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CRADLE OF FILTH Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness Of Decay

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 12:10 AM


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CRADLE OF FILTH
Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness Of Decay

Nuclear Blast Records




After a period of aimlessness marked by more lineup turmoil than usual – indeed the sextet at one point was whittled down to a trio — and a couple fairly spotty albums — Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa and The Manticore And Other Horrors — it seemed like the jig might just about be up for veteran miscreants CRADLE OF FILTH. The subsequent departure of longtime guitarist/composer Paul Allender and frontman Dani Filth’s affiliation with DEVILMENT didn’t bode well for the band’s future either.

But after a lineup refresh that brought guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda and keyboardist/vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft into the fold, CRADLE came back swinging with 2015’s Hammer Of The Witches. It was band’s heaviest, most aggressive and all-around “metal” album in ages, with the new guitar tandem flexing its muscle and showing some shreddy flash while the usual pomp was toned down to a degree.

Going back to relative basics – at least by symphonic black metal standards — along with finding a solid supporting cast appears to have been just the boost CRADLE needed. Two years later, the band has returned with the same lineup — something that hasn’t happened from one album to the next in a very long time, if ever — for its 12th full-length, which also marks something of another sonic step back. But, once again, that proves to be a good move.

While maintaining a good deal of Hammer’s fire and brawn, Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness Of Decay brings back more opulence and old-school black metal fury and revels in macabre melodrama. It’s a combination that recalls the Dusk And Her Embrace/Cruelty And The Beast era, when CRADLE was at the height of its goth/symphonic black metal powers, before extravagance — like hundred-plus piece orchestras and narrations from Doug “Pinhead” Bradley — entered the picture.

Despite its extravagant title, Cryptoriana doesn’t really feel as such, even with its ample dramatic flourishes. The various elements fit together rather seamlessly, with grandiosity, grace, brutality and bombast all given relatively equal footing. The album’s cinematic feel — with the requisite rises, falls and twists — plays out naturally, without forced or unnecessary theatrics.

The orchestration here — provided by drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka — is rather modest, just intermittent strings and horns, or their synthesized equivalents. Where the band does lay things on thick, however, is with the vocal accompaniments. There are choirs galore here, and right from the get-go with the intro and opening track “Heartbreak And Séance”. And though they sound a bit hokey on “Séance”, the choirs are otherwise pretty effective, providing a lush backdrop for the band’s metallic histrionics powered by Škaroupka’s blistering tempos.

Schoolcraft assumes the Sara Jezebel Deva role here, chiming in on “Achingly Beautiful”, “Wester Vespertine” and “Death And The Maiden” with a mix of clean and narrative-style vocals, and guest Liv Kristine adds some thankfully restrained operatic flare to “Vengeful Spirit”, both of which heighten the sense of Dusk/Cruelty déjà vu. But Cryptoriana is no mere copycat. The tag-team of Shaw and Šmerda continue the inspired work they showed on Hammer, with their flighty tremolo duels, soaring twin harmonies and solo tradeoffs lending texture and substance as the often epic songs — five of the eight top seven minutes — hurtle along. A few grooves here and there, especially on “Death And The Maiden”, deliver welcome crunch.

Filth is his usual fire-breathing self, shouting and shrieking his vocals like a banshee and with the sort of furious wordplay that would leave most people gasping for air. But he shows a melodic, even romantic, side at times, as on “Achingly Beautiful”, that help lift the mood and lower the velocity to a brisk trot.

Cryptoriana continues the momentum CRADLE re-established with Hammer Of The Witches, and shows the band still has plenty of life as it begins the march toward its 30th anniversary (which isn’t until 2021). Of course, given its past history, that could all change in an instant if the band starts shedding members or indulgences take root yet again. So enjoy it while you can.

4.0 Out Of 5.0

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