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The Manticore And Other Horrors

Peaceville (2012)
Rating: 8/10

At this point in their career, Cradle Of Filth have a very divided fanbase. Never a band to sit idle (regardless of whether or not you like their output), they return from the confusing re-inventions of 2012’s Midnight In The Labyrinth with an album that will most likely appeal a little more to the masses.

For me, Cradle Of Filth are always at their best when they keep it heavy and throw in enough melody that you can hook yourself in here and there. The Manticore And Other Horrors does just that with aggressive production, a less grandiose feel, and plenty of murderous thoughts.

The first thing I took notice of here was the production. While it’s sharp and clear, it’s far from the perfection the UK band seemed to be going for on 2003’s Damnation And A Day or 2008’s Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder. Everything here is very aggressive but opts for thinner chainsaw sounds for the guitars and deeper, rumbling drums (by Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka). The keyboards take somewhat more of a backseat role as well, taking over in small bits like on ‘Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair’, but not playing anywhere near the prominent role they have in the band’s music traditionally.

Once you get used to the production the songs start really popping out. On the surface they all hold about the same keel, much like 2004’s Nymphetamine, but the more you listen the more everything starts to grab you. ‘The Abhorrent’, ‘Manticore’, ‘Sliding With The Titans’ and ‘Frost On Her Pillow’ carry the load by keeping the album on target and ensuring that if the band steps too far left or right, that their rabid fanbase can be drawn right back in.

An exception to this rule is certainly ‘Pallid Reflection’, which boasts some of Paul Allender’s strongest guitar work to date. It almost has an underlying Iron Maiden feel and the fact that the song also features a string segment, a trade off narrative vocal section, and some nice breakdowns amidst the pummeling makes it classic new millennium Cradle Of Filth. ‘Succumb To This’ is a stand out as well. It reaches its goal by getting bombastic mid-song and incorporating some of the epic, symphonic goodness that the band excel at when they use it sparingly.

Overall, “aggressive” is the word of the day. The Manticore And Other Horrors may not be the band’s biggest production, creepiest offering, or most experimental work, but it is easily their most biting album in more than a decade. How you feel about this will greatly depend on what you want from a Cradle Of Filth album, but for me this album puts the band back on the fast track to regaining relevancy in a highly competitive extreme metal market.

Mark Fisher

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