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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.