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Nymphetamine showed CoF's new side as one of Roadrunner's biggest new clients. The change in sound was clear to see; not only had things become increasingly ear-friendly, but the band also did it with a smile on their faces and claimed it as a natural evolution of the existing sound. The introduction of more rock-ish elements to the band's melting pot of gothic metal and thrash certainly did raise a few eyebrows, mine included. This new formula comes full swing on Thornography, where the band seemingly find a balance with thrashy/punky segments, slower moments similar to earlier albums, (Cruelty and the Beast comes to mind) and the semi-melodic parts that the band are known for.
I'll start with Dani, since his vocals on this release have long been a source of debate for fans and haters alike. A new vocal style has been introduced here: clean vocals. I use the word "clean" very loosely, because his singing itself is very rough and gutteral, and quite frankly, annoying at most points. It's better than the cheesy narration seen on Midian, but ultimately, still sucks. This is especially prevalent on "Tonight in Flames," which features a fairly catchy chorus, but ends up being ruined a little more towards the end because of the clean vocals. (Thank God for the melodic guitars throughout the song.) Some of it isn't too bad, though; "Libertina Grimm" and "Cemetary and Sundown" show the more menacing side of this new vocal style, and many of the clean vocal spots in other songs are overlapped with other vocals, usually female. Aside from this little introduction of voice techniques, Dani hasn't really changed much. His style is a little more throaty this time around, and he clearly can't hit the highs like he used to; everything seems a bit more restrained this time, even more than in the past. (Almost to the point of where he sounds as if out of breath.) There are some good moments though, especially on "The Foetus of a New Day Kicking," which could easily serve as a single for the album with melodic leads and a thrashy demeanor.
Paul and James exercise the use of leads and solos more extensively here, both of which are along more melodic territory. There are plenty of harmonies on "The Byronic Man," "Libertina Grimm," and the instumental, "Rise of the Pentagram." Generally, the solos aren't overdone or even memorable, but they do add some extra flair to the more rock-oriented sound brought to the table. Like the previous two albums, the guitars switch roles between power chord-driven verses, semi-melodic tremolo picking, and the melodic tendencies that have been disappearing lately in this band's sound. "I am the Thorn" is a perfect example of this: galloping rhythms power the verses, and lead to a chorus that seems more along the lines of what was acheived on Damnation and a Day.
The overall production of the album may turn a few people off: the drums are brought more to the front this time, especially the snare drum and bass drum. (The bass drum almost sounds distorted.) This helps in the more assaulting moments, but some passages on "Rise of the Pentagram" could have used a more dynamic sound. Guitars are also boasting more beef here, probably due to the different style of playing. By no means is it a "wall of sound" motif, but this is a little disappointing considering that CoF are known for the crystal-clear, articulate sort of production.
My only other qualm with the album is the choice of cover song as the closing track. Sure, they've done plenty of covers; most of which have been abominable, especially the Misfits song they butchered on the soundtrack for the movie Underworld: Evolution last year. But "Temptation" takes the cake above all the others. I can see the band's reason for choosing this one, as it seemed totally pious to cover an 80's dance-pop song that was, above all, a gay anthem. This, however, is not an excuse for what we hear. Dani hits an all-time low, and the rest of the band doesn't really seem to care what's happening in the song. Also, the female vocals on the chorus are almost as irritating as Dani's. Hell, at least their cover of "Hell Awaits" had some nads behind it.
Thornography shows a new chapter for CoF, and it's not a great one; at the same time, it's not total shit.
Favorite tracks: "Tonight in Flames," "The Byronic Man," "Foetus of a New Day Kicking," "Rise of the Pentagram"