Cradle Of Filth – Dusk… and Her Embrace (1996) – Review

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Cradle of Filth - Dusk... and her Embrace - Album Cover

There are records that you gotta be in the mood for. And all of Cradle of Filth‘s pieces kinda qualify for that sentiment. The level of crazy intensity, the ceaseless high-pitched screams, the endless gallivanting in between the world of gothic moodiness and speedy blackened Extreme Metal tend to wear out even the sturdiest of metalheads. But in turn, CoF would not be itself if that ferocity would suddenly evaporate and be replaced with something that – I don’t know – Amaranthe would do, for instance. What a blasphemous thought, though, right?

Now, the question comes to mind, when or where did that CoF hype really take off? So, let’s harken back to the beginnings when Dani Filth and his alma mater really took on steam to dark and fiery shores unknown.1)

Dusk… and Her Embrace feels like a drama queen on vinyl. The piece comes with stories about the separation of the original band, cut in half with Dani Filth‘s faction carrying on with the original Cradle of Filth. Of lengthy and painful legal action against the now defunct-again Cacophonous Records. And that’s the cause that led to the version of the album that we’re looking at today. Because the ‘original sin’ piece2) only came out a few years ago and will not be part of this review.

CoF made their first inroads with their rough first record The Principle of Evil Made Flesh. A form of blackened Extreme Metal that kinda resembled the early Black Metal records of the era but without that distinct Scandinavian reach. Also, there was a certain backlash in the press from the adepts of the Satanic Panic that really made its rounds in Europe around that time. To add insult to injury, the infamous Varg Vikernes3) (Burzum) got his conviction for burning churches and first-degree murder in the name of the Dark Lord in 1994. So, the public was indeed incensed against all things occult, dark, and mysterious. Not a good place to be in for a new band that somewhat dabbled in the lore of the left-hand path.

It is thus into this environment that Dani Filth sent the sophomore album Dusk… and Her Embrace. A new set of songs that were to chart the course for the band and its trademark sound for years to come. And it’s funny, the band’s success truly stems from something incompatible. They constructed a juicy mix of Gothic Metal that came with a healthy dose of Black Metal. Frantic, speedy bouts of extremes addicted to unhinged tremolos, would suddenly trade places with halting gothic tableaux.

In other words, guttural clear voice interludes would suddenly replace this infamous staccato massacre. And often, the message came in some tongue-in-cheek monologue too delicious to just gloss over. A style direction that would find much refinement in later records like Nymphetamine and right up to the present day. And that’s a funky thing to do with an Extreme Metal outfit. It’s also no small risk to take during a time when Scandinavian Black Metal was the up-and-coming thing. A genre that many a band would lust after, but few would truly succeed in.

As Mr. Filth put it, being on an island in the North Sea “..segregated [them] from mainland Europe…”.4) And – “…over time [they] felt more and more alienated from it”.5) And this thus was “…a quintessentially British album…”, whatever the hell Dani Filth meant by that. I didn’t quite detect bagpipes or some other folksy and typical interludes on that record.

What is clear, however, is that Dusk… and Her Embrace stood out from the mean crowd. With a style that nobody quite thought of yet and which – in itself – was a stroke of pure genius. And, you see, this is quite interesting. The record throws a ton of extremes at you. Out-of-control speed-addled passages that greedily feed on tremolos, much as they do on thrash and some Death Metal beats. Cinematic intros that flutter – like so many hungry bats – around that infamous Transylvanian castle. Wild riffs and wilder screams that suddenly slow down to a juicy pace before they take off again. And – suddenly – a darkly ominous female voice chimes in that only fuels your inner fears. So much so that you start looking over your shoulder to check that no bloodsucker lurks in the shadows somewhere.

And what seems like a ferocious mess at first sight, turns out to be the fruit of a perfect arrangement and a pretty pristine production. With a mix that even gives the bass room to breathe. It takes some mastery to pull such a thing off. Especially when you got all those elements jockeying for the pole position. And always you’ll find those Gothic and Extreme Metal influences that – weirdly – somehow managed to co-exist without drawing blood.

So, where did Dusk… and Her Embrace lead us? Well, this first record of a brave new Cradle of Filth world may very well be their best, too.6) Luscious gothically-tainted vampiric soundscapes give way to brutal Extreme Metal action. And all that comes on a gigantic tidal wave of Dani Filth’s endless unintelligible screams, throaty incantations, and strange female monologues. That somebody painted these wares in starkly baroque colors renders the record too juicy to just ignore.

What a mighty and welcome contrast to The Principle of Evil Made Flesh. In chaos lies opportunity. And that saying never sounded truer than for this dusky sophomore album that came online so many misty moons ago. Now, sink into her embrace and let ‘er roar. But only when the mood takes you there. You won’t regret it.

Record Rating: 9/10 | LabelMusic For Nations | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 28 August 1996


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