prefer this to, say, Korn or Linkin Park).
If you're looking for a fun, screamy listen and its not overly painful to the pocket, the CD's quite worth it for the second half. On the other hand, if you're a "best of the best" kind of person you're probably better off somewhere else. Of course, if you're a "best of the best" kind of person, I don't know what you're doing in the Cradle Of Filth section in the first place.