When you think of black metal in the UK, it’s very difficult to come up with too many bands that’ve made as much of a lasting impact as CRADLE OF FILTH. Now well into their twenty-sixth year of existence, the Suffolk-formed sextet are poised continue their re-ascent to extreme metal’s upper echelons that began with 2015’s stellar Hammer of the Witches, with the release of their twelfth studio album Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay.
Firstly, it wouldn’t be a CRADLE OF FILTH album without a dramatic introduction, and opener Exquisite Torments Await is more than happy to oblige. Dripping with menace and horror movie tension at first, it quickly builds towards a towering IRON MAIDEN-esque twin guitar lead from axemen Richard Shaw and Ashok, before Dani Filth’s inimitable ear-piercing shriek instantly reminds you of why CRADLE OF FILTH are still such a big deal within their scene. Heartbreak And Seance then immediately continues that impressive build, with fast-paced drumming from Martin Škaroupka and yet more delightfully melodic guitars underpinning Filth’s guttural growls and ball-pinchingly high shrieks to form a deceptively catchy ballad of sorts that really highlights CRADLE’s continued flair for the overdramatic.
DANI FILTH’s vocal performance might well be the arguable star of the show with this album too. Where the frontman has occasionally been derided by critics and internet trolls for his vocal ability, it’s genuinely difficult to find fault this time around, such is the apparent versatility of the frontman’s vocal chords. Sounding more enthused than ever before, he bellows like a man possessed for almost the entire record – giving tracks like Wester Vespertine and title-track The Seductiveness Of Decay an inherent power that seems to build upon the band’s previous album even more, and arguably marking the songs that make up Cryptoriana as some of the very strongest in the band’s catalogue.
Despite sounding on this album very much like the new and improved version of CRADLE OF FILTH they arguably are by now, there’s still enough callbacks to the band’s past to keep long-time fans interested as well. Vengeful Spirit, for example, sees former LEAVES EYES vocalist Liv Kristine return to provide vocals for the first time since the band’s 2004 classic album Nymphetamine – providing once again a lovely melodic foil for Dani Filth‘s wild shrieking. Penultimate track And You Will Know The Lion By His Claw meanwhile, might have a claim to being the strongest track on the entire album, such is the overall impressiveness it carries in just about every aspect of its being. Seeming to hand-pick the best aspects of everything that has come before it, and adding even more theatrics in the form of delightfully gothic sounding choral vocals, it feels like a true distillation of everything that CRADLE OF FILTH in 2017 is capable of.
The fact it’s then followed by another grade-A banger in the form of Death And The Maiden to end the album feels borderline unfair to every other band looking to ape what this band have done for so long. Taking a slightly less intense pace than much of the blastbeat driven fury that proceeds it, the song lumbers along with a powerful groove that feels borderline-apocalyptic at times, and after some intense guitar soloing out of nowhere, it simply fades out to let you try to comprehend the last 53 or so minutes of what you’ve just heard.
Before listening to this album for the first time, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether CRADLE OF FILTH might have decided to play things a bit safer, such was the success and acclaim of what came before. In truth though, Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay is another near-perfect masterpiece of an album from one of British extreme metal’s leading lights, and one that can arguably stand toe-to-toe with the very peaks of their canon thus far. Containing just eight songs and spanning 53 minutes, this is the Suffolk titans at their absolute gothic best. Fans will no doubt be delighted with this record, and with good reason – if Cryptoriana is anything to go by, then it’s difficult to argue that this incarnation of CRADLE OF FILTH seem to have anything other than near-limitless potential.
Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay is set for release on September 22nd via Nuclear Blast Records.
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