Cradle Of Filth - Cruelty And The Beast
For all of the nit-picking over how to define them, it's easy to overlook all the quality releaes Cradle of Filth have produced. No doubt their early work was their most creative, tying together black metal aggression with wonderfully expressive and poetic lyrics, Maiden-esque guitar attacks and a gothic aesthetic. They are more than justified to lay claim to the entire "extreme gothic metal" genre, not because they were the first to do it but because they were (WERE...oh how their ship has sailed) the best at it for quite some time. If you ask me, this is where they peaked, on their 1998 concept album Cruelty And The Beast, which uses infamous countess and rumoured bloodbathing psychopath Elizabeth Bathory as a focal point for Dani Filth's always-majestic and always-intriguing lyrical approach. The twisted stories (rumours or otherwise) are the perfect accomplices for Cradle's blackened metal.
Obligatory symphonic intro (even this is well-done, as is typical for the band) aside, the first half of this album absolutely crushes. "Thirteen Autumns And A Widow", the album's first actual song, is a rousinng jaunt through some of the band's most familiar and well-known territories; Dani's piercing shrieks, screams and wails coupled with backing growls and grunts that sound lifted from your worst nightmares; a twin guitar attack that never stales and always stays up front in the mix, fusing creative writing with uber-aggressive playing. Indeed it all fuses together quite nicely in the overall sound picture; the only complaint (and this has been heard before when it comes to Cruelty, I know) is the drum sound...usually they get a nice full picture but here Nicholas Barker's performances are sadly buried beneath the rest of the noise. Shame too, you can hear some very fluid and tight sections from him (Beneath The Howling Stars, Desire In Violent Overture). Of these 10 songs (8 and 2 interludes), there isn't a stinker in the bunch. My personal favorite is "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids", a staple of their live performances and featuring one hell of an epic chorus that stands the hairs on my neck up everytime I hear it. Also, the 11-minute suite "Bathory Aria" is masterfully done, representing both the most ambitious and rewarding song here.
While everything is just about perfect, what impresses the most is the seamless fusion of Dani's beautiful lyrics with the not-so-beautiful-but-equally-intriguing theme of Ms. Bathory. I'd never heard much about her before hearing Cruelty And The Beast, but that all changed afterwards as I dug deep into her story. Apparently, the band thought her tale was a tragedy of sin, something so unbelievable it just had to be true and they treat the various recorded moments of her life (the death of her husband, the slaughter of maidens and the (rumoured) bathing in their blood she took part in to perserve her youth or beauty, and her eventual lonely death in her own castle's tower where she was placed under arrest after the law discovered what she was up to) about as well as anyone ever has. And believe me, if you're not aware; Elizabeth has been the subject or the inspiration for about 10,000 different movies, albums, songs, books, you name it. So massive credit across the board for Cradle Of Filth and this, a personal classic and an album sadly overlooked due to the more mainstreamed "Midian" which would follow.
User Reviews and CommentsLog In or Register to Rate Albums
Tell us why this album is great or sucks ass, or correct the reviewer. If you write enough quality reviews you may find yourself on the editorial staff.
Reviews have to be over 100 words, shorter ones are classed as comments.