YES… We are going to be talking about Cradle of Filth and this absolutely classic record! Cruelty and the Beast (Music for Nations/Mayhem) was the third studio release for the band, not only does it make for a strong part of their collection, but acts as a gateway for some metal heads into black metal.
The Cradle of Filth today is more produced and “clean” compared to their earlier sound, and it’s that somewhat lo-fi atmosphere, Dani Filth’s vocals, lyricism, and instrumentation that helped establish the bridge from the new to the old (or vice versa). Lyrically the concept of the record surrounds the legend of Hungarian blood countess Elizabeth Báthory, with spoken word moments for the “countess” played by actresses Ingrid Pitt. Cradle of Filth would go on as we know to build upon the concept album idea, and by sticking to themes of gothic horror, it allowed the band to tread the waters of extreme goth rock and black metal.
While purist will state that this record is in no way black metal, I have to disagree because of how much it builds on the elements of the genre. What may take away from old school vibes are the use of brighter instrumentals (that don’t exactly sound like Darkthrone or Immortal). That said, the elements of both those bands are present in this record, and strong enough to welcome it into the halls of black metal. If you look at the tempo shifts that are made throughout (in such songs as “Beneath the Howling Stars”), they are reminiscent of slower paced Darkthrone tracks. Similar to those songs as well, Cradle of Filth do use plenty of moments of weightier tones in the progression of some tracks. And when it comes to the aspects of Immortal, one look no further than Dani Filth’s vocals; there is some differences between them of course (with Dani reaching a higher pitch at times), but the sludgy tone at which both move is alike.
Songs like “Thirteen Autumns and a Widow”, along with “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids” fly with high tempos and ripping vocals. Both tracks have an underlining symphonic element that is haunting. “Bathory Aria” is a more traditional sound on this record, as it trudges forward with thick mist energy, taking on a slower approach and adding weight to atmosphere. “The Twisted Nails of Faith” feels like the complete opposite in that matter, and leans more towards what the band is known for today. Brighter elements combined with speed take on a more goth rock energy in this particular title.
Cruelty and the Beast does not simply borrow the sound from the past, but builds upon it to create something new. The goth rock elements make themselves clear throughout, but never become overly poppy or get in the way of the foundation. There is atmosphere, there are the tempo shifts that establish aura, and even the lyricism is a great mix between being sinister and playful. In their years the band has changed greatly, but upon first starting out they really carried the torch with a darker flare. Cruelty and the Beast holds so many elements between those magical lyrics, instrumentals, and atmosphere that others wanted to explore more of. Through this work Cradle of Filth have crafted one of the best records to ever be part of, and popularize the genre.