Reviews for October 31st, 2012

Cradle of Filth - The Manticore and Other Horrors

Greetings! Hurricane Sandy has passed and I have awoken from my slumber to find that today is the best holiday of the year, Halloween! What better to review on Halloween than “The Manticore and Other Horrors”, the tenth studio album from Cradle of Filth?

I remember the first time I encountered Cradle was while shopping at the heavy metal music store Rock of Ages in Garden City, Michigan. I was casually flipping through the posters when I came across a poster of the cover of “The Principle of Evil Made Flesh.” I was blown away by the graphic and gothic imagery. I had no idea what a cradle of filth was; I had not heard of the band. My interest was certainly sparked, and this must have been around 1996, because “Dusk…and Her Embrace” was the latest release. I picked up “Dusk” and gave it a listen while poring over the lyrics. I was less than thrilled with Dani’s style of singing. I had not yet learned to appreciate the greatness of harsh sounding vocals (though “Dusk” would be the album that opened that door for me), but the music and the lyrics were so amazing that I was sucked into the songs. By the time “Cruelty and the Beast” was released in 1998 I was hooked on Cradle.

Here we are sixteen years later and Cradle has just released their tenth album. I have remained a fan all these years, but I must admit, the last album I listened to closely was “Thornography.” Some people complained about Dani trying out clean vocals on “The Foetus of a New Day Kicking”, but I thought it was a nice touch that helped mix things up and keep it interesting. It wasn’t like he was doing clean in a metalcore pop-wannabe way, so I was happy to hear the change. Dani scrapped the style on the next album, I expect because of fan backlash, and that is when I started getting bored. I had seen the band evolving only to see them take a step back again and I was disappointed.

“The Manticore and Other Horrors” still carries on in what is now the expected Cradle of Filth style. I do not hear anything particularly innovative in this album; I could just as easily listen to one of the earlier albums and get the same things out of it. But what about bands like AC/DC and Motorhead who have made seemingly brilliant careers out of basically creating the same album over and over again? Even if Cradle was doing that, and I am not saying they are, at least we get a different story with each album.

There have been a few albums here and there in Cradle’s catalog where I felt the production was not as good as on previous albums, but that is not the case with “Manticore.” This one sounds brilliant in the production department.

Ultimately, while Cradle may no longer be leading the charge on breaking new ground, they are still creating really good extreme gothic metal and I adore them for doing so. “The Manticore and Other Horrors” blows most other albums out of the water and I am enjoying it immensely.

Check out the video for “Frost on Her Pillow.”

Venomous Maximus – Beg Upon the Light

Late last year I reviewed “The Mission” EP from Houston’s Venomous Maximus. I remember they sent me a copy on vinyl, which was much appreciated. They recently sent me their full length debut, “Beg Upon the Light”, but alas, no vinyl this time. Why hast thou forsaken me??? Just kidding. I was very happy to receive the album at all, because, if you read my earlier review, you know I love these guys.

I had a hard time nailing down a style for these guys last time, and it is no easier this time around. They certainly have a Sabbath-style doom quality about the music, but I really do not think the songs are slow enough to qualify as traditional doom. The one thing that comes to mind now is an earlier Grand Magus sound. Before Grand Magus became whatever it is “The Hunt” was supposed to be. This is kind of doom, kind of something else.

The production sounds just dirty enough to sound edgy, and just produced enough to sound professional. The vocals sound great. They are clean, strong and sure sounding. They rise just enough above the music to give them an air of majestic authority. The music tends toward mid-tempo and heavy. Like cool and meaty riffs? Look no further brothers and sisters. “Beg Upon the Light” has it all. It won’t cure baldness, depression (well, maybe) or erectile dysfunction, but it will definitely leave you feeling fine.

Do me a favor (hell, do yourself a favor) and check out Venomous Maximus. Let these guys rock your Halloween, or any other day. I fully endorse “Beg Upon the Light.” Check out the track “Moonchild.”

Antropomorphia – Evangelivm Nekromantia

Antropomorphia is from the Netherland and “Evangelivm Nekromantia” is their second album. They have previously released some demos and an EP in the early to mid 90s and their first full-length was released in 1998. They also have a compilation that was released last year, but it has been 14 years between the first album and the second.

These guys play death metal with trace amounts of gothic flavor. This really only manifests in the intro track and some of their imagery, otherwise this is pretty straightforward death metal.

I would not say there is much new death metal ground covered here, but I am enjoying the album for what it is. The production sounds good, though I would like to hear the vocals a little higher in the mix. That would go a long way towards raising my opinion of the album. Musically the band is pretty tight and I find myself banging my head along to the songs as I type. I think they have got the songwriting part down; they just need to work on adding a little variety to the vocal style, and of course turn them up in the mix.

Check out the video for the song “Psuchagogia.”

Zodiac – A Bit of Devil

I am not sure where Zodiac hails from, but “A Bit of Devil” is their first album of heavy rock.

“A Bit of Devil” is slightly bluesy, slightly psychedelic and makes me think of the recent works of Graveyard. Their bio lists influences such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, but the only one of those I really hear is maybe some Thin Lizzy.

There really is not much about “A Bit of Devil” that I would call metal, but they pull off hard rock well enough that I am not concerned about including them here. Bands seem to be learning that you can sound retro without sounding like crap, because “A Bit of Devil” has a nice production sound and still sounds like it could have been released in the 70s.

The major selling points on this album are that the songs are catchy and there is a lot of cool guitar work, if you are into that sort of thing.

Have a listen to the track “Diamond Shoes.”