Cradle Of Filth – ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay’

By James Davenport

Cradle Of Filth need no introduction. They’ve certainly left their mark on the extreme music scene during their twenty-five-year long career, as well as becoming something of a household name.

Even though Cradle Of Filth regularly evolve and shed their skin (and often band members) with each new album they release, they remain consistent in their levels of quality and output. Their newest offering, ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay’, is no exception. Whilst the new album features the same line-up as 2015’s ‘Hammer Of The Witches’, the band have abandoned the pagan themes and instead opted to explore Victoriana and the Victorian era’s morbid fascination with death.

Right from the start ‘Cryptoriana’ proves to be unpredictable, lacking the trademark instrumental piece of neo-classical music that we’ve come to expect when beginning the journey into a Cradle album. Instead ‘Exqisite Torments Await’ wastes no time with introductions, as the screeching violins soon plunge into blast beats, choir chants and Dani Filth’s ghoulish howls. With a run time of two minutes and fifteen seconds, this is the shortest track on the album by quite some way. One of the most noticeably different aspects of ‘Cryptoriana’ is the average song length, which seem to be around the seven-and-a-half-minute mark, although don’t fret; they’ve not ventured into the realms of prog rock just yet.

‘Heartbreak And Séance’ is the first single to be taken from the album, and alongside its accompanying film-like music video, it sees the band returning to top form and maintaining the high standards they set with ‘Hammer Of The Witches’. Again moving out of their comfort zone, Cradle have utilised an all-female choir for a majority of the hooks and atmosphere on this album, rather than relying solely on the singular backing vocals of keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft.

‘Achingly Beautiful’ and ‘Vengeful Spirit’ both make use of Dani’s eerie spoken word vocals adjacent to haunting layered female vocals, that overall make listening to the songs about as comfortable as attending a séance. Cradle Of Filth have always taken pride in being purveyors of atmosphere ,and ‘Cryptoriana’ is brimming with it. Constantly swapping vocal melodies with the backing of music box jingles, harpsichords and enormous choirs, the album has no shortage of grandeur.

Whilst romanticising an era of English history that was almost incomparable in terms of productivity, creativity and innovation, Dani Filth’s lyrics once again read like poems or short stories synonymous with those of 19th Century authors. For example, ‘Vengeful Spirit’ contains the lyrics “please free my soul before darkness can swallow me”, potentially drawing inspiration from the schizophrenia and duality explored in Robert Louis Stevensen’s novella ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ or Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’.

Despite the emphasis on ‘Cryptoriana’s beauty, it’s equally matched in both ferocity and abrasiveness. ‘Wester Vespertine’, ‘The Seductiveness Of Decay’ and ‘You Will Know The Lion By His Claw’ all have a sense of familiarity to them, whilst simultaneously focusing on the heavier side of Cradle’s music, the latter ending in a dark crescendo of devastating aggression.

Continuing the aural assault to the very end, ‘Death And The Maiden’ is far slower in pace,plodding along, but much like the albums opening track, there’s no classical interludes or outros anywhere in sight. Unexpectedly, the album draws to a close without the use of huge instrumental pieces or crescendos, instead finishing fairly abruptly.

‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay’ may not fit the COF mould exactly, but it’s undeniably a Cradle Of Filth record, and one of their finest efforts at that. Although on the first listen there’s no particular piece of music that instantly stands out, ‘Cryptoriana’ proves itself more than worthy of praise with each listen. It’s an album to throw yourself into and be swept away by, as once under its spell, you’ll find yourself immersed in a dark and gloomy Victorian fantasy.

JAMES DAVENPORT

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