Cradle Of Filth - Thornography
Roadrunner Records
Thrashy Gothic Metal
12 songs (1:04:44)
Release year: 2006
Cradle Of Filth, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Cradle Of Filth. Whether you love or hate the English sort-of-Blackened Goth Metallers, there’s no denying the sheer divisive power that some tight leather clothes and a shrieking vocalist can cause. From the band’s origins in 1991 to its current Roadrunner-bothering status, Dani and co. have made a mark on the Metal landscape that is hard to ignore. The majority of pureblooded Black Metallers seem to find it easy to hate the band’s tongue-in-cheek image and sound, and if fans are honest they’ll admit that it’s Cradle’s penchant for superior songwriting that stops it from being completely drowned in a sea of scorn.

Few would argue that the band hasn’t been in decline since 2003’s Damnation And A Day (or 2000’s Midian, depending on your taste). Since then, the only full-length release from the band has been 2004’s Nymphetamine, considered a triumph by the more mainstream-inclined critics, but seen as a questionable step away from (even a pretence of being) Black Metal by the underground. The fact that the album itself was rather inconsistent doesn’t help, as although far from complete rubbish it lacked either the driven fury of Midian or the superior atmospherics of Damnation. So, two years later Thornography is unleashed upon the world with what seemed - from my perspective, at least – to be considerably less fanfare than its predecessor. Is it an improvement?

Whatever you say about Cradle, you can’t claim that the band repeats itself. From playing Death Metal on the demos, through the early Black Metal to discovering catchiness and the latent Heavy Metal machine that’s bursting to rip free of the studded leather, the band continually changes, and Thornography is no exception. Building upon its predecessor’s Thrashiest moments, the album is chock-full of riffs that many a Metal band would kill to possess. In fact, by building up the guitar elements, Cradle has improved upon the previous album – the lessened keyboards mean that you’re more likely to spend this full-length’s running time headbanging than you are pretending that you’re a vampire, and that’s a definite improvement.

There are a few things that you need to get over before listening to any Cradle Of Filth album and taking it seriously. The first is the image, and as ever this depends upon your tolerance of Goth kitsch – the art in Thornography's booklet is more Marilyn Mansonesque than ever, and (disappointingly) there’s not a bare breast in sight. Lyrics are still the sort of eroticism that only fourteen year olds find actually erotic, yet are still vaguely poetic and better than the usual poorly spelt Satanic homilies. The mid-section portrait is almost guaranteed to raise rage in the heart of any Darkthroneist, showing the band in what appears to be green lipstick, with an especially toothy smile from the contact lensed-up Dani.

Second in the list of Stuff What To Get Over is Mr D. Filth’s voice, and although we’re spared the extremely high screams of yesteryear, this is the same style that he’s always undertaken, the mixed shrieks, growls and spoken words that you either learn to love or can’t not hate. As usual, Ms Jezebel Deva undertakes female vocals and is as stupendous as ever, although she only appears on Under Huntress Moon, her years of backing practically every song on show are clearly in the past.

Two more guest vocalists will cause frozen hearts and shocked lips, and firstly comes Ville Valo, of romance-rockers HIM. Whether you love the popular hearthrobs or not, there’s no denying that Ville has a good voice, and his appearance on The Byronic Man is a definite enhancement. The second guest is Deborah ‘Dirty’ Harry on crap cover Temptation, and, really, whatever you thought of Cradle in the past, this is the worst thing that the band has ever done. It’s a pity that this was chosen as the first single, as for many this will be the first Cradle song that they’ve heard, and who can blame them for hating the band from this rubbish? You can argue the ‘fun’ aspect until you’re blue in the face; if Cradle wants to be seen as more than a joke band then it should leave the joke covers well out of it – putting it bluntly, Fear Factory at its lowest wouldn’t have touched this with a bargepole.

The rest of the album has a distinctly stripped-down feel to it, although the usual orchestral intro is still present and correct and manages to be much better than you’d expect, even if the band should be thinking of less silly titles than Under Pregnant Skies She Comes Alive Like Miss Leviathan. It clears the air nicely for first song Dirge Inferno, a relatively pleasant little pounder that although lacking the enjoyable choruses of previous efforts like ‘cunt! CUNT! Gilded cunt!’ (from Nymphetamine’s Gilded Cunt) will still have you singing along if you let it. It would have made a much better single than Temptation, being driven by some excellent riffs that border on the Grindcore at times. There’s clearly been some influence from Anaal Nathrakh’s more catchy moments of late, and that’s definitely a good thing.

From then on, Thornography’s a relatively straightforward listen. Tonight In Flames features clean singing from Dani for the first time (that I can remember) and is an oddly melodic song with a catchy chorus but little else. It flows well and will probably be a live anthem, but is simply what you’d expect of a Cradle Of Filth song in the year 2006, even if the lyrics hint intriguingly at Islamic terrorism (with mentions of infidels and eastern swords). Libertina Grimm continues the melodic Thrash style and is slightly better, although it feels like a weaker version of Her Ghost In The Fog more than anything else.

Other tracks have great riffs but seem at a loss as to how to put them together, such as I Am The Thorn, which is a great solo buried in a poor song, and Cemetery And Sundown, which shouldn’t be half as long as its five minute-odd running time. Lovesick For Mina seems more of a self-parody than ever, whilst seven-minute plus instrumental (!) Rise Of The Pentagram shoots itself in the foot by being much better than the tracks with vocals, a cello and piano adding style and tantalising suggestions of a Progressive angle that makes it much more interesting and is something that should have been explored better. The only truly great track on offer is The Foetus Of A New Day Kicking, which hints at a Melodeath direction for Cradle, as well as having the catchiest chorus on the album.

What makes Thornography a disappointment, in the end, is that there are no standouts. The album flows well, songs dipping in and out of each other, but there’s little that stays with you unless you’re prepared to give the album a lot of time, and Cradle simply haven’t earned enough of a reputation as serious musicians to deserve this. If you’re a manic fan then you’ll find enough to enjoy here that warrants a purchase, but if you’re trying to find what makes otherwise respectable krieglings give this band credence you really should look elsewhere.

Killing Songs :
Dirge Inferno, Byronic Man, The Foetus Of A New Day Kicking, Rise Of The Pentagram
Goat quoted 63 / 100
Other albums by Cradle Of Filth that we have reviewed:
Cradle Of Filth - Hammer of the Witches reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Cradle Of Filth - Total Fucking Darkness reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Cradle Of Filth - Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa reviewed by Kyle and quoted 64 / 100
Cradle Of Filth - Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder reviewed by Goat and quoted 81 / 100
Cradle Of Filth - Nymphetamine reviewed by Jay and quoted 55 / 100
To see all 13 reviews click here
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