The problem with reviewing Cradle Of Filth is that they are a much more visually oriented band than most extreme metal. What Cradle Of Filth does is as much theatre as it is music and a lot of this material is geared toward a live show which is amazing to witness. Unfortunately like a lot of similar visually oriented bands (Gwar, Kiss) they do lose some of the impact in the translation to recorded material. Musically to their credit they rarely become stagnant and predictable like so many of their lesser peers do on a full album format. A lot of black metal in general is often poorly produced and sacrifices coherence and creativity in favor of extremity and brutality. Cradle of Filth on this record and on other releases have managed to take the basest roots of black metal and build upon that template to keep adding different elements that are used interchangeably to create a sound that no other band has. At any given point during this album there are usually at least five things going on at once. Sometimes these elements lock together in perfect harmony with each other and the result is fucking amazing. Sometimes they don't work well together and the sound is disjointed and schizophrenic, going off in different directions every few seconds and never really settling down into anything coherently resembling a song. If nothing else, the album is never boring to listen to but there are huge chunks of it where I can't even tell what song it is because the music changes every five seconds.
Dani's vocals are unfortunately another sore spot on this album at times. The way he switches styles is impressive, alternating shrieks with guttural growls and spoken word narrative. Unfortunately his continuous high pitched screaming on songs like Amor E Morte can really grate the nerves after a while and kill a quality song. He has a lot of energy and presence which is important in this band's sound, which is why I'm glad he switches styles so frequently. Because that high end shit can start to sound like somebody strangling a cat if it gets too high in the mix which it frequently is on this album. Really that's about all I can say for criticism of this record, short of that it's fucking amazing. The different elements really add up to more than the sum of their parts. The female operatic vocals that punctuate the best moments on this disc add a sense of texture and atmosphere that is unequaled by other bands in the genre. Likewise the narrative spoken word sections add an almost Shakespearean element to the whole album, like a story unfolding with each successive song.
Cradle Of Filth owes its sound as much to goth and doom as it does to black metal. The keyboard sections are up front a lot on this album in songs like Saffron's Curse and Tearing The Veil . There are blastbeat sections, but most of the time the music is slow and brooding, utilizing a lot of low end sweeping power chords to emphasize a sense of foreboding doom. Like I said the album is uneven but when it hits, it is fucking incredible to witness the strength of this band in channeling their diverse elements together and writing great songs. Her Ghost In The Fog provides the strongest example on this disc of a song where everything works. Dani's high and low vocals are layered on top of one another to produce some truly evil sounding shit. The spoken word narrative is present at the right moments to highlight the conceptual angle of the song and add to the atmospherics. The music alternately bludgeons and hypnotizes the listener with fast and slow progressions built from a single haunting keyboard melody and slow creeping bass line. And at precisely the right moments the female vocals come in to match Dani's guttural roar and gasping shriek and bring a sense of beauty and transcendence to the utter fucking horror displayed in the rest of the song. This song alone represents everything that is amazing about Cradle Of Filth when they take the time to make all the elements work together.
A lot of talent is wasted on throwaway material like Satanic Mantra and annoying disjointed shit like Amor E Morte . It may not seem like it to the diehard fans, but there is a ton of filler material in here if you look close enough. Not necessarily entire songs, but it is in there. There are moments however when this band grabs you by the fucking throat and makes you stand up and take notice. Those moments are frequent on Midian , and if you can sort through the rest of it these moments are definitely worth waiting for.* * * 1/2 Reviewed: July, 2003