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There had been a few rumblings in the Order of the Dragon a few years back that, not only will the new CoF album not be a concept piece, but also a sort of “return to their roots” affair. Something about sounding very “dark” and “hardcore”, and something about a punkish sound. That sorta left me with a dyspeptic sensation in my gullet…I don’t recall the Filthy Cradle having any real hardcore tendencies though Paul may have meant it another way (I sure hope so!), nor any punk aesthetics about them. But I suppose it would behoove me to not appreciate their attempt at changing things up a little; after two albums of hyper-speedy symphonic blackness, it would’ve been pretty easy to fall back on the formulas that made “Godspeed…” and “Darkly, Darkly…” the fantastic works they were. ‘Tis best to go at such a change of scenery with open ears, after all.
It’s easy to state that anyone looking for a third helping of the last few albums will be leaving half-handed in the end. Though some of CoF’s cold, chilling gothic elements are still present, even if merely relegated to the keyboards and harmonic guitar leads, there’s a very thrashy undercurrent throughout the album with few moments of the “hardcore” or “punk-like” moments once promised, leaving the end result rather intense, less sophisticated and very heavy, even for them. Again, the band seems to have opted for a guitar-centric approach, and as I’ve said before on earlier albums, this is really where they sound weak. All through Cradle of Filth’s entire history, the symphonic end has always shown to be their strongest suit (common knowledge at this point), and leaning against the riffs leads to very limited songwriting approaches that leaves the end result somewhat hollowed out. That limitation is still here, but not quite as painfully and noticeably Thornographic as earlier examples have shown, which leads to far more attention held on my end. Its bestialness is clearly at the forefront, and what key-born melodies are there act more like horror-themed ambience that fills in the miring gap underneath. Good for at least a halfway decent affair, and clearly better than it lets on, but I know (as do many of you out there despite/in spite of your metallic affiliation) that the Filthy boys could do a little better. Definitely.
Though that change in focus is still present, the compositional end has a pretty surprising amount of depth present, all things considered and with everything spread out before us. The album rages on track-by-track with that differing appeal now commonplace with these guys (as well as other extreme metal folks out there), from the powerfully chaotic likes of “The Abhorrent” and “Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair” to the softly quiet likes of “Frost on Her Pillow” and “Pallid Reflection”, with all their crushing riffs, twisting leads and impure synth movements. And at the helm, Dani continues his seemingly new vocal approach of merely spitting out his words with very little of his original raspy/screechy appeal present (might just be easier on his throat, or he just can’t do it anymore) with mixed results: sometimes it sounds fine, other times he sounds slightly retarded, but this is bound to be something we’ll all have to get used to from here on out. The whole of such a mixture sounds great in the grand scheme of things, but I also cannot help but detect the lack of full-band appeal that previous recordings contained. Not necessarily patchwork or laden with players, but just something I can’t help but notice. Does this take away from the overall end product, though? Thankfully no, and as it stands this is still a solid album.
At the end of the day, “The Manticore and Other Horrors” is a rather above average affair that may not be as great as the past few offerings but still fulfills. I can’t say this really brings the band back to their roots all that much, and I can at least nod in approval over their desire to not retread familiar ground. But I guess they found their limit there, the whole “go with it until it stops working” mentality. This, however, is not bad in the least. Truly worth checking out.
I'm going to make this short and sweet, seeing as how this is simply an opinion anyways, and you can just listen to the album yourself! I was instantly turned off by their single Frost on Her Pillow, and almost wrote this album off entirely. I feel it's important for you to know that I've been and Cradle follower for quite some time, and while I feel they don't have any poor material, Nymphetamine and Thornography were the worst amongst masterpieces like Dusk, Cruelty, Damnation and the infamous Principle of Evil Made Flesh.
The drums are by far the most impressive thing about the album. Martin is a genius behind the drum kit, and his fills and foot work are extremely well written and prosecuted. I've been a drummer for 12 years, and the most important thing about playing is that you should only write what the song calls for. Martin does this in a way that most metal drummers don't. This album isn't riddled with blasts and double bass. The drums are tasteful and refreshing to most of the earlier COF albums.
The guitars on the other hand I feel weren't as up to par as they could have been. Yet still impressive, I feel Paul writing the album solo could have had an impact. I feel the best part about the guitars were the fat, chordy verses and almost punk influenced riffing. The song structure is also a refreshment. It's not necessarily something that I'd like to hear all the time from the band, but definitely worked out to this albums advantage. The songs we're also much shorter than most of their earlier work. Don't get me wrong, I love the goth/black metal musical adventure that songs like Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids take you on, but these short and sweet songs genuinely kept my interest all the way through out.
Last but not least, Dani's vocals and lyrics. I can't even believe someone who's been in a band for over 20 years still has the ideas to keep writing. The lyrics aren't as tasteful as Damnation's, which may have been his best material to date, but can definitely hold their own amongst other Cradle albums. And finally his voice! How a 40 year old man can still have such a grewlish (for lack of a better word), multiple octave voice is outstanding. Needless to say, I was impressed.
I can't say too much about the orchestral ambiance, seeing as how it wasn't overly predominant through out the album. I guess it was a little mundane in some songs, but complimented others just fine. Overall, be a trooper and at least give this one a try. I don't love this album, in fact most life long fans probably won't, but you should find something about this album you like, even if it's not their best material.
There are so many guest musicians on this album which makes it more atmospheric and domineering. 3 main members and the rest are the guests. I'd have to say that I like this one better than their past few full-length albums. This is not only because of variety, the guitar riffs are better. The chord progressions, tremolo picking, varying tempos, originality in the riffs themselves and they aren't drowned out by the keyboards, vocals, guest vocals, or drums.
Everything was mixed pretty well here though Dani Filth's voice are not high pitched as like they were on "Dusk...and Her Embrace". There are some high end screams, but mostly just a lower end voice which does fit the music. I'd have to say that "Dusk...and Her Embrace" is still my all-time favorite album from them. However, this release has a lot to offer in 51+ minutes of purely good gothic metal. All of the instruments are mixed well together and nothing is exempt in that respect.
I can't see why people gave this album a pretty low rating. Cradle of Filth has evolved since their first full-length. Totally mellowed out but I'd say they're still kicking butt. I wouldn't conclude that the band just went to hell. I think that they really had a good vibe here even though the songs are less intense than their predecessors. Maybe it's the change since their formation that turned people off on this one. However, I esteem it pretty highly more so than "Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa" and "Godspeed On the Devil's Thunder".
The reason why I think that this album deserves praise is because of it's variety, still emphasis on atmosphere which with every Cradle release strives to achieve, but making it really work on an album is the question. I think that they really achieved it all here. No song to me was boring or lacked any sort of innovation. I think it blended well together, especially with all of the guest vocalists. It takes an open mind to conclude this, but not so open to where they went overboard on something, anything. I would definitely say "no".
Production quality is still top notch, all of the instruments and vocalists blended well together. I especially liked the guitar riffs. They were quite original sounding and had a good distorted tone to them. One thing that they were lacking though was in the lead department, but it didn't take away from the magic of the album. Everything to me seemed to fit well, nothing fell short on anything. It was a good solid release by the band and they still I would say have it.
If you're into the gothic metal type of scene, I would say that this one isn't one to pass up on. I say that modestly, but it really should be bluntly. Less dark yes, but still that atmosphere of evil is portrayed here. The songs were original sounding, memorable, everything that entails a good, solid release. It seems to me that the bulk of the critics judged it unfairly with their scores. But I would say that I think it's my favorite one since they came out with "Midian". Don't leave this one out of your metal collection!
First off, I have to confess something. I am very much of a noob when it comes to more extreme kind of metal. I listen to some of it but I have not really sunken my teeth completely in the genre yet. But there are two bands out there that has made me look a little more into this type of music. The first band is swedish The Project Hate MCMXCIX and the second band is the almost legendary Cradle of Filth. So now has the time come for Cradle of Filth to release their tenth album "The Manticore And Other Horrors". Only the second album by the band that I have listened to. The first album was their latest, "Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa". An album that I mostly enjoyed. Still I was not sure if I would enjoy this album as much as "Darkly". Maybe I was still scared of this kind of music or it was just that feeling whenever you are about to listen at something outside your comfort zone.
Very well, I have now listened to "The Manticore And Other Horrors" and I can gladly say that it was a good decision I made. "The Manticore..." contains a handful of mysterious and punch effective tunes. Every song on this album is groovy and dark but also catchy. Most of the songs are very easy to remember. For instance, "Succumb To This" is the only song with female vocals included, "Frost On Her Pillow" has a inner beauty that is admirable and "For Your Vulgar Delectation" has an fantastic riff work. The guitar overall on this album is great. The sound that six string is making fits perfectly in the songs and helps to create the mood that the band is striving for. Actually, the only instrument I have a problem with is the bass. The bass is so baked in behind the other instruments that you can rarely hear it. And when you do hear it, it is not anything extraordinary. It is as plain as it can be.
Fortunately, the anonymous bass playing is made up by the rest of the musicians. Especially Dani Filth and his horrific and awesome singing voice. It would not be Cradle of Filth without the Filth himself. With that voice he makes every song an experience by itself. But not even the fantastic singing can make up for the few misstakes that this album is showing. The main problem with "The Manticore..." is that it is a little to much of the good stuff. I mean that there are a little to many deja vu feelings on this album, especially when it comes to the singing. Even though I love the singing it can be a little to much of it in a couple of tracks. So for the next album Dani, try to lay a little low on some tracks and let the instruments do the work so you wont wear yourself out.
After listenening to "The Manticore..." I must confess that I am from now on a fan of Cradle of Filth. I will try to look more into the bands earlier work and I promise to look more inte the more extreme kind of metal that exists out there. Cheers to the Cradle and to their tenth studio album. A perfect way to celebrate Halloween 2012.
Songs worthy of recognition: Succumb To This, For Your Vulgar Delectation, Frost On Her Pillow
Rating: 8,5/10 Sinfonias
Back with a new album is one of the bands that describes the term love/hate better than any other band. Cradle of Filth. This is their tenth album and the second album to be distributed through Peaceville records since move from Roadrunner, although Nuclear Blast also get to share the pleasure of selling the new album. Over the years the band have changed a lot for better or worse, and when they moved to Peaceville records for the release of Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa the band stated that it was so they could have more control over their music. I'm not even sure what to think about that... Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder which was the bands last album on Roadrunner was a return to form for the more old school fans. But with these last three albums, counting, Godspeed, Venus Aversa and now Manticore, each album has contained one really mainstream track, and I don't know if it is the label or the bands idea to shoot videos for those tracks but I think it is a horrible idea. To mention from this album 'Frost on Her Pillow', a track I was looking forward to hear, but after watching the video I was actually afraid of listening to the rest of this album, even though the last two albums did not disappoint me, with Cradle you never know what the hell is going on. But once a friend of mine said that I had something to be excited about, my thoughts turned around and my scepticism slowly faded away...
Aggression is a word Paul Allender used about this album, aggression was something he felt like had to be put back into their music and riffs. Although it is in the likes of putting more punk sounding-like riffs into the music. Aggression was already present in Cradle of Filth. So with that statement my former scepticism kind of returned since I am not a fan of punk music. After the mandatory instrumental introduction track that returned for this album the break of aggression starts pounding out from your speakers and it sort of remains that way throughout the whole album, even though there of course are certain step downs in tempo and the punk theme that was mentioned before is not really so present as I thought as it would, thankfully... And it is of course understandable they are not going full throttle on the whole album but also getting those melodic parts into the album that the band is known for. One very strange thing in the start of one track, under the scope is 'Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair' it actually begins with something that sounds like the start of a techno song. Not fucking kidding, and then a riff based on that... Luckily for me I got my hands on the deluxe edition of the album which means I get the pleasure of two bonus tracks. One thing I don't understand is that since there is only two bonus tracks for this album compared to the five tracks from Venus Aversa, why were they not put on all editions of the album? A total of thirteen tracks is not that extreme and those two tracks helps the album get a better rating. At least by me.
Musically it does not really live up to Venus Aversa thus the promise of more aggression. It still sounds good, it does, but it is missing something. Venus Aversa had more aggression to it riff-wise, so with the punk-theme it has mellowed it a bit even though it is not that present. Also the keyboards are worth mentioning, Ashley Jurgemeyer who played on the previous album did a tremendous job and it is clearly that she is not present on this album. Drummer Marthus is responsible for the keyboards and maybe also for that horrific techno introduction on the track mentioned before... So to sum that up, it is not as symphonic as the last album and don't sound as much as a Cradle record that you expect it to. By saying that I don't mean that every record should sound the same, change is good, but the changes on this record does not really suit my taste and applies less to be categorised as a Cradle album than the previous album.Also the very thing that bugs me the most is the vocals and that new vocal I brought up that had started to surface more and more over the years, which I will return to later.
A track I had hopes for, just by looking at the title was 'Succumb to This' because I had an idea of the filthy lead singer saying those words only in the way he can. But the track exceeded my expectations. When I had a look at the attending musicians for this album a name that popped out was Lucy Atkins. She also appeared with guest vocals on Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa as 'Lillith' since it was a concept album about Lillith, the mistress of the dark as she presented herself. On Manticore she does however not appear as frequently as on the former record and I don't know what to think about that actually, since she gave the previous album a really good feel with her performance throughout it. However, she does a really good job blending into the Cradle universe once again on this song and also shares the role of mentioning the title among other lines of the lyric. It is a nice change in the music of the band even though many fans miss the former female vocalist Sarah Jezebel Deva. Even though she had done some amazing work with Cradle of Filth in the past already on the Venus Aversa album and Godspeed for that matter, the band proved that she is not crucial to the bands music.
It is not something that pulls down the rating of an album, but I enjoy a nice cover. Since the band was fond of bringing back people from the staff of the Venus Aversa album, in the likes of Lucy Atkins, they did the same regarding the cover art. Matt Vickerstaff was brought back for the creation of the cover and if you hold the two covers of Venus Aversa and Manticore up besides each other it is pretty obvious since they are similar when it comes to the whole layout of the cover. At first when I saw the new cover, I thought it was awesome but I think it was just the excitement over another Cradle of Filth album, since the cover is nothing special.
Even though Cradle of Filth is a band I hold close to my heart, this album made me thinking. Maybe they should start to plan some kind of retirement of the band. Of course many fans states that Dani Filth's voice is not like it used be, and I can agree with that, since it is true. But I don't know if it was a vocally style of choice they made for this album or if Mr. Filth really just is nearing his last moments as a lead singer, at least as when it comes to Cradle of Filth. As I mentioned, throughout the album Dani uses this new voice that has been getting more and more present from album to album where he kind of tries to sing, but still with a little edge on the vocal. That is what is making the fear for the bands future rise up within me. When I listened to this album the first time it seemed to me like some songs was divided into two parts, at least vocally. The edgy part that Dani Filth always have displayed and then this new one who has surfaced over the last couple of years. That new one where he really tries to sing in some way is more present on this album than the predecessors.
To give you an overlook regarding the last two albums and now this, it is hard to decide whether it is a step down or just continuing the path from the last album, because it certainly is not better than Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa. By that I am not saying it is a bad album, this album can very well be enjoyed from start till finish, specially if you got the deluxe edition. The end of the album was the best part when you think Cradle of Filth, musically. From 'Succumb to This' till the end, counting the two bonus tracks, really powers through. The starting three tracks of the album also make a good stand, but then there's the middle... It just doesn't belong there, maybe they should've put some more time into it, mainly on the vocals. But sitting here reflecting over the album having listened to it about five times, and also listening a little to Godspeed and Venus Aversa I must conclude that The Manticore and Other Horrors is a step back in the filth...
Ever since 2008, Cradle of Filth have had an existential crisis of identity and inspiration. One year after two adequate studio albums of similar musical and thematic concepts, they dropped an EP of remixes. While harmless but not particularly necessary, this was followed a year later by their worst release yet: a misguided orchestral double album of reworked songs from their own catalogue. Each year saw a more disappointing release than the last, and some were claiming that it was time for Cradle to call it a day. Six months after the orchestral Midnight in the Labyrinth, we arrive at The Manticore And Other Horrors, a straightforward concept album revolving around monsters and creatures from various mythologies. For starters, this theme ends up being more flexible than their previous concepts, which has at times been revolved around a controversial figure in medieval times with fantastical and horrific embellishments. The shocking imagery and lyrical content of earlier releases has been streamlined in favor of a more generalized focus on lore and mythological themes. The Manticore… serves as a significant improvement after a strange run of releases, increasing the black metal influences and relying less on keyboards and Dani Filth’s trademark vocals.
For the third album in a row, drummer Martin Skaroupka serves as the rhythmic backbone of the band by filling each track with thunderous blast beats and furious fills. He has been a band highlight since his joining in 2006, and his performance on The Manticore… is no exception. The guitars showcase an increased black metal sound, tremolo picking and death metal guitar riffs showcased throughout. Despite the decreased accessibility, the soaring gothic melodies are still present, particularly in “Frost on her Pillow.” While 2010s Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa abandoned their trend of standalone instrumental interludes, Cradle resurrect them here as subtle atmospheric touches by placing one track at the beginning and one at the end. “The Unveiling of O” and “Sinfonia” are not so much sinister bridges to songs as they are an orchestral prologue and epilogue for The Manticore.... This allows for an uncompromising flow of shortened but furious extreme metal tracks with just the right amount of gothic atmospheric flourishes to accompany the intensity.
Dani Filth's vocals are at the forefront of each album, and he has been wisely toning down his role for a more consistent use of raspy yells and growls. He even brings back his singing style from Thornography, a welcome expansion of his vocals. This marks an overall increased use of melody, lush atmospheres, and symphonic textures that make the slower, moodier tracks the highlights. The aforementioned “Frost on her Pillow” serves as the gothic ballad to break up the intensity, and features the most of Filth’s clean singing voice. “Manticore” is a moody, driving rocker that could have come straight from Nymphetamine. “For Your Vulgar Delectation” features nasty punk-inspired guitar riffs and standout drumming from Skaroupka. “The Abhorrent” and “Siding With The Titans” are the fastest tracks the band has written in years, harking back to the speed demons of Midian.
An aura of mysticism pervades the mysterious and gothic soundscapes of The Manticore. The general concept allows for a more free and ambitious exploration of their themes than before, no longer hampered by a restricting album concept or parable. The reliance on symphonic elements and female vocals have been toned down to allow the music and atmosphere to breathe, and the grandiose symphonies are no longer so relied on. Cradle of Filth were coming dangerously close to become parodies of themselves. Albums were beginning to sound like a watered-down version of their own sound, and their bloated, meandering lengths made for exhausting and uneven listening experiences. These flaws are done away with, thanks to a resurgence in inspiration and welcome changes to their sound and imagery. They have a long way to go, but The Manticore is a major improvement, and shows that Cradle have plenty left to say.
(edited October 27th, 2015)
Hailing from the U.K., Cradle of Filth are no stranger to negativity. Their musical path has taken many a change, going from straight forward black metal to gothic metal to symphonic mallcore-esque black metal, The leap of faith left many scratching their heads asking "What is this?". Primarily known for their outrageously obnoxious fashion choices, and Juggalo-esque "corpsepaint", most metalheads will say CoF are not exactly a premier band. Now on their 10th full length, it's safe to say the act is getting a bit stale. While Dani Filth is a competent vocalist, the music is just so overly bloated and full of itself it almost hurts to listen to it. The blatantly strange formula of the album seems to be this. One track bad, one track good, one track bad, one track not too bad so on so forth. While the gothic keyboards and overly posh sound of their earlier albums was excusable, and in some cases even very enjoyable, this album is just way off point. It's focused more on frills than on thrills, and it seriously doesn't work very well.
Without insulting anyone, this album is just terrible. Five tracks in, and you will feel as though this is more of a chore, or even possibly a cruel joke, than an enjoyable listening experience. The songs are obscenely symphonic, something anyone who has ever listened to CoF will know is their trademark. For some reason, it feels terribly forced, and in some cases even hilarious that this is the same band who made the masterpiece of Midian. The first bone to pick is Dani's vocals. The once unique shrieks and shrills are now lame and somewhat pathetic. Dani once had a very distinctive voice, and now it's unbearable to hear them. Not only are the shrieks bad, but the mallcore whispering is completely disheartening. It's not 2000 anymore. Metal does not need to have people whispering like it's a library about their long lost loves and the box of roses they left for their secret lover. For example on "Manticore", the vocals sound so much like Marilyn Manson or Jon Davis in some parts that it literally induces cringes. While the cringes will subside for a minute, the chalkboard to fingernails shrills will certainly make them return. Yet, sadly the vocals are not the only problem this album has. Not even close.
The common theme throughout the album is to have a somewhat good riff over some cheesefest of a keyboard. This gets old fast, real fast actually. Sometimes, the riff will get your head bobbing. Than the cheesiest of cheesy will come in, with some keyboard bit that sounds like it belongs at a wedding more so than a metal album. If done right, metal and classical can be an amazing thing. Sadly, Cradle of Filth do not do it right. Even if the riff is good, the drums are just obscenely generic. Blasting and blasting that never ceases is what the album is comprised off. Blasting is great, but blasting accompanied by lameness does nothing good. It also seems as though the drums are just too loud sometimes, and it takes away from everything else. I would be surprised if they even have a bassist because it's barely to absolutely not there throughout this whole endeavor. Just an all around mess, the songs go in an order of terrible to less terrible, and repeats over and over. In some way, this is almost like they knew half the songs were absolute bloated hogwash and followed them with something a but more enjoyable than the one before. It's a shame really, because some songs have so much potential to them., The potential just goes away when either some sort of disturbing whispering-in-your-ear bit comes along, or a keyboard riff better fit for Europe's "The Final Countdown" than anything else. One example of this would be "Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair". The opening keyboard is just sad. It reeks of 80's new wave, possibly even something far worse I am not aware of. I don't know why they choose to douse their songs in keyboards, but if they removed them, it just may work out better for them.
In all, this album is more bloated and full of itself than anything else they have ever done. If you can make it through the whole album without even considering shutting it, you're a true legend. It's hard to take this seriously. Dani and co. present themselves in such a parody laden way, I'm not sure if they are taking the piss and knowing they made a terrible album but get paid anyway or if they truly believe they made something good here. I must admit, I had hopes for this album. But as soon as it started, those hopes were crushed by a mallcore aping keyboard laden cheesefest that almost triggered my lactose intolerance. Better luck next time, Cradle. Better luck next time indeed.
England's eloquent Gothic horror metallers Cradle of Filth have been on quite a tear of late, producing two of their most potent and practiced albums in Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder (2008) and its successor, Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa (2010); at least since striking a creative peak with their lush Lovecraftian homage Midian in 2000. I'd even go so far as to say that the band's steady determination and consistency have won them back quite a number of naysayers who quickly dropped the group from rotation once it became 'cool' to do so. At least I know a few people whose averted fondness for their early albums has come full circle these past few outings. Love their image, loathe their image, envy the fact that succulent, saucy faux-Goth fan(g)girls will cuddle up to their records while you spend Friday night at home with your right hand (or left...or...both). Cradle of Filth could be geriatric gargoyles spit upon IV tubes and piss-pots: their music speaks for itself, and if anything, their tenth opus, The Manticore and Other Horrors goes further to cement their commitment to continued quality.
This is, at its heart, a bit less of a flagrant, flamboyant odious operetta than its recent siblings, but probably only because the band has become stronger at incorporating its symphonic textures into the metal riffing. To whit, it's not as seeped in boisterous orchestration as Dimmu Borgir's latest, or as overtly excessive as the latest Fleshgod Apocalypse; but rather tastefully slung over pieces like "Illicitus" or "Frost on Her Pillow" with everything from a flute-like presence to a simmering full-string bombast (as in the full haunted house treatment of intro "The Unveiling of O" or the piano-veiled outro "Sinfonia"). Choir vocals here are well arranged as a backbone rather than attempting to steamroll the core instrumentation, and the sultry female lines provided by Lucy Atkins, returning from the prior album, are also well fitted and far less evocative of the lamer drama present on some of Sarah Jezebel Diva's collaborations with the band. Most impressively, Dani Filth has really dialed back his performance to cut out much of the excess that alienated many from his timbre in the past. You'll still get a taste or two of his impish, wheezing petulance, or a shrill scream, but he lays most of the verses out with a more smoky, laid back menace, or brief snips of gutturals, both of which are in truth far more intimidating. Lyrically, he's still one of the best penmen of poetic, horror tinted imagery strong on antiquity, myth and seduction:
'Vast boudoirs here
Are mastered by the minatory
Walls plastered with the base relief
Of baser glories'
What many will undoubtedly champion here, though, is the rock solid riffing foundation being laid out by Paul Allender, who has essentially bridged the gap between pure thrashing violation, an almost epic 'power metal' influenced architecture molded into the orchestration, and the expectant walls of tremolo picking or Nordic Bathory-styled chord batteries we usually associate with black metal in the 90s (beyond the more punkish Hellhammer/Mayhem roots). Granted, there are such an array of styles at war with one another in this music that you'll get no argument from me that it doesn't belong in any one category beyond the basic necessities for filing. On the whole, I wouldn't claim that all of the guitar progressions really stick. There are a few of the more base, thrash-punk like pummeling patterns that feel derivative or uninteresting in their payoff, but the guy is constantly firing off enough melody, business and variation that you'll never have to sit through any of the duller implements for more than a few measures. He's even got some progressive metal tendencies threaded through numbers like the titular "Manticore" which really play into the vastness of the experience.
The bass playing has never been a prime factor in Cradle's sound, and it hasn't much improved on this record beyond the fact that the instrument pumps along dutifully to the rhythm guitar. As for Marthus though, he's really cemented his seat behind the drums, laying out as professional and persistent thundering as you are apt to hear on such a higher visibility extreme metal record, even if the snares and kicks feel a bit too sterile to really feel them below the weight of the keys and guitars; and of course, he's also primarily responsible for most of the former, so the guy's just really earned his keep here these past six years, helping Dani emerge from the mediocrity of records like Thornography and Nymphetamine with class. On the whole, they've put the usual enormous level of work into the structure and production of the record, so that whether the group is hammering out some over the top orchestrated anthem with choir, or swerving into a more humble breakdown, it's all quite level and equidistant from the listener's ears. The choral contributions are really involved here, and it took a few listens to place them all, since they're not so brazen in the mix; but choices like the keening wail in "For Your Vulgar Delectation" really add a lot to the muscular drive of the guitar.
Now, as consistent and versed as this album comes off, it's not likely to place among my favorites in their lexicon, primarily because there aren't individual songs here that really stand to memory on the level of classics like "Beauty Slept in Sodom", "Desire in Violent Overture", "The Forest Whispers My Name" or "Her Ghost in the Fog". In fact, after about a dozen listens through the substantial 52 minutes of content, I couldn't name any of these to a career highlight reel. In that way, it reminds me a lot of Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, an album which reinstated my own interest in their music but didn't exactly clout me over the head with fond impressions. As is often the case, I think I found the lyrics more compelling than the riffs or choruses. Yet, as a unified work, there's really no weak point to any one component. Whether I were to count myself among the band's legion detractors, or swooning vamps, the effort Cradle of Filth puts into their writing and themes is clear, and inspirational. Everything sounds seasoned, in place, and busy enough that The Manticore and Other Horrors should warrant numerous, if not infinite migrations off the CD shelf. Not their best (Midian would like a word), but easily on par with titles like Cruelty and the Beast or Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa.