Cradle of Filth – Nymphetamine (2004) – Review

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Who ever said the Black Metal scene is filled with necrotic-psychopathic eruptions of total bullshit? Made by wackos that prefer the night. And only the night.

There are a few good bands out there, you know. Those with some fantasy, that come without the urge to bludgeon you to death with spiked fists and electric guitars, coupled with disgracefully bad music.

Cradle of Filth is one of the more promising bands out there. And their 2004 album Nymphetamine graces us with one of their better productions, especially compared to Damnation and a Day of 2003.

Saying this, I can already picture the purists’ hate neurons grinding into motion. Having a screamo party at me that this is not Black Metal anymore. And we should ban this band to Hades (or rather drown them in the muddy waters of the river Styx, so they won’t come back). And this for eternity, and then some.

Because CoF like to transgress on the pure idea of what fucking metal should look like. But what on earth should Black Metal be like? It is more or less what you want it to be, never mind Gorgoroth. Vast differences exist that range from the likes of Summoning to the ritual huggers like Darkend or Riti Occulti

Truly, Nymphetamine employs somewhat of a loose confusion of styles. It would best describe as Extreme Metal with roots in Black Metal. Complete with loads of borrowed symphonics and a lot of delicious Gothic Metal that comes with those tongue-in-cheek lyrics that we love with this band.

Nymphetamine will never bore you, though. It alternates between super-fast hammer blows, crafty, but gloomy pieces like Nemesis, and somewhat slow melodic passages. Now, there’s a lot of sardonic cheekiness going on. A kind of a baroque flavor or guilty bloodlust that just permeates everything.

Well, the first one to visit for that would be the funky track, Gabrielle. That one positively drips with all those accouterments Gothic Metal is made of. With a lot of blackened huffing and puffing that goes with the piece.

And of course, you’ll find the lovely Liv Kristine Espenaes (ex Leaves’ Eyes) on CoF’s attempt to fame with their warhorse track Nymphetamine Overdose (which really feels like its name). Luckily the better palatable clone Nymphetamine Fix comes along a bit later. And that one takes that proverbial blackened cake. The accompanying video is – by the way – superbly done. Yet, I’ll always get a kick out of those band members theatrically strumming away at their axes.

But sometimes, the album sounds like Cradle of Filth on a careless jam session in the basement. And that would be very far down there for that matter if you get my drift.

And then, there is the intro called Satyriasis. I am not sure how they came by that name for this piece. If you don’t know what it means, google it. This one together with intermezzos thrown into the production from time to time makes you wonder how in the hell you ever got yourself into Phantom of the Opera with a sexual twist at all. But then Cradle of Filth thankfully remembers and puts in some more metal.

And they stole with pride from literature too. Just look at Mother of Abominations and the opening chant “Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!”. Not sure how they discerned that good ol’ Cthulhu should be a goddess. Yet, this is straight Lovecraft – and I love it.

But let’s be careful there: The Great Old Ones are watching ye. And the song is indeed about Cthulhu and – seemingly – about the great question: Is it male or female? Well neither folks, it is an IT. The song itself sucks big time, by the way. But we couldn’t resist leaving a few comments at the door.

But there’s also the reverse of the medal.

A certain lack of direction sometimes plagues Nymphetamine. The – at first – endearing confusion of styles and pretense at being Black Metal goes a bit too far at times. Cradle of Filth mixed all sorts of elements into their tune and stirred well. The tracks are often lengthy, kind of overdone, leading to a muddy mix of some quality examples, mingled with fillers that are not worth listening to.

I would also have liked some more fantasy in the solo department. Just hacking away at sometimes very similar patterns does not all of a sudden make a great album. Then there is the drum work. Overwhelmingly present and – at the same time – somewhat boring. And this leaves you with an impression of a rushed drive to oblivion.

But in the end, Nymphetamine is a surprising album. Full of twists and turns that take you – neither here nor there. Exactly. And this is what actually renders it good. A state of confusion, endless bends about a dirty, windy road towards the fiery doom of hell. Or is it straight to the cold gates of R’lyeh? Who knows. 

If you like it hard, down and dirty, but still crafty and full of surprises, then Nymphetamine is a good one for you. I – for one – enjoyed listening to the album. Makes me want more of that.

Ed’s note: Don’t forget to check out how the mighty Hammer of the Witches fared.

Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Roadrunner Records | Web: Official Site
Release date: 28 September 2004

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