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Cradle Of Filth | ‘Cruelty And The Beast’

The 1990’s were a great time for dark metal.

Alongside bands like Moonspell, Paradise Lost, Tiamat, My Dying Bride, Samael and their slew of crushing albums, there was of course also Cradle Of Filth who gave us ‘The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh’ in 1994.

Listening back, that album was both ahead of its time while still having the sounds of a band trying to find themselves.

Its easy for people to dismiss Cradle these days considering what they have become.

The constantly revolving line-up grates.

But those early albums still retain a certain (black) magic that many others have imitated while never coming close to touching.

‘Dusk And Her Embrace’ was a fine piece of work. But for me ‘Cruelty And The Beast’ is where everything was taken to the absolute extreme to create in my opinion a near masterpiece.

I can still remember the day i purchased this album and literally having to pick my jaw off the floor when the album ended.

Nick Barker’s drumming, the twin guitar attack, Dani’s vocals and the ominous atmosphere all came together in gothic perfection. Speaking of Nick’s drumming, this is his finest hour along with Dimmu Borgir’s ‘Puritanical’ album.

This is also the album where they went with a full on concept, recreating the scarlet story of the blood countess Bathory.

Reading the lyrics while listening to the album just enhances it so much more and Dani’s poetically tongue in cheek lyrics are the icing on the cake. The attention and the amount of time that was obviously put into them is seriously impressive.

Weeping Stigmata

‘Once Upon Atrocity’ opens things up in typical Cradle fashion. A short instrumental piece which leads into the first proper track ‘Thirteen Autumns And A Widow’. Seven mintues of heavy metal perfection.

Dani’s high pitched vocals here are a vast improvement on ‘Dusk’. His spoken vocals are also amazing, drenched in reverb and sounding like Doug Bradley’s Pinhead from the Hellraiser movie.

Around the 4:30 mark we are hit with a riff that can only be described as Iron Maiden on crack cocaine as Dani recounts the countess fleeing from her castle as stigmata weeps between her legs. The track ends with a cool keyboard driven part led by incoming keyboardist Les ‘Lecter’ Smith.

‘Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids’ opens with the voice of the Countess herself before crashing into another maelstrom of furious riffing and that snare hit at 16 seconds in still sends chills up my spine.

The song features an excellent main riff which is repeated through-out and culminates in a squeal of pinch harmonics with Dani screeching ‘From the bowels of the abyss’ atop it.

Creepy keyboards lead us into ‘Beneath The Howling Stars’ and follows along the same lines as the previous two while still retaining the unpredictable twists and turns and countless layers of haunting synths.

These songs all have a similar sound while still working as pieces on their own. This is why the album works so well as a concept piece and it truly feels like a tale being told.

Twisted Nails

‘Venus In Fear’ is an interlude of female screams and orgasms where we can hear the Countess torturing her many victims.

I mentioned that this album is a near masterpiece and ‘Desire In Violent Overture’ is the track that makes it just fall short.

It’s essentially a thash metal song with an Iron Maiden inspired chorus. It just pales in comparison to the previous songs and if it had been left off the album it would have made it perfect.

‘The Twisted Nails Of Faith’ is another cracker and features Hammer Horror Actress Ingrid Pitt. She played the Countess in a film version of her called ‘Countess Dracula’ and I would imagine it was a dream come true for the band to have her on it as they (Dani) are such big fans of that specific genre.

Eleven minutes and split into three parts, ‘Bathory Aria’ is possibly one of the finest Cradle tracks. This song has it all. It’s thrashy, gothic, melodic and haunting with Dani’s spoken parts sounding especially effective and it culminates in a beautiful melodic part towards the end.

The final movement of the song once again features Ingrid Pitt as she tells how the Countess’ reign of terror comes to an end as she is barred up in her castle.

To be honest the album could have ended here but the final track ‘Lustmord And Wargasm’ is still a pretty cool track. I honestly think if they had swapped this track with ‘Desire In Violent Overture’ then the album would be a stone cold 10/10.

This year will see a remix/re-master of the album and while I’m very interested to hear it, I think the muddiness of the production on the original recording adds a certain charm to it that I fear may be lost with a remix.

I also think the line-up for this album was the best they ever had and apparantly Stuart Anstis still has some demo’s lying around of stuff they had been working on around that time.

I’d love to have heard even just one more album with this line-up still intact as I really think all the members seemed to gel together perfectly. Absolutely essential listening and Cradle’s peak album in my opinion.

Ollie Gill ::: 16/02/18

  1. My first cradle album and still my favourite. Cruelty brought thee orchids is the highpoint for me, and yes nick barkers drumming is / was sublime. Great choice for a ‘Vaults’ issue.

  2. Totally agree with this review, still my favourite album by them. I heard lustmord and wargasm on a metal hammer cd just before it’s release and was sold.
    Top notch stuff start to finish.

  3. Agreed they could have cut the last track. Still a briliant record. Still gets regular spins after all these years

  4. I must say I dont agree. It’s on OK record – I suppose you could go far as to say a decent follow up to the superlative Dusk. As good as could have been expected and delivered at the time. But I played it a few times recently and was struck by how dull and uninspired it sounded. Flat, slow, and a bit behind the times – and paling in comparison to other (Scandinavian) contemporaries.

    So I think it was the last acceptable Cradle record, but not a great deal more.

  5. i was just about to post a comment on how i couldn’t understand how people most rate dusk higher than it lol

  6. The last track is savage!! The synth intro is so good and you know it’s going to kick into something brilliant as it goes on. Midian had its moments after. For me Cruelty is much better than Dusk.

  7. ritualhammer Says:

    Totally agree that it was Cradles last great album. Truly sublime musicianship on display here. “Dusk…” however is still their finest hour.

  8. Chip Douglas Says:

    Disagree completely.

    Cradles holy trinity are Principle, Vempire and Dusk, with Dusk being their finest hour.

    I bought Cruelty on the day of release and was disappointed big time. The production is a huge problem, flat, tinny. I believe the band themselves were disappointed with it in that respect.The opening three tracks are killer but it tapers off quickly and descends into mediocrity.

    I actually prefer Midian, there’s some great guitar work on that, production is far better.

  9. I haven’t listened to it in a long time but I agree with the poster above. The production was a bit weak compared to Dusk, which was my favorite CoF album. Still, a nice reminder to drag it out for a long overdue spin. I have the crucifix/headstone version which looks cool but not as cool as the Dusk coffin!

  10. Ah yeah , definitely not quite on the same level as Principle, Vempire and Dusk. Production really let it down. But it has a few of their best songs on it i feel. Twisted Nails of Faith is probably one of my all time favourite metal songs

  11. The drum sound is woeful. The snare sounds like an empty Tayto packet bate gently with a spoon.

  12. It was for me the last decent effort but not as good as dusk vocally superior than previous albums with a better production it could be great I remember buying the vinyl dusk and her embrace and listening to it while readind the inlay card it was a magical moment ha I have not listened to it for a while but as soon as I’m home I’ll give it a spin good review though

  13. My favourite cradle album deffinetly and for me cradle at their very best.For me they started to go down hill after this but those first 3 albums are classics.

  14. i prefer their material before but this is still a good one to have in the collection. the last good album as said. i was a bit of a late comer to it actually, i’d been obsessed with CoF since the early days but had stopped obsessing as much :p seen cruelty for £3 one day and grabbed it. probably time to spin it again, been a while.

  15. Chip Douglas Says:

    Funny a lot of you don’t seem to have time for midian!

  16. id rate midian highly as well. tearing the veil from grave is on par with the bathory aria song.

  17. *grace

  18. I dunno what album some of ye are listening to! The production is great. I always thought the production on Dusk is thin. The guitars on Cruelty rip the shit out of if.
    Midian was bigger sounding. That was the last one I bought.

  19. The drum sound on this is a joke unfortunately, the apex of the late-90s trigger-happy silliness that was plaguing the extreme metal scene at the time. Some decent tracks on here but the ship was beginning to sail even at this point I fear.

  20. Loved this album when it came out, listened to it a couple of months ago and it’s still great. I think they hit the balance perfectly with more “commercial” songs for want of a better word. These are the tracks I’ll happily scream along to live.

  21. I always loved the razor thin production on this album and the unadulterated Maiden worship, but for me this is where I bid a solemn farewell to CoF. The replacement of Nick Barker was always going to be a challenge but especially given his gargantuan effort displayed on here, that combined with the revolving personnel door just dissolved my interest.Midian just didn’t have the feel of the previous body of work, and was the last album I listened to in-full, the Barker shaped hole was just too large. To be honest for me, the wheels had started to come off CoF with the enslave/grave video hi jinx some months before Median. Dusk/Cruelty/Vempire/Evil. done. 20years? I still have the long-sleeve somewhere. oh, yes, thematically I could never connect Lustmord to the Bathory saga, so in a way redundant to the album’s theme, but in terms of chaotic/bombastic album enders i must rank it up there with Damage Inc.

  22. Would’ve seen them touring Cruelty and the Beast in the TBMC nearly twenty years ago now. Personally would rate their first three albums higher but still thought it was was a cracker of an album. As someone who couldn’t get his head around Midian or any subsequent release would go as far as to say it was their last album I honestly had any scintilla of time for.

  23. Fintan Stack Says:

    A lot are saying it’s the last album with any credibility. Not many will mention this one but I think everything up to Damnation and A Day is worth having.

    Damnation is an interesting record, amazing to think that the band who released “Total Fucking Darkness” would eventually be signed to Sony. Damnation possibly could warrant a piece like this, it really is a fascinating but flawed record. The band went all out to make it work but unfortunately they tried to marry their core sound with something a little more accesible and ended up pleasing nobody. There’s other flaws there too crappy guitar sound (again!) and bloated songs.

    Back to Cruelty, it’s essential Cradle but signalled the first sign of the wheels coming off the cart. I’d rate their albums as follows;

    Dusk, Vempire, Principle, Midian, Cruelty, Damnation.

  24. I like everything up until Damnation and A Day as well. Damnation has some amazing moments along with the enslave/bitter suites EPs. I’d be more familiar with the 1999-2003 era as I was only 12 at the time of Cruelty so going backwards through the discography as a teen I was more used to the “Midian” sound. This gives me a good excuse to go back through the 94-98 material again.

  25. I agree almost entirely with this write up. For me, it’s their masterpiece and unfortunately the last great album from them. Principle and Dusk are of course amazing but there is just something indescribably moving about this album, particularly when the lyrics are followed along with the music. I can kind of see the authors point about ‘Desire in Violent Overture’ but I’ve really grown to like that song over time (especially the ending where he sings the “as if it was the first time every night” lyric). However I agree it sticks out a bit overall.
    I have always thought that the album should have finished after Bathory Aria (definitely one of their best songs ever), it was the perfect closer. Though the last song is very good, it just seems tacked on placed at the end. The nostalgia attached to this album makes it a bit special for me but after revisiting this in recent years, it was like falling in love with it again and not many albums from my teenage years have stood the test of time like that.

  26. Funny, that’s how I feel about the first three. After being all serious and toffee nosed for many years about what is and isn’t black metal yadda yadda, the first three are just terrific, timeless metal albums – end of.

  27. DuckyDoodleFace Says:

    I’m of the opinion that there’s some killer songs here, completely and totally destroyed by that awful production job. Especially after the organic warmth of Dusk.

  28. on the original music for nations vinyl it didn’t include lustmord as the closing track. it closes with portrait of the dead countess. and i like that. but that shit ain’t necessarily the truth. not sure if the original intent was to end it at the portrait or if that was all they could fit nicely on a single LP but i believe lustmord is somewhat a bonus extra track if i’m not mistaken.

  29. lustmord is never mentioned as being a bonus track so id say you are right in saying that it just wouldnt fit on the lp

  30. Anonymous Says:

    That was for me the height of Cradle of filth. Still one of my favourite albums and is often played on my Spotify… Midian was such a high disappointment after this …

  31. Fair play for dragging this one back into the light. I love it to pieces. Still give it regular spins and it never gets old. I probably prefer “Dusk” but there is fuck all wrong with this one.

  32. mongreled Says:

    well, after reading all the comments regarding the production I was pleasantly surprised to read that the album is being re-released in remixed/remastered fashion later in the year to cash in on the 20th anniversary. Careful what you wish for…

  33. Great article!

    This was my first Cradle album and was instrumental in pointing me away from the Slipknot/nu-metal stuff that was so huge at the time and into darker, blacker musical territories, including the Norwegian scene. For that I will be forever grateful.

    It’s still one of my favourite albums, possibly as much down to nostalgia as anything, but I think it holds up really well as a concept album. The atmosphere is amazing and I’m very interested in hearing the remixed version to see if they can maintain that AND beef up the drum sound.

    Unlike a lot of commenters here I have a lot of time for what came after – though there have been some stinkers. (Death of love? FFS.)

    Cryptoriana was a great record, I thought.

  34. Enrique Salazar Says:

    Yes and no, on the article. Cruelty has to be their greatest album in the following aspects: a complete story, a concept album, which you can actually “feel” on the entire album; guitars complemment each other in a great way; keyboards are great, creating a dark atmosphere (to me, Cradle fits into a new category: blackmoshperic metal); lyrics and vocals are pretty good; drum work is perfectly performed by Nick; Bathory Aria is their most complete song of all times. As for “Desire” and “Lustmord” tracks, I wouldn´t say they don´t fit into this album, but they are not the best either. The album would still be great if these two tracks were not in it. But sadly, the sound-production of this album is AWFUL. Guitars, keyboards, and drums are totally lame soundwise. If the upcoming remastered version of “Cruelty” can manage to powerup the sound of this instruments and also preserving the atmoshpere of original work…then it would definitely be 10/10

  35. Enrique Salazar Says:

    Also, forgot about new albums: Midian was excellent, improved the sound quality and had great tracks like Tearing the Veil from Grace, and Tortured Soul Asylum. Damnation has a great concept, excellent orchestral work, but guitar sound was not good (too much “boost” on it). Nymphetamine has good songs, but it´s not a great album. Sound is not good either (personal fav from that album: Swansong for a Raven). Thornography: no comments. Godspeed: couple of good songs, but not a great album. Darkly: mm…this album is a good example for “faster doesn´t mean better”. Manticore: something good is about to come up, some old sounds are coming back. Hammer: one of their best albums in years, lot of “old school” Cradle sounds, good vocals, great guitar and good sound (best tracks: Deflowering, Blackes Magic, Hammer, and Right Wing). Cryptoriana: excellent album, good old Cradle. Best tracks: Catafalque (man, what an awesome track!) and Western Vespertine

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