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Music Review

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Cruelty and the Beast (1998)
(2019 Reissue)


Artist: Cradle of Filth
Label: Music For Nations
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 01 November 2019

UK label Music For Nations releases the 21st anniversary rerelease of Cradle of Filth’s classic 1998 album Cruelty and the Beast. Newly remixed and remastered for the modern age by Grindstone Studio’s Scott Atkins, it is presented on CD, transparent red vinyl, and for digital download. It features new artwork by Stuart Williamson, exclusive linear notes from vocalist Dani Filth – along with Black Metal writer Dayal Patterson – and there is a bonus track cover of Iron Maiden’s 'Hallowed Be Thy Name'. There are 75 limited edition vinyl test pressings, accompanied by a personalised signed letter. Cradle of Filth is a Gothic Black Metal band that originated from Suffolk in 1991. They have evolved over the years from a Black Metal band to a thicker and heavier symphonic unit. Cruelty and the Beast tells the story of the notorious Elizabeth Bathory, a 17th century Hungarian serial killer. But what about the music, I hear you say…

I love the intro track, 'Once Upon Atrocity'; it’s so atmospheric, and builds-up before breaking through into the main body of the piece. I can’t say I’m a fan of the baby-like screeched vocals in 'Thirteen Autumns and a Widow', but the lower-toned vocals work much better. The hammer-like relentless beat of the drums and the spot-on timing of the rest of the band brings this together to the point you begin to forgive the intrusive vocals. The timing and the melodic guitar melodies hook you in, and the spoken female vocals are a fitting backdrop. An epic track. 'Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids' again incorporates a female spoken intro. There is a galloping riff, off-beat drumming and a nice accompanying melody. A scream echoes into the distance and takes us into a more moderate verse. But when the high-pitched screamed vocals return they sound like a puppy with its foot trapped in the door. There are some nice angelic female backing vocals and a prominent keyboard melody in this one.

'Beneath the Howling Stars' begins with a frantic melody and crashing drums, interspersed with brief lighter moments. The vocals seem to fit this track much more closely. There’s an organ break (so-to-speak!) with whispered vocals. This is a very nicely structured song, with clean vocals about Elizabeth Bathory, which are prominent and clear. 'Venus in Fear' is more of a soundscape. It has a dreamlike quality, with horror and lustful screams, accompanied by dramatic, almost orchestral keyboard-led music. 'Desire in Violent Overture' possesses elements of standard Rock guitar. It evens-out into a Maidenesque twin guitar piece, before settling into a repeated theme.

'The Twisted Nails of Faith' has spoken monologues and off-kilter soundtrack music which kick this off with an eerie start, before the full band explodes through the uncertainty. There’s also a nice key change mid-point. 'Bathory Aria' introduces monk chants with harpsichord and then whispered vocals. It becomes a moderate-paced harbinger of doom. There’s a nice guitar melody, and a slower middle section. This is 11 minutes long and doesn’t stand still for a second. 'Portrait of the Dead Countess' has an atmospheric keyboard outro which befits a monumental opus. The last song of this concept album is 'Lustmord and Wargasm: The Lick of Carnivorous Winds'. It hits you at full pelt; containing all the trademark melodies, hammering drums and various vocal strains.

This is a ground-breaking album which was unleashed on the public at a time when Speed Metal and Symphonic Power Metal was making its mark. The influences are definitely there to see (or hear). I have only two problems with this excellent remastered edition. Firstly, it’s too long; much too long to endure in one sitting without developing a splitting headache, it’s so relentless. The other thing is the high-pitched shrieking vocals which tend to grate. I would love to hear the music without any vocals (or at least sans screamed vocals, leaving the others intact), as I am certain it would come across heavily symphonic in style; it has some great melodies. If not for those bug bears this may well have received a maximum score.


Ty Power

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