I'm almost too much of a Cradle of Filth fanboy to let this review happen, but needs must so let's go for it. It's no secret that Suffolk's main icon have long since lost their shock factor and immense profiling. Once a time came when they were the public eye's first guide to an extreme metal band, being name-checked in all aspects of mainstream culture. They were referenced on Coronation Street, The IT Crowd and the immortal internet cartoon Burnt Face Man and managed to cause a stir in the public's eyes with the release of their "Jesus is a Cunt" T-Shirt. But these days are long gone and since then they seemed to have entered a low stage of their career, with the release of last year's Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa being the first time I felt disappointed listening to an album back in my fifteen-year-old state of "Oh, I listen to Slipknot and Cradle of Filth. I'm so dark" atrocity.
So, now that the band isn't the same band I viewed as icons in my confused teenager days (Wait, I still am a conf-) hearing the announcement of the release of their tenth album The Manticore and Other Horrors isn't nearly as exciting as it may have once been. And going into the album with that state of mind means you're only going to come out thinking the same about the music.
It's not a complete lull in any way though. It starts off promising enough, with The Unveiling of O actually having an intro track once again, the staple of a Cradle of Filth album, something that Venus Aversa was painfully lacking in. And as this grandiose opener bursts straight into the massively sized opening of The Abhorrent, signs of Cradle regaining their extremity can be heard, as the perfect mix of heavy riffage and showmanship meet with Dani Filth's new vocal style continuing to sprawl in a dirty narrative tone, showing that this is a band that still wants to uphold it's theatricality.
That said, references to riffs is important for The Manticore, as this album finally allows guitarists Paul Allender act as the driving force on several songs. For Your Vulgar Dedication and Manticore, his riffs actually manage to be catchy and take on a greater crust punk and rock and roll influence. And with this album being promised to be a more rock and roll release from the band, hearing them slightly more stripped down is enjoyable.
And that's one reason you'll leave this album disappointed because that moment of a stripped down Cradle of Filth is actually very rare. Across the album, the band continue to churn out overblown extreme metal works practically leaking symphonic and choral effects that just don't make any real impact on the songs. Plus, Dani's attempts to bring as much theatricality as possible loses it's charm very quickly. Frost on Her Pillow is painfully unscary and melodramatic, while his narrative on the simple opening of Palid Reflection effectively ruins what could have been a very cool rock and roll opening. By the time you get the usage of digital vocal effects on Succumb to This, it's difficult to keep oneself listening to the album.
With that, it's difficult to know what Cradle of Filth can really do from here because The Manticore and Other Horrors sounds like blatant evidence that their days of recording classic albums are probably behind them. I could see Dani working well as a producer, maybe. Either way, they probably should find something new because I really don't know how much longer I can go on with hearing a band that I have so much confused respect for do something so lacking in quality or substance. They try to put on a more rock and roll signature to their work, but it has little bite and makes you realise how much better a band Goatwhore are. Even when there's so much going on in the background with orchestras and choirs, the songs are still unremarkable. All you can see here is a band that was once ferocious within the public eye officially marking out their fall from grace. It's agony. Fifteen-year-old me is crying in the corner right now.
Cradle of Filth's The Manticore and Other Horrors is out now via Peaceville. The band will play at The Forum in London on the 19th December