And here it is, the much talked about "Damnation And A Day" record. The press has been endless, as were the people whining about the Sony-deal and whether or not CRADLE OF FILTH were sell-outs, posers, fake-Goths, and whatever wasn't thrown at their heads. I'm not in the mood for a rant on this topic but I think the Metal-community has been very harsh on this matter lately.
The good news is however: this album is a blast from start to finish, and no, CRADLE OF FILTH did not sell out, but instead added a big "fuck off" to this epic disc comprising of 17 tracks, well worth for roughly 80 minutes of Black Metal for bastards, in your face!
This time around, they managed to keep the line-up somewhat stable, with Dave Pybus (ex-ANATHEMA) stepping in for Robin Graves on bass, and an empty spot left for departed member Gian, on rhythm guitar, whose duties on "Damnation And A Day" were partly taken over by the multi-talented Martin Powell. Other than that, little has changed since "Midian", with Paul still on lead-guitar, Martin on keyboards, Adrian on drums and of course, the maestro himself, Dani Filth on vocals. Lest I forget the ever present Sarah Jezebel Deva for operatic-style singing and the "oohs" and "aahs".
Also, CRADLE OF FILTH opted to use a full 32-piece orchestra from Budapest, Hungary (it's cheaper over there apparently), who played the intro's, outro's, interludii and a few bits and pieces here and there, most notable on opening track "The Promise Of Fever". Onto the music…
"A Bruise Upon The Silent Moon" is the obligatory bombastic intro, of biblical proportions (more on Dani's theme later on…). Guest voice by Dave McEwen "and darkness was upon the face of the deep" leads straight into "The Promise Of Fever", the first standout-track of the album. Every member of the band really gets to show off on this one, with Paul's riffs going everywhere, Adrian on the blastbeats and Dani with an entire gamma of vocal techniques thrown in the mix. Again, Dani shows he's master of the mic, introducing more subtle differences this time, with plenty of growls, shrieking, whispers and rolling "r"s to spew his lyrics into the chaos. While somewhat immersed this time (as opposed to "Cruelty & The Beast" or "Dusk & Her Embrace"), I'm sure the fans will love it. If you've never been into CRADLE OF FILTH in the first place, I doubt this vocal attack will make you change your mind.
Lyrically, Dani interprets the bible on "Damnation And A Day" (the old testament to be more specific) in four chapters. Chapter 1 & 2 depict more or less the "Fall Of Lucifer", while chapters 3 & 4 tell of Satan's manipulations on earth. In fact, the first thing that came to my mind when reading the lyrics and hearing the orchestral passages were those old "sword and sandal" type of movies, with epic battles and storms raging across deserts…
The absence of any gothic/vampiric themes might disappoint some of you but I'm sure most fans will welcome this fresh approach to CRADLE OF FILTH's concept. The music isn't terribly different from past releases anyway, but I might point out they do seem to have refound some of the aggression they used to posses on early releases such as "The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh" and "VEmpire". While "Damnation And A Day" is epic in terms of concept and material, the songs themselves are usually not. But I'll get to that in a second.
Now were was I? Oh yes, "Hurt & Virtue", the third track on the album, not one my favourites but it does pack a nice punch, with some Thrash thrown in for good measure. The next song however, "An Enemy Led The Tempest", is undoubtedly the best of "Damnation And A Day", and the one were Adrian really gets to showcase his abilities, kicking off with a blastbeat right away, and a magnificent drum-solo near the end. A lot of people have complained in the past how it just wasn't the same without Nicholas on drums, but Adrian proves again and again on "Damnation And A Day" that he is no way inferior to Barker. (even though he's a bit rampant with the double bass on this one)
"Better To Reign In Hell" is more on the catchy side (amusingly dismissed as "From The Cradle To Enslave 2" on the official forum) with a simple verse/chorus/break/chorus structure; after that we get "Serpent Tongue" which is already fan-favourite material. Fast forward to the best instrumental on this record "The Mordant Liquor Of Tears", on par with DIMMU BORGIR's "Fear And Wonder". "Presents From The Poison-Hearted" is a bit too long in my opinion and reminiscent of "Midian" tracks. "Doberman Pharaoh" on the other hand is a kickass song which sounds like NILE gone Black Metal. "Babalon A.D.", despite being a single release, isn't that great, apart from the intro; same goes for "Mannequin", although the Sarah's singing cool. It's just too generic for me to be interesting. "Tank God For The Suffering" however is another standout track, midpaced, with Dani actually doing an "effort" to sing… hear it to believe it!
And finally "The Smoke Of Her Burning" rips through the last 5 minutes of this disc, demonstrating perfectly what I meant with this refound aggression.
But let me round this up for you. While some claimed this to be the definitive return to the time of "Dusk & Her Embrace" 's epic grandeur, this is not entirely true. It's altogether different than the more romantically themed "Midian", that is true. As I mentioned, "Damnation And A Day" is epic in concept but not in execution, save for the enormous amount of material (kudos for that still). There are great songs, but you won't find a "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids" or "Dusk & Her Embrace" in here. Quantity obviously had a slight edge over quality, and I'd like to see it back the other way around in the future. I'm confident the band is more than capable to pull this off.
Also, I hear too much verse/chorus based stuff, and that could be a dangerous trap. They easily could have mixed a few songs together into something terrific instead of having two mediocre tracks.
That aside, this record rules and proves why CRADLE OF FILTH are on the top of the genre. They've fought long and hard to achieve the status they enjoy nowadays and I respect that. Enjoy! (Online October 25, 2003)
Guest reviewer Ben Meuleman