This is how any band in the world should record a concept album.
Today is my birthday and I was thinking about which classic album that has helped define my musical taste should be reviewed. I could go for one of my favorite albums of all time, which would be Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, Judas Priest’s Painkiller or Slayer’s Reign in Blood, but instead I chose something more complex and unconventional: Cradle of Filth’s Cruelty and the Beast, a unique concept album dedicated to the legend of the serial killer Elizabeth Báthory, the “Blood Countess” from Hungary who tortured and murdered hundreds of young women in the 16th and 17th centuries, and who many believe used to bath in the blood of her victims to rejuvenate her skin like if she was a vampire. The story itself is inspiring enough for a really dark Heavy Metal album, and no other band rather than Cradle of Filth would have been capable of creating such a masterpiece.
I love the intro Once Upon Atrocity, not only because I’m totally fond of obscure intros like this one, but also because the thrilling transition to the amazing Thirteen Autumns and a Widow is beyond perfect. And what can I say about this song? Despite being probably too heavy and heinous for most of our society, it’s a mesmerizing chef d’oeuvre that no other band is capable of doing (not even the current Cradle of Filth is anymore).The drums and keyboards are terrific, providing the song a unique atmosphere. Then comes one of the band’s most famous tracks, Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids, which is not as fast as the first song, but it’s also excellent and has some very good riffs.
Beneath the Howling Stars was the first song I’ve listened to ever from Cradle of Filth, and until today it makes my day a lot better when I listen to it. From its horror movie-like intro in the keyboards to the chorus, it’s a perfect fit for the soundtrack to apocalypse. I know Dani cannot reach the same high-pitched notes anymore, but it’s still great to listen to this song and I hope the band adds it back to their future setlists. The next track, Venus in Fear, is an instrumental song that is not recommended at all to listen to with your parents or your little sister, while Desire in Violent Overture is another musical typhoon from this Extreme Metal band from England.
The Twisted Nails of Faith is one of my least favorite ones, which doesn’t mean it’s not a furious track (it’s not just as brilliant as the others), followed by what can be considered an “Extreme Metal Opera” called Bathory Aria: this 11-minute insanity starts in a melancholic way with Benighted Like Usher, evolves into a storm with A Murder of Ravens in Fugue, and finally ends with a poem-like part called Eyes That Witnessed Madness. I REALLY would like to see them playing this live one day, that would be a dream come true. The album ends with another instrumental song, Portrait of the Dead Countess (this one you can listen to with anyone around you, no problem), and the fast and heavy track Lustmord and Wargasm. And if you’re still alive after this infernal tsunami, it means you enjoyed it and you’re ready to listen to everything again and again.
All musicians in this album are awesome (including the guest musicians) despite none of them being with the band anymore except for Dani Filth, the mastermind behind Cradle of Filth. Well, he’s the main reason why Cruelty and the Beast is so good, because without him it would be just a regular album. Although Dani’s trademark voice was not as high as in their previous albums, he was singing like a demon, adding a lot of violence and despair to the musicality of the whole album. Not only that, the lyrics in Cruelty and the Beast are also as creative, evil and wonderful as always, this time even better due to the whole storyline involving Countess Bathory as the main character, and the front cover and the rest of the album art are the perfect finishing touch for it.
If you’re lucky enough to find the Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc, you’ll be amazed by their superb covers of Iron Maiden, Venom and Sodom, bands with a high influence on Cradle of Filth’s music. The only bad thing about this bonus disc is the mix version for The Twisted Nails of Faith: I don’t like when a Heavy Metal song are mixed into some generic electronic song, and this one is not different from that.
Anyway, if you love Extreme Metal and a good story, you must listen to Cruelty and the Beast. Cradle of Filth might not be the best Heavy Metal band in the world, but this album helped redefine extreme music for sure and destroyed all the remaining boundaries between music and art for good.
Best moments of the album: Everything in this album is gold, but if I had to choose only a couple of songs they would be Thirteen Autumns and a Widow, Beneath the Howling Stars and Bathory Aria.
Worst moments of the album: None, unless I can choose a song from the Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc, then I would say Twisting Further Nails (The Cruci-Fiction Mix).
Released in 1998 Music for Nations
1. Once Upon Atrocity (Instrumental) 1:43
2. Thirteen Autumns and a Widow 7:14
3. Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids 7:18
4. Beneath the Howling Stars 7:42
5. Venus in Fear (Instrumental) 2:20
6. Desire in Violent Overture 4:16
7. The Twisted Nails of Faith 6:50
8. Bathory Aria (Benighted Like Usher/A Murder of Ravens in Fugue/Eyes That Witnessed Madness) 11:02
9. Portrait of the Dead Countess (Instrumental) 2:52
10. Lustmord and Wargasm (The Lick of Carnivorous Winds) 7:30
Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc
1. Lustmord And Wargasm (The Relicking of Cadaverous Wounds) 7:58
2. Black Metal (Venom cover) 3:27
3. Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden cover) 7:10
4. Sodomy & Lust (Sodom cover) 4:47
5. Twisting Further Nails (The Cruci-Fiction Mix) 5:33
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Stuart Anstis – guitars
Gian Pyres – guitars
Robin Graves – bass
Lecter – keyboards
Nicholas Barker – drums
Sarah Jezebel Deva – backing vocals
Danielle Cneajna Cottington – backing vocals
Ingrid Pitt – Lady Bathory’s narration on ‘The Twisted Nails of Faith’ and Bathory Aria’s ‘Eyes That Witnessed Madness’