Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cradle of Filth - Midian

Cradle of Filth - Midian
2000, Music For Nations - Koch Records

One thing that I've always admired about this band has been their powerful vision - not only their visual expertise, their marketing, their tight control over their own progression, etc. - but the dark world they have always tried to move further into with each release, and the communication of certain vital obsessions (I am guessing these interests are Dani's) which make grand drama on the scale of popular art or music. One thing I have never heard widely disseminated is an appreciation of this band's lyrics - they have always impressed me...and in a music scene that is usually filled with dreamers who are almost pathologically incapable of communicating their visions, it will probably always be a pleasant surprise to read lyrics like I find in the records by this band, where all of their romantic fixations or lurid preoccupations come to a head in swiftly-narrated epic poems filled with ripe sensuality and a carnivorous sense of the cruel. When reading through the lyrics for 'Cruelty and the Beast', for example, I was struck by their attention to detail and the perversely eloquent way they unfolded. The one thing that this band's lyrics always convinces me of is, again, that they have a definite sense of purpose in their art, and that powerful vision bleeds not only into the music and the words behind it, but into almost everything else they touch. This is a very rare characteristic in the metal scene.

Another thing that I admire about this band is their unabashed sponsoring and invocation of eroticism or 'aberrant' sexuality - another rarity among metal bands (I am talking about actual sex here, not the raping and killing of women - that doesn't count, my fickle friends), and something I have always enjoyed when they present it in the correct light. I have actually witnessed some metal 'personalities' recoil in horror at the thought of promoting an honest portrayal of 'dark' sensuality - or indeed, of any kind of eroticism - in their work, and I have never understood this. Of course this reaction had more to do with the specific individuals and their own problems dealing with sexuality on any front, but I admit I can not understand the 'boy's club' mentality of the metal circles and their repressed misogyny/prudery - onewould think they would ban the female form altogether if it was not for certain calls to 'the ethereal' that it represents to them. And so I enjoy, with a typical and natural relish, with a morbid Rabelaisian spirit, the sensuality of Cradle of Filth's music and lyrics. I can not speak for the profundity or cultural pertinence of their obsessions, but I enjoy their result. Let me ask the red-blooded males out there who may be reading this, which would you prefer: running around on an ice floe or across glaciers hacking at penguins with the irrepressible Horgh, or reclining in a plush, purple, velvet-backed antique chair, a glass of finest vintage in one hand, Sade in the other, and a willing nymph without moral reservations in between? That's what I thought.

Sadly I don't have the lyrics to this release, as the advance CD package I was sent by their record company included the barest minimum of information relating to the album itself. I will have to talk about the music, I suppose...

Dani and bassist Robin (he of the emaciated frame and skull-like visage) have dropped most of their earlier musicians for this release, picking up again the talents of original guitarist Paul Allender and some other notables. It doesn't really make that much of a difference. With the new 'expanded' production on this album that their bio relates with something akin to triumph, I can not really tell who is responsible for what in the sound here. The guitars have a larger presence than ever, however, and I am thankful for that. I admit that I was never that much of a fan of Stuart's guitar playing - it seemed a little too anemic to me, a little too clean - and here the band has returned to a sound not heard, really, since their first release: a deep, vicious wall of guitars that brings out the 'death metal influences' of this material. The song 'Lord Abortion', for example, is a real highlight - it contains a vicious hook and pounding, percussive riffing that will probably take long time fans of this band by surprise. For the most part, though, this is Cradle of Filth as we have always known them, and all of their natural/instinctive characteristics and idiosyncracies remain intact - the high and low vocals and harsh screams of Dani, the winding, whirling, expansive riffing, the overflowing carnival keyboards (now courtesy of Martin Powell, who wisely abandoned My Dying Bride), the 'Victorian - Gothic' ritualized atmospheres, etc.

To be truthful, I think I enjoy this release much more than their prior material...I don't really know why. And all of their references to pop horror culture (Clive Barker, Lovecraft, and all other obvious allusions) aside, this is probably the best music they have written since 'Vempire'...hopefully it will bring them further success...