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Cradle of Filth – Existence is Futile Award winner

Cradle of Filth
Existence is Futile
by Andrew Graham at 19 October 2021, 7:39 AM

They’re only bloody back again! Famous (or infamous, depending entirely on your perspective on the whole controversial Black Metal debate) British Extreme Metal band CRADLE OF FILTH are back with their thirteenth (2 spoopy 4 u!) studio album. These guys have been on the go for over thirty years and have had ample time to continually refine their sound. Indeed, they seem to revel in the chaotic, fluidity of their sound, which has always been notoriously difficult to tie down. Kinda Black, sort of Gothic, some Death, and plenty of Symphonic. It all comes together in a way that is uniquely… well, CRADLE OF FILTH!

This signature menace is evident from the album’s very first moments, with instrumental opener “The Fate Of The World On Our Shoulders”, building up in crescendo to “Existential Terror”, offering a cornucopia of the aforementioned styles. There’s delicious blast-beats, rich orchestral synths, killer guitar work and some very satisfying playful time signatures towards the conclusion – a very strong start to be sure! “Necromantic Fantasies” fully embraces the gothic aesthetic the band are so famous for. With material like this they could score an Edgar Allen Poe adaptation if the fancy took them! In fact, I’m pretty sure if Poe had lived to the present day, he would more than likely be in this band. (Come at me, literature nerds!)

“Crawling King Chaos” similarly reeks of that gothic sound, right down to the organ (whose use in metal I am a big advocate, see my reviews of bands like OBSOLETE THEORY or INFERI). This is the musical equivalent of the classic Hammer horror movies, atmospheric and really building on that High Romantic aesthetic. There’s no splatter gore here, everything is put together to look oh-so classy! After yet another haunting instrumental detour in “Here Comes A Candle… (Infernal Lullaby)” we have “Black Smoke Curling From The Lips Of War”, wherein melancholic melodies and female vocals that drift between dreamy quasi-operatic howls to sinister, gritted-teeth scowls. I may incur some hatred for this observation, but there are many moments on this album, here included, that make me think of a NIGHTWISH gone bad situation. Tell me honestly you don’t hear it too!

“Discourse Between A Man And His Soul” continues this feeling, in a tormented waltz that would not be far out of place on a NIGHTWISH album. So, if there’s anyone out there who’s never been quite sure about CRADLE OF FILTH (I include myself in that cohort), here’s a possible entry-point! “The Dying Of The Embers” returns to a more ‘conventional’ Black Metal sound, whilst also inserting highly playful guitar work towards the conclusion. I love how these guys have never been afraid of freely floating and associating across sub-genres without worrying too much about the nerdy, genre-obsessed gatekeepers (again, I include myself in this group!)

“Ashen Mortality” is the third and final instrumental intro/intermission, followed by a veritable Power Metal ballad in “How Many Tears To Nurture A Rose?”. Alternating between violent, passionate rage and genuine sorrowful melancholy and nostalgia, it is in many ways the perfect love song – let’s all be honest with ourselves, love is almost invariably a deeply turbulent affair, so these moods are most fitting! “Suffer Our Domination” is a less than subtle dig at humanity’s ongoing process of majorly fudging up the planet and its ecosystem, that nonetheless features some very nice riffs and a genuinely sorrowful intro passage and haunting ending – Enviro-Metal anyone?

“Us, Dark, Invincible” has a distinct Melodeath sound about it, but never loses that distinctive CRADLE OF FILTH signature sound thanks to Dani’s magnificent screeches and the good old synths… hmm, Symphonic Melodeath? Somebody should get on that! “Sisters Of The Mist”, featuring frequent collaborator Doug Bradley paraphrasing some classic Pinhead dialogue (that high-pitched sound you hear is the squeal of the shameless fanboy!) is a definite high point. Everything that has gone on over the course of this album reaches something of a climax, fading out with a sad and lonely piano. We finish with “Unleash The Hellion”, which to me just screams ‘Castlevania boss music’! It ploughs through at a furious tempo before finishing on something of a Blackened Death Metal sort of feel.

This is an absolute triumph. Given the band have had twelve prior attempts to perfect their art this is hardly surprising, but this album proves CRADLE OF FILTH still a competitive force on the metal market. This is especially praiseworthy given the sheer volume of bands that compete for genuine horror, particularly as the Lovecraftian aspect becomes more popular (see my review of ABYSSAL FROST). Particularly during times like these, stonking releases like this remind us that perhaps we area heading towards something vaguely resembling normality. To you, Dani and gang, I say congratulations – I hope to see you all on the road very soon!

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. The Fate Of The World On Our Shoulders
2. Existential Terror
3. Necromantic Fantasies
4. Crawling King Chaos
5. Here Comes A Candle… (Infernal Lullaby)
6. Black Smoke Curling From The Lips Of War
7. Discourse Between A Man And His Soul
8. The Dying Of The Embers
9. Ashen Mortality
10. How Many Tears To Nurture A Rose?
11. Suffer Our Dominion
12. Us, Dark, Invincible
13. Sisters Of The Mist
14. Unleash The Hellion
Dani Filth – Vocals
Anabelle Iratni – Keyboards, Orchestrations, Lyre, Vocals
Rich Shaw – Guitar
Ashok – Guitar
Daniel Firth – Bass
Marthus – Drums, Keyboards, Orchestrations
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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