Who would have thought back in 1994 that in 2012 Cradle of Filth would be one of the UK’s biggest metal exports? Ok, they may not be shifting Iron Maiden quantities of albums but for a band that started out under the gnarly black metal umbrella they’ve come a long way. “The Manticore & Other Horrors” is the band’s tenth proper, full-length studio album and may come as something of a surprise to those who’ve gotten used to the slicker, more polished output that the band have been releasing over the last decade or so.
The first thing that hits you after the now-traditional piano-led intro of ‘The Unveiling of O’ is how savage the band – now reduced to the core trio of singer Dani Filth, guitarist Paul Allender and drummer Marthus – sound, as the opening blast-beats of ‘The Abhorrent’ lead into an icy Dani Filth screech that immediately brings back the harsh edge that the band were exhibiting around the “Vempire”/”Dusk… And Her Embrace” era.
With echoes of the line-up problems that the band had around the turn of the millennium it seems that Cradle are a band that thrive on the uncertain, as now being reduced to a three-piece seems to have brought out the beasts in them once again. ‘For Your Vulgar Delectation’ is as vibrant, scathing and yet accessible as the band’s leap-from-the-underground single ‘From the Cradle to Enslave’, as is the extreme rock n’ roll vibe of ‘Pallid Reflection’, that begins with greasy Motörhead-style riff before Marthus’ remarkable footwork takes things up a pace or two but still remains memorable.
One thing that marked the band out from the rest of their blackened contemporaries was the fact that they always had lavish, OTT productions that made the best of what they had available to them with whatever budget they had – as opposed to the black metal norm of trying to sound as terrible as possible regardless of what studio or equipment you were using – and whilst “The Manticore…” is no exception in terms of clarity, it does feel stripped back compared to their previous two albums and that’s not a bad thing. Whilst “Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder” and “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” had their moments they were very layered and orchestral – almost like mini-operas – whereas “The Manticore…” mostly does away with all that, focusing on razor-sharp riffs that are almost punk-like in their simplicity and a raw brutality that the band haven’t exhibited in some time. There are choirs, female vocals and some orchestration but it is all used sparingly and in the background, even on the charging ‘Succumb to This’ which gallops along Iron Maiden-style, throwing everything into the mix but still sounding fresh and like a band invigorated.
With this album Cradle of Filth have done what many bands claim but rarely do, and that is to go back to the essence of what made them appealing in the first place but still with a touch of what they’ve become. The leaner production and style of playing of the band’s formative years is infused with the more modern accessibility to create what is probably a contender for their greatest album yet, and best of all it sounds like they have their devilish mojo back. All hail!