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Getting into this band in my late 20s - 92%

Empyreal, October 8th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, Music for Nations

I hadn't ever really given Cradle of Filth a proper listen before recently, thinking they were in the same mold as the insufferable Dimmu Borgir, just a mess of gimmicky writing, bad ideas and worse vocals. But I was pleasantly surprised when I actually started giving their classic work a chance, particularly Dusk... And Her Embrace.

Maybe it's just down to never having been a victim of the hype. A lot of people say they “grew out” of this music, and I don't think that's a reflection of the music itself, but rather of the tendency to always be embarrassed at what you used to like. I never had some goth phase where I thought bands like this spoke the truth, where I thought black eyeliner and baggy vampire movie T-shirts and chain wallets was a big fashion statement and based my music taste on what would piss off the old church-going contingent. So maybe that's where some of the “growing out” of Cradle comes from.

By contrast, I came by this more naturally and neutrally, and can appreciate its clear quality now. It's Iron Maiden by way of black metal and cheesy horror synths. It's surprisingly well written stuff, with a lot of epic sensibility and dynamics. The songs are long and strung together through blasting sections and melodramatic orchestrations, but they're done with such a conviction and energy that it's easy to get totally sucked in. All the excesses, including keys straight out of a 70s Dracula movie and intoned, deep spoken-word vocals at some parts, could come off as goofy if another band did it. But in the hands of this band's aggressive, immediate writing style, it's all actually kind of awesome. They take it so seriously and attack the material with such gusto, in the manner of all the best heavy metal, that it becomes fucking awesome to listen to.

Dani Filth's voice is well known enough at this point that I barely have to describe it. He shrieks his head off and sounds like some kind of banshee with no real regard for subtlety or restraint. It's as over the top as a metal singer can be and he wouldn't work in any other band, but he fits like a glove for this – it's a marriage of over the top vocals and music and they clearly had a sound in mind here. He works.

It's remarkably consistent as an album and doesn't grate on you as it goes on, even with the lengthy run-times. “Heaven Torn Asunder” is a somber opener, a cauldron of snarling guitars and blaring synths, but it's just a taste for what's coming next. You get some killer tunes like the feral, cold blast of “Funeral In Carpathia,” the dark and haunted flair of “A Gothic Romance” and the hooky title track with its creepy chanting and memorable synth work. But every song has something to offer, right to the closing bombast of “Haunted Shores.”

I think this is a band that had a definite idea and goal with their sound and they executed it perfectly here. I admire the tenacity and dedication to the concept. With the sharp, epic writing and the way they layered all these sounds into this bubbling inferno of heavy metal excess, it's a glorious listen and perfect for the Halloween season, all ghastly angst and vampiric bloodlust. Yeah, it's over the top, but so is pretty much any great metal music. You don't need a metal band evoking the feelings of sitting in an office cubicle or waiting for the bus. You want something crazy, extravagant and bizarre like this. Count me in as a fan.