Cradle Of Filth - The Manticore And Other Horrors [Goth / Fake Metal]
It takes a lot of bravery to take a listen even with as atrocious an album cover as this, but I went on anyway. I used to be a huge fan of Cradle Of Filth, specifically of their albums from Dusk And Her Embrace onward to about Midian, that's about three albums including Cruelty And The Beast. Dani Filth was the definite lyricist to me, beyond the snide humour of J. R. Hayes of Pig Destroyer and the poetic beauty of Mikael Adkerfeldt of Opeth, Dani Filth hadn't let his degree in English Literature go to waste. I mean, reading the first verse of 'Cthulhu Dawn' off Midian:
"Spatter the stars
Douse their luminosity
With our amniotic retch
Promulgating the birth
Of another Hell on Earth
Shadows gather poisoned henna for the flesh
A necrotic cattle brand
The hissing downfall pentagram
Carven deep upon the church doors of the damned
But no Passover is planned
A great renewal growls at hand
And only when they're running
Will they come to understand
So ends the pitiful reign of Man"
Dani Filth is, and for all I know probably still is, a fantastic writer. However, the small man from the big band faces numerous limitations with age as experienced on the albums since Midian. Those frightening high-pitched falsettos screams he overused in Midian have been taking a heavy toll on the man and it shows in his preference for the lower register and the almost pathetic use of spoken vocals without any effects, rendering any shock effects the group has been attempting futile. Also, as they get richer and start overproducing their music, the novelty of the dreadful lo-fi atmospheres have been replaced with well-defined punk riffs which are just weird as they clash with the keyboard that has also been overproduced and sound more like a Disney villain's theme music than the gothic vibes the band succeeded in creating with their first four albums. Change is good, but hey, if it ain't broke, why fix it? Bands such as Behemoth and Septic Flesh have successfully fused the grandeur of orchestra, hell, even Dimmu Borgir sound grander with their gay white costumes and tired songwriting. The orchestral touch is fantastic, but lacks the twisted genius earlier works had, sounding, again, morel like Disney themes than Cradle material.
Where songs once brimmed with life and unpredictability, with melancholic keyboards and barely audible guitar riffs and underproduced drums, are extremely aimless songs taking dumps everywhere over six minute spans, far too long a time duration for 'punk' riffs. Instrumentally, the album is a mess. The choir comes up at ridiculously obvious cues, Allender's guitar should be subdued very far in the back instead of trying to make the band sound heavier, Caroline Campbell's keyboards have no effect whatsoever and only make Allender's guitar sound stupider. Dani Filth may want to just switch to death growls because his shrieks no longer sound powerful, more like a victimized scream failing. There is some electronic synth on 'Frost On Her Pillow' which just sounds cringe-worthy, the sitars and Indian-inspired violins on 'Manticore' have no link with the song save for the origin of the aforementioned beast in India. Drummer Martin Škaroupka is the only redeeming factor of the band, his blastbeats energetic and vital, but alas, his drumming is not memorable and cannot ultimately save the band's uninspired tenth album.
Amidst the general disappointment I have for this, there is one song that still managed to surprise me and even gave me hope for the second half of the album - 'Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair' does not repeat the cheesiness of the synth in 'Frost On Her Pillow' and actually showed the band in a new light, almost neo-classical, but five minutes of gold in 51 minutes cannot do anything. The punk vibes also hold up surprisingly well on album closer 'Succumb To This', with that one catchy chorus I was looking high and low for, but oh well, too late.
★☆☆☆☆ Rubbish - One or two good songs