Cradle of Filth
Damnation and a Day (Red Ink 71423)
The Black Metal scene of the mid-nineties was a short-lived, but important offshoot of the Thrash/Death Metal scene of the eighties. While boring Nu-Metal bands ruled the scene in the US, bands like Emperor and My Dying Bride were building up a following throughout Europe with their bizarre, yet super-aggressive music.
Black Metal was basically a combination of styles pioneered by bands like Venom, Mercyful Fate, Bathory, Sabbat, and Slayer, with the additional influence of film soundtracks and pseudo-classical music.
The scene died out very quickly, though. This was probably due to the amazing amount of murders, prison sentences, and church burnings (no kidding) members of these bands were accessories to. The history of the scene almost reads like that of a distorted Spanish Inquisition. Its all quite amusing and occasionally shocking.
Cradle of Filth arrived toward the end of the Inquisition, and despite constant personnel changes, is still around today. In fact, they're probably more popular now than they ever have been. Filth recently landed the headlining slot on the Second Stage at Ozzfest, and managed to put out one of the best Metal albums in years, Damnation and a Day.
Cradle of Filth have never been known for their subtlety, and this release certainly is the most over-the-top disc they have released. It somehow manages to even out-do their own Cruelty and The Beast disc, which I frankly thought was impossible. Cruelty was a lengthy concept album based on the reign of the brutal Countess Elizabeth Bathory. It focused upon her predilections for ritual torture and weekly bathing in the blood of virginal peasant girls. Dani Filth, the only consistent member of the band throughout their career, managed to weave a ghastly narrative accented by a great amount of screaming vocals. Great stuff.
For Damnation, Filth managed to improve upon the grandiose storytelling of Cruelty by enlisting the help of a full symphony orchestra, chorus, and narrator. Yes, a fucking NARRATOR. The results are sometimes inspiring, sometimes incredibly complex, and frequently downright laughable.
Thatís the beauty of Cradle of Filth, though. Despite all of the thickly piled on pretentious meanderings, they have an incredible sense of humor. For every completely unnecessary Nietszche quote, there are at least two snide self-effacing comments on their own ridiculous nature.
So while the interplay of orchestra, narrator, and blistering death metal guitars might be considered silly, this band knows it and plays it up to great results.
I really canít rave enough about this disc. Picking out highlights is virtually impossible, like trying to choose your favorite strangling, though "Babylon AD," "Serpent Tounge," and "Mannequin" are standouts. On every song, Paul Allender's guitar riffs are extremely well written and impressive, Adrian Erlandsson's trademark blindingly-fast drumming is wonderfully ridiculous (though I do miss their original drummer, Nicholas Barker, a little). The production is crystal clear, and Dani Filth's screams and death grunts are, as always, fantastic.
The only thing I am somewhat disappointed by is the lack of harmony guitar parts. This has always been a Filth hallmark, and is somewhat downplayed on this disc, despite a few notable exceptions ("Doberman Pharoh" for instance). This might bowe something to the fact that long-time guitarist Gian Pyres is no longer with the band, so all guitar parts were played by Paul Allender, who returned on the last album, Midian, to replace his own replacement, Stuart, after originally leaving in 1994. (?)
It's part of the revolving door line-up of the band. Aside from Dani, the members seem to change constantly. These are minor quibbles, though, about a disc that is quite simply one of the best metal albums in years, one that provides the sumptuous, visceral appeal of tearing striated human flesh right off the bone.
The regular rating scale can not accommodate such delicious, filthy excellence. I hereby award Damnation and a Day Eleven Baths of Virginal Blood.
Review by Dr. Martin Absinthe