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Despite being a band plagued by perpetual personnel changes over the years, and incessantly criticised for such, the blackened aesthetic of one man's deliciously twisted imagination has remained at the creative core of the UK's best, most original, and successful dark metal act, Cradle of Filth. Penning his provocatively melancholic verse with all the mordant panache of a poet from bygone era, Dani Filth's steadfast vision for the band, mediated through a refined sense of erotic-horror imagery and some rather great fucking music, has seen Cradle of Filth's enduring popularity last for more than two decades.

With the delightfully grandiose title of 'Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness of Decay', Cradle's new album is their second with the lineup that was established three years ago. Martin "Marthus" Škaroupka has now exceeded Nick Barker and Adrian Erlandsson's respective six and seven year stints behind the kit, with 2017 marking his eleventh year of drum skin assault and cymbal abuse for the band. Daniel Firth has been on bass duties since 2012, although keys lady Lindsay Schoolcraft, and guitarists Marek "Ashok" Šmerda and Rich Shaw, were all 2014 recruits. The first studio work to emerge from this lineup emerged just over two years ago, in the form of 'Hammer of the Witches'. A gem of an album, this was the one long-term fans had desired for so long; a consistently great collection of compositions that captured the true essence of the Filth... the essence that many have said was missing from recent works, prior to Paul Allender's departure. Personally, I've been an ardent admirer of every single Filth record over the years, but there had been an irrefutable degree of compositional stagnation creeping into some of their songs. So, yeah, 'Hammer of the Witches' was a nice surprise.

So, have they succeeded in crafting another beastly gem of a record? Indeed they have. This time, though, while there are distinct nods to Cradle's evolving sonic aesthetic over the years, and songs are rooted firmly within the band's general stylistic underpinnings, 'Cryptoriana' is a more diverse offering, that sees the melodrama inherent in Dani's lyricism embedded within the context of a series of tracks that take all kinds of tangential twists and turns, both subtle and not so subtle.

Opening track, 'Exquisite Torments Await' eschews the oft-deployed instrumental orchestral intro that's occupied the starting block of so many Cradle albums. A short piece, at just over two minutes, it still has the feel of an "intro", but is more akin to the opening of 'Vempire'... kind of an 'Ebony Dressed for Sunset' vibe... a slow build before it erupts into a controlled cacophony of extreme sonic bliss, climaxing with a spoken/growled line from Dani, and then seguing into 'Heartbreak and Seance'. This song, and all the others that follow, are Cradle through and through... the general core structures of tracks are that of what anyone's come to expect from the band... but, within those structures, riffage, lead guitar work, drumming deviations, keyboards and a choir all add layers of diversification. Dani's range of distinct, inimitable growls and sinister enunciation are a binding factor between 'Cryptoriana' and just about every other Cradle album. As such, this feels very much like a Cradle album while, simultaneously, a fresh sounding work for the band. Even ex-Leaves Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine crops up on a track, embellishing 'Vengeful Spirit' with her angelic voice... the first time she's collaborated with Cradle since 2004's 'Nymphetamine'.

And it all sounds incredible. Scott Atkins has worked wonders here. A great production has been elevated with a seriously accomplished mix. So many contrasting layers, but so much cohesion. His work shouldn't be underestimated here. And nor should Cradle's current lineup. Call it black metal... call it dark metal... call it whatever-the-fuck-you-want metal... this is another winner from Dani and co.
Nuclear Blast
Review by Mark Holmes
22nd Sept 2017
1) Exquisite Torments Await
2) Heartbreak and Seance
3) Achingly Beautiful
4) Wester Vespertine
5) The Seductiveness of Decay
6) Vengeful Spirit
7) You Will Know the Lion By His Claw
8) Death and the Maiden
"...while there are distinct nods to Cradle's evolving sonic aesthetic over the years, and songs are rooted firmly within the band's general stylistic underpinnings, 'Cryptoriana' is a more diverse offering..."