Well, well, it's been two years now since the "Cruelty & The Beast" opus… let's see what happened in the mean time: the completely awful "From The Cradle To Enslave" was released and half of the band left.
That means you could start holding your breath for this one… but (exhale, thank you) "there is absolutely no need to worry", CRADLE OF FILTH are back on track! Inspired by the Clive Barker novels, England's most notorious Metal band have returned with Chapter V - "Midian". But let's talk about the line-up first. New guy on drums is Adrian Erlandsson (ex-AT THE GATES), who already appeared on "Of Dark Blood And F**king" as guest musician if you recall; new guy on keyboards is Martin Powell (ex-MY DYING BRIDE) and new-old guy on lead guitar is Paul Allender (ex-"The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh").
Regulars Gian (rhythm guitar) and Robin (bass) are still firmly in place, as is Dani Filth, who by now has outlasted enough band members for a lifetime. Ironically, the "Midian" line-up would prove to be the most consistent as well, but it has to be said, the interaction works magically well on this album, which is amazing considering the dramatic changes from "Cruelty & The Beast" to "Midian". Adrian fills in for Nicholas (who went off to join DIMMU BORGIR) and shows the music works just as well without endless blastbeats and fills.
Martin puts his stamp all over this record, most notably on the fantastic intro song "At The Gates Of Midian" or the keyboard heavy "Saffron's Curse". He even gets to play the cello on "Amor E Morte" (Allegedly, Martin was able to play the violin and the piano at the age of 7), a song more notable perhaps because of Paul's solo near the end. It's not often you hear CRADLE OF FILTH showing off like this.
Overall, the production values have risen in a massive way since "Cruelty & The Beast". The sound has become a little more oppressive I'd say. Thematically, the concept revolves around Midian, the cursed city of the monsters, freaks, lost souls,…, but is nothing but a loose framework in the end, with various topics among Dani's writing about lost love, necrophilia, apocalypse (now were did I hear "this" before?)… "Midian" is very romantically themed as opposed to the gritty "Cruelty & The Beast", with song highlights including "Saffron's Curse", "Amor E Morte" and the ever popular "Her Ghost In The Fog" (which probably lured most of the newbies into CRADLE OF FILTH). On a side-note: my limited DigiPak version included the highly amusing video of "Her Ghost In The Fog" as well. I won't spoil it for you other than it features a strange girl wandering around (just a random person they'd picked off the street according to Alex Chandon) and a hilarious cardboard forest.
The song that struck me first on this record was the infamous "Lord Abortion". This song is simply classic, from the harsh guitars and double-bass, to the vicious violins during the break and the gruesome lyrics. The intro-piano alone makes for a classic tune, and will surely send a few shivers down your spine.
"Lord Abortion" is the most aggressive song on "Midian", together with "Tortured Soul Asylum" (well, with titles like that, what would you expect?), which is more or less the title-track of the album, and probably most reminiscent of "Cruelty" times in its epic approach, as is "Tearing the Veil From Grace". Other than that, honourable mentions go to opener "Cthulhu Dawn" (this is how you properly use an organ!) and the exquisite interludium "Creatures That Kissed In Cold Mirrors".
That said, "Midian" is a pleasant listen, but alas not on par with either "Dusk & Her Embrace" or "Cruelty & The Beast". Somehow this record leaves much desired, but is on the other hand very different from the aforementioned. It's still undisputedly CRADLE OF FILTH at work, but not as over-the-top as it used to be. Perhaps I can't exactly nail the problem I have with this one but it feels like good-but-not-great at best. Don't get me wrong, I love it, and I've played it to death but it didn't hit me the way "Dusk" and "Cruelty" did.
Still, the band pulled itself together after what must have been the worst time for CRADLE OF FILTH ever; the new line-up rocks and "Midian" is an impressive addition to the saga. In that respect: 8,5/10. (Online October 28, 2003)
Guest reviewer Ben Meuleman