*** This is a Guest Blog, written by my bestest pal, podcast anchor and Blog inspiration, Magnum Valentino ***
I guess it doesn’t bode well for a first First Impressions, but I fell asleep trying to listen to this, and it wasn’t some circumstantial sleep either, just a straight-up it’s-the-middle-of-the-day-but-you’re-asleep bit of sleeping. Worst thing was, too, I was enjoying what I was hearing, for the most part. I guess my brain just hates me. This rambling is designed with the purpose of full disclosure: technically, this is Second Impressions. I fucked my First Impressions over by replacing them with fevered dreams and that awful sensation of waking at 10pm with chemical plant mouth and the slightest twinge in my back and rest of body.
The set-up: Cradle Of Filth was my favourite band for years and years and years. As time went on I came and went, with a period of disinterest around 2006 culminating in getting back into the band just in time for them to start the worst stretch of their history with several really poor albums in a row. I’ve not liked any record they’ve released in those six-and-a-smidge years, but this one riff from this album’s “For Your Vulgar Delectation” just kept circling in my head like a vulture waiting for my antagonism for modern-Filth to die off.
Metaphor In Writing 101 dictates I follow through on this, so rather than favour the vulture’s belly I decided instead to brave its threat by making a full recovery and caging the fucker while I assess its offerings somewhat fairly from the position of safety my rude health affords me. Without the burden of having to reassess Cradle Of Filth’s recent output or even get wholly familiar with the album, and with this featured platform from which to make known my verdict, I can’t see any reason to not listen to it.
Before going in, know these three things:
– I don’t like Cradle’s latest drummer’s penchant for dropping flurries of splash cymbals after what seems like every other bar of music. It’s too busy and if he didn’t have them on his kit, he wouldn’t be able to do it and the songs would not suffer. It’s not like I’d take away his snare or anything.
– It took me many, many years to be able to appreciate Dani Filth as a vocalist but he still has a tic or two that really annoys me, so we’ll be keeping an eye out for these.
– Paul Allender returned to the band c. 1999 and has, since around 2003, been their sole songwriter. This has had a negative effect on the band which has went from an eternal sextet with a revolving-door lineup (and boasts no two consecutive full-length studio albums of original material in close to twenty years of professional recording with the same six players) to a three-piece employing session musicians. I wonder, then, if this brazen admittance of the Allender Regime will be a good thing or a bad thing. Or…I dunno where I wanted to go with this but there’s three of them now, and three points to be made. Look, off we go, just, I reckon…
And so, to the customary instrumental introduction. This one shocks me with some very typical horror movie synth sounds, more suited to one of the early Elm Street soundtracks than a Cradle Of Filth album. I guess, coming off the back of their awful Midnight In The Garden movie-arrangements-of-classic-tracks record, this feels more at home. I don’t dislike it. It’s pretty spooky even despite the reverb-electric-piano keys, sweeping pads and timpani-because-fuck-it-have-some-timpani. Sooner these boys accept, though, the vast plane of difference that separates successful score composition and keyboards in metal over the delusion that having used keyboards their whole career suitably informs their ability to write that way, the better. Still, I am now stretched, loose and ready for metal.
Blast! Marthus is a solid Blaster, in that it never sounds like Blasting (capital B!) is hard for him. Over a particular heavy riff, this sounds quite nice. Then, before I fuckin’ know it, I appear to be in a chorus. Honestly, 30 seconds into the song seems like too early for a chorus. Then comes a brief breakdown, an honestly Dusk…And Her Embrace worthy breakdown (in terms of the attitude of placing it there and how it only happens once in the entire song, but with modern execution) gives way to this same riff played with Blasting summore and sends an honest to fuck chill all through me. It’s a great bit of music. 2 minutes in and I find myself having been through what feel likes an entire song in the middle of a symphonic sabbatical before getting back to that chorus-that’s-a-verse from earlier and then a really ugly Allender riff that typifies his apparent attitude that, occasionally, any riff will do. This song is moving a little too fast. It seems overeager, like it doesn’t want to wait. Look at me! Out the gate I’m ready to go! New album! We can play all these styles! I can’t reconcile whether I appreciate that or hate it. Another cheap sounding keys passage with Dani’s croaking intonation overlayed and I realise this album is giving me trouble. After using a live orchestra on 2003’s Damnation and a Day, everything here sounds cheap: you can’t go back. Still, there’s string stabs over one of the riffs that sound awesome and about five minutes in Dani lets this little “urgh” out of him which is to this day probably my favourite “need to make a noise in the song” sound, even above the “waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” pioneered by Massacre’s Kam Lee and adopted by Barney Greenway.
Now , “For Your Vulgar Delectation” has that riff at the start, which is coupled with this upsliding phaser thing that’s SO cheesy but really builds the song so that when the drums (a neat little beat) give way to the standard punk beat that perfectly fits the riff (which is INCREDIBLE) you get a real sense of “here it is. This is what you want”. Lookit:
It drops into this sorta 6-bar verse thing which seems needlessly complicated because it’s also so simple. There’s an attempt at slowing things down which doesn’t sound at all like Cradle Of Filth but sounds BIG, and European, and reminds me of the first Devil May Cry game for reasons I don’t get because its soundtrack and this album are worlds apart. Something else I’m noting about this album is that it has that strong Metallica feel of slapping disparate riffs together from piles on the cutting room floor. Another, longer “urrrrghhhhhhhh” from Dani shuts me up. It occurs to me I love this because he used to do it back when he recorded four of my favourite albums of all time. Round about then. Also, the synth vocals that kick in a minute from the end sound JUST like the little singing girl on the ranch in Ocarina Of Time (if you ever meet me, ask for my game-accurate impression of that sound and tune – I WILL BLOW YOU AWAY). Cue some sex sounds for whatever fucking reason and another song, littered with great moments but structurally compromised, down.
“Illictus” has such a cool keyboard sound for a brief intro, and the riff sounds like something you should play on Hallowe’en, which I think was a day after the album was released, too. It’s pretty straightforward metal, but Marthus can’t stop himself from showing off and his drumming, to listen to, just fucking exhausts me. It’s like Allender and Filth have found this extremely capable chap and we’re stuck with him now, but he needs to rein it in a little….NO, he needs to WIND HIS NECK IN. Ones round these parts say that, and I reckon it’s suitable here. Anyway, some Maidenesque guitar harmonies and ‘04-period Filth and blah blah blah another song. Don’t need this one to exist, really.
Title track, “The Manticore”, is pretty cool. Sounds like a restrained Nile. I love vaguely Egyptian sounding stuff, like Cradle’s “Doberman Pharaoh” from en years ago. Jesus, it was ten years ago. This is what aging feels like! Anyway, this is the sort of Big And Giant Cradle I thought was dead and the barely-there spooky keys are a treat. Second chills of the album. Another “urggggggghhhhhhh”, too. I think why I love this as a metal sound is because of the sense of disgust it creates. I just love the idea of the metal frontman, disgusted. At society, at someone in the crowd, at another country, at his pint, anything. If any teen appeal of metal remains, it’s that. Unwarranted disdain. The line “Gigantic pyromantic beast of naked flame” is classic Filth, too. Also, this song should be a single or live staple because it’s structured without any of those awful look-at-our-composition-skills shit, and the Egypt thing just won’t go away. I’m very much digging it. I see Dani has started actually singing, too. He is so bad at it that it makes me kinda like it. Again, disdain is very appealing to me. Fuck you, world, I can’t sing, SO HERE IS MY SINGING. Oh, a totally awesome “woowwwwwwwwww” as well. Successful metal fronting involves finding the right utterances ‘twixt riffs, I feel. Groovy. AND THE BEST ENDING EVER, that if you didn’t have your eye on the time slider oughtta genuinely shock you. I slept through this?
“Frost On Her Pillow” next, which I’m presuming from its shitty lead section and name is the teen-hooking single. Still, I shall set aside my prejudice and see how this fares.
It fared badly. It’s lazy shite and I’ve no time for it (other than literally having time for it about half an hour ago when I wrote this).
I’ve noticed something about this album, though. It’s not really making me feel anything, and seeing as this song is so rubbish, I thought I ought comment on the production. The bass drum and snare sound are incredible, but the rest of the drum kit sounds too new for my liking. I also think the guitar tone is such that it’s maybe making Allender think his every riff is good because it SOUNDS good. Play that shit on an acoustic and we’ll see how it fares. Still, this is the very best the keys have sounded since Party Fowl left the band, excusing the odd cheap orchestra sound (which is so easy to get right if you’ve heard any of Dimmu Borgir’s awful last few records).
“Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair” begins with a keys riff I literally cannot believe – I have to check my iTunes hasn’t actually loaded something else as somesort of Skynet-foreshadowing computer-conceived surprise – before Marthus appears with his look-at-me three styles of Blasts. I wish he’d go away. Another problem of his is hitting a crash every time the chord or note of the riff changes. He’s a tool of, and extension of, the guitarist. I hate that. Still, the song has an amazing riff in the middle with the keys changed over each bar which is really impressive. This one’s got me thinking of God Of War. Haven’t figured out why, but I know myself well enough it’s not for a ‘dunno why’ reason. There IS a reason. Just haven’t discerned it yet is all. Also I JUST realised that three-blasts beat and the riff under it totally lifts from a Fear Factory single from one of their last two indistinguishable cralbums. Like my new word? You’re not supposed TO, WORLD! Urgh!!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!
Please don’t think me lazy for having nothing to say about “Pallid Reflection”, “Siding With The Titans” or “Succumb To This” – think CRADLE OF FILTH lazy for writing and recording them based on bits of the songs that preceded it. What little enthusiasm I had for the album during its opening tracks has eloped.
That’s it, we’re at the closing instrumental? Jeez. Another 80s horror piece lost in time and salvaged by the kind folks at Cradle Of Filth Inc. It feels like it’s just there because it should be. Honestly lads, no-one, at this stage, is going to criticize you for breaking from the tradition you once upheld (being awesome). Do what you like. Who fucking cares? You’re no longer the most exciting metal band in a whole COUNTRY, and just another faceless modern riff factory with robodrums.
In the end, I’m burned out. I’ll hang onto five tracks in Itunes, which I can see being whittled down to two by summer.
I lament this band: this band, whose back catalogue contains tracks and an ethos that fills me with actual pride. PRIDE. I’m proud of what this band, who I’ve never known a single member of by virtue of not being in Cradle Of Filth, used to be capable of. It seems as though all my once-loved bands have slipped by the wayside. If James’ll have me back (and he will, or I’ll tell everybody the REAL reason why he wasn’t invited to Nicholas Lindhurst’s wedding …), I’ll be taking a listen (TAKING A LISTEN!) to My Dying Bride’s latest, A Map Of All Our Failures and cataloguing my disappointments thereafter.
Paul can be found in happier spirits at his blog, Rambleast, and counts Cradle’s Vempire, Dusk…And Her Embrace, Cruelty and The Beast and Damnation And A Day amongst the records he’d salvage from a burning house ahead of, in order, his fridge, his fictional cat Majestro and a signed copy of Harry Potter And The Final Slaughter.