Hall of Fame Countdown: Cradle of Filth's The Principle of Evil Made Flesh

British blasphemers Cradle of Filth recently joined forces with reanimated tastemakers Cacophonous Records to release the original recording of Dusk...and Her Embrace (called The Original Sin, out July 8th). To celebrate, Decibel revisits the first collaboration between the band and label: 1994's sanguinary trailblazer The Principle of Evil Made Flesh. Continuing the evolution sparked on their Total Fucking Darkness demo, Cradle of Filth's expedition from primal death metal to candelabra-lit Gothic black metal is at its most ferocious intersection on this debut LP. Straying from the strict guidelines established by the Norwegian black metal scene, Filth wrestled the genre away with pomp and blood-soaked circumstance. Back in dB issue #82, Chris Dick scared up the album's specters and eloquently explained why the album's place in our Hall of Fame is unfuckwithable.

So snap on your custom-made fangs, dust off that copy of The Book of Nod, and let's rank The Principle of Evil Made Flesh's tracks from least perfect to untouchable.

13. In Secret Love We Drown

So Cradle of Filth love their brief instrumentals and ruminative spells – they even had them on their Invoking the Unclean and Orgiastic Pleasures Foul demos. But they went absolutely apeshit on The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, and the top of this list is going to be stacked with 'em. So if you prefer keyboards and Carpathian atmosphere over distorted guitars, invert this list like your mommy's cross. This one's more ambient-oriented than the rest and heavily features a bubbling brook, which made me rush to the lavatory and piss out the chalice of virgin blood I stole from Countess Bathory's bathtub.

12. Imperium Tenebrarum

This outro was technically a hidden track, since it wasn't listed on the album. Who am I to second-guess decisions of a Hall of Fame entry, but I gotta say that to my crusty ears "Summer Dying Fast" nailed its landing and felt pretty final. But if you want to hear what Filth sounds like giving a militaristic rally cry on some wind-swept battlefield, pop this on. Or slip into your black armor and chain-mail, and go recite this at your local LARP event or Ren Faire for maximum impact.

11. Iscariot

Now this is an interlude. Tucked between "The Forest Whispers My Name" and "The Black Goddess Rises," it's got steady heartbeats, Benjamin Ryan's grandiose keyboards, and a sense of suspense that feels like you're cautiously exploring the winding corridors of some Hammer film's haunted estate. Plus, the rainstorm isn't as suggestive to my delicate bladder as "In Secret Love We Drown."

10. Darkness Our Bride (Jugular Wedding)

It's not as ominous as their album intros to come – Cruelty and the Beast's "Once Upon Atrocity" and "Walpurgis Eve" off last year's Hammer of the Witches come to mind – but it's a clear signal that the feral Total Fucking Darkness chapter had closed. After invoking Satan's name, the dull clang of funereal bell tolls counts down the moments left before the title track skins the listener alive.

9. One Final Graven Kiss

This somber mood-setter bridges "The Black Goddess Rises" and "A Crescendo of Passion Bleeding" with grace and simplicity. Dripping with doomed romance, you can picture Satanic warriors getting choked up while this song floats in on a wint'ry gust of wind and completely ruining their corpsepaint with tear tracks.

8. A Dream of Wolves in Snow

"Oh, listen to them, the children of the night, what sweet music they make." When your album cover features a blood-slick succubus you simply can't go wrong with a Bram Stoker quote. With guest vocals from Anathema's Darren White, it marches into "Summer Dying Fast" and pounds with predatory anticipation. This is also the first track on this list with any hint of guitars, though it's still driven by sumptuous synths. If you prefer the Mel Brooks/Leslie Nielsen parody Dracula: Dead and Loving It to the Lugosi classics, see yourself out now before this bloodbath starts gushing.

7. A Crescendo of Passion Bleeding

From the menacing opening riffs, this rager pulses with anthemic life. Filth summons sky punches with the shriek-along chorus of "The blood is the life!" like a harbinger of vocal hooks to come (think: "Shat Out of Hell"). It's draped in fewer cobwebs than the rest of the album, veering from the Gothic mystique and closer to their NWOBHM influences. The plucked strings at 1:50 add welcome texture, before synths blast and a sassy-ass solo crackles out of the carnivalesque din near the song's conclusion.

6. To Eve the Art of Witchcraft

Benjamin Ryan gets this one started on the keys and the rest of the Filthies just plug in and dismissively mutter, "Nah, bro." This crusher reflects the old colliding with the new in surprising ways, with creeping organ and contagious death crust lingering beneath blasts of wanton black metal. The bold, bouncy interplay between the organ, bass, and soaring guitar at 2:27 is one of the most inspired moments on an album ripe with fresh ideas.

5. The Principle of Evil Made Flesh

It's the title track for a god damn reason. Ripping right of the (cemetery) gate, it has all the ingredients that define the album as a whole: Death metal crunch intertwined with black metal grandeur. And don't forget the sensuous flourishes, like the theatrical spoken word from Andrea Meyer, or the choice to rhyme "incest" with "breasts." My favorite moment has to be the catchy breakdown three minutes in, followed by one of the album's best bass runs from Robin Graves.

Decibel scribe Dan Lake once wrote that his "entire body of music 'journalism' consists of internet research and a dark-adjective roulette wheel." In lieu of a roulette wheel, Dani Filth was my sinister thesaurus when I first started jamming extreme metal. Seriously, if you have a kid who can't get excited about language, just give them this sentence: "Gravid with madness like a feculent dirge." It worked for me. Filth's long been one of the most ornate storytellers in black metal, transcending Gothic pulp and Jean Rollin's vampiric erotica with devilish, metered wordplay. And "The Principle of Evil Made Flesh" was his breakout performance.

4. Summer Dying Fast

While the entire album surges with venomous contempt like a war against sniveling mortals, this is their angriest moment. The sizzling leads slice through the dense sense of tragedy and every instrument's crucial voice rings true, from Graves' rumbling bass to powerhouse drummer Nicholas Barker's urgent rhythms. While a brief hidden track follows, this has everything you want out of a denouement. It's conclusive, builds suspense, releases the tension at the last possible moment, and bids the listener adieu with its tasteful fade to black.

3. The Forest Whispers My Name

The impish keyboards and squealing guitars are a strange marriage that totally work, like vampires and lycans or whatever the hell happened in the five minutes of Underworld I saw while blacking out on absinthe once. Though he eventually handed the spoken-word torch to Doug Bradley (Pinhead from the Hellraiser franchise) on later albums, Filth's in vintage form here. The forlorn riff at 2:20 is also classic Allender, where velvety drama meets guillotine-sharp metallic sensibilities. And at 3:59 you can hear the woodland path Cradle of Filth would eventually take on Dusk...and Her Embrace and Cruelty and the Beast, where thorned riffs unfurl with lethal intricacy.

2. Of Mist and Midnight Skies

Beginning with the intro from "Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor," this is doom scorched by the "exquisite fire" of the narrator's vengeance. The lyrics are dressed up with anti-Christian sentiment and the entirely reasonable motive that the narrator will "avenge the deaths of a thousand burning children." But if you're familiar with "Lustmord and Wargasm: The Lick of Carnivorous Winds" or "Her Ghost in the Fog," you know the real plot: A romance tragically ends, and the story's anti-hero dedicates his remaining days to crossing some God-fearing names off his shit list. The soundtrack captures the violent impulses and sobering existentialism of revenge, boiling the five stages of grief down to three: Isolation, anger, and depression. The band admitted Paradise Lost's Gothic was an inspiration, and they sure as hell weren't kidding. But apart from the mournful doom crawl, there's a gnarly death groove and the savage surge of early Celtic Frost at 5:08 (complete with a Tom Warrior "ooogh!"). While he's best known for his piercing shrieks, Filth's growls feels like they're oozing from a throat filled with tarantulas in this one.

1. The Black Goddess Rises

Every time Cradle of Filth has an opportunity for a song and to gestate and seep into their dark consciousness it improves. Like the songs blossoming between the raw Original Sin session and and the Music For Nations Dusk...and Her Embrace release, you can see it between the Total Fucking Darkness version of this track to this incarnation as well. While still leaning heavily on their primordial death metal, the piano at 1:54 and harmonized guitars at 2:35 signal a band harnessing the new weaponry they've forged. Book-ended by gore-soaked riffage, its apocalyptic romance yields to sickle-swinging badassery to claim the album's throne.

Go order the improbably released first recording of Dusk...and Her Embrace: The Original Sin, and check out Cacophonous Records and their new roster of talent.

 

Comment