Cradle of Filth
Nymphetamine

I could take up half of this review discussing the viability of Cradle of Filth as a bonafide black metal act and their subsequent litany of either crazed fans or haters that pass them of as pop stars slithering under the banner of a more extreme exterior. But instead, let’s just talk about the album though shall we? ‘Cos it’s just pretty damn good metal album (I’ll you decide its genre).

Right of the bat, the Colin Richardson (Carcass, Gorefest) production is immediately notable as CoF suddenly have far more pure metal girth as opposed to black metal’s usual Abyssic sound, the overall feel is far more of a classic heavy metal sound that’s enhanced by CoF simplified songwriting and obvious desire to cull NWOBHM into their gothic tinged overtures. Arguably the post Cruelty and the Beast let down of Midian and the fan shunning, major label foray of Damnation and a Day (although a solid album) left the Cradle slightly in the shadow of the Dimmu Borgir’s lauded but familiar sounding Death Cult Armageddon and while both bands last efforts flirted with full orchestras, CoF have smartly let the metal do the talking and their orchestration resort to mood enhancing atmospherics. Rather than try to outdo (gimmick) Dimmu by introducing a larger orchestra to flesh out their sound, CoF have instead upped the ante by falling back to their country’s earthy metal origins and laced it with their own brand of sexual imagery and PVC clad musical eroticism.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling, I’ll cut to the chase, Nymphetamine is the best CoF album since Dusk and her Embrace. There, I said it. Although still intent on black metal contrivances like haunting album intro (“Satyriasis”) and operatic interludes (“Painting Flowers White Never Suited My Palette”) CoF have delivered some of their best, most pure metal musings since Dusk… Maligned midget Dani Filth is surprisingly restrained often slinking into a Martin Walkyier-esque rasp, rather than his teeth gnashing screech and the synths of Martin Foul are far more ambient and unobtrusive than any other album. More importantly, the music itself seems to have somewhat shunned the usual black metal paradigms, and now treads a thrashier, earthier tone that while obviously still retains the dark grandiosity of black metal’s sadistic pomp, tries to actually break free of its restrictive boundaries. The result is a less clichéd and grittier, yet still hedonistically sensual form of dark musical art. Despite the album weakest track, “Gilded Cunt” kicking off affairs on an eye rolling note, the album is consistently strong in both form and function.

After the lackluster “Gilded Cunt”, CoF deliver what is arguably the best contingent trio of songs on any of their albums: the controlled, marching menace of “Nemesis”, the sensual tone of “Gabrielle” and the grim ostentation of “Absinthe With Faust” all show refined song writing without reliance on cheesy antics or forced histrionics. Absinthe With Faust’s opening piano notes being possibly the most succinct yet hypnotic synth passage they’ve written in a long time. I’m tempted to say there is some filler on Nymphetamine just to not be such a fan boy but being honestly objective, other than the previously mentioned interlude, the album is unerringly good from beginning to end, and unlike Damnation and Day it doesn’t feel overdrawn or too lengthy and self involved. Granted the “overdose” version of the title track, at nearly ten minutes is skippable when compared to its half length version (the version the video accompanies), but when graced be the angelic Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes, Theatre of Tragedy), it’s worth wading through its needless first three minutes.

Long time harpy Sara Jezebel Diva still provides much of the vocal ambience, but Liv’s sultry tone steals the show. I could logically name “Medusa and Hemlock” as a slight letdown as a singular track, but is still manages to retain the albums high standard, even if not the best cut. At times “Coffin Fodder” has the rapturous urgency of “Beneath the Howling Stars”, but smartly breaks it up with synthless segues of crunchy old school thrash. “English Fire” provides this album’s “Malice Through the Looking Glass”, and with its surprisingly patriotic theme and controlled pace, sees Dani once again incur early Sabbat (UK)-like comparisons. If you were to hear the opening riff of “Filthy Little Secret” without knowing the artist, you’d be hard pressed to guess CoF as the player as it rocks with a pretty Old School British Steel vibe that’s almost bereft of black metal’s dramatic aesthetic.

As if to signify a return to glories past, Doug Bradley (Pinhead of Hellraiser fame) makes a welcome return for arguably the albums (and maybe the bands?) best track “Swansong For a Raven” and its glorious piano drenched opening gallop. “Mother of Abominations” ends the album (not including the shortened, bonus version of the title track) much like “Haunted Shores” sealed Dusk…; with an explosive climax rather than a contrived instrumental outro.

Nymphetamine isn’t going to end the ‘CoF are gay’ debates, as it’s still rife with Gothic, leather clad dressings, adolescently sexual artwork, and Dani’s lyrical petulance (which I happen to think are some of the best lyrics around), and it won’t convert those that are convinced that they are black metal sellouts. However, it is, regardless of their image and reputation, a damn good metal album, that it would be shame to miss based on ones preconceptions of their somewhat false ‘superstar’ status and label affiliation. Quit bitchin’ on the internet, just get the fucking thing and actually listen to it before jumping to conclusions.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
November 28th, 2004

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