The Manticore and Other Horrors
Cradle Of Filth
51.37 min • Peaceville • October 29, 2012
In the late ’90s, BBC2 aired a program called Living With The Enemy, where a concerned mother from Leeds joined the “satanic” black metal band Cradle Of Filth on their Cruelty And The Beast tour to try and come to terms with her son’s taste for death metal. That program, along with a string of explicit T-Shirts (the most famous one saying JESUS IS A CUNT, a reaction to the usual mantra of JESUS LOVES YOU) is probably the extent of most peoples knowledge of Dani Filth and the rest of the crew. With their extreme painted gothic look and their outlandish stage antics, the band is often the product of ridicule on the metal scene. Treated almost as gothic Pantomime characters, they seem regularly ignored for their artistic merit, with the media choosing to focus on Dani as a blood drenched version of the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Hopefully, this new album of sonic, gothic fairy tails The Manticore and Other Horrors will make people stand up and take notice of the band again, not for their image, but for the music that has kept them in the industry for a massive 21 years.
12 years after their commercial breakthrough album Midian, which I have to admit was how I discovered the band’s music in the first place, and released around the same time of year (Midian was released ON Halloween), this is the album that The Manticore And Other Horrors most closely resembles. On seeing the video for single ‘Frost On Her Pillow’, easily one of the most radio friendly tracks they have produced since mammoth game changer ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’ in 2000, I started to get excited. A beautiful mix of dark, gothic fairy tale and Voodoo magic, telling the story of a girl who pricks her finger on a spinning wheel (sound familiar?) and loses her soul, and whilst in a catatonic state, is attacked (amongst other things) by a big horned … monster. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of music film that made my flesh creep (in a good way) in anticipation of the new collection of songs.
Unlike their last two studio albums, The Manticore is not a concept album. Well, not in the same way. The brilliant Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder articulately told the story of Gilles de Rais and his descent into witchcraft and debauchery after the death of close friend Joan Of Arc, whilst Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa concerned the biblical demon Lilith, the first wife of first man Adam, and essentially the birth of feminism. The Manticore and Other Horrors is a collection of stories centering on demons, mostly personal, and doesn’t follow a linear story, like the last two albums of new material, but I suppose has a concept of sorts.
Overture ‘The Unveiling Of O’ sets the tone perfectly, with its Danny Elfman film score epicness reminding me of Charles Bernstein’s iconic theme for Nightmare On Elm Street, before we are thrust into the speed metal beat and black metal scream of ‘The Abhorrent’. With its killer riff, mosh pit pounding beat and Dani Filth’s distinctive growl, this is the opening song I had hoped for. Lyrically direct, a monolgue from a monster about his transformation from feeling creature to unfeeling beast, it’s a metaphor that is moving and empowering, and sonically makes it impossible for me to stand still.
The dark filth of ‘For Your Vulgar Delectation’ hits me next, and I leave it dripping with Marquis de Sade debauchery. Dani’s lyrics, more than ever before, paint so many pictures on this gothic canvas, and this sexually explicit one is no less welcome. Like a fetish hurricane, if there’s ever been a better musical representation of Sadism, it’s totally passed me by. From its gothrotic poetry,
Vast boudoirs here are mastered by the minatory
Walls plastered with the base relief of baser glories,
Ma cherie Debauchery deflower of my life, untie their bonds,
And push these fantasies to ever greater stories,
For your vulgar delectation -
to its thumping death punk and female orgasmic climax, it’s pure death metal porn. And that’s a great thing.
Theres a rawness and urgency to the music on display here, possibly through the band’s want for the album to sound almost live, and tracks like ‘Illiticus’ and title track ‘Manticore’ are great examples of this. Thundering through each song, and making full use of Dani Filth’s vocal range from the deep growl to the high death metal signature scream, the band manage flawlessly to reference the elements that make their music so brilliant and immediate, whilst still pushing their sound further than it has ever gone, and the closing minute of ‘Manticore’ is close to sonic annihilation. (And the opening lines of,
Write a story.
But let it have dragons…
are amongst my favourite on the album.)
Now, I will make no secret of my love of well-crafted pop songs, and whilst I love the sadistic audio rape of the majority of death metal, I also love a good song, and ‘Frost On Her Pillow’ is without a doubt Cradle Of Filth’s best song since ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’. There, I’ve said it. Although I miss Sarah Jezebel Deva’s soprano vocal soaring over the chorus, this is definitely the closest to a sing-a-long I’ve heard so far, and even without the megahook of ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’, it still has a hook that sticks in my brain and warrants repeat listening, matched with incredibly visual and story driven fairy tale lyrics. And the aforementioned video is pretty damn awesome too.
The slight pop theme is carried through on the brilliant ‘Pallid Reflection’, and its immense chorus hook, when what begins with an almost punk riff explodes into balls of musical styles, encompassing classic metal, a gothic spoken word breakdown and yet more invigorating speed metal drums. ‘Sliding With The Titans’ continues the punk/black metal fusion, and then it becomes obvious they’ve saved the best till last. The rock stomp of final song ‘Succumb To This’, essentially Evanescence on MDMA (who wouldn’t want to hear what that would sound like), is my favourite thing on here. It’s fast, epic, creepy and beautiful, all in under 5 mins. What more could you want? Guys, PLEASE release this as a single, I beg of you. From our epic high, we are sent seamlessly into closing instrumental ‘Sinfonia’, which soars us gorgeously into darkness with its Nightmare Before Christmas-style epic conclusion.
So, my verdict? I love this album. Yes, there’s a lot of gothic pretention about Cradle Of Filth, but to me that’s a great thing. More so than any of their recent output, this album is full of great songs and beautiful instrumentation, and if it makes every day I listen to it feel like Halloween, that’s ok by me!
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