CRADLE OF FILTH - "DAMNATION AND A DAY" (SONY)
For those of you who were afraid that Cradle of Filth would sell out musically on their first major-label album, let me tell you right away that there is no reason to be afraid. If anything, the album is less accessible than anything that went before. Well, as far as I am concerned, anyway.
"Damnation and a Day" consists, thematically and lyrically, of four big songs chopped into four songs each. In general they each start with a recognisably "Cradle" type of keyboard-driven intro, though this time you will hear the sound of an orchestra adding extra layers. For some reason this orchestra doesn't sound as well-integrated (nor as full) as it did on Dimmu Borgir's latest. In fact, most of the time it sounds like it might very well have come out of a keyboard. All in all, it doesn't add much, but doesn't detract anything either. It still sounds like Cradle of Filth.
The first real song, "The Promise of Fever", hits home sweetly. A very memorably track with dramatic use of choirs reminiscent of 50's/60's epic movies. The orchestral part that wraps it up, though, is teeth-filling-poppingly off-key. "Hurt and Virtue" is another good track, followed by "An Enemy Led the Tempest" which is very intense but not as melodic as usual.
On to the next 'big song' consisting of four tracks, entitled "Paradise Lost". The second section, "Better to Reign in Hell" is my instant favourite. It's been haunting me ever since I listened to it for the first time. Excellent stuff. Right on its heels is what I think is the least track on "Damnation and a Day", "Serpent Tongue". It just sounds off-key and very chromatic, as if the riffs weren't composed but, rather, drawn in straight patterns on the fretboard. A-melodic, that one. Thankfully, "Paradise Lost" is wrapped up by the pretty good "Carrion" again.
"Sewer Side Up" starts with "The Mordant Liquor of Tears", a very bombastic intro track with choire and classical ingredients. "Presents from the Poison Hearted", next, sounds so familiar that it's bound to be a rehash of some earlier Cradle riffs. "Doberman Pharaoh" has some oriental influences, unfortunately also with some vague off-key stuff going on in the background. The final section of this third 'big song', entitled "Babalon A.D. (So Glad for the Madness)" seems to change key every few bars. It rather disagrees with me, that's how amelodic it sounds. I find it very odd that this turned out to be the single...
The final part, "The Scented Garden", kicks off with a classical intro with choir, partly off-key. "Mannequin" is another classic Cradle track, followed by "Thank God for the Suffering". This track features horrible off-key violin near the end, which aurally sucks. The album as a whole after that kindof tapers off.
Well, it was good to see they haven't sold out. It was also good to notice that the band have maintained their trademark poetic lyrical style. The drum production sounds better than ever, which is also a good thing. But why do the keyboards seem to sound a lot simpler than on previous albums, and why on earth did they include the dischordant stuff here and there? It seems like they have lost some basic ability, which at other times seems to have returned as if nothing is the matter.
Maybe the album will grow further on me, and maybe my ear (or my innate musical sense) will learn to cope with the off-key and rabidly chromatic parts. I don't know. So far, however, it's not "Top 10 of 2003" material.
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Written March 2003
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