Any band who derives their album title from a Star Trek pun is trve and kvlt in my book.
In this instance, the band is Cradle Of Filth, the U.K.'s dastardly darlings of symphonic black metal. Their new album Existence Is Futile is a spooky prophecy of doom, summoned with cinematic orchestral arrangements, abundant guitar battery, and moribund swagger. Cradle Of Filth unveil a vision of a rapidly approaching apocalypse. Existence Is Futile rages like a crazed mortal in their final minutes on death row. And in typical fashion, Cradle Of Filth spin this tale of tribulation with totally evil swagger.
The opening instrumental "The Fate Of The World Rests On Our Shoulders," immediately raises the stakes with an over-the-top orchestral score. The walloping follow-up, "Existential Terror," offers Cradle Of Filth at their filthiest. It jumps around several swift tempos, fueled by a guitar section with a ravenous hunger for riffs. Rumbling drums trade between a careless rock breakdown, and pummeling blast beats, embellished by the caustic vocals of one Dani Filth.
Mr. Filth's vocal performance will probably remain a divisive factor on this album His voice ranges from atonal howls, to hoarse and scratchy screams, to deep belly growls. But once he lets it rip, his screeches are unmistakable.
"Necromantic Fantasies" is a Filthy radio single. Keyboardist Annabelle's arrangements soar with the dramatic air of a James Bond film. Its gothic rock atmosphere is a bit campy, but also catchy. The guitars add fangs to this song with a screaming pinch-harmonic section that aims to out-Wylde Zakk Wylde.
In fact, Cradle Of Filth's guitar section often steal the show on Existence Is Futile. Although this album tends to balance its voices, the six-string department is especially volatile. One example is the Lovecraft-inspired "Crawling King Chaos." This song astounds with a cerebral, palm-muted speed guitar lick, while the keyboards impose another dimension of dread. I heard flashes of bands like Kreator in the guitar conjurations, delivered on this record by Richard Shaw and Ashok.
Tipping their Baphomet horns to classic albums like Cruelty And The Beast, "The Dying Of The Embers" is another highlight. This song throws every spell in the book at the listener in its six-minutes. It's got all the hallmarks of classic and flamboyant Cradle Of Filth: a theatrical, spoken word introduction delivered by a woman with a thick British accent, carnival organs wailing like a demented carousel, a haunting, acoustic arpeggio riff set to blast beats, and a ripe-for-moshing guitar breakdown, singed with operatic vocals.
"Discourse Between A Man And His Soul" deviates a bit into rock ballad territory. It sways with a solemn romanticism in 3/4 time, with extra gravitas provided by its classical string swells. Parts of this one sound like it could be from an RPG videogame in Playstation 2, in the most flattering sense, while Dani Filth's vocals are delightfully morose.
"Suffer Our Dominion" welcomes back Doug "Pinhead" Bradley of Hellraiser fame for its introduction. Mr. Pinhead issues a grave message of ecological doom in his iconic timbre, "The end of life as we know it…and she will be fucking brutal." The riff arsenal slices through with a crunchy throng of triplets and a shimmer of dissonant drear. This song's latter half wields a proggy-guitar lead, which proves that Cradle Of Filth's vitriol only grows faster and more technical with age.
Mr. Pinhead also makes an appearance on the physical-exclusive bonus track "Sisters Of The Mist." Pinhead even belts out the classic line "We have such sights to show you." It's a fitting observation, because Existence Is Futile is like rewatching Hellraiser in the height of Halloween season.
Cradle Of Filth's 13th album might not recreate the Catherine wheel, to put it in Cradle Of Filth terms, but it hits the target. Like Hellraiser, Existence Is Futile is a familiar and soothing treat, and it's dually creepy and sexy at the same time.