Release Date October 22, 2021
Thirty years is a long career in any discipline, let alone on the more extreme fringes of a volatile music industry. While metal bands tend to average longer tenures than more ‘financially motivated’ genres of music, few approach the triple decade mark, let alone maintain a consistency of output in both quality and quantity over that entire period.
Having graduated from brash, Bible-baiting upstarts of the 90’s to elder statespeople of British extreme music, Cradle of Filth have carved a deep niche and stayed comfortably in it for some time now. The core sound has changed little in the last decade, and this latest offering continues that trend in the most straightforward fashion. Laden with even more blast beats but considerably less symphonic flourishes than much of their catalogue, it’s as simple and direct as the modern Cradle sound gets. As such, it struggles to rise above most of their output.
The conception is there, the execution on point. It’s not a lack of effort so much as inspiration it seems, and so this is a record that rarely leaves third gear for long – even if that gear is usually fast and relentless. High drama abounds in ‘Crawling King Chaos’, but doesn’t quite hit the crescendo it sometimes promises. Things start to take off later in proceedings with ‘The Dying Of The Embers’, which is ironically as lively as it gets, but there seems to be a holding back from a band not known for tasteful restraint.
Cradle are at their best when fully indulging in their bombast and excess. While it’s nice to see less cheesy monologues and excessive melodic interludes for a change, in this case their discretion lends a lack of ambience compared to prior efforts. I have a hard time imagining much, if any of this outing making it to future setlists or potential compilations, and indeed there is a slight air of futility over proceedings.
Perhaps the subject material of this loose concept album is the issue. The lyrical focus is grounded more in the here and now rather than the grandiose, historic subject matter of records past, and thus much of the magic is lost. It’s a record very much topically in the present, but sonically not much different from the last few, and lacking defining songs to remember it by. Nothing here is bad as such (they’ve done worse) but there are fewer memorable moments than usual. Here, it seems consistency may now be a crutch.
One wonders if this may have been a good time to revisit the more riff-driven, thrash influenced approach that of the mid-to-late 2000’s, given the immediacy and simplicity of the writing. The straight-up, more-is-more approach in terms of percussion has stifled the band’s sound somewhat – having stayed the course for a few records after reverting to their more pummeling traditional sound, here they may have benefitted from a little more breathing room. It’s a pandemic album in that sense, but not a defining one.
With this kind of tenure it’s understandable for such a long established, legendary act to stick with a formula that usually works and please the purists, and there are many. But Cradle often fared best when loosening up and taking a few risks, despite protestations of some old-school fans. Nobody really gets much of a chance to stand out performance-wise this time, though not for lack of ability. It all feels a bit compressed, the atmosphere surprisingly muted by the usual standards.