Cradle of Filth have always been a very polarising band. In the Black Metal community they have been praised and vilified in equal measure. Some publications have held them up as pioneers for British metal, whilst others have criticised them for being so over the top and not being true to the Black Metal formula. Ultimately, the band, or rather Dani Filth and the musicians that he has assembled for Cradle of Filth albums, outgrew the BM pigeonhole a long time ago. It could almost be argued that the band are in fact pioneers. Many bands have taken the symphonic elements that have become Cradle of Filth staples, but arguably none have used it to as great effect.
To the untrained ear, Cradle of Filth albums sound very similar. However, with some perseverance, there are some real gems in their back catalogue, especially since the band left Roadrunner Records and signed to Peaceville. Most importantly, it seems like the band feel freer to experiment more with their sound. With Manticore, there are again the staples that any listener would expect to hear on a Cradle of Filth album – the symphonic touches, the blast beats, Dani Filth’s trademark guttural growl and high-pitched screams.
But the sound seems clearer than ever before. The production of the album is a significant step forward from their earlier releases, even those on major labels. When Filth sings, he actually has a pretty good voice, and this is highlighted throughout the album, especially on standout tracks ‘Succumb To This’ and ‘Manticore’. There is a punkier feel to the guitars on the album, and the drums aren’t all at 150mph. Indeed, you can hear the classic metal influences of Iron Maiden and Metallica, but also of more current bands, especially metalcore kings Killswitch Engage.
Ultimately, The Manticore & Other Horrors is a triumph of an album. There are moments where the album veers towards same old Cradle of Filth (not that that is a bad thing), but overall, as a recording, it manages to keep that balance between a band’s old identity and a band attempting successfully to forge a new sound for themselves as well. This isn’t a second coming for the band – rather it is a band who have reached a peak and are now at a point where they are free to express themselves through their music as they please. Will it gain them many new fans? Probably not. Will it keep old fans happy? It absolutely should do.