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Cradle Of Filth - 'Existence Is Futile' Album Review


1. The Fate Of The World On Our Shoulders

2. Existential Terror

3. Necromantic Fantasies

4. Crawling King Chaos

5. Here Comes A Candle…

6. Black Smoke Curling From The Lips Of War

7. Discourse Between A Man And His Soul

8. The Dying Of The Embers

9. Ashen Mortality

10. How Many Tears To Nurture A Rose?

11. Suffer Our Dominion

12. Us, Dark, Invincible

13. Sisters Of The Mist

14. Unleash The Hellion

I have been a Cradle of Filth since the release of ‘Dusk And Her Embrace,’ and this 13th album by them has hit the spot in a big way. The days of the high pitch shriek have largely passed over the years. With only one line up adjustment recently, the bands awesome rebirth that started with ‘Hammer Of The Witches’ continues in a big way with one of my favourite albums of the year. When I first heard ‘Dusk And Her Embrace,’ I really didn’t know what to think. I was blown away by ‘Cruelty And The Beast’ though with both of those albums becoming two of my all time classics. These days I might even say that I prefer ‘Dusk’ between the two. I say all that because ‘Existence Is Futile’ reminds me of those days with other elements of the band’s history also included to create a well-crafted album that demands repeated plays.

‘The Fate Of The World On Our Shoulders’ provides a somewhat typical atmospheric intro to set the stage. The style here even reminds me more of 'Dusk' / 'Cruelty' era than other stages of the band’s career. ‘Existential Terror’ serves as the first song encompassing Goth and Black Metal influences with traditional Metal. The use of the choir serves the song perfectly with the song being extremely catchy. I am not sure if it is all these years of listening, but Dani’s vocals are easy to understand. If I played this for a non Metal listener, I would probably be told differently. This song again reminds me of the 'Cruelty' era. The dark ominous riff combined with the choir is awesome. I also love the breakdown as the band then accelerates the tempo to the finish. A mid tempo intro leads into ‘Necromantic Fantasies.’ Dani’s scream gives way to another great guitar riff with some haunting female vocals in the mix. This was the second single released from the album and shows Cradle at their most “commercial” if you will. The slow growling chorus that gives way to a brief guitar part that elevates the catchiness. Post chorus they go down a Maiden rabbit hole before getting us back to the chorus. The melodic guitar solo is a perfect choice as it creates even more atmosphere in the song. ‘Crawling King Chaos’ was the first single from the album and reminded me of the ‘Midian’ era when it was first released. Dani may not shriek like he used to back in the day, but he has learned to use his voice in great ways that he didn’t utilize as much in the past. The song serves as a pretty brutal assault until it hits almost the first chorus. There is a break and then the band delivers another awesome catchy refrain that will cut its way into the listener’s brain. The keyboards here provide some great background ambiance with occasional moments where they rise above the mix.

Serving as another interlude ‘Here Comes A Candle,’ piano ushers in this darkness. It creates visions of wandering through an old home that still has belongings where a haunting led to a tragic ending for all who resided there. I can almost see the dark clouds surrounding everything. ‘Black Smoke Curling From The Lips Of War’ builds from the interlude as this song explodes out of the speakers. This is quality mid era Cradle of Filth with female vocals incorporated into the vocals. As I mentioned in the introduction, multiple listens have shown this is less an album of Cradle exploring new passageways in their sound and instead utilizing their strengths to create a simply great album that feels both familiar and new. ‘Discourse Between A Man and His Soul’ explores a slow tempo that reminds me of the slower part of ‘Beneath The Howling Stars’ from 'Cruelty'. I love the keyboard work here and also could have seen this coming from King Diamond around the time of his ‘Conspiracy’ album. The guitar work is stellar on this haunting classic in waiting.

Female spoken words usher in ‘The Dying Of The Embers.’ The band slowly builds the song as Dani spits out venomous words. Female backing vocals by newest member Anabelle Iratni (also keyboards) are utilized with precision as the song has some awesome musical transitions. I am most reminded of the ‘Godspeed’ era here. Next up is ‘Ashen Mortality’ which provides another haunting interlude. I encourage the listener here to close your eyes and see where your mind takes you during this music. It becomes increasingly grandiose and serves as a good intro to ‘How Many Tears To Nurture A Rose?’ This one is brilliant and would sound equally amazing with some old school ‘V Empire’ style production. It is extremely catchy, and I love the guitar that weaves in and out of the mix. There are some Maiden elements here, but this song truly belongs to Cradle. Put this down as an early favorite on an awesome album for me.

‘Suffer Our Dominion’ changes the playbook a bit with acoustic guitars providing the opening notes. The eerie spoken word pieces by Doug Bradley paints a dark picture of the world where we see half of the world eliminated through our actions. The chorus is catchy, and the second verse is just plain vicious. This album needs to be played loud and often. This album features great guitar work by Richard Shaw hand Ashok with this song just being one of many highlights. Another crushing song follows in ‘Us, Dark, Invincible’ with Dani using his mid range semi clean vocals to great effect. The transition to the chorus is awesome. The song is extremely catchy as I have caught myself singing it without realizing it. ‘Sisters Of The Mist’ Closes out a trio of songs going back to ‘Midian’ song ‘Her Ghost In The Fog.’ The drums at the start of the song sound awesome with more spoken words here to tell the story. This is a sonic journey with a fast tempo. The breakdown has some perfect keyboards with the piano also being a highlight at the end of the song. Album closer ‘Unleash The Hellion’ suffers a bit because of all that has come before it. It is not a bad song by any means but ends the album on a weaker note. I would have swapped it with ‘Us, Dark, Invincible’ on this version of the album.

Cradle of Filth have unleashed an Album of the Year contender for me, which is remarkable for any band almost 30 years into their career. ‘Existence Is Futile’ recalls what has made them brilliant for much of their history and doesn’t look to push the envelope with silly cover songs or drastic shifts in their sound. This is simply a band delivering the goods on what they do. They have been one of my favorite bands for over two decades now. I have not been a fan of everything they have done; please don’t get me started on that ‘Manticore…’ album. This album could fill a setlist for me though with the remaining third coming from their back catalog and I would be pleased.

‘Existence Is Futile’ is out now.

Review - Gerald Stansbury


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