Review: Cradle of Filth – Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay

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With the second album from a revamped lineup, Dani Filth’s long-lived extreme metal institution is back at the top of its game.

Cradle of Filth is a band whose new output I largely dismissed a long time ago. While I was certainly aware of Cradle from a young age, they were not my gateway into black metal as they were for many an alienated teen – Emperor, Darkthrone, Dimmu Borgir, and Immortal served that purpose for me. I’ve always enjoyed several of the band’s records, particularly their raw, blackened debut with The Principle of Evil Made Flesh and the pinnacle of their increasingly symphonic, concept-oriented work with 2000’s Midian. However, it was easy for me to simply stop listening to their work when they drifted too far into uninspired bids for accessibility coupled with overweening pretension, a process that I saw beginning with Damnation and a Day back in 2003.

 

All of that is to say, when I threw on Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay I was a little surprised to find myself thoroughly enjoying a Cradle of Filth album in 2017. The fluid nature of the lineup has allowed frontman and sole mainstay Dani Filth to periodically refresh and redirect the group, and the latest version has a combination of musical focus and technical precision that had long been missing. As is obvious by the time you’ve made it through eerie opener “Exquisite Torments Await” and about half of first song proper, “Heartbreak and Seance,” all the elements that make the band instantly identifiable remain: an extreme metal backbone and Filth’s trademark shrieks and gothic rants are granted both  epic scope and accessibility by the harmonized guitars, symphonic sweep, and melodic female vocals. However, the precise balance of these features is subject to change, and the current version of Cradle is producing the band’s most satisfying work since the aforementioned Midian.

As it turns out, the departure of longtime guitarist Paul Allender in 2014 seems to have been just what the band needed to find its way again. While Allender played on both my favorite Cradle albums, he was also Filth’s primary collaborator on several lackluster records. Now, I know next to nothing about how the songwriting for any of those albums happened, but what seems clear is that rebuilding the band lit a fire under Filth’s ass, recentering the group and opening up fresh opportunities for musical growth. Though I missed it at the time, 2015’s Hammer of the Witches was a welcome return to emphasizing quality metal riffs over unrelenting orchestrations, conceptual navel-gazing, or ill-conceived attempts at crossover success.

Now, in an unusual turn, Cradle has recorded a second album with precisely the same lineup, an international crew that has settled into an appealing groove for composition and performance. Czech drummer Marthus debuted on the drums back in 2008, and he continues to hold down his place behind the kit with double bass-driven authority. Bassist Daniel Firth, who hails from Scotland and also puts in time with Man Must Die, joined the band in 2012 for The Manticore and Other Horrors, offering a solid – if understated – low end. Canadian Lindsay Schoolcraft joined for Hammer, and she rounds out the sound with her impressive vocal range and contributions on the keys (though she steps aside on “Vengeful Spirit” so Filth can have a surprisingly heavy reunion with his “Nymphetamine” collaborator, ex-Leaves’ Eyes singer Liv Kristine).

However, the biggest contributors to Cradle’s renaissance are unquestionably the guitar duo of Ashok – another recruit from the Czech Republic – and Englishman Rich Shaw, who also came into the fold in 2014 and get even more room to flex here than on their debut. The songs cleanly knit together the range of influences that have defined Cradle over the years, striking a tasteful balance between vicious aggression and engaging melodies. Black metal tremolos, thrashy palm-muting, and touches of gothic atmosphere are all in evidence, adeptly knitted together with plenty of chances for lead guitar theatrics.

 

Indeed, one way Cryptoriana differs from past Cradle efforts is the room the six-stringers are allowed to stretch out their skills and regularly fire off solos. Iron Maiden is a long-acknowledged influence on the band, and there’s no questioning where the inspiration for many of the guitar harmonies and leads on this album come from. The signature of the NWOBHM kings is all over “Achingly Beautiful” and “The Seductiveness of Decay,” each boasting riffs that recall tunes like “The Trooper” and “Hallowed be Thy Name.”

At this point, producer Scott Atkins – who has worked on every Cradle album since Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa – is very much aware of what it takes to pull these performances together in a coherent fashion. It takes a steady hand in the control booth to keep all the busy arrangements from overwhelming the guitars and vocals or plunging entirely into chaos. Finding the right balance hasn’t always worked out with past lineups, but the results here are muscular and organic despite occasionally drifting toward sensory overload.

 

The album keeps up the pace throughout, closing with the powerful one-two of “You Will Know the Lion by his Claw” and “Death and the Maiden.” The former interrupts its thrashy attack just enough for Schoolcraft to exhibit her abilities before wrapping with a blasting passage that recalls the band’s black roots. The final track slows down in order to realize the epic possibilities of Cradle’s current sound. Over the course of the nearly nine-minute running time, clean guitar gives way to chugs and speedy riffs, while melody lines and Filth’s venom intertwine throughout.

If you have always found Cradle of Filth too cheesy, bloated, and image-conscious for your tastes, Cryptoriana may only reinforce your opinion. However, the thrash and NWOBHM influences are sufficiently pronounced on this album that I would not hesitate to recommend it to any melodeath fan. And if, like me, you stopped checking out new albums from this group years ago, it might be time to give Filth and his compatriots another chance. Cryptoriana is a metal album through and through, one that impresses with the instrumental and compositional skill on display while making a strong argument that Cradle of Filth’s best days may not be behind them at all.

4.5 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

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  • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

    It’s over. We had a good run, but we knew it couldn’t last forever. We’re officially done and gone sold our souls. DMU was right all along.

    • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

      In all seriousness though, Hammer was a big step up and the singles here have been decent so maybe they’re hitting a better stride.

      • 10/10

        Congrats! Been peeping that number a bit this week. Top notch

      • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

        We goin’ places!

      • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

        HOW MANY OF THOSE 218,625 MOAR VISIT GETTING SITES ARE PORNO TOOBS?????

        • All of them

          • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

            TOILET OV HELL: THE #1 NONPORNO TOOB SITE ON THE INTERNET!!! (PROBABLY)

          • Lone Biker of the Apocalypse

            Wait…you mean there’s more websites than just this one and porn?

            For real???

          • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

            ME NEVER SAW THEM BUT HEARD THEY EXIST!!!!!!!!

      • Lord of Bork

        I just checked over there and they have their own (shitty) version of Shirt Stains! Aww, the little bastards think they’re funny!

      • GoatForest

        Hey, it’s not a bad album to sell out to. Now, on to Hot Topic and beyond!

      • Pagliacci is Kvlt

        “BAH GAWD KING! IT’S LIKE OUR FEUD WITH WCW IS GOOD FOR BOTH COMPANIES!” -Jim Ross

    • Kyle Reese

      wow, their comments section makes metalsucks commenters looks like a bunch of fucking puritans and SJWs. and these commenters like a buncha mensa freaks.

      • Carlos Parlo

        I try not to visit to give them traffic but checked in a few times during the H/H “controversy”. Has anyone else noticed how they just label anyone that they don’t like a “metalcore” band? Apparently they thought Matt Harvey’s response to the MS “don’t shop at H/H” post was a conspiracy to boost traffic on all of B/B network. Anyway, they said Matt Harvey had no right to comment on metal since he has never played it. Like him or his opinion or not but I don’t know how Exhumed, Expulsion, and Gruesome are “metalcore” instead of death metal.

  • I am afraid of listening to this, out of fear of liking it.

    /conflicted

    • Dubby Fresh

      You like In Flames, so I don’t see what the issue is 😉

      Just go with it, amigo. You may find something new to like!

      • You just haaaaaaad to bring In Flames into this…

        • Dubby Fresh

          I am a bastard man

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        At least In Flames is good.

        • **AND JJD WITH THE RIGHT HOOK**

          • Dubby Fresh

            Right hook. lol.

        • Ted Nü-Djent ™

          NOPE

    • Elegant Gazing Globe

      Solid band that gets shit on too often, mostly by posers

      • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

        A lot of the shit they have gotten has been well deserved *cough*Thornography*cough*

  • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

    Wow, 4.5 out of 5

    CoF was my gateway band for extreme metal, so they will always have a place in my heart, but I do agree that after the horribly bloated Damnation and a Day things started going south. From Nymphetamine onwards they kind of became “Killswitch Engage with keyboards” and I completely lost interest. However, Hammer Of The Witches was actually a really enjoyable record so I’m looking forward to this one

    • Dr. K

      Take the numeric rating with a grain of salt because I’m the type who doesn’t think much of such things. I consider for a minute how much of my listening time I enjoyed and pick a rating accordingly. In this case, I had a good time almost the whole time.

      • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

        That’s cool. It’s a good way of looking at it

      • Eliza

        This is better that trying to boil down your enjoyment of something into a number when you are also terrible at math.

      • GoatForest

        That’s fair.

    • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

      GORAK LIKED DAMNATION & NYMPHETAMINE LOTS WHEN CAME OUT!!!!!! THEY OK BUT MUSIC 4 NATIONS/CACOPHONOUS RECORDS WERE BEST!!!!!!!! DARKLY VENUS AVERSA & THORNOGRAPHY & MANTICORE ALBUMS ALL GET SMASH & FLUSH

      • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

        Don’t forget to smash Godspeed as well

        • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

          THERE COUPLE OK SONGS ON THERE!!!!! ME SAW TOUR FOR THAT ALBUM & DANI GOT POUNCED BY MILF ON STAGE!!!!!!!!! FUNNIEST THING ME EVER SAW AT SHOW!!!!!!!

        • GoatForest

          Nooooo! Godspeed was godly!

      • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

        Venus & Godspeed had some better tracks, though Midian was more consistent it never anything as good as those 3-4 songs. Manticore and Midian are about on the same level really.

        • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

          THERE IS COUPLE OK TRACKS BUT IT THE BAD TRACKS ON THOSE NEWER ALBUM THAT MAKE THEM SUCK!!!!!! ALSO THEY LOOK RIDICULOUS!!!!! MORE THAN NORMAL I MEAN!!!!!!!!

      • I hope one day you make a lower case comment. Just once. I cannot wait.

      • GoatForest

        Yeah. Those three are of way lesser quality than the rest of CoF’s work.

    • Many would put nymphetamine on par with midian as being among their best work. Damnation was admittedly uninteresting.
      Hammer was very good, but don’t find myself returning to it with the frequency if nymphetamine.
      Their live setlist is a pretty good indicator of their greatest hits

  • I’ve literally never heard a single note by these guys, at least not knowingly. Partially because I’m not really into black metal and partially because based on their shirts I just assumed they’re 2 edgy 4 me 2 handle.

    • Eliza

      Check out Dusk and Her Embrace. If you like it, you can listen to other albums by the band. If you hate it, turn around and never look back.

    • BobLoblaw

      First few albums are decent enough if not a little theatrical for my tastes.

    • RepostedAvengedSevenfoldFan2

      I use this as background music while surfing Ebay for goth clothes. Just thought I’d let you all know.

      – KreeZafi, 2 weeks ago

    • GoatForest

      I can get that. Their image is a huge turnoff.

    • Fart Johnson

      they have a song where they start playing the meow mix jingle

  • Dubby Fresh

    Dani Filth, meet Daniel Firth.

  • Eliza

    Speaking as someone who has a soft spot for CoF’s brand of campiness, I’m looking forward to hearing this. Learning that it has a NWOBM influence helps too.

    • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

      Their cover of “Alison Hell” has me intrigued

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        Annihilator is good. Cradle Of Filth isn’t my thing.

        • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

          Annihilator rule, but when I saw them at a festival last month they got the crowd to do the high notes in the choruses to Alison Hell. Was a shame.

    • GoatForest

      You and me both.

  • great review! i enjoyed all the embedded tracks. thanks for opening my worldview up a little bit, Dr. K

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    I’d say I never bothered with Cradle of Filth’s output after Cruelty and the Beast (which didn’t do all that much for me either). Dusk…and her Embrace on the other hand is still an album I highly enjoy from time to time. It’s the one album where they got everything right and all of the aspects of their sound suddenly worked.

  • Lone Biker of the Apocalypse

    I was obsessed with Nick Barker’s drumming on those early COF albums, and along with Emperor they were definitely my gateway bands for black metal. When both “Anthems to the Welken at Dusk” and “Cruelty & the Beast” were in the top 5 of Metal Maniacs’ year end lists, (Anthems was actual #1 in 1997) I had to check them both out.

    I may be in the minority, but to me Cruelty was always their pinnacle. Great story-line for a concept album, lots of variation, quality hooks & riffs, and cool atmosphere. It helped that I saw them on a small tour in ’98 they did in the states, and they definitely had an edgy, “scariness” factor to them live back then as well.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Excellent review, I think I tend to agree with your general assessment of Cradle of Filth (although as an Englishman an appreciation of Dani’s very English eccentric/knobend persona gets them a little further for me), but the posted tracks are sure promising. A mark down for not playing Mannequin either of the times I saw them though.

  • WTH, this is an unexpected high score. I am now interested in this. Great review, Dr. K.

  • Hans

    Well damn, parts of this made me want to revisit Dusk, Midian and perhaps even Damnation. Did not expect this years after relegating my CoF shirt to the “Do Not Wear Outside” pile.

  • MercylessFate

    This band only has four albums, Her ghost in the Fog, Midian, Hammer of the Witches and Cryptoriana. This last one has some bangers.