British gothic metal icons Cradle Of Filth once again open Pandora’s Box with Existence Is Futile. The group’s thirteenth album is an existential concept album. Frontman Dani Filth penned lyrics about fearing and dreading the unknown. It touches on the “do what thou wilt” concept of Aleister Crowley because we’re all going to die, so why not do whatever you want? In true Cradle fashion, the group bring to life this concept cinematically with symphonic sections and interludes with music that is grand, horrifying and beautiful at the same time.
Intro “The Fate Of The World On Our Shoulders” opens softly and ominously. It’s like a horror film where something bad is about to happen. Soon the music swells and gets louder and louder with the inclusion of violins and a female choir voice courtesy of newest member Anabelle Iratni. This is where I imagine the killer or monster of a film is revealed. Then, this track bleeds into the first song “Existential Terror” with a dark guitar harmony and Iratni chanting. The song, which we could call the unofficial title track, is composed well going through a myriad of guitar riffs, symphonic time changes, bells Filth’s varied voice, blast beats and a bass/keys solo.
“Necromantic Fantasies” was used by the band as a video single, which makes sense because it’s one of the strongest tracks on the album. The transitions on this song with the rise and fall of Iratni’s keys and voice really make the track an album highlight. Many of the riffs by Ashok and Richard Shaw resemble the rich harmonies of Iron Maiden, which is understandable considering they are both British bands, including the chorus part on this song. When combined with Filth’s chorus lines, this track has a great hook.
Even though Cradle Of Filth mark their 30th anniversary with this album, Filth is still going strong. He might not hit the eagle cries of his first couple of albums (he changed this a long time ago), but his voice impresses nonetheless. He sets into motion “Black Smoke Curling From The Lips Of War” with an ear-piercing scream combined with a furious drum blast by Martin ‘Marthus’ Skaroupka. As expected, Filth continues his varied vocal style by way of growls and deep, vampiric narrations.
Speaking of narrations, Doug Bradley, the actor who portrays Pinhead in Hellraiser films, lends his dignified voice to “Suffer Our Dominion” as well as the album bonus track “Sisters Of The Mist,” the conclusion to the “Her Ghost In The Fog” trilogy that started over 20 years ago on the Midian album. Expect a misty atmosphere similar to the first track of the trilogy.
Cradle Of Filth are a rough-textured band with Filth’s shrieks and pounding drums, but the band also has a softer, romantic side. “Discourse Between A Man And His Soul” may contain philosophically existential lyrics, but the melodies are quite romantic. Piano notes and brief acoustic guitars realize this passionate feeling. Not to say this song is happy, it’s really quite tragic, but the way the track moves has a romantic quality not unlike “Nymphetamine.”
Existence Is Futile has what Cradle Of Filth fans want. It is exceptionally composed. The many changes each song goes through keep the album dynamic. Iratni perfectly fits her role of keyboardist and vocalist. Shaw and Ashok have been together for seven years and their chemistry shows. Their riffs range from British metal to grooving chugs to melodic death-style rhythms, and many more sounds. The album’s instrumentation is nearly flawless, but the guitars are exceptional. Marthus impeccably keeps the time and his blasts are thunderous. Filth still performs his vocals at an extremely high level. Cradle Of Filth continue to incorporate new sounds while maintaining their core style. Existence Is Futile is another gothic metal masterpiece.
(released October 22, 2021 on Nuclear Blast)
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Watch Cradle Of Filth – “Crawling King Chaos” Video