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For better of worse, Cradle of Filth have always been one of the more important metal acts in my collection as they helped shape my musical tastes from developmental adolescence to definitive maturity. That being said, I've enjoyed just about everything they've done, albeit with varying degrees of objectiveness, and that includes their "mainstream" or "sell-out" period albums (again, I never understood HOW Cradle of Filth have "sold out"...and to who?) I took said period with an open mind and a grain of salt, and at the end of the day was pleasantly surprised and satisfied to a certain extent, leaving me wondering just how further the band can push that invisible-yet-present envelope.
2003 gave me one of their heaviest offerings in recent years, and a year later, could that magic still be present?
I didn't know until a while after I'd picked up this here "Nymphetamine" album up that it was quite controversial for reasons that seem to elude me. Was it because it was bad music (I'd always put "Thornography" on the top of that list, myself...)? Was it their signing to Roadrunner? Or was it because, in the end, they're Cradle of Filth? Either way you slice it it doesn't seem to matter, as once I dove into it I found this album to be a very satisfactory, yet flawed, record. I was actually quite surprised that the band had the moxie and ideas left to release an album one year after the monstrous "Damnation and a Day", but dammit if they didn't throw me for a loop as a result of it. From a musical standpoint, "Nymphetamine" doesn't deviate too much from the sound presented on "Damnation", and comes off a bit more streamlined and experimental, with each track essentially containing its own mood and feel. Utilizing a clean, very concise production and a fusion of different styles, from aggressive black metal to palm-muted thrash to gothic orchestration to a sprinkling of modern metalcore (tastefully, no less) Cradle of Filth unleashes a feeling of stylistic unity and confusion from one end of the album to the next, where crunchy guitar riffs, atmospheric keyboards, shattering drumwork and Dani's now-commonplace shrieks/growls showcase a band that still has a sense of like-mindedness in what they want to play, heard by the likes of the album's stronger tracks like "Nemesis", "Gabrielle", "Absinthe with Faust" and "Filthy Little Secret".
However, like Mr. Filth writes, all that glitters was not gold. "Nymphetamine", for all its good qualities, is by no means a perfect album and, unfortunately, runs out of steam about halfway through. The first half of the record bursts with energy and fanciness, which peters out near the tail end, save for a few sporadic tasty tracks, where songs like "Coffin Fodder", "English Fire", and "Swansong for a Raven" end up being outright ignored as a result of a lack of cohesion and ideas, making for rather tedious listens. But the biggest sin of this is, sadly, the lyrics; for me, one of the redeeming values of a CoF album has always been Dani's defloration of the English language, but this time around it seems his skills are watered-down, either by a lack of inspiration of an attempt to not talk over his listeners. Either way, the end result is lackluster, to say the least, and not anywhere near the lyrical miracles present on albums past. All these negative aspects brought together give the last half of "Nymphetamine" a miring, middle-of-the-road appeal that causes this listener to pretty much end it all after the title track, longing for further intensity and grand ideas.
In the end, Cradle of Filth's Roadrunner debut doesn't blow all the candles off the cake, but it's not what I would consider the band's creative nadir. I still find enjoyment in an occasional listen and just might subject myself to this time and again for years to come. Recommended...if you're into this sorta thing...