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Their crowning achievement - 98%

DSOfan97, November 4th, 2015

It seems that black metal shouldn't be mixed with gothic elements. If we judge from the travesties that have been spawned since the dawn of the new millenium. The truth is that black metal and gothic have something, a mystical feeling or a dark atmosphere whatsoever in common. Before you raise your eyebrow have a listen at this. Cradle of Filth's sophomore effort is also their best, most atmospheric, sentimental and harrowing album. It's by no means my all time favorite black metal album or anything like that. But as far as Cradle of Filth's catalogue goes this is the real thing.

It already had the classic Cradle album structure back then, with the orchestral tracks and the intermissions, the cheesy-but-working synths and the ever changing sections and segues of different black metal riffage. But if you think this sounds like Nymphetamine or Thornography, you couldn't be more wrong. I cannot tell a lie, Nymphetamine was the first Cradle song I've ever heard and back then, it sounded awesome to my ears. But I had to grow up as a listener and as time passed by, I needed darker and harder music. I'm not ashamed to say that Cradle of Filth played a crucial role in my evolution into a black metal lover. But it was thanks to THIS album and their debut. Their latter work is somewhat incoherent when compared to the former probably because they didn't know what to do with their sound.

But for the time being the review subject is Dusk and Her Embrace, the album that verified Cradle of Filth's value in the black metal scene. When songs like 'A Gothic Romance', 'Funeral in Carpathia' and 'Dusk and Her Embrace' kick in, the band showcases their ability of shifting from atmospheric to symphonic black metal and back again. And it is all so greatly balanced, well-rounded and carefully placed that one might not understand that they were just around 25 years old then.

If there is one man that stands out in here, that is Nicholas Barker who played the drums. His style is intense as he rolls on the kit but he's not the only one. Gian Pyres brought something new to the band. Maybe the compositions existed before his arrival but execution wise he nailed them. Cradle of Filth have changed their line-up multiple times but I highly doubt there is even one that beats the one they had in their second and third albums. Dani is in good form as well. The album was released way before he changed his style to a more theatrical one. Here he's pretty much straightforward as the only thing that changes is the tone of his shrieks. He doesn't stop easily, once he starts screaming be sure that he'll keep up until the song is over. There is a vast amount of lyrics. The horror stories that they tell have their charm as opposed to their bland recent texts that rarely give you the chills. Here they are creating a sequence of images within your brain. If they were more deeply connected then the album would be a timeless masterpiece.

The bluesy feel of the debut is replaced by a more classic heavy metal approach. Much influences can be discerned, most notably Mercyful Fate and eventually King Diamond, as well as Darkthrone and maybe even some thrashy riffs here and there. The key in here is the juvenile (but not naive) energy that the band puts in every note, every beat and every scream.

The whole album is much closer to being flawless than its successor as the production here is much tighter. At the same time though, it feels like an old album since the recording is more uncompressed than in Cruelty and the Beast. The outcome peaks with the unsettling cover art showing a female figure in the forest while a castle can be seen in the background.

I stated before that the album could have been a timeless masterpiece. You know what? It actually is. For me it is essential, I still listen to it if I'm in the mood and I have connected it with some beloved memories from the year I first listened to it. That's not too far in the past, merely four years ago but why should that mean something negative? Whether you like them or not you can't deny that Cradle of Filth once were a 'dangerous' act. Their marketing brilliance certainly played a role in their uprising, but 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'. Cradle weren't dull and they surely didn't rely merely on business to ensure their success. It was their art that granted them their future and prestige and this album is where it becomes clear that Cradle of Filth once were great. They still are. But I don't think that they can top this.

Favorite tracks: 'Funeral in Carpathia', 'A Gothic Romance', 'Dusk and Her Embrace'.