Cradle of Filth – Nymphetamine Review

Cradle of Filth – Nymphetamine
Roadrunner, 2004

1. Satyriasis
2. Gilded Cunt
3. Nemesis
4. Gabrielle
5. Absinthe With Faust
6. Nymphetamine Overdose
7. Painting Flowers White Never Suited My Palette
8. Medusa And Hemlock
9. Coffin Fodder
10. English Fire
11. Filthy Little Secret
12. Swansong For A Raven
13. Mother Of Abominations
14. Nymphetamine Fix

Cradle of Filth has been a band who has divided the metal community for years. Once strictly black metal and, as they say “true,” frontman Dani Filth decided to take on what one may call a “death glam” persona that virtually made him indistinguishable from a Hot Topic clearance sale. Add to this the trademark screeching and questionable choices in production married to the biggest cardinal sin in all of black metal — signing with a major label — Cradle of Filth could start a war with the number of people fighting to the death on either side of their fanbase. Many changes in the band’s sound over the years with both good and terrible experiments abound, one can only approach a new Cradle of Filth release expecting some sort of offensive lyrics as the only constant.

One doesn’t have to look much farther than the first offering from Nymphetamine — the tastefully titled “Gilded Cunt” endears itself upon listeners in every way which Cradle of Filth is known. But apart from their tried-and-true shock value, there’s something more going on with this album.

CoF’s last release, Damnation and a Day, was mostly thumbs-downed across the board, not just because of some cheesy slick production but also due to some odd stylistic choices. Learning from these mistakes, Nymphetamine still keeps the clean production, but allows its focal points to fall in all of the right places. Crisp guitars are back in the forefront and keyboards have been relegated more to a tasteful backdrop. And somehow, Dani’s screeching no longer sounds horrible; it actually works with the music instead of against it. No, it’s not mainstream by a long stretch, but it’s definitely sounding mass-audience palatable in comparison to years gone by. Lack of goofy overblown piano jaunts also help to move this band into the realm of solid songwriting.

This isn’t to say that Cradle has somehow reinvented themselves any farther beyond what they have been doing for quite some time now, nor have they gone back to their roots at all. They’re progressing in a direction that is mostly uncharted and combining elements of many metal genres to flesh out their sound. Hearty chunks of power metal are abound, lending quite the abundance of memorable hooks. While the band has always carried a large element of melodicism, their attempts to create more realistic mood are certainly appreciated leaps and bounds above mock-Halloweenery.

Apart from “Cunt,” tracks like “Nemesis” and “Coffin Fodder” capture Cradle of Filth at a point which might very well be their apex. “English Fire” retains the gothic elements of the CoF sound but once again sounding much more sincere than simple shock value (and beautifully punctuated with some great drumming by Adrian Erlandsson). “Nymphetamine Overdose” features some lovely vocals by Liv Kristine that are in stark contrast to some of the overblown female offerings in past works.

The bad tracks? Well, “Gabrielle” is a bit silly, and the smatterings throughout the disc of overblown pseudo-atmosphere and poetic nonsense, while par for the course, certainly don’t add any sort of metal credibility to the pomp that is Dani Filth. Several tracks, from “Absinthe With Faust” to “Swansong For a Raven” are easily forgettable as nothing special in particular. They don’t detract from the album as a whole and are a notch above filler, but only serve to continue the sound throughout the disc rather than become entities unto themselves. There’s nothing that sticks out like a sore thumb — a statement which itself may have never been uttered in reference to Cradle of Filth in their entire history.

An extra pause, however, for “Mother of Abominations” and “Nymphetamine Fix,” the end of the disc — the latter of which is little more than an instrumental outro, but serves as the perfect bow to tie up the entire album. It’s an odd little reminder that yes, underneath all of the muck that surrounds Cradle of Filth, there are actual musicians standing there who can do more than just create t-shirts with masturbating nuns on them.

As for the oldschool Cradle of Filth “true black metal” fans? It’s a guarantee they will hate this offering and contine to proclaim that CoF long since sold out. To those fans who have been receptive to change (although almost universally being annoyed by much on Damnation), Nymphetamine is still abound with change but much better choices as a whole. And for folks who never really cared for black metal or, more specifically, Cradle? This offering might make you rethink your stance.

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