Album Review – Cradle of Filth / Existence Is Futile (2021)

A bewitching, fearless nosedive into the abyss masterfully brought into being by UK’s most infernal Extreme Metal institution of all ages.

All hope has disappeared into the void. The flames that flickered on the horizon for so long have reached our backyard, leaving endless fields of black ashes and smoke rising from the ruins of our lands. Yet, why shall we not enjoy a last ferocious soundtrack to our inevitable end? That’s exactly what UK’s own Extreme Metal institution Cradle of Fitlh has to offer us all in Existence Is Futile, their thirteenth studio opus and the follow-up to their critically acclaimed albums Hammer Of The Witches and Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay. Produced by Scott Atkins at Grindstone Studios and displaying another bestial artwork by Arthur Berzinsh, who took inspiration from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, Existence Is Futile is about existential terror, the threat of everything and the end of the world according to the band’s frontman and mastermind Dani Filth, all embraced by the grandiose metal music carefully brought into being by Dani and his henchmen Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda on the guitars, Daniel Firth on bass, Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka on drums, and newcomer Anabelle Iratni (who also plays with Dani on the Symphonic Gothic/Groove Metal project Devilment) on female vocals, keyboards, lyre and orchestrations.

The classic intro The Fate of the World on Our Shoulders is absolutely obscure, cinematic and epic, opening the gates of hell for the band to kill in Existential Terror, with all background orchestrations making Dani’s demonic gnarls sound even creepier accompanied by the sulfurous guitars by Richard and Ashok. In other words, it’s an imposing Symphonic Black Metal tune to properly kick things off, whereas switching to their trademark fusion of Gothic and Black Metal we’re treated to Necromantic Fantasies, where Anabelle proves why she was chosen to be the band’s new keyboardist delivering crisp, phantasmagorical keys for our absolute delight. The first single of the album, Crawling King Chaos, is a demonic creature in the form of extreme music where the heaviness of the guitars create an awesome paradox with the song’s whimsical keys, not to mention how infernal Marthus sounds on drums as usual; then it’s time to soothe our damned souls to the enfolding interlude Here Comes a Candle… (Infernal Lullaby) before we face five minutes of sheer darkness in the acid Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War, with Dani’s hellish screeches walking hand in hand with Anabelle’s clean vocals and the demolishing kitchen crafted by Daniel and Marthus. And Discourse Between a Man and His Soul is another dark and melancholic tune that matches perfectly with the band’s theatrical vibe, with Daniel bringing tons of heaviness to the overall result.

Cradle of Filth Existence Is Futile Mailorder Edition Box Set

Another massive wall of sounds will hammer your heads mercilessly in the sinister The Dying of the Embers, once again presenting the band’s trademark blast beats infused with more melodic and gothic nuances, followed by the Mephistophelian interlude Ashen Mortality, spearheaded by Anabelle’s somber keys and warming up our senses for How Many Tears to Nurture a Rose?, a beautiful, old school Cradle of Filth composition that will sound amazing if played live. Furthermore, Dani is infernal on vocals as usual while Daniel and Marthus add endless groove and feeling to the music with their respective bass jabs and pounding drums; and a guest narration by Doug Bradley talking about how our rotten society is coming to an end quickly explodes into brutal and melodic Extreme Metal in Suffer Our Dominion, with Anabelle stealing the spotlight one more time. Us, Dark, Invincible, the last song from the regular version of the album, is as imposing and grim as its predecessors, with Dani roaring, growling and screaming nonstop for the delectation of all his fanbase while the band’s guitar duo adds sheer aggressiveness to the overall result. Lastly, if you go for the digital and deluxe edition of the album you’ll be treated to two amazing bonus tracks Sisters of the Mist and Unleash the Hellion, both extreme and demented, with Marthus smashing his drums ferociously until the very last second.

“Existence Is Futile is the apocalyptic conclusion of three years of Cradle of Filth’s world touring and is definitely our most severe album to date, reveling in existential dread, the fear of the unknown, the uncertainty of fate in a yawning cosmos and the meaninglessness of life also being the search for life’s meaning”, commented Dani about the band’s new album, also saying that “heavy stuff indeed and as a wise man was allegedly recently heard to say ‘The inevitable heat-death of the universe and subsequent closure of time and space itself, could have no better soundtrack than this album’.” If you want to join the almighty Cradle of Filth in their quest for extreme music and add Existence Is Futile to your apocalyptic collection, you can follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other sorts of witchcraft, and purchase your favorite version of the album by clicking HERE, including the stunning mailorder edition box set limited to 650 copies worldwide containing the digipack and the silver double LP version of the album, buttons, a flag, a necklace, a lyrics sheet and an alternate cover. A bewitching, fearless nosedive into the abyss, Existence Is Futile is the perfect album for these most imperfect of times, and if the world comes to an end before their next opus is unleashed upon humanity at least we’ll enjoy our afterlife knowing their ultimate howl was indeed a beast of an album.

Best moments of the album: Crawling King Chaos, Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War, The Dying of the Embers and How Many Tears to Nurture a Rose?

Worst moments of the album: Necromantic Fantasies.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Fate of the World on Our Shoulders 1:37
2. Existential Terror 6:17
3. Necromantic Fantasies 5:40
4. Crawling King Chaos 5:27
5. Here Comes a Candle… (Infernal Lullaby) 1:28
6. Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War 5:21
7. Discourse Between a Man and His Soul 5:30
8. The Dying of the Embers 6:08
9. Ashen Mortality 1:50
10. How Many Tears to Nurture a Rose? 4:34
11. Suffer Our Dominion 6:22
12. Us, Dark, Invincible 6:26

Digital/Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
13. Sisters of the Mist 7:14
14. Unleash the Hellion 6:23

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Anabelle Iratni – female vocals, keyboards, lyre, orchestrations
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums, keyboards, orchestrations

Guest musician
Doug Bradley – narration on “Suffer Our Dominion” and “Sisters of the Mist”

Album Review – South of Salem / The Sinner Takes It All (2020)

This excellent UK outfit is ready to take the entire world by storm with an album full of cult anthems that have a truly original (but recognizable) take on the rock and metal genres with a horror twist.

Having spent the best part of a decade working on various musical projects supporting the likes of Iced Earth, The Damned, Wednesday 13, and The Birthday Massacre, the up-and-coming Bournemouth, UK-based Hard Rock outfit South of Salem has just brought to life their debut effort The Sinner Takes It All, an album full of cult anthems that have a truly original (but recognizable) take on the rock and metal genres with a horror twist. Recorded at Grindstone Studio in Suffolk, UK and produced, mixed, and mastered by Scott Atkins (Cradle Of Filth, Amon Amarth, Sylosis, Behemoth), the title of the album, according to vocalist Joey, guitarists Kodi and Fish, bassist Dee and drummer Pip, “represents the corruption connected to wealth and power. How in dark times the rich become more affluent and the poor become more disconnected. During the current pandemic, small businesses are going under and people are more reliant on their government. Human beings abusing others, when they should be helping one another. The sinners are truly preparing to take it all. Enough is enough!”

A Rock N’ Roll storm is about to begin in Let Us Prey, with its lyrics inspired by The Purge film series (“They call us sick but we’re feeling fine / Just counting down to the killing time / Tonight, tonight was made for us / We know we’re sick but we hide it well / On a murder mile straight to hell / Tonight we’re armed and dangerous”) while Kodi and Fish sound beyond insane with their riffs, followed by The Hate In Me, a modernized hybrid of Motley Crüe and Godsmack with a heavier twist where Joey exhales rage through his vocals while Pip keeps pounding his drums in great fashion. Then it’s time for the band’s guitar duo to slash their axes nonstop in the Hard rock extravaganza No Plague Like Home, the perfect soundtrack for a pub brawl with Dee and Pip bringing the thunder to the overall result, not to mention its kick-ass guitar solos, whereas the rumbling bass punches by Dee provides Joey a dense base for his introspective vocals in Pretty Little Nightmare, a song about the darkest side of love, ready to be played on any Rock N’ Roll radio station thanks to the dynamic and classic beats by Pip. After such introspective composition, let’s all rev up our engines to the sound of Made To Be Mine, where the fiery riffs by Kodi and Fish will make your blood boil, evolving into a melodious and vibrant sonority showcasing spot-on backing vocals and another excellent performance by Joey.

Piercing guitars and an 80’s-inspired vibe are the main ingredients in the Melodic Rock tune titled Cold Day In Hell, with Joey leading his crew with his rockin’ vocals in another song about obscure relationships, whereas in Demons Are Forever, featuring Alex Avdis (aka The AvD) of Red Method and The Defiled, we face a grim, eerie atmosphere generated by all band members while Joey delivers a somber performance on vocals. Furthermore, don’t forget to check the stunning official video for this song as it is intended to raise suicide awareness. Back to a more berserk and vicious mode, the quintet blasts the Punk Rock-infused Another Nail In My Coffin, blending elements from the music by The Misfits and Social Distortion with their classic rock sound, all spiced up by the song’s enfolding riffs, and keeping the level of adrenaline high South of Salem offer us all Severely Yours, a song about temptation in long-term relationships presenting a great job done once again by Joey with his raspy vocals while Pipi delivers classic beats nonstop. Finally, closing such excellent album we have one more punk-ish tune entitled Dead Hearts Don’t Break, dealing with negative thoughts and the way one relationship can contaminate all future ones, with Kodi, Fish and Dee being on absolute fire with their stringed weapons.

In a nutshell, South of Salem more than nailed it with The Sinner Takes It All, an album that will undoubtedly entertain any type of rock and metal fan, from the ones who love a good melody to rockers who enjoy some action in the mosh pit. Hence, don’t forget to follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel, to stream more of their music on Spotify, and above all that, to support those talented UK musicians by purchasing their debut album from their own Big Cartel page (and sooner than later from other retailers such as Apple Music and Amazon). Relationships are always tough, it doesn’t matter where you come from, your religion, sexual orientation and so on, and as there’s not much we can do about that besides trying to be the best person to our significant other every single day, why not doing that while also enjoying the top-of-the-line rock and metal music provided by South of Salem in their new album? I’m more than certain that at least your ears, your mind and your soul will feel a lot stronger and happier to the sound of their awesome creations.

Best moments of the album: Let Us Prey, No Plague Like Home and Another Nail In My Coffin.

Worst moments of the album: Pretty Little Nightmare.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Let Us Prey 3:24
2. The Hate In Me 3:35
3. No Plague Like Home 4:06
4. Pretty Little Nightmare 3:53
5. Made To Be Mine 3:41
6. Cold Day In Hell 4:28
7. Demons Are Forever 4:41
8. Another Nail In My Coffin 3:53
9. Severely Yours 3:15
10. Dead Hearts Don’t Break 3:35

Band members
Joey – vocals
Kodi – guitar
Fish – guitar
Dee – bass
Pip – drums 

Guest musicians
The AvD – keyboards and samples on “Demons Are Forever”

Album Review – Senescere / Alive But Somewhere Else (2020)

Focusing on struggling with the pain of loss, the new album by this Maryland-based metal band reflects all the dynamism and difficulties faced during all stages of grief.

Originally formed as an instrumental and acoustic solo project by vocalist and guitarist Alden Bradstock (Seventh Seal) in 2014, Westminster, Maryland-based Melodic Death Metal act Senescere grew into a full band with the addition of three new members in 2016, Nathan Heavel on bass, Andy Stark on drums and Josh Clark on additional vocals (all from bands such as Seventh Seal and Vestascension), allowing Alden to expand the band’s musical reach to a more aggressive and abrasive sound in their brand new opus Alive But Somewhere Else. Produced by Alden and Josh themselves, engineered and mixed by Josh at Dark Hollow Studio, mastered by Scott Atkins at Grindstone Studio, and featuring a stylish cover photograph by Mandy Martz Chappell, the album focuses on struggling with grief, turning to unhealthy sources of comfort and creating a false sense of happiness to deal with a loss. As stated by Alden himself, “loss and aging have been the central theme of this project since the beginning. I think I’ll always find some inspiration there, and new ways of looking at the pain and struggles it can bring. There are all kinds of faces and stages of grief. It’s dynamic, it isn’t always dark and miserable. It’s deceptive and difficult to categorize. I wanted the music to reflect this somehow, and I think that’s why I enjoy mixing multiple styles and varying intensity in the songwriting. It’s allowed to be extra melodic and catchy at times, just as it’s allowed to dive into blasting drums and tremolo picking if the song calls for it.”

And the smooth guitar lines by Alden ignite the atmospheric intro Freezing Of The Hillside, setting the stage for the band to stun us all in Lost In The Cold, where Alden’s deep guttural roars walk hand in hand with the classic beats by Andy, blending elements from Groove and Progressive Metal with their trademark Melodic Death Metal. Then speeding things up and enhancing their rage the quartet blasts the thrilling The Low Clouds, bringing forward dark and pensive lyrics (“Here I, as a loner / Do feel the texture of the edge / Tracing paths for days on end / A crisp and jagged line / So easy to step over / So welcoming to fall from”) and the usual strength and fury from Scandinavian metal, followed by Alive, clearly inspired by the modern and melodic metal music played by bands like Insomnium and Amorphis, with Alden growling with tons of anguish while Nathan and Andy give a lesson in groove and intricacy with their respective instruments, not to mention Josh’s spot on backing vocals.

After such powerful display of metal music, simply sit down, relax and let the enfolding lines from the instrumental piece Melted penetrate deep inside your mind before a wall of sounds smashes your senses in the fantastic Resonate, where Alden’s crisp riffs are beautifully complemented by the low-tuned bass by Nathan, exhaling progressiveness and feeling and all spiced by Alden’s piercing guitar solo; whereas Alden and Josh make a fantastic vocal duet in Aging Affinity, blending the visceral and violent sounds of classic Death Metal with the harmony and complexity of more modern styles, ending in a cryptic and atmospheric way. Heartspace is perfect for slamming into the circle pit while at the same time enjoying the sharp and intricate beats by Andy and the thunderous bass lines by Nathan, resulting in another ode to contemporary Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal that ends up warming up our senses for almost ten minutes of Senescere’s wicked music in Moon And Sun, where the band’s razor-edged riffs, pounding drums and obscure vocals invite the listener to an exciting metal voyage in what’s by far the most progressive and detailed of all songs, even bringing hints of Black Metal and putting an introspective and climatic ending to the album.

Highly recommended for fans of the melodic and pensive heavy music played by renowned acts the likes of Dark Tranquillity, Amorphis, Opeth, Katatonia and Insomnium, among several others, Alive But Somewhere Else can be appreciated in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course in order to show your true support to Alden and his henchmen you should definitely purchase a copy of the album from their own BandCamp page, as well as from Apple Music and Amazon. Also, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for news, tour dates and more of their classy music, helping you cope with loss and pain to the sound of our beloved Heavy Metal and, therefore, keeping Alden and his Senescere beyond inspired to create more of their multi-layered and meaningful music for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Lost In The Cold, The Low Clouds and Resonate.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Freezing Of The Hillside 2:54
2. Lost In The Cold 4:12
3. The Low Clouds 5:36
4. Alive 3:36
5. Melted 2:13
6. Resonate 3:54
7. Aging Affinity 4:26
8. Heartspace 3:55
9. Moon And Sun 9:34

Band members
Alden Bradstock – guitars, vocals
Nathan Heavel – bass
Andy Stark – drums
Josh Clark – additional vocals