without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
In the beginning, there was chaos. Mayhem. An inky black in which few could ever hope to escape and bear witness to the glorious sunlight ever again. In short? Total fucking darkness. This infamous third demo was the first in quite a few transitory moments in Cradle of Filth's musical history, where the miasma of milquetoast death metal was slow-cooked in hellfire into a more blackened variety first rearing its ugly head come "Principle of Evil Made Flesh". And yet, outside of some iffy 'net repostings it was quite difficult to secure a copy of this piece of extreme metal history. So imagine my surprise upon hearing of this suddenly getting a remaster treatment to celebrate its 20th anniversary (good to see Dani and company haven't completely ignored where they came from...) , including some never before heard recordings and the only surviving track from the "Goetia" sessions. What in the huh?? Well, OK then!
So without further ado, let's get this baby started...
First thing's first..."Spattered in Faeces", the sole Goetia track...after setting the stage with a very "Dusky" intro, the listener is knocked on his ass by a sense of devastation you'd think CoF were incapable of, even back then. It still retains touches of their old death metal roots, but things eventually become more frosty and diabolical the further into the track you go. Keyboards are used more sparingly but contain a lushness that wasn't really present in "Principle...", leaving the bulk of the track more riff-driven in focus. Dani's vocal approach straddles his latter-day screaming and the early death grunts (which sound better here than they've ever sounded...as I've said before, he's never been the most prolific growler) with the occasional harpy shriek we know all too well. There are plenty of dynamics within the song, from blast-beaty brutality to groovier, more thrash-like moments, but like any good early extreme metal act the whole affair is wayward and almost completely out of control, youthful exuberance meeting a serious lack of arrangement focus. All that said, if this was what Goetia was to sound like through and through I don't think it could have made as much of an impact on the listening public as "Principle..." did. Could have done some damage at least, but not to as high a level, no way.
Now, onto the demo itself...despite a remastering, this is still a grim and nasty-sounding recording that doesn't really do the material justice. Things are still squashed and a honed spike of noise coming at you like any good early black metal recording, and I don't think any level of professional audio gloss could cut through the analog vibe (though the occasional tape skip in the final remastered track is a nice touch...). Guitars are thick yet blurry, drums are surprisingly clear and sharp, and Dani's vocals are some of the most indecipherable they've ever sounded (best of luck trying to understand anything he's spewing forth...). As for the material, one would be able to catch glimpses of where the band eschewed the early death sound for the slicker gothic/black approach that would become their norm a year later; it definitely sounds like the band is transitioning throughout the duration of the demo itself! One or two tracks are embryonic versions of future works (e.g. "The Black Goddess Rises", which is very close to its final version; "Fraternally Yours, 666" containing lyrics that would appear in the former's song's final version which are never heard; the first riff off "The Raping of Faith" sounding pretty damned close to the breakdown mid-section of "Beauty Slept in Sodom" only in a different tuning/key) while others are different compositions all their own ("Unbridled at Dusk", with its thrash-meets-goth nastiness). Yet as far as the band's demo output goes, this is clearly the best they've come up with, with material that's definitely more memorable and impactful despite some of the tracks being fucking marathons to go through due to their lengths. But hey, that's just how it is...
With regard to the bonus tracks (a few songs recorded in 1992), they aren't too far away from the bestial vibe off the demo itself. If anything, you could see them as simpler, worse-produced variants of the material they'd unleash a year later, only slower and more brooding; "Devil Mayfair" is a murky, grungy little number with bouts of tasty riffing, while "Seance and Mandrake" is a strangely pleasant piece with an ambience meets dark New Wave feel that serves as an interesting counter to the rest of the recording session's visceral heaviness. The performance level is as frenetic as it could be with some definitive musical growth here than what "Orgiastic Pleasures Foul" and "Invoking the Unclean" gave us, so if nothing else there's that to look forward to/appreciate. The tracks therein may not seem like much, but they're still a slightly significant fork in Cradle's evolutionary path for those of you out there who want all things filthy, even the muddy yang to the pristine yin.
Oh, and "Hekate Enthroned"? That's too funny...and you should know why...
So all in all, this is a very interesting piece of CoF history, showing that precise moment when things went from larva to pupa for the group. Things would, of course, continue to mutate as the years and intentions progress, but if you still want a glimpse at the band at their most demonic and grotesque, then look no further.
Note that this review is focusing mostly on the remastered version of the demo from 2014.
The demos of Cradle has always been known as the good material before they "went to shit". I don't quite agree with that though, as I love Cradle of Filth and I don't think they've made one bad album. No joke hidden in the grass there. Of course some albums are better than others, but the thing about Total Fucking Darkness is, that I've never really listened to it. Why? Because every time I put on the first track The Black Goddess Rises I just couldn't put up with the quality. I seriously can't remember listening to all of the tracks in one go. Until now.
What made me pre-order this demo is that it contains the only surviving track from Cradle of Filth's album Goetia which was supposed to have been their debut album. That track is Spattered in Faeces and it is my favourite track off this release without a doubt. It's pretty reminiscent of what Cradle turned into with the release of Dusk... And Her Embrace. For me the track is Cradle to the core with both atmosphere and brutality, the way only Cradle of Filth delivers it. It's a absolutely amazing track, and that alone makes this demo worth the money. It does however make me think about what could have been if they original Goetia recordings haven't been erased. Since Spattered in Faeces was recorded prior to their debut album Principle of Evil Made Flesh you would expect the vocals to sound like on that album. But they don't. They actually sound more like the vocal style that Dani developed on later albums in the 90's. And for me, that is just great as I never digged the vocals on Principle of Evil Made Flesh.
Furthermore we also get four tracks from the band's Samhain rehearsal in '92 that also contains an unreleased track; Devil Mayfair (Advocatus Diaboli), but besides that the rehearsed tracks are the same tracks as the ones on the original recording, just from the Samhain rehearsal. The track just mentioned is not as strong as Spattered in Faeces when it comes to both the music and vocal delivery. The main attraction on this demo is without a doubt the remastering and the missing Goetia track that I've already mentioned a dozen times. It's interesting to get a feel of the Samhain rehearsal but it's not as strong as the demo tracks as those tracks sound better and are better delivered. I often listen to everything on this release anyway, so don't think the rehearsal tracks a redundant. It's worth noticing that the demo's runtime used to be around 24 minutes and now it clocks in at 57 minutes. If you are one of the lucky motherfuckers who got a hold of the LP version then you also get two other tracks which is two instrumental pieces from the old keyboardist Benjamin Ryan.
With the re-release of this demo and the band's recent tour with Behemoth where they played an old school set, embraced their roots, I've really gotten my hopes up for the next album. The Manticore and Other Horrors had me thinking that Dani was out of screams but after seeing them two nights in a row in 2014 he proved me wrong.
So to sums things up, the remastering of this demo certainly brings some justice to the table and the demo, making it worth every penny. It's a true pleasure listening to Cradle's more brutal period in a more enhanced way than before. My favourite of the re-mastered tracks is without a doubt Unbridled at Dusk, the mid section just sounds fantastic. Get this if you love Cradle of Filth and their early period!
Written for The Legacy Reviews
Total Fucking Darkness is about as "necro" as it gets for Cradle of Filth. Since the release of their much lauded Dusk... LP, most of Cradle's releases that aren't total shit suffer from production woes in some way or another--specifically overproduction. Such is not the case with the band's best demo. This recording is seriously low-budget, which adds to the overall atmosphere of the release.
First and foremost, this demo contains by far the best version of "The Black Goddess Rises" Cradle of Filth ever recorded. (The song is totally butchered on their debut LP, as is "The Forest Whispers My Name.") This track best represents the potential Cradle possessed early in their career. "The Black Goddess Rises" epitomizes the atmosphere and style of the band's first viable demo, and marks the first and only Cradle of Filth release that "sounds like this." It's not black metal; it's not really death metal...it's just dark music.
Lyrically, Total Fucking Darkness is less angry, vampiric, romantic poetry, and more, well...just plain evil--which is a good thing! This demo contains the most evil music Cradle have ever recorded; and while their songwriting would evolve for better or worse, Total Fucking Darkness remains the pinnacle of a band that lost its way too early in its fated history.
This is the "proto-Cradle of Filth sound." Before the heady poetry, banshee-wailing, and Maiden-esque guitar harmonies, there was Total Fucking Darkness--a totally fucking dark recording by a band that will never sound like this again.
Having finally deciding the cease and desist with death metal (Thank God…), Suffolk based Cradle of Filth decided to change their sound to black metal that would eventually lead them to the “love it or hate it” sound they play today, and the Total Fucking Darkness demo was the first step in the path they chose.
Production wise, as can be expected from a 90s black metal demo, is awful. I’ve never been one to understand why so many black metal fans like to have their music with terrible production; I’ve always thought sounded like it was recorded by people who didn’t much care for music. But since this is just a demo the poor production can be somewhat overlooked.
The music style is very like that of the band’s first full-length album, with lead vocalist Dani Filth’s vocals baring very little resemblance to what they sound like today. The odd shrill shriek appears every now and then but for the most part he grunts and snarls his way through the music. At various points throughout the whole demo though, he uses a really annoying echoing effect that sounds a bit cheap. The guitars are used effectively, with good hard riffs spread throughout the whole demo, although the bass, for all I can tell, doesn’t seem to have been used at all. The drum work, while not as good as it would be on later releases, is still very solid. We have Darren White on the drums here, and while he is no Nick Barker, he certainly shows that he is a more than capable drummer.
The keyboards though are the shining point of the demo. Benjamin Ryan really knows how to create a dark and chilling atmosphere, with his use of organ and choir sounds he really does help form what would always be a figure point in Cradle of Filth’s sound. Just listen to his work on the song As Deep As Any Burial, and of course on the instrumental outro, Fraternally Yours 666, which for the record is one of the band’s finest instrumentals to date. Sadly, neither of these songs, or any of the other songs apart from The Black Goddess Rises (Which despite being one of their most well known songs often labelled as a classic, I’ve never been a huge fan off) would ever find their way on to a full-length album. Shame really, because they could really benefit from the better production and go down as classics along with such songs as Summer Dying Fast.
In short, the demo is really worth listening to if you’re a fan of the band, and maybe even if your not such a huge fan. It really shows just how much this band has evolved, taking on several different sounds throughout their career rather than sticking with the same sound, and never evolving at all.
For a demo recorded onto a cassette, the inferior quality can be overlooked as a somewhat necro sound to a band waiting to unleash themselves upon the UK as the answer to the Scandinavian black metal movement at the time.
For those of you familiar with Dani's infamous screech, you can forget that here. He growls and snarls his way through the tracks, sounding just like what you would expect a black metal vocallist to sound, punctuating with death metal grunts when required.
Opening with "The Black Goddess Rises", this track is very similar to the Principle... version, including bass solo and subsequent guitar solo. This is an excellent track and will always remain one of Cradle of Filth's masterpieces, with a beautiful slow and melodic part in the middle.
"Unbridled at Dusk" begins with some haunting keyboard effects, setting the atmosphere, whilst the guitars perform a spiralling riff over the top. As the song gets going, the heavy, fast paced rhythm kicks off, before soon slowing down as an eastern sounding keyboard melody gives the song a sinister touch. The song ends with a bizarre effect which sounds like a tape being rewound at high speed.
"The Raping of Faith" is another great track, opening in pure Cradle style with the sounds of women screaming, then some of Dani's most evil sounding vocals on the record. For what is presumably the chorus, there is a Hitchcock's Psycho style synth effect (you know what I mean!) in the background, which adds a nice menacing touch. Roughly halfway through the song, the guitars give way to another classical melody, this time much more familiar to their more modern gothic melodies. As the song winds down, it returns to its original opening riff and verse construction.
The next track, "As Deep as Any Burial" opens with a pipe organ melody, with heavy chugging guitar over the top. A fast, more thrashy song than the others, this song has small solos littered all over the place, accompanied by fast drumrolls and given breathing space by only the occasional organ melody. Again, like many Cradle song endings, this one has its own, a short piano bit, which sounds like something from a dark music box.
The final piece is, in my opinion, one of Cradle's better instrumentals. "Fraternally Yours, 666" is a short pipe organ solo, a jolly rolling bass laced with a sombre treble melody on top, providing an effective contrast. Short and too the point, this makes a nice outro to the demo which doesn't have time to go wrong.
I have given this demo a high rating because I can overlook the quality to see a varied and well-constructed piece of work, which clearly paves the way for Cradle's invasion into the black and gothic metal scene.
This is only a demo, so it isn't some of their best work. The recording quality isn't very good on here, as it was originally recorded on tape. The drumwork on here is quite good, Darren was a really good drummer. The guitars play pretty simple riffs, but sound cool, just listen to "The Black Goddess Rises" about halfway through, they create such an atmosphere. It has church organ style keyboards most of the time. Now, Dani's vocals are what lets this record down. Nowadays, he is a really good vocalist, and uses a harmoniser to make it sound like there are two voices going at the same time. But on this record, he is doing his deep growl most of the time, nothing wrong with that, but on every track, he has this weird echo on his voice the whole time, which makes what he is singing hardly audible. As always, there are his infamous screeches, about 7 of them on "Fraternally Yours 666". In my opinion, this would have been really good if Dani Filth didn't have that echo on his voice as much.