The world of Extreme Metal (at least in the UK) experiences a strange phenomena whenever Cradle of Filth prepare to release a new album. Thousands of inexplicably angry internet voices all join in unison with pre-prepared mantras of, “just another watered down Cradle album”, “they’ve been shit since Principle/Dusk/Cruelty/Midian” (delete as applicable), and “Dani sounds fucking terrible these days”. Sometimes after only hearing one song, or on occasion, none at all.
Claims that Cradle have been “shit for years”, or that “they don’t sound anything like they used to” fill the comments sections on YouTube and many various internet forums, but hold little truth, and seem to originate largely from people under the strange misapprehension that 1999 was only ten years ago. Yes, their début The Principle of Evil Made Flesh (Cacophonous) is a snarling, spitting unholy beast of an album where Dani Davey‘s voice sounds genuinely shit-your-pants scary in places, but the blueprint was already in place for what the band would soon become. The Iron Maiden influences, the moody, keyboard-led instrumental passages, spoken word segments (both male and female), and even Dani’s trademark howl, were already in evidence. Yes, Principle… is more aggressive, black and uncompromising than any of their future releases, but even back then, it was already apparent the band wanted to delve into more expensive areas.
When that happened, and larger successes and popularity followed, it didn’t take long for the band (well, the conveyor belt of constantly changing members anyway) to become an almost household name. Regularly namechecked in comedy shows like The IT Crowd, and with Dani himself appearing on musical comedy quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, plus the band being the subject of a BBC documentary, this really did not sit well with their TRVE and KVLT fans, and the inevitable backlash began. Those who had wanted the band to simply carry on churning out variations of their début album year after year had been left disappointed as female vocals became a staple of their sound, riffs became more defined, songs became more clearly structured, and with the anomalous exception of the appallingly recorded, but otherwise superb, Cruelty and the Beast (MFN), album production improved dramatically.
For close to twenty years, people have complained that Cradle of Filth aren’t the band they used to be, and of course this won’t change for new album, Cryptoriana, The Seductiveness Of Decay (Nuclear Blast), but it really should. Currently riding the crest of an upward creative swing, comparisons to how they used to sound in the early Nineties, now more than ever, are utterly pointless.
After such a positive widespread reaction to previous album Hammer of the Witches (Nuclear Blast), Cradle needed to respond with something just as good, if not better, and they’ve done just that with bells on. The entire album is bedecked with haunting melodies and choral passages, keyboards swathed in ethereal fog, savage riffs backed by a pounding rhythm section, and lead vocals which come straight from the inside of Satan’s bottom.
After the fairly short ‘Exquisite Torments Await’, the album kicks off properly with ‘Heartbreak and Seance’, ‘Achingly Beautiful’, and the masterful ‘Wester Vespertine’. There’s no let-up in quality as title track ‘The Seductiveness of Decay’ shows the band at their fastest, heaviest, and definitely their most Iron Maideny, a genuine sense of playfulness evident amid the frantic, dramatic riffing and pneumatic drumming. ‘Vengeful Spirit’ combines acoustic tranquility and the soft, dulcet tones of guest vocalist Liv Kristine with furious screaming brutality, before second single ‘You Will Know The Lion By His Claw’ and (especially) ‘Death and the Maiden’ round off the album in suitably epic Gothic style.
The digipack and vinyl versions of the album come with ‘The Night at Catafalque Manor’, a cut far too good to be relegated to ‘Bonus Track’ material, and a massively enjoyable cover of ‘Alison Hell’ by Annihilator.
Arguably the band’s best release since Nymphetamine, and possibly even since Midian (Music For Nations), Cryptoriana is a mighty slab of vintage (well, late ’90s vintage) Cradle of Filth. Returning producer Scott Atkins has done another great job of knob twiddling, and the band really sound like they’re enjoying themselves.
So if you don’t care that they sound differently from twenty years ago, or that they once signed for a record label you don’t much care for, or that Dani looks a bit chubby in a mesh vest these days, then get ready to stick this one on repeat.