To say that expectations for the new Cradle of Filth were high would be like saying that it wasn't very gentleman-like what Charles Manson's gang did to Roman's wife and unborn. "Dusk...and Her Embrace" was to me possibly one of the best very best CDs of 1996, and this one either had to be equal (or better!), or would be forgotten.

In the mean time, after literally dozens of listens, it will not be forgotten.

Almost an extension of "Dusk...", "Cruelty and the Beast" is a magnificent concept opus based around the story of much-besung countess Elisabeth Bathory, "she who took her midnight bath in blood that once gave life". Balanced and with intrigueing lyrics (as usual with Dani), "Cruelty" is a fine black metal album. Sarah Jezibel Diva's semi-divine lyrics complement Dani's screeches and low passages brilliantly, and the actual music is awesome, too.

New keyboardist Lecter successfully attempts to broaden Cradle's sound without losing the aggressive edge. The only thing that prevents "Cruelty and the Beast" from surpassing "Dusk..." in sheer atmopsheric magnificence is the lack of a second Rallying War Speech by Cronos. Nonetheless, "Cruelty" is one magnificent album.

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Written July 1998


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