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Cradle Of Filth – The Manticore And Other Horrors (Album Review)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012 Written by Alec Chillingworth
Cradle Of Filth – The Manticore And Other Horrors (Album Review)

Cradle of Filth really are the musical equivalent to Marmite. Blackened, leather-clad marmite, that is. They are adored by open-minded metal enthusiasts and despised by others. You know who I mean, the ‘Dani Filth? I only liked him when he played in Feast of Excrement’ types of people. Cradle have soldiered on for nearly two decades now, ‘The Manticore And Other Horrors’ being their tenth full-length bestiary committed to tape. After a dodgy mid-noughties period (I like to pretend that their cover of ‘Temptation’ never happened), the British metallers have been on the rise once again since 2008’s ‘Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder’. But can their latest album silence the critics whilst satisfying the ludicrously high expectations of their hardcore devotees?

ImageFans may have been somewhat worried earlier this year when Cradle released ‘For Your Vulgar Delectation’; a song that was unashamedly tainted with throwbacks to 2006’s questionable ‘Thornography’ album seemed to confirm fears of Cradle ‘selling out’. When fans finally received the album, the first thing they heard was ‘The Unveiling Of O’ (the return of the traditional ‘creepy album intro’, which was sadly missing on the last Filth offering). Even this seems like a step up from the last album, with drummer Martin Marthus Škaroupka doing a fantastic job on orchestration duties. The intro track arrives and leaves with intentionally minimal fanfare, giving listeners one final chance to strap themselves in and prepare for the Devil himself to slap them right across the face.

‘The Abhorrent’ brutalises the listener like a sack full of spanners, Škaroupka’s relentlessly punishing percussion paving the way for Dani Filth’s trademark high-scream. It bears similarities to Cradle’s 2008 track ‘Shat Out Of Hell’ in terms of pure animosity, yet Paul Allender’s melodic tremolo picking during the chorus saves it from being just another Filth song. Heaviness and speed seem to have been two of the main priorities drilled into Cradle’s collective consciousness during the writing of the album, with cuts such as ‘Siding With The Titans’ and the Middle-Eastern tinged title track sounding heavier than an overweight elephant. An overweight elephant covered in metal.

Allender’s guitar riffs grapple the ears as if they crawled straight from the crypt, covered with crusty punk melodies whilst still retaining a crisp, polished feel not too dissimilar to Iron Maiden. These go hand in hand with the scarily scarce (for a Cradle album, anyway) keyboard dirges throughout the album, providing the band with a set of tunes stronger than anything they’ve produced since their landmark ‘Midian’ release back in 2000. The keyboard played at the start of ‘Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair’ could honestly have been written for a Skrillex track, yet seems perfectly snug hiding within the creases of Škaroupka’s primitive blast-beats.

As with ‘Midian’, it’s the slower, more haunting moments on this album that really set it apart from the pack. ‘Frost On Her Pillow’ is easily one of the highlights on display here, starting with a plodding church organ accompanied by a raspy, whispered vocal by Dani. It just reeks of gothic romanticism, a subject that Cradle seem to have shied away from in recent years. Dani’s lyrics really are some of the best in metal music, and are applied expertly within this song to prove that he still is a masterful storyteller.

Of course, this isn’t going to be for everyone. Dani’s voice has slowly withered and waned over the years, hence his choice on this album to bark a fair chunk of his lyrics in a half sung/half growled manner. Don’t get me wrong; his voice is still an instrument of multi-faceted power. It suits the style of music that Cradle are concocting in their heavy metal smelting pot right now, but fans of the pre-‘Midian’ albums will probably be left dissatisfied. Although some may whine about the lack of high-screams, it does help as well as hinder; they sound even more throat shreddingly raw now that they aren’t being spurted out in abundance. Fans of Cradle’s earlier material will also grumble about the absence of regular female vocalist Sarah Jezebel Deva, but Dani’s superb duet with vocalist Lucy Atkins during the show-stoppingly epic album bookend ‘Succumb To This’ proves once again that Cradle have many strings to their fetid, stinky bow.

Cradle of Filth have never been a band to play it safe and simply stagnate. They truly are a unique and divisive band, with their latest offering further cementing this fact. It’s a disc stacked with crushing instrumentation, top-notch lyrics and genuinely interesting sing-along melodies. Fans who are stuck in the past will undoubtedly criticise the hell out of this. But we care not for them; we’d much rather leave them to cuddle their deluxe editions of ‘Cruelty And The Beast’ on their own. Cradle have once again managed to defy expectations and produce a thoroughly exciting beast to add to their repertoire; painting a soundscape with various elements from their previous albums, yet still moving feverishly forward on their journey to infernal damnation.

Bring on the Filth.

'The Manticore And Other Horrors' is available now.

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