Cradle of Filth
Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay
You might notice the oddity that befell the metal world just a few years ago, when these English extreme gothic metal legends released not only their best album in several years, but what also managed to rank as their highest recorded album on Metal Archives, even more than fan-favorite Midian and their early work. Yes, I’m talking about Hammer Of The Witches. Now that the band are aware they’ve found a good fit for the future of their legacy, they quickly got to work recording a new disc here in Cryptoriana. If there’s one thing I can say about this disc after the first listen, it is the fact that it might be one of the band’s most muscularly technical recordings since the days of Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder, albeit with more extreme metal influence than the groove-heavy nature of the aforementioned. But not only that, it also contains solos – great solo efforts that you’d never really expect to hear from Cradle which only add to the exciting journey that they’re taking you this time ‘round.
I’m getting a Cruelty and The Beast vibe this time around, which means that they haven’t forgotten how to properly meld gothic atmosphere with furious bravado and this is mostly showcased within opener and single “Heartbreak and Seance” a piece that reminds me heavily of cuts like “Her Ghost In The Fog”, “Born In A Burial Gown” and “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids.” The next cut, “Achingly Beautiful” seemed to solidify that, though without as memorable of a chorus. That’s not an issue, as the keys and textures prevalent in the song seem to show that they’re building atmosphere. The solo sectioned seemed to pop in at a weird place, with Marthrus’s drumming effort shortly thereafter seeming the only way to make it fit. It feels very much like the band are illustrating a story told in gothic poetry, which would see the number of riff and tempo changes necessary. This only continues with “Wester Vespertine” where Lindsay Schoolcraft continues to cement herself as a permanent replacement for Sara Jezebel Deva. I don’t even miss Jezebel as Schoolcraft seems to emulate her vibe and tone perfectly. It is here that the album also becomes heavily theatrical, so much to the point where I’m surprised that I can hear the guitars over the synths. However, there’s much to like on this one as Rich Shaw and Ashok devote a good minute’s worth of playing time to showing not only how well they can shred, but how well they can craft a tasteful set of solo pieces that seem to add real body to the piece, very much in an Iron Maiden fashion, even if they may come off just a little Dethklok.
At this point, one glaring issue seems apparent about the album and you’ll either love it or hate it depending on this factor – there’s no real sense of purpose. Unfortunately, much of the disc just seems to roll along with the might of an instrumental atmosphere that varies between heavy, light and atmospheric. Aside from “Heartbreak and Seance” there are very few memorable lead riffs to be found and the band often sounds more extreme than they do gothic. For some of you, this might be the best thing that Cradle could have ever done. But for me, I feel that its a heavy jumble of sound and style that equals out to a solid listen, but without a real foundation to keep it grounded. To put it simply, each song just seems to go from one section to the other and doesn’t leave the listener with any moments in which to sing-along. That being said, early Cradle was not a very choral act and I believe that they are again trying to capture that essence. The disc is extremely well-muscled, I’ll say that once again – but as far as the meat of the performance, it feels like one large story with the music as a background. A disc like this would be better listened while having the lyrics in one hand and following along with the story, as it were. It can often feel like one extremely long, yet well-crafted piece and is worth checking out on the musical factor alone. This is absolutely not a return to the Roadrunner era, but it is definitely a different direction than most of us would have expected from them. In truth, it is probably going to feel like Dusk and Her Embrace II or Cruelty and The Beast II and you’ll love it for that. There’s no question that this is what they do best, and I’m honestly looking forward to the responses from the metal community as soon as this disc officially releases.
In any case, Cryptoriana is certainly performed in a very classy and tasteful manner that continues to shows the strength of these gothic extreme metal stalwarts in what I would consider to be the winter era of their career. It’s great to see that even decades later, such a band can still manage to deliver as memorable of performances as they did when they were in the spring of youth. That kind of quality is remarkable – a sort of black magic in itself that manages to further cement the relevance of this band into the 21st century. Keep in mind that the limited version of this disc includes a lifted full-length song as well as a cover of Annihilator’s “Alison Hell” which I would never have expected from them in a hundred years. Daemons from the other world tell me that those are both quite good, so you should definitely pick up the limited edition if you can!