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Upon hearing their new album, Cradle of Filth seemed different from the last time I heard them. I’ve mislabeled by calling them exclusively as gothic metal but that isn’t so the case now as they’ve embraced a more extreme style. Even though we can see this change somewhat in “Nymphetamine”, the memories of “Cruelty and the Beast” and “Midian” still ring strong that I somewhat overlooked this change. I also took it upon myself to listen to their album, “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa”, so I’d have a far more recent release in comparing and contrasting. I feel safe in saying, “The Manticore and Other Horrors”, is a better crafted, more interesting, and a more nicely structured album than the previous.
Each track that went by left me more interested to hear what other elements were going to comprise and compile. “The Unveiling of O” and “The Abhorrent” are good starters for leading you into a chamber that consists of a world different from the last. A door after door trial where you have to comprehend the prior essence before proceeding into the next room. The point of this album is not to be flashy or to be speedy but accomplish a certain ground that leaves you open to a vast mysterious curiosity. You are given a key and you yourself decide where it belongs.
The overall riffs are thicker and somewhat a fusion between Allender and Galder’s (Dimmu Borgir and Old Man's Child) signature sound. The style sounds clean and heavy as if you could stretch out your hand and touch it. Allender’s riffs have substance and with each transition you can feel the emanation comprised riff after riff. Whereas on “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” there really wasn’t much feeling into it rather plain onslaught and relied on orchestration to carry it through. While in “The Manticore and Other Horrors”, you get a shift, it sinks in and sets into place rather creatively.
On “For Your Vulgar Delectation” I imagined a leprechaun being quite fond of it perhaps on the lines of tap dancing in a slow and steady ball dance maneuver. The orchestration throughout this album is well thought out. It isn’t a forced deviation as a pretentious way to be symphonic. It supports this point with promiscuous women getting excited and having orgasms as the orchestration transitions on this track. “Illicitus” was an eye peeler. It starts off with eerie keys as if rooted amongst the gates of an abandoned cathedral. It seemed to be Emperor-influenced. The keys were different from Cradle of Filth’s usual conjurations. Marthus did a good job to diversify the keys on this album. In addition you’d get a couple of black metal riffs, a couple of other songs had these moments as well. “Manticore” had to be my favorite. It’s almost as if Cradle of Filth heard Karl Sander’s solo project and called him in to contribute a piquancy of middle eastern music along with the sweet dry taste of the desert sands. Although, you have to be focused or else it can seem like an illusion. The iconic Dani Filth angry squirrel growl, as I like to call it, has made an appearance on this track. Filth having a range of fifty voices or so, I felt I heard two more to add to his collective chorus morgue of crying banshees.
“Frost on Her Pillow” had an odd synth reminiscent of the grunge scene in the early 90s. On “Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair”, the keys sounded smack dab from the prog scene in the 60s. However, this was very much like an Old Man's Child song. The drums sounded as if war was on the verge of inevitable becoming. A colossus of drummer boys intensely bashing their instrument before them in wide-range arm movements, a foreshadowing of carnage. “Pallid Reflection” had that evil laughter from “Midian”, almost like a time machine guiding me back to a high renowned pinnacle. It also had the pounce of Dethklok's melodic fury.
Brutal death metal vocal breach detected, with “Siding with the Titans” get ready for a Chris Barnes, “Tomb of the Mutilated” low growl but also for setting sail on a Meshuggah-influenced seasickness subdivision. Finally, you step into a corridor, walk to the last door and the final room to experience their second instrumental, “Sinfonia”. Dani Filth seemed to have gained wisdom and you could hear it in his voice. He sounded like an old maturing warlock walking around with a cane protesting his own cause and filling in the pieces. One cannot remain indifferent once you hear “The Manticore and Other Horrors”. It gives you the notion that Cradle of Filth is an evolving band and does not limit itself to barriers. I can say with confidence that I cannot wait for what they have in store for us next.
Originally written for http://www.metal-temple.com
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...
The Manticore And Other Horrors is an album by a band that has said all they need to say. The shocking imagery and lyrical content of earlier releases is almost completely gone, instead replaced with a more subtle, extreme gothic metal identity. The band members aren't twenty two anymore, and don't have the youthful energy and drive to push the boundaries of shocking black metal music and imagery anymore. They're mainstream metal and have families, their need to rebel and make extreme music has obviously diminished, making the music and lyrics as uninspired as ever. While the Manticore could have been a complete failure, it instead comes out as a decent collection of songs, some better than others, but mainly flowing into one another with little identity of their own.
Cradle of Filth's vocals have always been the highlight of each album, and Manticore is no exception. On early releases, Dani Filth shrieked like a banshee about vampiric erotica and over-the-top horror imagery. Midway through their career, he mixed screaming with death growls, and at the same time the music became much more death metal influenced, particularly with the guitars. By 2006's Thornography, he was even adding clean vocals to the mix. The next few albums went back to screaming/growling, but with Manticore there are even more clean vocals, and they sound amazing. The first single, Frost on Her Pillow, has more singing than growling or shrieking. Other songs on the album follow this trend as well, strangely sounding like a cross between Paradise Lost and Astarte.
Drummer Martin Skaroupka thankfully stops the album's songs from sounding like Thornography rejects by filling each track with thunderous blast beats and furious fills. His drumming was the highlight of each album since he joined the band in 2007, and continues this trend on Manticore. The guitars mainly tremolo pick through each song, but somehow end up soundng less evil than Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder (2008) and Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa (2010). They actually sound more melodic than aggressive, despite being backed by blast beats and menacing keyboard lines.
The previous album, Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa had no instrumentals, leading some to think the band had ditched the moody interludes they had had on every album, but Manticore brings them back, only featuring two. The Unveiling of O and Sinfonia don't have the kind of menacing sound previous instrumentals have had, but are a welcome addition. The song lengths are reduced drastically in contrast to previous albums, mostly hanging back around four or five minutes. While the reduced complexity allows for an easier listen, each track seems less interesting than it could have been, and in some cases feel like a missed opportunity for a long, powerful, epic track (Siding with The Titans, Illicitus, The Abhorrent).
The songs on Manticore have punky/black metal riffs, sounding much less like death metal and more like angry gothic metal. Everyone seemed to abhor Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder and Darkly Darkly Venus Averse, but at least the songs were fast, insane, and the most evil sounding they had written since Midian. They had inspiration and sounded real. Manticore has a few good ideas, but the best track ends up being the gothic metal one, Frost on her Pillow, and mainly because of Dani Filth's major vocal change. Including clean vocals on this album was the best decision made for this album, saving it from sounding un-inspired and weary. Having a fresh sound thirteen releases in is an amazing accomplishment, one Cradle accomplished mainly with Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder, boasting the fastest songs they had written in years. This was mainly because of the new drummer, but also because they had a resurgence in inspiration. It was their first concept album since Damnation and Day (2003), giving them a clear lyrical and musical direction to follow songwriting-wise. Their following album, Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa was another step in the right direction. Manticore doesn't sound like death metal or black metal. The riffs are amateurish and unoriginal, probably because this was their mindset: "We decided to change direction and go back to what we used to do with the female vocals; all the strong melody lines and harmonies... I've put a lot of punk orientated riffs back into it again." - Paul Allender. (guitarist)
Some songs are strong on the album. Frost on her Pillow is the best gothic metal song they ever wrote, featuring the best vocal performance on the album. For Your Vulgar Delectation has arpeggiated riffs, and ends up being the most evil sounding song on the album. The title track is a moody, creepy but driving track that could have been on Thornography. Uncoincidentally, those are the three singles from the album. The rest mainly blend together, except for Siding With The Titans and Pallid Reflection, the other best tracks. Overall this album is just a random collection of songs about mythical monsters. That's what Dani Filth explained in an interview. Not exactly the most inspired sounding concept to make an album. The songs sound similar, but inconsistent with each other. The tracks sound like they were just thrown together in any order. They aren't driving, and lack the intensity that previous releases had in spades.
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.