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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Cradle of Filth

Damnation and a Day

Review by Mike Korn

One thing's for certain - Cradle of Filth don't do anything half way. For their major label debut "Damnation and a Day", they have pulled out all the stops and unleashed an exhausting 76-minute opus featuring a 40 piece orchestra and 32 piece choir. As far as subject matter goes, they tackle no less ominous a theme than the history of Satan himself. Yes, it's a concept album written from Old Nick's point of view, casting stones at that rotter Jehovah for kicking Satan out of the cushy confines of Heaven. Well, as the band (and Aleister Crowley before them) say here, "it is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."

Cradle of Filth certainly did not commercialize their sound for "Damnation and a Day". In fact, this might be the fastest COF effort ever, as every proper song (excluding the classical instrumentals) hits the accelerator hard at some point. Head shrieker Dani Davey has not suddenly become Eddie Vedder, either...he does a lot more lower register growling but those trademark wheezing shrieks are still all over the place. I thought the guitar production was mighty thin, but the bass comes through with more thud than ever. As for the classical elements of the music, they are blended almost seamlessly with the blasting metal mayhem. They are an integral part of every song and not just "frosting" added to pretty up this evil cake.

As with all Cradle records, it's extremely exhausting to listen to all the way through, but then, this band is all about excess, whether musical, lyrical or visual. I still prefer the raw sounds of old black metal like Venom and Bathory myself, but for baroque and Gothic metallic overkill, "Damnation and a Day" sets a standard that will be hard to exceed.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon
This is one of the band's very impressive classical musical tracks, making full use of both choir and orchestra. It really sounds immense, with both male and female vocals rising to crescendo and ominous strings in the background. We get some opening narration from the Bible from a creepy sounding British narrator.
The Promise of Fever
Blasting fast metal mayhem kicks right in with one of Dani's patented shriek. This has got some pretty killer heavy riffing with a Gothic feel and it's obvious Dani is going for more of a death metal tone in his vocals. Some cool female vocals accentuate the mood of the song.
Hurt and Virtue
This track is a bit more melodic than the raging storm above, but it still packs a good wallop. Some of the guitar work here reminded me of Iron Maiden. The patented whispering female vocals reciting sensuous poetry make their first appearance here.
An Enemy Led the Tempest
Raging death metal is the only way to describe this cut. The opening barrage of riffs is completely destructive, and Adrian Erlandsson's double bass drumming is relentless. The track throws a dizzying array of riffs and speeds at the listener, as Dani's wheezing alternates with a more spoken word type of vocal. It builds to a very theatrical climax with full use of orchestra.
Damned In Any Language (A Plague on Words)
This instrumental starts very quietly and gradually builds into a huge, baroque fugue with plenty of choral vocals. It's very easy to imagine something like this being played in a cathedral, albeit a rather sordid one. The narrator returns with more tales of the battle between God and Satan.
Better to Reign in Hell
I really like the catchy, heavy riff that forms the underpinning of this cut. This song throws enough ideas at you for a full-scale album. Sometimes it's a little much, but the patient listener will be rewarded with some of the most scorching metal the band has to offer. At one point, it sounds like an actual war is being fought behind the music!
Serpent Tongue
This track starts in a very melodic and Gothic fashion but soon speeds up into a vicious death metal belter. It does tend to go on too long for its own good, which is a fairly common failing of many Cradle tracks.
Carrion
A real militaristic feeling comes across with the opening death metal riffing here. When Martin Powell's keyboards come in to accentuate the main riff, it conjures up an awesome feeling of ancient warfare between mighty powers. I would go so far as to say this is the best track on the record. It is the most consistent, and the balance between metal and classical elements is at its best!
The Mordant Liquor of Tears
This is an absolutely gorgeous classical interlude. It has a wonderfully melancholy atmosphere created with strings that becomes increasingly darker with the addition of a vocal choir. I really think this rates with the likes of John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith as far as powerful cinematic music goes.
Present From the Poison Hearted
A pretty typical Cradle track, with plenty of velocity and Gothic touches, I couldn't say this stood out that much, though it features Dani's sickest vocals of the album.
Doberman (Pharaoh)
They try for an Arabic feel with this tune, but the result is less than satisfactory. It works for the first minute or so but then the effect kind of fades, and the song becomes rather nondescript and again drags on too long. An interesting failure, is what I would call it.
Babalon A.D. (So Glad for the Madness)
This is a real epic track that starts out with doomy pounding chords and then heads into a variety of dark territories. There's subdued and rather delicate Gothic tones contrasting with some quite catchy riffing on the chorus. You can't really call this a commercial tune but it is more accessible than many of Cradle's screaming black metal epics.
A Scarlet Witch Lit the Season
No, this is not a tribute to the Marvel Comics heroine, but yet another classical interlude. It reminded me of music from the old Hammer horror movies. It's OK but not up to the magnificent "Mordant Liquor of Tears".
Mannequin
After some decadent female poetry, this erupts with a fast melodic riff and some beautiful solo female vocals that accentuate the track perfectly. This is Cradle of Filth at their best, mixing rabid speed with dark melody to create a haunting track. I could have done without some of the electronically enhanced vocals, though.
Thank God For the Suffering
This has a slow and melancholy feel to it, with strings and keyboards predominant in the early going. The deep vocals remind me more of Type O Negative and the whole song has that kind of vibe to it. It's pretty heavy but by this time, you are getting really tired of Cradle's excess, no matter how good the track is. Again, this particular cut could have used some judicious editing.
The Smoke of Her Burning
After all the diverse elements of previous tracks, the last proper tune is the pure black metal which Cradle cut its vampiric teeth on. Blindingly fast, it features that typical black metal warbly riffing. This is a very traditional track and one of the best on the record.
End Of Daze
The album's instrumental closer bleeds through from the end of the previous track. The metal elements gradually fade into the background as the choirs and orchestras take over again, picking up where "A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon" left off. The record then ends with more Biblical poetry and evil laughter from our narrator.
 
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