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A stunning work of mature black metal - 95%

doomknocker, November 28th, 2008

By now, everyone and their mother is well aware of the maelstrom of madness that was the Black Metal Scene. It's been chronicled almost into oblivion; the tales of murder, grave desecration, suicide, church arson...and the things that many Death Metallers sung about but seemed too afraid to actually enact (they had reputations to uphold, after all!). Black metal usurped Punk as the most anti-social musical form the world had seen at that point, and their music was just as monstrous in approach. However, outside of specific bands of their ilk, a number of third-tier acts didn't sound as serious as their supposed actions were percieved. It was quite difficult to find a band who was little more than a funhouse mirror image of their peers, who wanted to paint outside the lines in terms of what black metal was SUPPOSED to sound like.

So we have CRADLE OF FILTH...

Everyone knows 'em, everyone either loves or hates them (no middle ground here, folks), and though their music has taken some serious twists and turns over the years, their earlier works are definately what stand out, especially this particular album. In all their years, this seems to be the album in which the band seemed to take the most time concocting, and thus, the only real album that sounds SERIOUS in performance and compositional ability. Layers upon layers of symphonic keyboards, grinding guitar work and punishing percussion move the music along in a fluid manner, all the while trailing behind some of Dani's most inhuman sounding screeches. The vocals took a bit of getting used to, but once you get into the thick of things that style seems to fit the overall compositions far better than the usual black metal croaks and yowls. And his lyrical works were at a strata of literary brilliance rarely seen in metal music; less ranting about the death of God and moreso as gothic, medieval lamentations of romanticism gown awry, damnation, and general darkness. Even after all these years the songs never cease to amaze, from the blistering intensity of "Funeral in Carpathia", to the bleeding-heart diatribes of "A Gothic Romance", and the rallying war cries of "Haunted Shores" and "Beauty Slept in Sodom"; such are dark hymns of sophisticated malevolence the likes of which the band would never do again, as around the time "From the Cradle to Enslave" came out they remembered they were British and felt they needed to have that bizarre sense of humour permeate within future songs. Oh least we still have this.

So in the end, "Dusk...and Her Embrace" is stunning, dark, brutal and truly vampiric, teeming with staying power that will outlive even the most ardent of blasphemous musical acts. Well done.