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Nearly a complete loss - 30%

Noktorn, September 6th, 2007

The precise moment when Cradle Of Filth fell off is probably right after 'Midian'. On that album, where essentially all black metal influence was expunged from the overall sound, the music was probably the most melodramatic of all of Cradle Of Filth's work, but it was also some of the best written, allowing the less extreme sound to thrive. However, along with removing all black metal, they also used up all their good ideas, and so the band has been running mostly off gothic fumes for a number of years now. 'Nymphetamine' is a great example of what happened to the band: it's overlong, overambitious, bloated, and packed to the brim with meaningless filler tracks. There's about an EP's worth of ideas expanded into an ungodly long album that does nothing new, and doesn't even do what it does particularly well.

The way the album opens up is pretty promising; after the stock intro, 'Gilded Cunt' storms in with a flurry of double bass and tremolo riffing. It's a silly song; the lyrics are completely ridiculous (though catchy), and the little melodic break in the middle is highly amusing, but it's a fun song, with a good level of speed and propulsion that's lacking from the other songs. So while it's certainly nowhere near as great as the music that Cradle Of Filth wrote earlier in their career, but it's easily passable by their standards. But from then on it's almost entirely downhill. 'Nemesis' just sucks. It's overlong, the chorus is stupid, and the worst sin of all, it's slow but completely without atmosphere. Early Cradle Of Filth was completely soaked in atmosphere, and fast songs can get away with lacking atmosphere simply due to speed and riffing. But a slow song must be soaked in atmosphere to function correctly (see 'A Gothic Romance (Red Roses For The Devil's Whore)' and 'Her Ghost In The Fog'), but 'Nemesis' lacks even the barest trace of the quality, resulting in a complete loss of a song that goes absolutely nowhere in its over seven minute running time.

Of the rest of the tracks on the album, only three really maintain quality after repeated listens. 'Absinthe With Faust' is well constructed despite the ridiculous lyrics, and the riffs can actually convey a moderately erudite atmosphere. The next good track is 'Coffin Fodder', which has some excellent riffing, with dueling, intertwining guitar lines and a generally solid, propulsive delivery. 'English Fire' is also very good- at least until Dani decides that he just HAS to start screeching and the music just HAS to pick up into gothic stupidity, as opposed to sticking with the cool, nearly Bathory inspired opening. There's no perceptible reason to make this change, and yet the band feels the need to destroy the atmosphere that was created with more inane 'extreme' riffing. So if this album was just an EP of those songs plus maybe another like 'Swansong For A Raven', this would be okay. Not very good, but okay. The problem is, this album has NINE OTHER TRACKS that you have to wade through as well.

So at this point, it's pretty easy to see that the removal of black metal elements has effectively stripped Cradle Of Filth of all the qualities that made their early works so great. Taking the black metal out has simultaneously gouged out essentially all traces of atmosphere and emotion, leaving the band's music as a complete shell of its former grandeur. There's no real extremity in any regard; without the black metal, you have very little substance at all. It's still well played, yes, and well crafted in a very sterile, professional sense, but the songs, even the good ones, are terrible as artistic entities. Yeah, there's craftsmanship, but craftsmanship without inspiration and art behind it makes a song about as impressive as a pretty chair. You can sit in it; it's also pretty! But it's still just a chair no matter what, and no amount of frilly carving or overblown synthestra can change that basic fact. This album can only be appreciated from a demonstrative perspective, and otherwise, it's entirely empty of everything else.

'Nymphetamine' is entirely emotionless. An early album like 'Dusk... And Her Embrace' was packed with emotion; it was presented extremely dramatically, but it was genuine and clearly real. 'Nymphetamine' just has this weird parody of emotion, like the members of Cradle Of Filth were replaced with identical robots who were educated on what 'emotion' is supposed to be, but have no actual knowledge or feeling of it themselves. There's melodrama, but there is emotion, and it seems that the band thinks that if they make the music bombastic enough, add enough layers of sound and a clear enough production, and give the APPEARANCE of emotion, they'll be able to mask the fact that there's really none at all. But it doesn't work even remotely: all the adornment of the music just seems to brutally magnify this incredible absence of feeling. It'd be eerie if it wasn't so dull. So without emotion but with melodrama, there's incredible cheesiness that pervades every part of the album. While early Cradle Of Filth albums were pretty melodramatic themselves, they never quite passed into the realm of cheesiness because the music was so genuine and the delivery was so effective. But here, absolutely EVERYTHING is soaked in gothic cheese, even the good parts which have to maintain quality in spite of this idiocy as opposed to because of it.

Perhaps the most damning fact of all about this album, though, is that it proves Cradle Of Filth's musical output has been reduced to little more than a checklist. The construction of half the songs on this album makes literally no sense at all: they just go through a series of motions because they feel like its necessary. The most obvious example of this is the aforementioned 'English Fire': its opening is extremely good, like a gothic version of 'One Road To Asa Bay', but then it goes into boring, stock Cradle Of Filth gothic shit. There's no reason at all for the band to make this change; they just do it because it's what Cradle Of Filth fans expect at this point. They demand fast riffing, female vocals, big, deep gothic warblings, screeches, dramatic tom fills, etc. SO now Cradle Of Filth will never write a song that doesn't fall perfectly within these parameters, as to not alienate any fans. The band would never have done this on the earlier albums; while they've always played populist music, it was never quite THIS neutered and pathetic.

Sometimes I wish that Cradle Of Filth would go back to the early style of gothic black metal, but the sad fact of the matter is that they'll never write another 'Haunted Shores' or 'Funeral In Carpathia'. As an artistic entity, Cradle Of Filth is dead; get everything up to and including 'Midian', love them, and don't look back.