This year of our Lord, 2016 is the twentieth anniversary of possibly Cradle Of Filth's greatest album, Dusk And Her Embrace. It helped the then-rising Black Metal stars ascend another rung up the ladder of stardom, bewitching listeners with it's tales of vampiric romanticism, death, loss and things that generally go bump in the night. Hell, it's certainly my fave Cradle album as, to me, it is what Black Metal should sound like, the right balance of raw harshness and sterling production and arrangement. Whilst I do appreciate the lo-fi sounds of the earlier bands, I prefer this kind of thing. However, purists would use this against the band, accusing them of selling out (that didn't happen until round about 'Midian' but I digress). In fact, I can remember some old cunt in a nightclub called The Mayfair making fun of my Cradle Of Filth shirt and reckoning I must've been one of those metal posers who crop up from time to time. Just for the record, it WASN'T that Cradle Of Filth shirt, the one which lead to people being arrested as technically it was tantamount to breaking the public order act. Seriously, if you went round shouting JESUS IS A CUNT at the top of your voice, you'd get arrested for breach of the peace so it was no different wearing a shit that proclaimed the same. Anyway, I digress...
This album is actually the original version of Dusk And Her Embrace. It was recorded whilst the band were still signed to Cacophonus Records. However, a dispute with the label as well as line-up issues (the first of many) caused the album to be shelved. In order to get off the label with as little legal fall-out as possible, the band recorded an E.P called 'V Empire: Dark Faerytales In Phallustein' - it was a decent enough recording which showed hints of where Cradle Of Filth were going to to as, let's face it, the debut album ('The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh') was kind of a Emperor/Darkthrone knock-off although it was pleasent enough. The remaining members of the band would then hire new musicians and re-record Dusk And Her Embrace for then-new label, Music For Nations. The old version has been gathering dust all this time and has since been released. To be honest, I'm not sure why as surely the band don't need the money that badly? The old label might, but I dunno. Also, Hammer Of The Witches (the bands last album) was an absolute return to form, so this kind of feels like a backwards step from the off as why would they feel the need to visit the past? I guess someone somewhere has justified the reasons. But sod it, let's listen to some music.
First off - that fucking artwork...looks like another post-'Midian' computerised graphic design shit-storm. Not sure what cockroach-lady has to do with unrequitted vampire love death shagging lore but what do I know?
1) Macabre, This Banquet - Basically a creepy keyboard led intro which sounds alright, really. Atmospheric enough to be the intro tape at the live show.
2) Nocturnal Supremacy - Well now, this sounds ominous and threatening. Doomy intro which leads to the fast, gnawing style of Black Metal which was popular at the time. Some nice time-changes amid the fast guitar-work and not-as-annoying-as-they'd-soon-become vocals of Dani Filth. The backing vocals of Sarah Jezebel Diva are as great as they ever were. She certainly had a great sense of timing and delivery. All in all, a great song. It never appeared on the re-recording so it's nice to hear it now.
3) Heaven Torn Asunder - Starts off with a slow, rumbling opening before the song kicks off. A slow, lifting monologue before going into some hyper-fast Black Metal. Keyboards providing some excellent atmospheric melodies. Nice time-changes too. Like the first proper song, this one also follows a format of fast-slow-fast which is not bad, slightly overused but not bad.
4) Dusk And Her Embrace - Here we go, one of my faves from the original! Very atmospheric intro which slides into a narration then some great Black Metal. Awesome female vocals in the middle on top of an awesome riff. This song is an absolute fucking rager, and no mistake. Fucking great. Nice narration towards the end before slamming back into the hyperfast Black Metal.
5) A Gothic Romance - The re-recorded version had the subtext (Red Roses For The Devil's Whore) and is basically about a person who shagged a vampire. This song is a classic and we have the first notable difference - the keyboard intro on the re-recording sounded like violins, this sounds like keyboards and IMO isn't half as effective. In fact, they keyboards after that sound like they had a slightly different arrangement. Different wolf howls too. The rest of it sounds ok but, fuck me, the song now sounds ever so slightly diluted. No wonder they re-recorded it. Also sounds like this song had a different set of lyrics originally. To my ears, this has put the song in a whole different vibe and atmosphere. And besides the addition of a new song, is so far the only difference between this and the re-recording. More female backing vocals in the fast mid-section which actually sound pretty good, she sings following the riff during the whole screams haunt my sleep, dragged from nightmares thou hast wed together section. The switch from this into the mid-section stomper riff sounds curiously sloppy and not as tight. Like the band had only just wrote that bit and added it at the last minute. Nice guitar solo towards the end but I understand why they left it off the re-recording. It took away from the atmosphere. The re-recording was better. And I cannot believe I dissected a song this thoroughly...
6) The Graveyard By Moonlight - AKA the keyboardist rubs one out while everyone else goes for a piss-break. Only kidding, it's not too bad.
7) Funeral In Carpathia - Right, this was my fave song off the re-recording so let's see how this sounds. They've already re-recorded it for the version on the 'From The Cradle To The Enslave' EP where it raw as fuck. Not as good either. And so it begins...hmm. Sounds a bit sloppy in places so far, I guess they practised properly for the re-recording. Sounds like some different lyrics too. Keyboards aren't as prominent in this one which takes away from the overall atmosphere a bit. Still a great song though.
8) Beauty Slept In Sodom - Starting off with music-box-keyboard-intro, it then becomes a slow, lumbering number with some demonic vocals and great female backing vocals. A bit like a more macho version of 'Nymphetamine', if you will. It soon becomes Black Metal masterpiece. Not the best song on here but there has been some stiff competiton.
10) Carmilla's Masque - Creepy plinky-plonky cheesy keyboard instrumental. I guess the keyboardist fancied knocking another one out whilst the rest of the band went down the pub in order to get the beers in. Not too bad, I guess. It was left off the re-recording, which is no surprise.
The next two tracks are demo versions of 'A Gothic Romance' and 'Nocturnal Supremacy'.
Well, that was an interesting viewing of an alternative looking-glass from twenty years ago. To be honest, aside from slightly different arrangements and lyrics, there wasn't much difference. The production was good, if a little thin. There also wasn't any indication here that Cradle Of Filth would have changed direction if they'd stayed with Cacophonus Records. They would no doubt have stayed on the path they had chosen. To be honest, I could only recommend this album to Cradle Of Filth fans who are looking to complete their collections. Any new indoctrinates to this band are going to be recommended the 1996 version. The mark this album has been given is a reflection of the material - it would have been a higher mark save for the production and mixing issues.
9/10 - Almost perfect. Almost...
Top Track: Funeral In Carpathia.
This album is available on iTunes.