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As a huge fan of every album up to this point, well, most of Nymphetamine, I really tried to enjoy this for what it is and find some good in it. The only redeeming thing I came up with was one bonus track on the rerelease, "Devil to the Metal." This song isn't bad, it struck me as Nymphetamine with a Midian twist, and I enjoy that one song. Unfortunately, it makes the rest of the album seem even worse. Knowing they can still write a good song suggests that the entire album could have been good, and they intentionally made it suck.
I can't hear this album as "experimental" or a "new sound," it's the opposite, it is completely generic in every way. Their old sound was very experimental and unique, this one sounds like anything you'd hear on the radio. For one, Cradle of Filth always used unique song structures, organizing their compositions to the flow of the lyrics. Their songs were structured more like tragedies, with a rising action, climax, and falling action, rather than standard verse/chorus structures. Whenever they did have a chorus, it was usually not more than "beneath the howling stars," (I don't consider the repeated stanza in the song to be a chorus due to the structure) or at most "a queen of snow, far beyond compare, lips attuned to symmetry sought her everywhere," but now they are often more than half of the song. You can't be "experimental" if you're doing exactly what everyone else is doing.
But on Thornography, every song follows the standard structure: ABABCB. Nymphetamine also did this, and it wasn't good there either. It's just a sign of lazy composition.
The old sound would use melodies for atmosphere, rather than the basis of the song, and everything coming together would make the overall impression. On Thornography, they tried to make a more guitar oriented sound, but rather than doing it with interesting and experimental melodies, they only wrote riffs to be catchy. This isn't composition, it's selling records. There is so little emotion on this album at all that it is completely boring for anyone who is accustomed to their original style.
Another staple of their career has been Dani's lyrics. Up until now, their songs have been lyrical masterpieces, all of them, even Nymphetamine. On Thornography it's like he's not even trying, just throwing words together. There is no deeper meaning to anything he wrote, and no poetic merit to the entire album. If he had put any effort into the lyrics then maybe the band would have had to write better song structures to go along with them.
You might think that only a musician like myself would see these problems, but I tested someone who knows nothing about theory or playing any instrument, by having them listen to "The Foetus of a new Day Kicking" and then "Queen of Winter, Throned." After the former, he commented that he wondered why Cradle of Filth suddenly sounded like Slipknot. Of course he vastly preferred the latter, giving reasons such as "better vocals, actual good melody, good backup vocals, diversity, nothing at all generic."
In fact, most people I've met who actually liked Thornography had never listened to Cradle before. When I handed them Dusk and her Embrace or Cruelty and the Beast they never listened to Thornography very much.
I won't go through every song on the album, I'd have mostly the same complaints about all of them. But since I elaborated on the best song I may as well cover the worst; their cover of "Temptation." This was the first song I heard from this album, listening to it was absolutely painful. I was consoled a little when learning that it was a cover and they did not actually write this atrocity. It was still extremely disappointing though, because their covers have always been amazingly executed, like "Hallowed Be Thy Name" or "For Those Who Died."
This is in my opinion the second worst release in metal history, only behind St Anger. I believe they have the potential to come back if they decide to stop making the most generic mainstream excuse for metal possible and get back to doing what they're good at, so I'll give the next album a fair chance as well, but this one is dead to me.