Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness of Decay by Cradle of FilthRelease date: September 22, 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
My history with English metal legends Cradle of Filth has had more than its fair share of goth-teen joy and grotesque admiration that still haunts me in my thirties. I was first introduced to the Filth pre Cruelty and the Beast, so yes I remember the good ol’ days and the ones that followed bringing their dark opus Midian (my personal favourite) and Luciferian concept album Damnation and a Day to name but two. Hitting the mainstream may have altered their audible image as did the constant coming and going of band members, but whatever your views on Cradle you cannot deny that when they rear their gorgeous heads every 2 to 3 years (albeit usually with a different lineup) they still have the balls to deliver listenable and quality albums, even if some missed the target slightly.
Hammer of the Witches was a glorious return to form that importantly captured the highlights of Cradle’s best years. The addition of new guitarists Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda and Richard Shaw proved a revelation and their partnerships authenticity is evident as new release Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay is Cradle of Filth’s first full-length album to have the exact same lineup as the previous album. In a near thirty year existence, that must be some kind of record. Shaw and Šmerda’s duelling guitars have clearly had a part in Cradle’s regenerative years and the bands current (and hopefully now only) lineup has hit the nail on the head, thankfully before it went into the coffin.
Going against the grain somewhat Cradle forgo the use of their signiture instrumentals, instead opting for a more interesting intro in ‘Exquisite Torments Await’, clocking in at just over two minutes, it opens with a crescendo of strings and harsh orchestral stabs before slipping neatly into a doom-bringing full band track. Dani’s unmistakable holler leads into the ominous portent of “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”. The track builds with orchestration and choir against the fury of blast beats until we are sadly teased and torn from its grip too soon. The stage has been set for a wicked album though with the intro we are only given a glimpse of the delightfully grim horrors inside and not treated to a full length song, which is a shame as it features some of the better sounds of Cradle’s current years. Here ends any trace of disappointment.
Lead single ‘Heartbreak and Seance’ spirals into a ghoulishly twisted tremolo before introducing the heartaching riff that seeps through the track like blood into fine red wine, conjuring up the true gothic romance of Cradle’s amour de la mort. The use of choir gives a certain playful charm and the urgency of some of the riffs makes this a perfect choice to introduce and sell the album. The whole track unites Cradle of the past with the present, both as lip-smackingly decadent and morbid as each other.
The gigantic pitter-patter of Skaroupka’s drums and gut-punching guitars of ‘Achingly Beautiful’ are an immediate step-up in intensity from the previous track, showcasing that charging catchiness that Cradle of now are known for. The scything tremolos and blast beats of the first chorus section will catch the ears of Filthlings as will the woefully impassioned cry of “Achingly Beautiful” with Dani’s vocal range on top form. Midway, a ghastly theatre of mournful orchestration manifests and with it comes visions of macabre Victoriana where the album borrows its name from. A twisted chamber music interlude would though be the one addition to the album that would have been most welcome as an instrumental solely devoted to the ghoulish cacophonies of Victoriana would be a fitting touch.
‘Wester Vespertine’ may be one of Cradle’s most fascinating songs. Moments flash by where you swear it’s 1998 and you’re listening to Cruelty and the Beast for the first time, sat reading the booklets lyrics as the album played as I used to in my younger years. That first emotive guitar riff that introduces more frantic string work is reminiscent of parts of ‘Thirteen Autumns And A Widow’. The song whisks you away with sweeping ethereal melodies carrying you through various incarnations of their unmistakably gothic sound, resounding with flawless twin guitars and high-flying riffage, with both guitarists delivering virtuoso turns especially through the almost power metal solos. Schoolcraft gets a chance to flex her syrupy voice and proves again a fitting addition.
Title track ‘The Seductiveness Of Decay’ is one of those perfect thrill-riders that twists and turns through a plethora of dizzying styles, from melodic blast beats and Maiden-esque hooks to speedy thrash metal brutality and enrapturing guitar riffage enveloped in the revered splendour of classic Cradle. Delve deeper into the lyrics and the meaning behind the album is brought to life, swathed in thick Victorian darkness, “now the smoke stacks darken skies, the caress of death is on the rise, its choking breath romanticized, and dressed in gothic veneration.” If the rich nuanced music doesn’t seduce you then Dani’s lyrics surely will.
One immediate thing that struck me about Cryptoriana was the short tracklisting, at only eight tracks long (seven if you discount the ‘intro’) it’s closer to a mini album than a full-length, but what Cradle do here is what Cradle do best and that’s tell a tale of horror. The tracks are lengthy and fleshed out, brimming with depth and intricacies, stunning solos and seductive riffs all bound together and brought to life by Dani’s evocative lyrics. For an album consisting of only eight tracks it has immense depth and more than its share of captivating moments from the haunting ‘Vengeful Spirit’ and Liv Kristine’s heavenly second guest appearance to the sheer primal aggression of the brilliantly titled ‘You Will Know The Lion By His Claw’. The intro to final track ‘Death and the Maiden’ is strikingly reminiscent of ‘At The Gates Of Midian’ and ‘Creatures That Kissed In Cold Mirrors’ from Midian and for a near life long fan such as me this is one of the nuances scattered about the tracks that make Cryptoriana a very special album indeed.
Cradle of Filth don’t change, and should never. Cryptoriana sounds like a tribute to every sordid little note that Cradle have played over the last 26 years. How long Cradle of Filth will continue to perform is up for debate but what is clear is that with this lineup, and the evident passion that the members portray with their musicianship, myself and Filth fans will be praying they continue to evoke these fantastical stories on albums that they make a joyous event for years to come. Thank you once again Cradle of Filth.