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Cradle of Filth - Godspeed on the Devilís Thunder

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Wednesday, November 12, 2008 @ 1:56 PM


(Roadrunner)

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After stripping things down, relatively speaking, with Nymphetamine and Thornography, British extremists Cradle of Filth return to the epic conceptualisms of Midian and, especially, Cruelty and the Beast with their latest effort.

The expansive, intricately plotted Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder details - sometimes in graphic detail - the exploits of 15th-century French nobleman Gilles De Rais, who fought alongside Joan of Arc and became one of the richest men in Europe before turning to the dark side and satanism, depravity and serial murder - most of his victims being children. Nice. And it's told with a grandiosity Cradle of Filth hasn't displayed since 2003's overblown major label foray Damnation and a Day, replete with orchestration, choirs, interludes and creepy voice-overs provided, yet again, by Doug "Pinhead" Bradley.

But the ever-changing band, here with manic new drummer Martin Skaroupka, have learned a thing or two in the interim since Damnation, a 17-track behemoth that staggered under the sheer weight of its symphonic aspirations - it featured the 80-piece Budapest Film Orchestra and Choir - and musical complexity. Godspeed is no less ambitious and opulent, but it is more streamlined and less ostentatious.

Cradle even excised several songs - which are available on disc II of the deluxe edition, which includes a couple live tracks, a cover of Celtic Frost's "Into The Crypt of Rays" and some demo material - from the final cut, although that might have had more to do with the physical limits of the CD than a magnanimous show of restraint. Even without them, Godspeed clocks in at 70-plus minutes over 13 tracks.

But by drawing on the riffiness of their last two albums, Cradle provide grounding and better yet, punch to Godspeed. The hefty production of Andy Sneap - who's worked with Kreator, Arch Enemy, Machine Head and Testament - certainly helps here, beefing up the typical headlong Cradle histrionics of "Shat Out of Hell" or "Sweetest Maleficia" and giving the more somber "The Death of Love" or "Ten Leagues Beneath Contempt" some genuine crunch.

But Cradle also have scripted some of the tautest, most vicious material of their long career here and - despite the classical window dressing and other conceptual trappings - deliver it with punishing authority. The aforementioned "Shat" and "Maleficia," along with "Darkness Incarnate" and the title track, with their blast beat fury and hurtling guitars, deliver some of the most genuine black metal the band has done in quite some.

"The 13th Caesar," "Tragic Kingdom" and "Honey and Sulphur" boast more pomp, but frontman Dani Filth goes easier on the cat-fight squeal and sticks to the more guttural end of his vocal range here, which maintain the ballsy edge. The plentiful thick hooks throughout also nicely help counter the brisk pace Skaroupka sets.

Godspeed probably won't winner over the purists who wrote off Cradle as a circus act years ago because of their penchant for theatrics, and there is a lot here that longtime Cradle fans may find a bit too familiar. But its sheer brutality, especially when played against the lush orchestration, is quite impressive, if not a bit surprising. And that's good enough for me.

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