October! My exclamation is defined both by my surprise at just how fast the year zips by now, and also just how aggravatingly long September felt like (to me anyway). We’ve just released a new MSRcast covering some of the music from August and September, and you should check out my recent July + August diary update for a handful of small reviews on various summer releases. I was going to deliver another reviews cluster with a bunch of new albums at once, but ended up writing longer reviews for most of them so I’m going to be releasing them a few at a time from here on in. Yeah, I’m not good at keeping myself to a word limit.
Cradle of Filth – Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness of Decay:
Two years ago, we were treated to Cradle of Filth’s rebirth, their first album with their two new guitarists Richard Shaw and Martin “Ashok” Šmerda, and new keyboardist/backing vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft. I went into that album not knowing what to expect with the departure of longtime guitarist Paul Allender, who I had felt had overstayed his creative energy for the band by a handful of albums. Surely it would be a little different at the very least, but what we got was a full blown refreshing of the Cradle sound, a return to an authentic true twin guitar attack with heavy, downright thrashy guitars delivering chunky riffs and injecting some real brutality back into the band’s previously thinning sound. It was hands down the most interesting Cradle of Filth album since Nymphetamine, and one I played (and still play) often which I can’t say for most of the band’s releases over the past decade. Now we’re on to album number two with the same lineup, the band’s twelfth overall, and its only further vindictation that Dani’s instincts were right on the money in recruiting his three newest members. Not only is Cryptoriana an improvement over the already quite excellent Hammer of the Witches, but I’m calling this the absolute best Cradle album since Midian —- no ‘well that’s just my opinion’ here, I’m freakin’ calling it!
With an album and world tour under their belt, Shaw and Ashok’s guitar work is even more resembling something of a real tandem —- Cradle’s own Murray/Smith pairing if you will. Even at their mid-late nineties best, Allender and his longest serving axe partner Gian Pyres never were able to achieve the sort of creative partnership to play off each other the way that great metal guitar duos do. It may be premature to some for me to say that right now, only two albums in, but seriously check out their riff sequences on “You Will Know The Lion By His Claw”, in which they amplify a Maiden-esque influence upon the entire affair that is pure musical ear candy. They’re unafraid to get unconventional and creative, as we hear in the spitfire solos they shoot out without warning, but in keeping with their seeming determination to remake Cradle as a brutally heavy band once again, everything is subservient to their crushing rhythm guitars. That song is an album highlight, not only for its awesome guitar work, but as a display of just how shrewd Linsday Schoolcraft is in her musical role on the keys —- she doesn’t pile on layers of sound, instead dreams up a nightmarish quasi-orchestral accompaniment that never demands to take center stage. Schoolcraft however is a talented vocalist in her own right, and she gets to showcase her beautiful voice on “Achingly Beautiful”, delivering one of Cradle’s all-time catchiest hooks in the refrain.
The first time playing this album, I was laying down with it on blast at night, frequently smiling while hearing some awesome little riff pop up that gave me flashes of Judas Priest, Behemoth, or hell even Megadeth. Take the slamming, full throttle “The Night at Catafalque Manor”, where there are simply too many grin inducing guitar moments to fully list here, just a riff explosion that match Dani’s intensity step for step. While we’re on the subject, the new blood in the band has done wonders for the overall songwriting —- these guys and gal just have it down on how to write music for Dani and steer him into a more guttural overall approach, spiked with a reigned in mid-range shrieking style. The sheer aggression of the music has forced Dani to up his game and employ a diversity in his vocals that we’ve not heard ever before. He sounds revitalized, energized and far more focused than I’ve ever heard him, his new songwriting partners forcing him out of comfort zones. Its almost like in the past he’d become one dimensional because there seemed to be a formula for just how his vocals would have to work in relation to Allender’s guitar work. Quite the opposite these days on albums like Hammer and Cryptoriana, and as ridiculous as it might be to read this, Dani Filth has just dropped one of the best overall metal vocal performances in 2017. People are still sleeping on Cradle’s artistic resurrection, and that’s a grogginess that hopefully will be shaken off by the time the band tours anywhere and everywhere for this. LL Cool J once said “don’t call it a comeback”, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t the very definition of one.
Eluveitie – Evocation II – Pantheon:
Cellar Darling – This Is The Sound:
One of the most intriguing behind the scenes story lines in 2016 was the split between Elveitie’s key members Anna Murphy and Chrigel Glanzmann. Murphy and guitarist Ivo Henzi’s decision to leave the band simultaneously seemed to be tied to Eluveitie’s firing of drummer Merlin Sutter. I honestly can’t remember the details but that’s kind of the point, everything was hazy in the public fallout from the big split, and to this day, no one really knows why it happened in the first place. Whatever it was, it definitely was personal and the band’s statement included the eyebrow raising statement “thus we felt that we have become something we shouldn’t have”, which caused Murphy to essentially go WTF?! in her own counter statement. Look, it was all very interesting for a couple days to dorks like me who are deeply interested in the behind the scenes stories of rock and metal bands of all sizes. But fast forward a year later and this summer provided something of an answer perhaps to that vague quote above: Both Eluveitie and its former members new project Cellar Darling were releasing albums within mere months of each other. It was a folk off!
So the monkey wrench here in trying to directly compare the two bands’ new albums is the very obvious fact that Eluveitie’s isn’t meant to be a metal album at all. This is of course because Evocation II is a direct sequel to their 2009 acoustic release Evocation: The Arcane Dominion, and in keeping with the original’s theme, it is all acoustic and sung in Gaulish with nary a trace of metal anywhere. Cellar Darling’s debut album on the other hand is a full on metallic rock infused affair —- it would be skewed and pointless in even remotely comparing the two, right? Absolutely… except that the stark differences between the two albums help to illuminate some of the issues that might have been at the root of their 2016 split on personal and creative differences. I think that a lot of us in the States don’t fully appreciate just how big Eluveitie has gotten in Europe. Sure they do well here Stateside, able to draw nice crowds for club tours and capable of headlining their own touring packages, but in Europe they’ve ascended to just under mid-major festival headliner status. The reason for all this has a lot to do with a cut like “Inis Mona” off the Slania album, a single which ignited the band’s career back in 2008 (caught them on the Houston Paganfest stop that year with Tyr/Ensiferum/Turisas, what a bill!), but it has just as much if not more to do with their 2014 hit “The Call of the Mountains”. We’re talking about bonafide hits measured in the only way that really matters these days, with YouTube views —- 26 million and 18.6 million respectively (that “The Call of the Mountains” is trailing in view count here is undercut by it being posted three years ago, versus nine years ago for the former).
The difference between these two songs is striking —- Glanzmann screams on “Inis Mona”, while Murphy delivers soulful, passionate melodic lead vocals on “Call of the Mountains”, and while both songs have genuinely awesome hooks, its easy to see just how much the band’s sound had changed in that time span of six years. I know a lot of people gave 2014’s Origins a pretty critical eye, but I really did enjoy that album because it seemed stronger overall than 2012’s Helvetios, and because I kinda appreciated the band’s more streamlined melodic approach on some of its tracks. Not coincidentally, those particular tracks happened to be cuts where Murphy or Henzi were co-writers alongside Glanzmann. The album was a huge hit, like hitting #6 in the German Media Control charts, #1 in their native Switzerland, and #1 on the U.S. Heatseekers charts (#106 on the Billboard 200) kinda huge. It also dented the UK Indie and Rock charts pretty significantly, and if you were paying attention to the crowds they were drawing on their tour supporting the album, you could see they had graduated to another level. The video for “The Call of the Mountains” also gave Murphy star billing, rather deservedly I’d argue since her lead vocal was the primary catalyst for the song’s tangible artistic success. She became in my mind and I’m sure many others, the face of the band alongside (or perhaps moreso than) Glanzmann. Now I know what you’re thinking, and I’m not insinuating that jealousy is at the root of their split, but I think it probably exacerbated already existing creative tensions that saw the band leaning more poppy in their sound than anyone ever pegged them becoming.
At some point between then and 2016, discussions about what to do musically must have come up and in one camp you had Sutter/ Henzi/ Murphy leaning towards continuing down the road that sparkling hit song had paved. Even if Glanzmann’s recent comments in interviews that Evocation II was planned as the next release prior to the split-up are to be believed (and we have no reason to doubt him), that very intention might have been the nail in the coffin for both parties agreeing on the band’s future direction. And certainly, Evocation II is almost the diametrical opposite of the “Call of the Mountains” approach, hearkening back to a more traditional folk music base, an album completely devoid of anything resembling rock (or metal). The addition of new lead vocalist Fabienne Erni makes this sequel sound quite different from the first Evocation, her singing far more breezy and brighter in tone. The music responds in kind, “Epona” being a vivid example of something I would pay money to hear at the Texas Rennaisance Festival as I’m walking around —- that’s not an insult by the way, I love stuff like this (this album is definitely on the playlist for the drive up there). Whereas its predecessor was dark, rumbling, full of stormier moods and melodies (better attuned to Murphy’s relatively deeper range), Evocation II keeps thing buoyant, lively and head-noddingly rhythmic. Even instrumentals such as “Nantosvelta” get in on this action and are anything but filler, tracks I don’t skip over in play-throughs and find myself replaying in my head later in the day. I particularly love “Lvgvs”, Erni’s vocals here are especially lovely, her voice capable of delivering genuine warmth —- she’s practically sunlight here, and in concert with the gorgeous melody and backing instrumentation at work. I know its a cover of an old folk song, but its one of the best things the band has ever recorded.
As surprising as it is to admit to myself and you, I can’t find a single negative thing to say about Evocation II. I even loved the sly remake of “Inis Mona” in “Ogmios”, reworking the song in a way that’s refreshing and comforting at once. I love that its eighteen tracks but that only two cuts go over the four minute mark, these are focused, tightly written pieces of music, vocals or no. We had our first real fall day here awhile ago, and I celebrated the chill in the air by playing this album, opening the windows, lighting a few sticks of this awesome incense I bought at last year’s RenFest and it was pretty perfect. There’s something this band has over its fellow folk metal brethren, and that is the real instrumentation at work —- real bagpipes, violin, harp, bodhrán, hurdy gurdy, its all tangible on the recording, giving this music a gritty earthiness that keyboard reliant bands lack. As ridiculous as it might be that one band has this many members (nine at last count), at least there’s a valid reason for so much personnel (because frankly its a little stupid that Slipknot has a drummer AND two percussionists, and do they use that DJ for anything?… nevermind). Maybe an acoustic album was the soft landing that Eluveitie needed after so dramatic a lineup shift, particularly concerning a major voice and image of the band. And give them credit for so gracefully giving Erni the spotlight in the trio of videos they’ve released in support of this album, when so easily they could’ve shifted the attention to themselves —- the songs they picked are not only the catchiest, but vocal showcases for their new frontwoman. Hats off, seriously, I’m genuinely impressed at how well they’ve pulled this off… now the question is, can they carry this over successfully onto a metal based album?
The other side of this break-up story is told through the debut album of Cellar Darling, which was the name of Anna Murphy’s solo project while she was a member of Eluveitie, so I suppose it makes sense that she’d just carry on under that moniker this time as a band (as awkward a name as it is). She along with Henzi and Sutter tackle the challenging task of continuing where “The Call of the Mountains” left off, that is, imagining a merging of metallic rock with folk elements and trying to negotiation a balance between the two. The title of the album, This Is The Sound, is almost an explanation as much as it is a declaration —- a way of saying, this is where we saw Eluveitie heading, the sound we wanted to explore (and why we’re not in the band anymore). Its certainly one of the most interesting albums of the year for genuinely trying to merge the tangible essence of folk-metal as we know it to a more streamlined, rock music path. There are no melo-death riffs on display here, Henzi operating from a headspace more attuned to groove and rhythmic support, interlocked with Sutter’s deft, creative percussion. Together they remind me of modern rock ala Tool, A Perfect Circle, and occasionally (surprisingly) Rage Against the Machine. Murphy is frequently the melodic catalyst, be it through her charismatic vocals or her hurdy-gurdy, she’s our musical narrator. It is in that sense a showcase for her in the way that a solo project would be, and I wondered after my first pass through the album whether Sutter and Henzi were getting relegated to backing musicians status instead of equal contributors.
It took a few more listens, but gradually I was able to pick out the moments where its really their contributions that make everything tick, such as on “Fire, Wind & Earth” where Henzi delivers an intro blast that Tom Morello would approve of. On “Hullabulloo”, they dish out a fierce tandem attack, Sutter spicing up the space between riffs with creative fills and accents, one of the few songs where it could be argued that they’re really the ones driving the energy forward. Murphy however clearly is the star, the center of our attention through most of the songs and rightfully so —- she’s developed into an excellent vocalist over the years and you can hear tinges of Sinead O’Connor and Dolores O’Riordan in her tendency to wordlessly harmonize. Listen to “Black Moon” for an example of this, being one of the more balanced cuts in weighing folk harmonies against a modern rock song structure. Its not the best song on the album however, that honor goes to “Under the Oak Tree…”, which although lacking a strong motif is interesting in its ever-changing aspect of becoming increasingly folk-drenched as it goes on. But just as often the album falls flat, such as on “Six Days”, where Murphy reminds me a little too much of Cristina Scabbia, which isn’t a bad thing by itself, but that its my least favored song on the album isn’t a coincidence. The same could be said for “Challenge”, which sports a terrific hurdy-gurdy led motif, but I just can’t get into Murphy’s vocal approach on the moments where she dips down low in her delivery (“…this is the sound…”). That reaction I have to that moment kind of sums up my aversion to modern rock in general, and I can only handle so much of that sound without feeling like I’ve heard it all before.
Cellar Darling is an interesting idea but they’re lacking in execution, which when we’re talking about albums basically means they don’t have enough strong songs to support that idea. I’d love for them to consider leaning a little harder in the folk direction and minimizing the modern rock elements a tad. Stick to what you’re stronger at I suppose, and although Henzi certainly has the modern rock guitar approach down, that sound means very little if its not supported with hooks galore. I’m not sure if things have changed for teenagers growing up now, but generally the way it works is that you start listening to rock radio, those more accessible bands with their easy riffs that only serve as ladders to the explosive chorus. You grow bored of that after awhile (or you settle for it and don’t) and want to hear something more exciting, whether its a conscious decision or not, and somehow you stumble upon metal. Metal is where the verses can be just as exciting as the chorus, if not more so —- where the musicianship during a verse can be as thrilling as the glorious vocals that careen outwards in the refrain. Its why folk metal happens. Its why hurdy-gurdys don’t sound out of place next to slicing riffs and staggered tempos. Cellar Darling might sound exciting to someone only well versed in melodic rock, but they’re lacking something when it comes to enticing this metalhead to linger too long. I’m looking for improvement the next time around, and perhaps learning a lesson in my wishing for more music like “The Call of the Mountains” —- that song was special, and by definition, they can’t all be.
October 17, 2017
” I can only handle so much of that sound without feeling like I’ve heard it all before”
Same here. Murphy is all superlatives as a singer (not so much as a lyricist by my standards, though, but then I’m evil in that regard), but y’know, there are excellent singers in English-speaking pop music as well… doesn’t mean their voices alone can make that “music” palatable.
…and I’m not even talking about all the questionable things I see in the videos. But then again, femfronted whatever these days is very much pop-like in that regard.
October 18, 2017
I’m okay with pop influences, because its hard to separate them from just regular, pop structured songwriting which is the bulk of all metal except the most extreme subgenres. Pop tonality is another thing altogether which you could ascribe to your Amaranthes and Amberian Dawns —- I think Cellar Darling’s big drawback is the overall blandness that the modern rock palette as we know it has. They need some diversity in their guitarwork and Murphy needs to realize her vocals are strongest in upper registers. I guess that sounds like I’m asking for another “Call of the Mountains” but really its just reacting to the stuff I didn’t like on this album, which was mostly all the lower note vocal moments. The thing is this has been well received by Eluveitie fans themselves so maybe we’re both in the minority!
October 18, 2017
Well, Pigeon dear, don’t you think that this –
“Murphy needs to realize her vocals are strongest in upper registers”
– is dangerously close to all those remarks in the vein of “Hansi sucks, he should sing higher”?
She sounds fine enough in a darker, “chestier” tone. I’d even say that not being afraid to use that part of her range sets her apart from all those girls who want to be “sopranos”.
There is pop music and pop music. Most English-speaking pop music (and most metal, incidentally) does use a limited variety of chords and rhythms. Riffs and other melodic elements that aren’t main vocal lead are also meh, in general. In other words, most music out there is lacking in the arrangement department. Cellar Darling included.
Have you heard Indica before they went English? They had amazing arrangements.
October 22, 2017
That’s true regarding pop music… I think why I critiqued Anna’s vocals in those lower, chestier (so to speak) registers was because they do feel too modern rock radio in style to me, but you are right that in the grand scheme of female European metal singers she’s separating herself in that regard. But deep doesn’t necessarily mean that the music has to swing downwards along with the vocal in question. I’m sure everyone’s tired of me bringing this example up again and again, but Triosphere’s Heart of the Matter is a great example of a female vocalist with non-operatic vocals, able to go high and low and still sound very metal (no easy modern rock by the numbers riffs and vocal melodies). Maybe I am just nitpicking though — its the band’s first album after all, they’ll hopefully find a better footing on the second.
Didn’t check out early Indica, but you’ve got me curious, its on the list!
October 25, 2017
Does modern rock have any female singers at all? I honestly don’t know. I used to think Halestorm and Kobra & the Lotus (sp?) were modern rock, but then I saw people list them under “metal”… then I got scared and ran away LOL
I do hope for the better, too, but to be honest, while Triosphere is musically more complex than Cellar Darling, they aren´t exactly “perfect” in that regard either. Their guitar parts borrow a bit too much from overplayed bluesy hard rock. Basically, I’d love to see singers of Murphy’s and Haukland’s caliber front something more… progressive, for lack of a better word.
And with more intelligent lyrics =)
Ah good, I hope you won’t be disappointed =) Their third album, Kadonnut Puutarha (the lost garden), was absolutely amazing. Tuomas Holopainen had them shift into a way more traditional rock direction starting with Valoissa – which wasn’t a bad album, but way more straightforward and consequently less original in approach. And then the band basically started to die a slow death.
October 18, 2017
You write so well it’s always a pleasure reading you!
I haven’t ventured into the new Cradle of Filth album yet but this sounds terrific!
I was intrigued by the whole Eluveitie mess last year, especially when they brought in Liv Kristin for a live show that really didn’t work out. Glad everyone has a new record out and we can look forward to more music and less drama.
October 22, 2017
Thanks, I’m always grateful to hear comments like yours (especially when I have glaring grammatical errors in the piece that I didn’t catch until now). I didn’t realize that Eluveitie brought in Liv Kristine for a show… I wonder if that was just a temporary thing or if it was a real try out situation. I’ll say this, Eluveitie found a fine replacement for a singer that at least for their fans, was certainly iconic. Leaves Eyes on the other hand made a mistake, not in letting Kristine go (that was perhaps inevitable given the circumstances) but in selecting her replacement. I’ve seen them live twice with Elina Siirala, she’s a fine singer on her own but she’s just not meshing with the band’s entire vibe and style, both vocally and otherwise. Maybe it’ll gel in the future but I was unimpressed.
October 23, 2017
To my knowledge, Eluveitie brought in Liv Kristin as a replacement to avoid cancelling a festival, but indeed I don’t know if they already had someone else in mind long term. Liv Kristin performance was surprinsingly poor anyway, she was reading the lyrics on stage so I guess they booked her last minute. I am really sad for Elina as she does sound great in her own project but it must be incredibly hard to enter a band whose fans are potentially hostile to a new singer (let’s be honest, a lot of Leaves Eyes fan base was old Theatre of Tragedy fans like myself) and not ready just yet to accept the change. It’s just nor fair for Elina to have been brought in in such shady circumstances. I hope things will get better in the future. I hate that it happens so often in this scene, I’ve seen it happen from the inside backstage and it’s not pretty, I hope the cliché of the female fronted metal band that changes lead singer all the time becomes a thing of the past someday !
October 23, 2017
I think if the Liv/Leaves Eyes spilt was friendly and mutual most fans would have accepted it better. They still are being well received stateside but that might be because fans say here in Houston just are grateful to hear those songs live. Power metal shows are rare here for the most part. I’d be interested to find out how different that might be in Europe.
October 23, 2017
Sure, had it been a friendly split, Elina would have had a warmer welcome. Even if there are not that many friendly split.
Many bands come from Europe so we are lucky to have them touring Europe pretty often. I know that each time a band has a drama with a member being dumped, they lose quite a lot of fans here. It seems that fans connect mostly with either the singer or the “talent” of the band. When Mike Portnoy was fired, some hardcore Dream Theater friends of mine decided to stop attending the shows. Same goes for singers, male or female (Kameloot had an easier time than others maybe because the split was amicable, but Theatre of Tragedy lost a lot of their fan base as the fans followed Liv Kristin and not The new ToT material, even though the new singer was a nice addition, the circumstances were just unfair to her.)
October 23, 2017
These days, with no guarantee of bands lasting forever because of the stage of the music industry, I try hard not to take sides. You wanna give both sides the benefit of the doubt but I guess it’s easier said than done hah.
October 24, 2017
True, the one thing I learnt working backstage for years is that the audience never knows the truth and it’s often way less romantic than we’d think.
October 18, 2017
I’m in complete agreement on…well, all three of these, actually! “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay” is another Cradle of Filth classic, as far as I’m concerned – the guitar work is absolutely astounding. “Wester Vespertine” is probably my favorite – Lindsay’s spoken word part on that brings me right back to Dusk/Cruelty, and the riffs in that are just *huge*. Not to mention Dani’s voice, of course – he was beginning to sound like a tea kettle if we’re being honest here (see: “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa”). There’s been some genuine aggression and emotion in his voice on these last two albums. “Dusk and Her Embrace” will likely always be the best Cradle of Filth album for me (great music and Dani’s lyrics back then were excellent – his lyrics still haven’t reached that level of quality again even if the music has started to), but this one comes closer than they have since…well, yeah, “Midian”. I’d put this in there with the classic 94-00 era, at the very least! Oh, and one more thing – the fact that they’ve had the same exact line-up for two full length albums in a row is kind of amazing. It seems to be working out very well so I hope they all stick around for a third!
As for the new Eluveitie album, I was genuinely surprised at how good it was. I wasn’t too fond of the last few if I’m being entirely honest – I’ve enjoyed select songs of course, but none of it has compared to their first three albums…until now. I loved the first “Evocation”, and this one’s equally good if not better. I’m honestly surprised. I guess, much like Cradle of Filth and the departure of Paul Allender, this is one of those line-up shake-ups that’s actually been very good for the band. Also, there are times where Fabienne Erni almost gives me a 90s alt-pop singer vibe if that makes sense (think Alanis Morissette or Tori Amos), which probably sounds kinda weird but hey – whatever. My ears are dumb sometimes, what can I say?
The new Cellar Darling album has a few bright moments – I really liked “Six Days”, for example. I can see where you’re getting the hard rock comparisons from, even that song made me think of the more progressive bands in that style (like A Perfect Circle as you mentioned). However…well, you know that feeling you get when you’re watching a really boring movie? Where you kinda notice your ass is starting to hurt and you just generally feel uncomfortable? That’s how I felt listening to the album as a whole – it’s not horrible, mind you, it’s just not that interesting…which is almost worse than outright badness sometimes. At least with something completely horrible, you remember it or it can lead to unintentional hilarity and thus be entertaining…
Also, out of sheer curiosity, what’s your take on the Xandria/Dianne Van Giersbergen situation? I think it’s an utter disappointment since they found pretty much the perfect vocalist, made their absolute best album in “Theater of Dimensions” and apparently treated the woman like garbage.
October 22, 2017
Well you summed up my feelings on the Xandria/Dianne situation, and I really thought they were on a roll with Theater of Dimensions. Its kinda soured me on the band actually… I’ll give their next album a shot of course, but on a personal “fan” level, I’m feeling like this is a band that doesn’t treat their vocalists all that well (especially considering Lisa and Manuela’s statements out in support of Dianne —> http://www.metalinsider.net/metal-musical-chairs/two-former-xandria-vocalists-respond-to-dianne-van-giersbergens-departure).
Regarding Cellar Darling, yeah I had a few moments where I felt my attention wandering, but to their credit they had just as many instances where I was very aware of a nice riff progression or vocal melody. Looking forward to their next album honestly. And Cradle and Eluveitie rather surprisingly have found their way into the album of the year nominees list, those two records are that strong. I’m so glad this year is shaping up with some really great stuff, because it was slim pickings in the first half.
October 20, 2017
I’m going to put it out there and say I was somewhat disappointed by the new Cradle release. It actually made me like Hammer of the Witches more! “Why” I hear you ask?
The thing that makes Cradle, well… Cradle… is the the schlock factor, that feeling similar to watching a black and white horror movie full of sexual references, over the top yet low budget special effects, and a script where the innuendo requires the viewer to reach for their dictionary. As bad as it is on paper, it leaves you feeling a little bit naughty in the same way as a trip to the local adult store with the fat girl from work you didn’t know you liked…
The musicianship on Cryptoriana is superb, no question, but gone is that ‘naughty’ atmosphere. While Hammer wasn’t quite as serious as their output from 20 years ago, save for a few moments on Godspeed, it was the first time the band the band had recaptured that atmosphere since Nymphetamine. It was conceptual in theme, conjured up the sex, romance and occult worship, and went back to more traditional song structures ala Cruelty or Midian that flowed from start to finish with the token cinematic breather in the middle.
Where Hammer was criticised as playing it safe due to its song structures, Cryptoriana goes the other way – changing riffs/melody every 30 seconds with little regard for the songs either side of it, not dissimilar to Allender’s latter two works with the band. I’ll say it again, the musicianship (especially guitar work) IS excellent, but gone again is the sense of storytelling. Solos on every track, Martis’ ever happy ‘kid in a candy store’ style drumming – what we have on Cryptoriana is more a Slayer/Maiden esque affair, not the guilty pleasure you used to get with a Cradle record.
October 22, 2017
I’d have to go back and check out the reviews around the time of Hammer’s release, but as I recall most everyone felt very positively about that album, particularly for how the sonics changed ala guitars/songwriting. If anything it was more thrash metal inflected —- whereas Cryptoriana brings back some of that Maiden influence ala Midian era CoF. I adore the twin playing here, and some of the melodies are the strongest Cradle has seen in ages.
I can understand your point about the schlock horror feel that might be missing in lieu of a more guttural, brutal musical attack. But albums like Thornography and Darkly Darkly were more along those lines, and that’s where I felt things were becoming too similar, too rote. Now I could just be responding solely to the guitars (Allender was my biggest gripe about the band in those days) and I might be missing what you’re talking about. I do enjoy the serious, darker approach of Cryptoriana however because it reminds me of Dusk and Her Embrace and Cruelty and the Beast era Cradle. Back then, you got the feeling the band was a little tongue in cheek at times, but only flashes of it… those were serious metal records and we treated them as such. Lemme know if I just totally missed your point however! I’m dense like that!